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I have heard various persons refer to different 'kinds' of sins on this site and in other places.

I have heard of

  • mortal sin
  • grave sin
  • venial sin

Are there others? What is a basic definition of each? If all sins are bad and have the potential to damn why are they classified?

Let me know if this is too broad

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2 Answers

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The most authoritative answers can be found in Article 8: Sin of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is carefully worded and addresses the questions asked. The following is an attempt at a supplement. Other sources include the Catholic Encyclopedia and the Baltimore Catechism.

This is about actual sin (as in "act-ual", from Latin actus) having to do with acts, and not Original Sin. Acts include willful deeds, failures to act (omissions), utterances (speech), desires, and thoughts.

Terminology

The major distinction is between venial and mortal sins: something very serious accompanies every mortal sin, so mortal sins are set apart.

  • Sin is any act contrary to the eternal law. A sin is a willful act contrary to reason and the moral law inscribed into the conscience of every person.

    The object of a sin has to do with the objective (object-ive) elements of the sin, circumstances, etc.

    Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments. Grave sin is sin whose object is grave matter

  • Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter (a grave sin), and which is committed with full knowledge (on the part of the intellect) and deliberate consent (on the part of the will).

    1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

  • Venial sin is any sin that is not a mortal sin:

    1862 One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

The reason we talk about grave sins is that we cannot know if another person truly committed a moral sin without knowing if they acted with knowledge and consent. But we can know on the basis of certain objective qualities that it was a grave sin, so we are able to call it that. There isn't always a clear distinction between grave and light matter. Objectively, some sins "admit of no lightness of matter", such as blasphemy or hatred of God. Other sins admit lightness. For example, intentional theft is sometimes only venial, such as when one wilfully steals paperclips from the office. It is especially difficult for a person to self-evaluate the gravity of one's own sins, which is why the Church trains priests to recognize the gravity of sins during Confession.

Diagram

                         Grave
    SIN:                Matter 
           ┌─ ─ ─ ─ ┴ ─ ─ ─ ─┐
           │          venial │ 
           ┤        ╔ ═ ═ ═ ═╗
 Knowledge │ venial ║ Mortal ║ ⬅"deliberate
 & Consent └─ ─ ─ ──╚═ ═ ═ ═ ╝   sins"
                        ⬆    
                   "Grave sins"

In other words:
knowledge and consent + grave matter = Mortal Sin

Effects

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. [... Mortal sin] necessitates a new initiative of God's mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation. [...] Unrepented, it brings eternal death.

Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it. [...] Venial sin constitutes a moral disorder that is reparable by charity, which it allows to subsist in us.

From the Baltimore Catechism:

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.

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.

There are also capital sins (vices), material and formal sins, and internal sins. For example, mortal or venial sins might be internal. But all that's another question. The major distinction is between mortal and venial sins.

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A grave matter is a grave sin? Why the classifications, though. Maybe that is a different question. I also notice 'capital sins' in there. What is that? I envisioned a nice bullet list with basic definitions then an explanation of why there are types in the first place. –  fredsbend Mar 17 '13 at 7:29
    
Ok. Tell me if I got this. There are two kinds of sin: Mortal and Venial. There are three types of Mortal sin: Regular, Grave Matters, and Capital Sins. –  fredsbend Mar 17 '13 at 19:15
    
Gravity designates the inherent seriousness of the action. Mortal versus Venial essentially designates the consequence of a sin -- thus the designations take deliberateness and knowledge into consideration. Only grave sins can carry the "mortal consequence." But, the "mortal consequence" isn't assumed in all cases of a grave sin. –  svidgen Mar 18 '13 at 2:10
    
And the classifications are there, we would say, because they're real. Sins vary widely in severity and culpability, and therefore consequence. In Catholic theology, a venial sin will buy you some time in purgatory (not fun, by any means). But, a mortal sin is effectively a commitment to hell until a full repentance is made -- the expression of which Catholicism would say is the sacrament of confession. (Sacraments are the physical revelations/reflections/incarnations of spiritual realities.) –  svidgen Mar 18 '13 at 2:17
    
(Specific dispensation is not an actual requirement for Sundays. If there is a genuine emergency or a inability to attend (say you are stranded on some desert island) you are not expected to go (though you should still pray)) –  Ignatius Theophorus Mar 18 '13 at 3:03
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Mortal Sin and Grave Sin are the same thing. A mortal sin requires sufficient reflection, grave matter and consent of the will. A mortal sin merits Eternal Damnation and must be absolved by a valid priest in the sacrament of confession or absolved by perfect contrition to restore Justification. A venial sin offends God but does not merit Damnation just some time in Purgatory.

Some mortal sins include: murder, fornication, lying, drunkenness, consenting to impure thoughts, masturbation, looking at pornography, adultery, cheating, taking God’s name in vain, birth control or artificial contraception, assisting the propagation of heresy, funding heretics, dishonoring the Sabbath, breaking the commandments.

Baltimore Catechism:

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.

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This answer is gravely incorrect. You do not need "sufficient reflection" to perform a mortal sin. You simply have to know (in some cases, merely suspect) that it is a mortal sin. Your list of mortal sins indiscriminately mixes mortal with non-mortal sins. For example, lying is not always mortal sin (CCC 2484). Mortal sin and grave sin are not the same: mortal sin requires knowledge and consent of will, while grave sin can be committed without those. –  Alypius Mar 17 '13 at 16:31
    
You are wrong again. You do not need to know its a mortal sin to commit a mortal sin. This is absurd. I've updated my answer to illustrate how wrong you are. –  apocalypse_info_click_here Mar 17 '13 at 16:43
    
My post is not incorrect. You are. Especially on this point "You simply have to know (in some cases, merely suspect) that it is a mortal sin" No you don't. A pagan is quite capable of committing and being condemned for a mortal sin. –  apocalypse_info_click_here Mar 17 '13 at 17:17
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