Sin (Theology of)
SIN (THEOLOGY OF)
Sin is an evil human act. But an act is evil, bad, or wanting in the goodness or perfection it should have, because it is out of conformity with its proper norm, or standard. With regard to the human act, the norm, or standard, from a philosophical point of view, is man's rational nature; and from the theological point of view, God's nature and the eternal law. This article, being concerned with the theology of sin, considers sin mainly as an offense against God, and can therefore take as its starting point St. Augustine's classical definition of it as a word, deed, or desire in opposition to the eternal law of God (C. Faust. 22.27).
This definition applies primarily and univocally to personal, mortal sins, a mortal sin being a fully deliberate act involving a sinner's choice of some created good as a final end in preference to the Supreme Good, with a consequent loss of sanctifying grace if, prior to the sinful act, the sinner possessed that grace. In other uses the term is analogical, and as such is applied to: (1) venial sin, in which the idea is not fully realized, either because the act is imperfectly deliberate or because the matter with which it is concerned involves no disruption of man's orientation toward his final end and is therefore compatible with sanctifying grace; (2) original sin, which is not an act, but an inherited defect of sanctifying grace and is antecedent to and independent of personal voluntary action;(3) habitual sin, which is not an act, but a state in which the sinner is without grace because of his personal sin; and (4) concupiscence, which is not an act, but a tendency or imbalance in the psychological integrity of the human composite, and which is not, in the words of the Council of Trent, "sin in the true and proper sense, but [is called sin] only because it is from sin and inclines to sin" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer, 1515).
Material and Formal Sin. There are two ways of looking at an action that is in disaccord with God's law.
It can be considered objectively and in its kind or subjectively, as it is in the consciousness of the individual who performs it. From the objective point of view, the act of feeding poison to another is out of accord with the eternal law, but a person doing so could be innocent of subjective fault if he is inculpably ignorant of the fact that the food he offers is poisoned and hence is unaware of the true nature and consequences of his act. The performance of an objectively evil act is called by theologians a material sin; when all the conditions necessary to subjective imputability are present, the act is said to be a formal sin. The determination of the objective sinfulness of an action is made on the basis of divine revelation as interpreted by the magisterium of the Church and also on the basis of the rational analysis of the nature of the act. This is properly a theological or a philosophical question. The determination of subjective responsibility is more immediately a psychological question. Contemporary interest, with its existential orientation, tends to center more on the latter question than on the former, and an anti-intellectualism that fails to distinguish between the two problems leads to moral relativism and situational ethics. It also brings confusion to any discussion of the role of conscience in moral activity. Although all are acutely conscious of the problem of the erroneous conscience and the obligation (not the right) to follow its dictates, the contemporary existentialist tends to be blind to the prior obligation to form an upright conscience, the only kind, according to reason and revelation, that confers the right to follow its dictates.
Sin as an Act. Sin is to be distinguished not only from the morally good act and habit to which it is opposed, but also from the morally bad habit, or vice, which is not uncommonly its habitual source. Properly speaking, vices are not sins, but habits, whereas a sin is a voluntary act and does not necessarily demand a vicious habit any more than a good moral act demands a virtue for its source. Otherwise the vicious man could never perform a good act, nor could the virtuous man ever sin, an error condemned by the Council of Trent (Enchiridion symbolorum 1540). Moreover, a sin is a human act, and precisely as such requires the exercise of both intellect and will. When this is lacking, a man's act is amoral and cannot be described as human, or virtuous, or vicious, or sinful. Basically, therefore, sin is a deliberate and voluntary act. Even in the so-called sin of omission, the omission to be sinful must be traceable to a positive act of will, the object of which is either not-to-act or to do something incompatible with the omitted obligation. And in either case there is an act marked by a want of conformity with the law of God.
Reference to God. The elaboration, therefore, of the theological notion of sin must begin not with the sinner, but with God. Pius XII decried as one of the errors of modern times the misrepresentation of "the whole nature of original sin, and indeed of sin in general, considered as an offense against God …" (Enchiridion symbolorum 3891). Since the theologian is concerned with creatures only inasmuch as God is their principle and goal, human activity becomes theologically significant in accordance with its orientation to God. Man is made to pursue his happiness, and ultimately this can be achieved only in the attainment of the Supreme Good, which is God. His human activity must be directed to this goal, and even such part of it as has other more immediate and proximate objectives must be ultimately subordinated to the ultimate, supreme goal, which is desirable above all things and answers objectively to the full amplitude of human desire.
