Summary Against Modern Thought: Mortal & Venial Sins

Summary Against Modern Thought: Mortal & Venial Sins

Previous post.

In short, luck does you no good. Intention always counts.


1 Now, it is obvious from the foregoing that it is possible to sin in two ways. One way is such that the mental intention is entirely broken away from the order to God, Who is called the ultimate end of all good people; and this is mortal sin.

The second way is such that, while the ordering of the human mind to the ultimate end remains, some impediment is brought in whereby one is held back from freely tending toward the end; and this is called venial sin.

So, if there must be a difference of punishments depending on a difference of sins, it follows that he who commits a mortal sin must be punished in such a way that he may be cut off from the end of man, but he who sins venially must not be punished so that he is cut off but so that he is retarded or made to suffer difficulty in acquiring the end.

For, thus is the equality of justice preserved: in whatever way man voluntarily turns away from his end by sinning, in the same way in the order of punishment, involuntarily, he is impeded in regard to the attainment of his end.

Notes Plus, do not assume all your sins are venial.

2 Again, as will is in men, so is natural inclination in the things of nature. Now, if the inclination toward its end be taken away from a natural thing, it becomes altogether unable to reach its end. For example, when a heavy body loses its weight through corruption and becomes light, it will not reach its proper place.

But, if there be an impediment to its motion, while its inclination to the end remains, then, when the obstacle is removed, it will reach its end.

Now, in the man who commits a mortal sin, the intention of his will is completely turned away from his ultimate end; while in the man who commits a venial sin, his intention continues to be fixed on the end, but he is somewhat hindered in that he improperly fixes his intention on the means to the end. Therefore, for the one who sins mortally, this is the proper punishment: to be completely cut off from the attainment of the end. But for the one who sins venially, he must suffer some difficulty before he reaches the end.

Notes The analogy of the sin is apter than you think. Mortal sin removes and corrupts. The old saying is that sin makes you stupid. You therefore have to seek restoration.

3 Besides, when a person obtains some good that he did not intend, this is due to fortune and chance. So, if he whose intention is turned away from the ultimate end is to attain the ultimate end, this will be due to fortune and chance. But this is not right. In fact, the ultimate end is a good of the understanding.

Now, fortune is repugnant to understanding, since fortuitous events occur apart from the ordering of understanding. Moreover, it is not appropriate for the understanding to attain its end in an unintelligent manner. Therefore, he will not attain his ultimate end who, by sinning mortally, has his intention turned away from the ultimate end.

4 Moreover, matter does not get its form from the agent unless it be disposed to the form. Now, the end or the good is a perfection of the will, just as form is for matter. Hence, the will is not going to obtain its ultimate end unless it be appropriately disposed. But the will is disposed toward its end by the intention and desire for the end. Therefore, he whose intention is averted from the end will not obtain that end.

5 Furthermore, in the case of things ordered to an end, the relationship is such that, if the end occurs or will occur, then the means to the end must also be available, but if the means to the end are not available, then the end will not occur. For, if the end can occur even without the presence of the means to the end, it is futile to seek the end by such means.

But it is admitted by all men that man, through works of virtue, among which the chief one is the intention of the proper end, may attain his ultimate end which is felicity. So, if a person acts against virtue, with his intention turned away from the ultimate end, it is fitting that he be deprived of his ultimate end.

Notes Meditate on “fitting that he be deprived of his ultimate end.”

6 Hence, it is said, Matthew (7:23): “Depart from me, all you who work iniquity.”


  1. Uncle Mike

    When I was 12 or so, a priest came to our youth group and gave a lecture. He asked the kids, “Of all the Ten Commandments, which one is the most important? That is, which Commandment, if you break it, constitutes the worst sin?”

    My mind raced through all the sins I knew about, but there weren’t that many because I was only 12 and had a somewhat sheltered childhood. Maybe killing your parents — that was the best I could come up with.

    Before I could raise my hand to answer, the priest supplied his own: “Thou shalt not lie,” he said.

    But wait, I thought, that’s not even one of Ten.

    And it isn’t. Or is it? In any case, I never forgot that lecture, and I have often pondered the question.

  2. V

    Uncle Mike,

    Perhaps it’s all of them. Violating truth.


  3. Joy

    Uncle Mike,
    I know you don’t need me to teach you, it’s the other way round but I thought
    ‘bearing false witness”. was the lying one.

