According to Catholic theology, venial sin ruins one's friendship with God, but it does not sever it completely so that the sinner merits Hell. However, James seems to say that all sin produces death. What is the official harmonization of James with the existence of venial sin?

1 Answer 1


James 1:15

Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

You appear to have interpolated an "all" that is not, in fact, present in the verse.

Given that we also have 1 John 5:16-17

If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.

one concludes that just as not all sinful desires lead to actual sin, so too not all actual sins lead to death, because they do not all reach "maturity."

  • "Sin" generally speaking produces death. But venial sin, apparently, does not produce death. Unless venial sin is much more serious than we often think, in that while it may not merit Hell, it can alter one's relationship with God in a way that still requires salvation.
    – Fomalhaut
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 2:12
  • Many understand 1 John 5:16-17 to be in reference to the 'unpardonable sin' of Matthew 12:31-32, which is essentially rejection of the Holy Spirit's testimony to Jesus. Otherwise, Catholics are prohibited, by 1 John, from praying for anyone who has committed mortal sin. Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 15:19
  • 1
    @MikeBorden No, Catholics are not prohibited for "praying for anyone in mortal sin" because we don't prooftext -- that is, that's NOT how we read Scripture to inform doctrine. That interpretation would rule out everything else in Catholicism, so it cannot hold.
    – eques
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 16:13
  • 1
    @AmatsukiLove the key in the verse cited is "maturity"; venial sin on its own doesn't produce death but it does dispose one towards further sins, which can produce death. That is, repeated venial sins in one category make it easier to commit more and eventually mortal sins in that category
    – eques
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 16:19
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    @MikeBorden that would be an interesting separate question. My point was if you think you have found a single verse which disproves a Catholic doctrine, you haven't.
    – eques
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 15:48

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