But man's end in reaching toward happiness and God's purpose in creating man are really identical. For God, who is perfect, complete, self-contained in Himself, was not urged or drawn to the creation of man by the hope of acquiring new perfection for Himself, for there is nothing good or desirable that was not already contained in His own infinite goodness. It was not, then, for the sake of increasing but of diffusing His goodness that He created. On His part, the object of creation could be nothing but the giving of Himself, the communicating of His goodness. The gain had necessarily to be on the part of the creature. In the ultimate communication of a participation in His own happiness, the extrinsic glory of God that is said to be the purpose of creation is realized. [see glory of god (end of creation).] It follows that man, by nature a rational being and a free agent with the power of selective activity, must deliberately and consciously direct himself to the attainment of God, or to the glory of God, as his ultimate end. Deliberately to choose some other goal than God as an ultimate is to take something from God that is due Him, to twist the whole order of creation, and to usurp God's place by substituting a human will and a human order for the divine. In this way every sinner imitates in his own fashion the sin of Lucifer.
A further precision, providing a more profound insight into the nature of mortal sin, is possible to theologians who take, as most Catholic theologians have taken, the intellectualist position of St. Thomas Aquinas with respect to divine law. This, however, is beyond the grasp of those such as Calvin and voluntarists generally, who in their concern to preserve the transcendent and even autocratic supremacy of God, have held that the ultimate norm of what is right and wrong is simply the good pleasure of God. The eternal law, as seen from the intellectualist position, is not arbitrary or whimsical, nor can it be divorced from the nature of things. The eternal law is reducible ultimately not to the divine will but to the divine intellect. It is the plan and pattern of created nature as God's intellect sees this in His vision of Himself. Consequently, the sinner who deviates from the eternal law does violence to his individual nature and to the created order of things of which he is a part. For the voluntarist, the eternal law is a barricade or a leash confining the liberty of individual men who are constrained through fear to observe it. It is much easier from the intellectualist position to love God's law because the intellectualist sees in it a sorely needed gift that God in His mercy has dispensed to men. It is easier to see sin not only as a violation of God's law, but as an act of self-mutilation and self-destruction. Man reaches his perfection and fulfillment in an orderly way by taking his place within God's plan of love, which is manifest to him by the natural and the positive divine law. The voluntary act by which he withdraws from God's plan and substitutes one of his own is sinful because it is the rejection in fact and in deed of God's love. Thus the proportionate remedy for sin, whether it be described as repentance, reconciliation, remission, or justification, is the appreciative love of God, the act of perfect love, which also effects the restoration of the sinner to his proper place in creation, or to the state of grace.
It is possible to express the malice involved in mortal sin in various ways: it breaks the ties of love binding man to God and is the rejection of the divine goodness; as an aversion from God and a conversion to some created good in His place, it is a kind of idolatry; it involves contempt of God and of His precepts; it is an injustice to Him in denying Him His rights; it breaks the new covenant of mercy and love made by God through Jesus Christ (cf. Hebrews 10.28–29); it is an act of base ingratitude to God, who has been so good and generous to man.
The Question of the Philosophical Sin. The distinction between sin as an offense against God and sin as a violation of nature makes it possible for one to ask whether a sinner can be guilty of sin in the theological sense of the term if in sinning he is conscious only that his act is out of harmony with his rational nature. Such a person, according to an opinion advanced by François Musnier in 1686, would be guilty only of a philosophical sin, but not of an offense against God. This opinion was proscribed by Alexander VIII in 1690 as scandalous, temerarious, offensive to pious ears, and erroneous (Enchiridion symbolorum 2291). All theologians are agreed that, objectively speaking, all sin is sin in the theological sense. Whether this is also true of all sin, considered from the point of view of subjective responsibility, has been disputed by some authors. In the opinion of most theologians, who see the authority of God as the proximate basis of moral obligation, every sin, even when considered subjectively, must be a sin in the theological sense because in their opinion no true moral obligation can exist for one who does not know himself to be bound to the observance of moral law by the authority of God. Thus, if one can suppose that a man is invincibly ignorant of God's existence, he would not, in this view, be capable of moral action in the proper sense of the word, and however advanced he might be in years, he would be morally in the condition of a child who has not yet reached the age of reason. This was, for example, the opinion of L. Billot, who was willing to admit that there are many of adult age in that situation [De Deo uno (Rome 1931) 50]. However, the recognition of the authority of a divine lawmaker who is offended by sin need not be clear and explicit. It seems to be implicit in all true moral judgment.