    For me? Killing is the worst.
    But then God said through Jesus that there were two commandments. If those are kept in spirit the rest follow.
    (And I know you know.)
    It’s all in learning how to love

  4. John B

    Uncle Mike – Joy – V

    Uncle Mike – I love it

    In parochial grade school, “they” dumbed down the fourth commandment to “Thou shall not lie” (fifth commandment for protestants). But the biblical words are “Thou shalt not bear false witness…”. As we got older, we got into the idea of white lies or little white lies.

    That’s a good comment V, but I THINK where the priest might’ve been going, was the lie we tell ourselves in order to “justify” the breaking of the other 9.

  5. John B()

    Sorry – The eighth or ninth commandment

  6. Uncle Mike

    Like I said, I’ve had nearly 60 years to contemplate this question, and I tend to agree with V. There are a million lies; there is only one Truth.

    St. Thomas Aquinas above:

    One way [to sin] is such that the mental intention is entirely broken away from the order to God, Who is called the ultimate end of all good people; and this is mortal sin.

  7. Joy

    There is only one truth and It clearly isn’t sectarian.

  8. john b()

    There were the first lies in the garden

  9. Fr. John Rickert, FSSP

    A Christian bears false witness by any sin, no?

  10. Joy

    Of course, but I thought that was obvious.
    Apparently not.

    Not just the lies but the bearing false witness because responsibility was shifted by both parties. Only one gets the blame though, twas ever thus. At LEAST Eve blamed a worm! Adam blamed HER! Which was the worst sin?
    If Adam knew so much what was he thinking?

    For a religion to thrive on the currency of guilt it will resemble a place of control and manipulation. A recipe for fanaticism and abuse of power. It has come true.

    Yet the blame is still shifted on to innocent people.

  11. John B()


    Remember what I originally said “lies we tell ourselves” [not those we tell God]

    I was actually referring to the first three lies told when the serpent asked
    “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” [lie #1 : Serpent intentionally misquoting God]

    “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” [lie #2 : God did say this … not a lie … but Eve wasn’t there to “bear this witness” as reported in 2nd Genesis]

    When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. [lie #3 : her husband, who was with her … he did not bear the witness he should have … sin of omission]

  12. John B()

    I should stress that Eve’s “witness” by itself wasn’t the problem, it just didn’t hold up against cross-examination

  13. Joy

    John B, I get the story;

    Much, even most, of what is written on this site does not hold up against cross examination either.

    It’s never much of an obstacle thought, normally and much sycophantic praise is heaped on top to make things worse.

    My point is entirely the theme amongst almost everybody who dares comment here, given the bias, that it is all Eve’;s fault. If perps can find an eve to blame, they will, like hawks and hyenas.
    Also tolerated by all the Adams.

    I don’t buy it, neither did God
    I feel guilt about things I”VE done NOT by proxy for a story in the bible, OR because me being me, makes others want to sin and then blames me for it.

    I don’t believe in original sin except in a prosaic or allegorical sense. I.e, THE FIRST, and what effect that has on those around.

    I entertained the idea that it had a spiritual effect and beast more and more sin, through the cover up, as with organised criminals, but do not believe “we are born in sin” because of it.
    Everybody commits sin,, nobody is perfect. A new born baby is perfect in my eyes.

    It doesn’t hold up under cross examination. I used to be prepared to swallow any lines offered by people who seem honest enough and earnest enough. Having thought longer and harder about it and been on the receiving end as a true witness, I have lost that part of faith. Never to return.

  14. John B()


    “My point is entirely the theme amongst almost everybody who dares comment here, given the bias, that it is all Eve’;s fault. ”

    I knew what you were reacting to … you know where I come from [I think], my statement about “the lies” in Genesis was a “challenge”. Unfortunately, you took it up.

    On the topic of Genesis, for me, God’s original “Genesis” story is found in Job. (“Where were you …”)

    I think that like Israel wanting a king because other nations had them
    They also wanted a “proper” Genesis story because other culture’s had them.
    For Israel’s sin, God gave them a King.
    For Israel’s sin, God gave them Genesis

  15. john b()

    Oh … and the lies we tell to God? They aren’t really sins because God can’t be lied to. They just delay our forgiveness and purification

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

  16. Joy

    John B,
    When you mentioned Job before as your Genesis, I listened through it in one go, but stopped about three quarters of the way through.

    When you mentioned Jeremiah? I listened.

    Of course God forgives us our sins/trespasses. The Lord’s prayer tell us that. The Lord told us to say it.
    Or Matthew chapter six, my new favourite.
    God knows me, I can’t run anything past him. I DO believe if God exists THAT is true.
    It makes sense and it is born out by experience, complete with witnesses.

    “boast” should be Begot or begat or “renders”
    Thanks for the clarification.

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