SIN: 44 Questions on Sin and its Different Types

“To make a sin mortal, three things are necessary: a grievous matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will.”

Wounds of Christ, mary

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism for teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and it simplifies even the most complex theological questions. All the lists taken from the Baltimore Catechism may be found here.

Many “theologians” now teach that post-Vatican II there is no longer any “mortal sin.” The good Cardinal Arinze examines this claim – his first few comments are worth the entire video.



SPL has referenced Sin in many lists. Most notable are 9 Ways of Being an Accessory to Another’s Sin and Do Good Works Merit the Soul in Moral Sin? And 10 Other Questions on Indulgences. An excellent companion list – also from the Baltimore Catechism – is how a soul is brought back to life after sin, Sacraments of the Dead: 12 Questions on Sacrilege and Grace.


Baltimore Catechism No. 3 – Lesson 6
On Sin and Its Kinds ON SIN AND ITS KINDS.


Q. 274. How is sin divided?

A. (1) Sin is divided into the sin we inherit called original sin, and the sin we commit ourselves, called actual sin. (2) Actual sin is sub-divided into greater sins, called mortal, and lesser sins, called venial.


Q. 275. In how many ways may actual sin be committed?

A. Actual sin may be committed in two ways: namely, by willfully doing things forbidden, or by willfully neglecting things commanded.


Q. 276. What is our sin called when we neglect things commanded?

A. When we neglect things commanded our sin is called a sin of omission. Such sins as willfully neglecting to hear Mass on Sundays, or neglecting to go to Confession at least once a year, are sins of omission.


Q. 277. Is original sin the only kind of sin?

A. Original sin is not the only kind of sin; there is another kind of sin, which we commit ourselves, called actual sin.


Q. 278. What is actual sin?

A. Actual sin is any willful thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the law of God.


Q. 279. How many kinds of actual sin are there?

A. There are two kinds of actual sin — mortal and venial.


Q. 280. What is mortal sin?

A. Mortal sin is a grievous offense against the law of God.


Q. 281. Why is this sin called mortal?

A. This sin is called mortal because it deprives us of spiritual life, which is sanctifying grace, and brings everlasting death and damnation on the soul.


Q. 282. How many things are necessary to make a sin mortal?

A. To make a sin mortal, three things are necessary: 1.a grievous matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will.


Q. 283. What do we mean by “grievous matter” with regard to sin?

A. By “grievous matter” with regard to sin we mean that the thought, word or deed by which mortal sin is committed must be either very bad in itself or severely prohibited, and therefore sufficient to make a mortal sin if we deliberately yield to it.


Q. 284. What does “sufficient reflection and full consent of the will” mean?

A. “Sufficient reflection” means that we must know the thought, word or deed to be sinful at the time we are guilty of it; and “full consent of the will” means that we must fully and willfully yield to it.


Q. 285. What are sins committed without reflection or consent called?

A. Sins committed without reflection or consent are called material sins; that is, they would be formal or real sins if we knew their sinfulness at the time we committed them. Thus to eat flesh meat on a day of abstinence without knowing it to be a day of abstinence or without thinking of the prohibition, would be a material sin.


Q. 286. Do past material sins become real sins as soon as we discover their sinfulness?

A. Past material sins do not become real sins as soon as we discover their sinfulness, unless we again repeat them with full knowledge and consent.


Q. 287. How can we know what sins are considered mortal?

A. We can know what sins are considered mortal from Holy Scripture; from the teaching of the Church, and from the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.


Q. 288. Why is it wrong to judge others guilty of sin?

A. It is wrong to judge others guilty of sin because we cannot know for certain that their sinful act was committed with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will.


Q. 289. What sin does he commit who without sufficient reason believes another guilty of sin?

A. He who without sufficient reason believes another guilty of sin commits a sin of rash judgment.


Q. 290. What is venial sin?

A. Venial sin is a slight offense against the law of God in matters of less importance, or in matters of great importance it is an offense committed without sufficient reflection or full consent of the will.


Q. 291. Can we always distinguish venial from mortal sin?

A. We cannot always distinguish venial from mortal sin, and in such cases we must leave the decision to our confessor.


Q. 292. Can slight offenses ever become mortal sins?

A. Slight offenses can become mortal sins if we commit them through defiant contempt for God or His law; and also when they are followed by very evil consequences, which we foresee in committing them.


Q. 293. Which are the effects of venial sin?

A. The effects of venial sin are the lessening of the love of God in our heart, the making us less worthy of His help, and the weakening of the power to resist mortal sin.


Q. 294. How can we know a thought, word or deed to be sinful?

A. We can know a thought, word or deed to be sinful if it, or the neglect of it, is forbidden by any law of God or of His Church, or if it is opposed to any supernatural virtue.


Q. 295. Which are the chief sources of sin?

A. The chief sources of sin are seven: 1.Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth, and they are commonly called capital sins.


Q. 296. What is pride?

A. Pride is an excessive love of our own ability; so that we would rather sinfully disobey than humble ourselves.


Q. 297. What effect has pride on our souls?

A. Pride begets in our souls sinful ambition, vainglory, presumption and hypocrisy.


Q. 298. What is covetousness?

A. Covetousness is an excessive desire for worldly things.


Q. 299. What effect has covetousness on our souls?

A. Covetousness begets in our souls unkindness, dishonesty, deceit and want of charity.


Q. 300. What is lust?

A. Lust is an excessive desire for the sinful pleasures forbidden by the Sixth Commandment.


Q. 301. What effect has lust on our souls?

A. Lust begets in our souls a distaste for holy things, a perverted conscience, a hatred for God, and it very frequently leads to a complete loss of faith.