Constitutive Elements. In every sin it is possible to distinguish two elements, one positive and the other negative, or, more exactly, privative. The positive element consists in the sinner's conversion to some created good, "good," that is, in the sense that it so attracts him that he prefers the satisfaction to be found in it to the divine good. Converting thus to a created good, the sinner by the same act turns away from God and is deprived of his orientation to God along with sanctifying grace and its attendant gifts. This "aversion" from God constitutes the privative element in sin. Which of the two elements is more formal in sin has been debated by theologians, the Thomists generally making the "conversion" the constitutive element and the Scotists holding that the privation is more formal. However, the more common Thomist opinion does not deny that the privative element belongs essentially to the sinful act, which would not indeed be a sinful conversion to a created good if it did not entail aversion from God and the privations associated with such aversion.
The distinction of these two elements helps to clarify the psychology of the sinful act, which would be difficult to explain if sin were simply the choice of evil and nothing else. Moreover, it provides an answer to the protest of the sinner who declares that he did not think about offending God when he gave himself up to his sinful deed. But he did seek an illicit good, one to which a privation is inseparably attached, and in doing this he indirectly intended the privation.
Distinction of Sins. The practice of sacramental confession, as required by Canon Law (1917 Codex Iuris Canonicis c. 901) and the Council of Trent (Enchiridion symbolorum 1679–81), requires the confession of all mortal sins committed after Baptism according to their kind and number. This practice makes the specific and numerical discrimination of sins a matter of practical importance to the Catholic theologian. The species of a sin is the kind, or class, into which sin falls, whereas the numerical distinction of sins is simply the number of distinct occurrences. Theologians distinguish two kinds of species: the moral and the theological. Moral species depends on the specific type of malice manifest in a sin and distinguishing it from other kinds of sin, as for example, theft is distinguished from blasphemy. The difference of theological species is based on the gravity of sins. There is one essential difference between sins in this respect, and thus there are two theological species, namely, mortal and venial.
The essentially distinguishing factor in the determination of the moral species for those who hold that the formal constitutive of sin is not the privative element but the positive conversion of the sinner to something illicit, is the object considered in the moral order, that is from a moral point of view. This includes not merely what is done (the finis operis ), but also the sinner's purpose in doing it (the finis operantis ), as well as the circum stances that give a new kind of moral quality to what is done. That is not to say, however, that the motive or the circumstances change the moral character of what is done; blasphemy is blasphemy, and murder is murder, whatever be the motive. But the motive (or finis operantis ) is itself an object of the will, and circumstances can so modify an object that it acquires a new kind of morality in addition to that which it has of itself. An act that is single in its physical entity can be multiple from a moral point of view. Thus the theft of a sacred object is at once an act of theft and an act of sacrilege. A lie told for the purpose of seduction is an offense against both veracity and chastity. For those who see the essence of sin to consist more formally in a privation, other norms had to be found to differentiate one sin from another. Some have based the distinction on opposition to different virtues, others on the difference of the laws or precepts violated.
The numerical distinction of sins, though relatively simple in principle, is sometimes complicated in the application of the principle, especially with regard to internal sins of thought and desire. The basic principle is that there are as many sins as there are morally distinct acts of the will.
Connection of Sins. Vices and a fortiori sinful acts are not interconnected in the same way as are the virtues. The acquired moral virtues, in their perfect state, are all connected in prudence, and the infused virtues are connected in charity, so that the possession of any one perfect virtue guarantees the possession of the others as well. Such is not the case where sins are concerned. Virtue tends to unify and focus all activity upon moral goodness; vice and sin, on the contrary, scatter and dissipate man's moral act. The morally good act is in conformity with the moral law. The possibility of variety in nonconformity or difformity is endless.
