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

3 Answers 3


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.


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.


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

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


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.

  • 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.
    – user3961
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 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.
    – user3961
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 19:15
  • 1
    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
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 2:10
  • 1
    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
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 2:17
  • 2
    (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)) Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 3:03

There's... a lot. There aren't really exclusive non-overlapping 'kinds' of sin so much as there are a whole bunch of different classification schema we use which break up the landscape in different useful ways for different reasons. Catholic theologians have answered the question "What are the kinds of Sin" many, many times in different ways for different reasons. The mortal/venial distinction is probably the most important, but I think the actual/original distinction is up there in terms of helping combat misconceptions about sin. A brief but tolerable introduction to the topic can be read here, which covers the basic distinctions and their purposes. You have asked for a list of descriptors with brief definitions, and that is what I have tried to provide below, but be aware it is incomplete and wrong due to its brevity:

mortal- resulting in the destruction of charity and loss of sanctifying grace.

venial- not mortal

grave- having 'grave matter' as its object.

light- not having 'grave matter' as its object.

actual- sin stemming from the actions (or lack thereof) of a person which rest on that person.

original- sin stemming from the action of a person (i.e. The Man and The Woman) which rest on a different person. This definition is suspect, but I am unsure how to fit a proper treatment of original sin in so short a space. Please read the New Advent article.

comission- sins in which you do evil (i.e. you take an action other than not taking an action and the action you take is evil)

omission- sins in which you 'fail to do' in an evil manner (i.e. you take the action of not taking an action and that not-doing is evil)

ignorance- sins which you commit through vincible ignorance (i.e. you're stupid and it's your own dang fault)

passion- sins which you commit in voluntarily entertaining passions in an evil way (e.g. hatred towards a person or the people in general)

infirmity- not, as far as I can tell, well defined.

malice- Sins motivated by hatred, especially of persons (which is never licit). When this malice is directed at the person of God Himself it is the worst kind of sin, mortal, and indeed correctly characterized as diabolical.

thought- sins committed via thought. Much overlap with sins of passion.

word- sins committed via communication.

deed- sins committed via doing stuff in the world, physically.

material- not actually a sin, but contrary to the Divine Law. Actions whose morality is expunged by insanity or invincible ignorance or some such.

formal- actually a sin due to the state of the will. used to contrast with material.

internal- sins that take place entirely inside oneself.

morbid pleasure- enjoying fantasizing about sinful things without willing them to happen

gaudium- looking back on past sins with gladness and complacency

desire- wanting sinful things

pride- sins stemming from the similarly named vice

greed- sins stemming from the similarly named vice

gluttony- sins stemming from the similarly named vice

sloth- sins stemming from the similarly named vice

lust- sins stemming from the similarly named vice

envy- sins stemming from the similarly named vice

wrath-sins stemming from the similarly named vice

  • I've upvoted for the effort, but haven't gotten a chance to read this yet. Hopefully today.
    – user3961
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 17:10

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.

  • 2
    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
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 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.
    – user
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 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.
    – user
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 17:17
  • @apocalypse_info_click_here It's true that a pagan can merit damnation if he/she (for example) commits murder. But, in that case, full knowledge will be present: Revelation is out of reach for him/her, but Natural Law isn't, and this latter one makes it clear to you that killing is evil. Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 8:18

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