Q. 302. What is anger?

A. Anger is an excessive emotion of the mind excited against any person or thing, or it is an excessive desire for revenge.


Q. 303. What effect has anger on our soul?

A. Anger begets in our souls impatience, hatred, irreverence, and too often the habit of cursing.


Q. 304. What is gluttony?

A. Gluttony is an excessive desire for food or drink.


Q. 305. What kind of a sin is drunkenness?

A. Drunkenness is a sin of gluttony by which a person deprives himself of the use of his reason by the excessive taking of intoxicating drink.


Q. 306. Is drunkenness always a mortal sin?

A. Deliberate drunkenness is always a mortal sin if the person be completely deprived of the use of reason by it, but drunkenness that is not intended or desired may be excused from mortal sin.


Q. 307. What are the chief effects of habitual drunkenness?

A. Habitual drunkenness injures the body, weakens the mind, leads its victim into many vices and exposes him to the danger of dying in a state of mortal sin.

Q. 308. What three sins seem to cause most evil in the world?

A. Drunkenness, dishonesty and impurity seem to cause most evil in the world, and they are therefore to be carefully avoided at all times.


Q. 309. What is envy?

A. Envy is a feeling of sorrow at another’s good fortune and joy at the evil which befalls him; as if we ourselves were injured by the good and benefited by the evil that comes to him.


Q. 310. What effect has envy on the soul?

A. Envy begets in the soul a want of charity for our neighbor and produces a spirit of detraction, back-biting and slander.


Q. 311. What is sloth?

A. Sloth is a laziness of the mind and body, through which we neglect our duties on account of the labor they require.


Q. 312. What effect has sloth upon the soul?

A. Sloth begets in the soul a spirit of indifference in our spiritual duties and a disgust for prayer.


Q. 313. Why are the seven sources of sin called capital sins?

A. The seven sources of sin are called capital sins because they rule over our other sins and are the causes of them.


Q. 314. What do we mean by our predominant sin or ruling passion?

A. By our predominant sin, or ruling passion, we mean the sin into which we fall most frequently and which we find it hardest to resist.


Q. 315. How can we best overcome our sins?

A. We can best overcome our sins by guarding against our predominant or ruling sin.


Q. 316. Should we give up trying to be good when we seem not to succeed in overcoming our faults?

A. We should not give up trying to be good when we seem not to succeed in overcoming our faults, because our efforts to be good will keep us from becoming worse than we are.


Q. 317. What virtues are opposed to the seven capital sins?

A. Humility is opposed to pride; generosity to covetousness; chastity to lust; meekness to anger; temperance to gluttony; brotherly love to envy, and diligence to sloth.

  • Missy Farber

    Concise and helpful in personal examinations of conscience.

  • mortimer zilch

    this is regressive, and not to be admired. The present Catholic Catechism should be taught on the subject of sin. For example, Question 294. The Baltimore Catechism makes it seem that bad thoughts are sinful. This can disturb people’s minds, and is in fact erroneous. Sin occurs in the will. WILLFUL thoughts are the only thoughts that can be sinful. The fact is the brain generates thoughts because that’s its job: just like your heart pumps blood and your lungs breathe air. When these thoughts come to attention, i.e. become conscious, then they must be examined to see if they are in keeping with the Church’s teachings, i.e. “the mind of Christ”. Most people these days are so poorly informed about the Church’s true teachings that they cannot even correctly evaluate the moral quality of their own thoughts!! Because the Church’s teachers have failed to teach well, because the teachers themselves were not taught right in the first place. So, once we pass that hurdle…then the WILL must choose concerning that bad thought. If the WILL chooses to continue to entertain that bad thought, and appropriate that bad thought into organic union with the soul, then that is a sin, a sinful act of WILL.
    Thoughts themselves are cannot be said to be sinful. The Baltimore Catechism was scrapped because of misleading stuff like this. The new Catholic Catechism is less erroneous, but has shortcomings of its own, due to brevity it doesn’t explain everything in the depth that the catechist deserves. Therefore the Catholic Catechism needs to be aided by additional theological readings.

    • servant57

      making excuses doesn’t remove the stain from your sins or justify them… you need to face the fact that you are a sinner…repent and confess. You’re in denial.

  • SubjectVerb

    That was very helpful. Thanks :)

    Mortimer, the word “willful” is right there before “thought” in question 278.

  • Mike Smith

    I think Zilch is working for the devil! Saying the souls is indifferent to evil thoughts is a Protestant idea that the soul can’t know any better because it is a dung hill. Our soul, including this mind that Zilch seems to be saying is an open sewer, not a gate keeper formed by infusion from God of the truth, and former by habitual sin and/or resistance to it, is more likely to make one feel hopeless. Unless the Magisterium has condemned the Baltimore Catechism all or in part is to make himself into Church authority, a heresy. Ditto for the 1992 Catechism.

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  • Theresa Douglas

    As soon as I dream in my sleep, I could be sinning – if I have a dream of someone in my past and cloud my mind by remembering -and as soon as I wake and think about someone who angered me! We are constantly under the temptation, and ease to sin. Doomed without the sacrament of reconciliation!

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  • David

    Where is this found in the Bible? No scriptural references are given. I do not find in my study any place where God differentiates different types of sin, saying that some is worse than others. I believe that the Bible is full, complete, and sufficient to guide our lives and that we are not to add to or remove anything from it.