Some sins are opposed to others by a relationship of contrariety, for example, prodigality and miserliness, and one therefore is exclusive of the other. Moreover, the intention of the sinner is not directly to depart from the rule of reason or the law of God, but to realize something that he sees as good to himself. Sins would be interconnected if their objects were connected, but manifestly they are not.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that there is some connection between sins. In some cases, what are virtually different sins are joined in the same act, as an offense against justice and one against chastity in the sin of adultery. Sometimes one sin can dispose a man to the commission of another of a different kind, as when drunkenness leads to quarreling. Some sins are the effects of other sins, as when pride begets envy, and in this way all the capital sins have a numerous progeny. Again, by grievous sin the infused virtue of prudence is lost and acquired prudence is weakened, and because of this one becomes less capable of virtuous action and less able to stand firmly and constantly against the temptation to other sin. Furthermore, one who cuts himself off from the love of God and has overcome the fear of being separated from Him is deprived of a most effective motive against any sin, and may the more readily fall victim to temptation. Still one sin cannot be said to contain all others except in the sense that it disposes more or less remotely to their commission (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 73.1).
Comparative Gravity of Sins. Not all sins are equal in their gravity. This is the teaching of the Scriptures (Jn 19.11; Ez 16.44–58; Jer 7.26; Lam 4.6) and of all Catholic theologians. Although sin consists in a privation, it is not a pure or total privation, but one that admits of more or less. The gravity of sin is measured objectively and specifically by the extent of the disorder and aversion caused by the sinful object and its consequences, and subjectively by the intensity of the will's act and the dispositions of the sinner.
First and foremost, the gravity of sin is measured against a scale of values in which God is highest; the substantial good of man, intermediate; and external goods, lowest. These values are secured and protected by the virtues, the comparative excellence of which is judged by reference to the same scale. It is possible and convenient, therefore, to measure the gravity of a sin by considering the comparative excellence of the virtue to which it is opposed and the manner of its opposition (e.g., by excess or by defect). Generally speaking, spiritual sins are more serious than carnal sins because the element of aversion from God is more pronounced in them and because they involve more directly the good of the soul, which is greater than the good of the body, and because, being less influenced by passion, they are less excusable. Whatever weakens the judgment of reason or lessens a sinner's liberty of action diminishes the gravity of a sin because it makes the act less voluntary.
Harmful consequences, to the extent that they are forseen, also aggravate the gravity of a sin; and the dignity, character and reputation of the person sinning, as well as the person sinned against, may have a bearing on the seriousness of a sin. For example, other things being equal, venial sins, when indeliberate, are less serious in a person of greater, as compared with a person of lesser, virtue, because they have a greater element of the involuntary in them. Deliberate sins, however, are worse in a person of greater virtue, partly because they are less excusable, since virtue should make resistance to sin easier, and partly because there is more ingratitude to God and scandal to neighbor in them. The sin of defamation, on the other hand, committed by one known to be a liar, does less harm than it would if it were committed by a person with a reputation for veracity.
Subject of Sin. Under this heading theologians discuss the faculty or power to which sin is attributed as to a source or principle. It is, of course, the person who sins, not the part, or member, or faculty of the human composite. Nevertheless, an act proceeds from a person through the operation of some power or faculty; and inquiring into the subject of sin, theologians seek to identify the powers in which the sinful act can originate. Sin is found primarily in the will, which is the principle of all human action; when it is attributed to other powers, it is only as they are subject to voluntary control and yet retain in themselves a capacity for disordered activity. Sin is not attributed to the external members of the body that move in complete subjection to the will, for they are simply the instruments through which the commands of the will are put into effect. Besides the will itself, the sense appetite and reason qualify as subjects of sin inasmuch as in their activity they are subject to disorder that could and should be controlled. [see emotion (moral aspect); thoughts, mo rality of.]
Internal Causes of Sin. Sin can be considered in two ways: materially, in its physical entity, or formally, in its defectiveness, its disorder, its disaccord with moral law. Sin viewed in its physical being must have a direct efficient cause, but the identification of the cause of what is formally evil in it is more difficult. Since the disorder of sin is not mere negation, but a privation of something that should be present, it requires a cause. Because evil as evil is not per se appetible, the activity of its cause will not be directed immediately to the evil, the disorder, of the sin, but rather to some positive goal that entails the privation and disorder. As a human act, sin must proceed from the will as from a cause. The will, "lacking the direction of the rule of reason and of the divine law, and intent upon some mutable good, causes the act of sin directly and the inordinateness indirectly and without intending it. The lack of order in the act results from the lack of direction in the will" (Aquinas, Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 75.1). This defect in the direction of the will can be caused by the defect in the will itself that is called malice, or by a defect of knowledge in the intellect called ignorance, or by a defect in the sense appetite called weakness.
Psychologically, choice by the will follows a judgment of reason on the goodness of the proposed object. This judgment may be vitiated by ignorance either of general principles or of the right application of principles. Very often, however, it is not in its speculative but its practical role that the mind fails. The judgment that precedes sin is a practical judgment, and it is influenced by factors operative here and now, existential in the truest sense of the word. Whatever colors the practical judgment influences the will and is in that sense a cause of sin. In particular, the emotional state of a man at any particular moment unconsciously and even consciously affects his estimate of the value of a proposed action. An angry or terrified man does not think and act like a tranquil one. He judges a thing according to the advantages it appears to offer him here and now, and this judgment so occupies his mind that he is distracted from the use of his moral knowledge.
Sins arising from neither passion nor ignorance are traceable to the malice of a will prepared deliberately to choose the disorder and spiritual loss involved in sin rather than forego some temporal satisfaction. Malice makes a sin graver, because it is a disposition of the will itself and is a more enduring source of disorder than passion.
External Causes. Factors external to the sinner himself may also contribute to his sin. In their consideration of the mystery of iniquity, theologians have given much attention to the question of God's causality with respect to the sinful act of the creature. God, the Supreme Good, wills indirectly physical evil incidental to the total perfection of creation and the penal evil that is incidental to the fulfillment of divine justice, because these evils are not directly opposed to His honor and glory; but He cannot will the moral evil of sin in any way, because it is contradictory to His love. Just as He cannot make anything hating it, neither can He make anything to hate Him. All things come from Him, and are made to return to Him, not to move away from Him. Yet men do sin, and they could not do this without God's help. Theologians distinguish between the physical entity of a sin, which comes from God as does the whole of created being and all its modes; and what is human in the sin, which is from God and from the free will; and what is defective, which is not from God in any way but from the defect of the creature. A radical defectibility is inevitable in the creature precisely because it is not an absolute. But God could preserve the creature from all sin. He has not willed to do this, but this fact cannot be understood to make Him the cause of what is formal in sin, because He does not owe such preservation to the creature. Moreover, the privation that is formal in sin requires for its explanation not an efficient but a deficient cause; in a sense it is something not caused rather than something caused. But God, as First Cause, lacks nothing. From no point of view can He be conceived as the cause—efficient, exemplary, or final—of the sinful disorder of the act of the will. (For the treatment of this problem in its proper context, see evil.)
The devil cannot be considered the cause of sin in the sense that he directly moves man's will to sin. At most he is able to tempt men to sin by operating upon their internal senses, causing them to think of sinful things and to focus their attention on the desirability of illicit pleasures. Not all temptation need be explained in terms of diabolical activity, however; the world and the flesh can account for most of the temptations that men experience. In a general sense, nevertheless, because the devil was instrumental in causing original sin, which has left men prone to evil, he can be considered an indirect and partial cause of all sin.
Man can be the cause of sin in another by inducing him to sin by means of persuasion, suggestion, command, example, etc. (see scandal), or by cooperating in his sin (see sin, cooperation in; for the causal influence of certain kinds of sin upon other sins, see deadly sins).
Effects of Sin. The act of sin produces certain psychological, spiritual, and even physical effects, which, although foreseen, are not intended by the sinner. Theologians speak of the loss of both natural and supernatural good.
Man's essential natural good, his existence, the integrity and essential capacity of his natural powers, is not lost in consequence of either original or personal sin. But the human good that consists in an inclination to virtue, a natural characteristic of a rational being, is lessened, but not completely destroyed, by sin. Some diminution of this good is a result in man of original sin. This wound in nature is not healed in man's present state by sanctifying grace. Personal sin aggravates and deepens this wound, making further sin easier to commit and virtue more difficult to practice.
The principal effect of sin, however, is the loss of supernatural good and the incurrance of guilt. Mortal sin deprives the soul of sanctifying grace; and with the deprivation of grace, its attendant supernatural gifts, capacities, and privileges are lost. It is because of this that mortal sin is referred to as the "death" of the soul, which, in effect, ceases to have being on the supernatural level. guilt is the state or condition of being at fault (reatus culpae ) and so deprived of supernatural life, the absence of the splendor of which is a stain (macula peccati ) on the soul, and also the state or condition of being liable to the penalty due in punishment for the fault (reatus poenae ).
Venial Sin. The words "mortal" and "venial" in connection with sin are not found in the Scriptures, but the distinction between the two types of sin is clearly affirmed. There are sins that exclude from the kingdom (Eph 5.5; Gal 5.19–21) and sins that do not exclude from it (Jas 3.2; 1 Jn 1.8; Eccl 7.21). In the 4th century Jovinian claimed that all sins were equal and therefore deserving of the same punishment. St. Augustine took a strong stand against this doctrine [see J. Mausbach, Die Ethik des hl. Augustinus (Freiburg 1909)]. Wyclif, and after him Martin Luther, Calvin, and others among the Reformers, rejected the distinction so far at least as it supposed a difference in the sin rather than the sinner. Pius V in 1567 condemned a proposition of Baius repudiating the distinction (Enchiridion symbolorum 1920). The Council of Trent spoke of mortal sin, which the just man can avoid, and venial sin, which he cannot avoid without special grace (Enchiridion symbolorum 1573); of mortal sin that must be confessed in the Sacrament of Penance and venial sin that need not be confessed (Enchiridion symbolorum 1707); of mortal sin by which one falls from justice and venial sin by which the sinner does not cease to be just (Enchiridion symbolorum 1537).
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the difference between mortal and venial sin follows upon the diversity of the disorders that constitute the essence of the sin. There are two kinds of such disorder, one that destroys the very principle of order and one that leaves the principle but introduces inordinateness among things consequent to it. The principle of the entire moral order is the last end. Hence when a soul is so disordered that it turns away from its last end, which is God, to whom it has been united by charity, there is mortal sin; and when there is disorder in the soul without its turning away from God, there is venial sin. St. Thomas likened the aversion from God in mortal sin to death, in which the principle of life is lost, and the disorder of venial sin to sickness, which is a reparable condition because the principle of life remains (Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 72.5).
From this it is evident that the term sin is not applied univocally to mortal and venial sin as to two species contained under a common genus. The disorder involved in venial sin is different, and so also the offense to God, and it makes a man liable to quite a different penalty.
St. Thomas thought that venial sin was not so much against the law of God (contra legem ) as outside the law (praeter legem ) (Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 88.1 ad 1). St. Thomas wanted, as did other outstanding theologians of his time, to include under the heading of sin as defined by St. Augustine only those acts in which the idea of sin was fully realized. The restrictive interpretation of these theologians was due to the severity of the early scholastics who thought that any voluntary and deliberate transgression of the divine will was worthy of eternal punishment. The later scholastics sought to get around the rigor of this doctrine by finding formulas that made venial sin seem something less than an outright violation of the divine law. Thus Scotus, for example, is alleged by some, although this is disputed by others, to have taught that venial sin is a violation of a counsel rather than a precept. St. Bonaventure and St. Albert the Great used the same formula as St. Thomas and declared that venial sin is not contra but praeter legem. However, they did not mean this in the sense that it was opposed to no law, but that it was not opposed to the law of charity that obliges one to love God above all things and to seek Him alone as a final end. A venial sin does not make it impossible for one to be intent upon God as an ultimate end. It disorders a man, not with respect to his end, but with respect to the means employed in the pursuit of his end. But if the law of God is understood in its full amplitude as it regards not only end but means, venial sin cannot be said to be only praeter legem.
Venial sin differs from mortal sin in the punishment due to it: it merits a temporal rather than an eternal penalty. It may be declared in confession, but need not be, for it can be expiated by many other remedies (Enchiridion symbolorum 1680). Venial sins dispose a man to mortal sin because, by inordinate preoccupation with means, he can become so attached to them that they begin to assume a major importance in his life, or because, being undisciplined in little things, he can grow bolder and become less ready to subject himself to God's law in graver matters (Aquinas, Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 88.3). Nevertheless, venial sin does not directly cause a diminution of charity or of sanctifying grace (op. cit. 2a2ae, 24.10).
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