Many Protestants believe that all sins are equal before God. Catholics, on the other hand, recognize that there are different kinds of sin. A venial sin is a sin that hurts your relationship with God, while a mortal sin completely breaks your relationship with God. The Church teaches that if you do not confess a mortal sin, you could go to hell.
Protestants will often quote James 2:10 to support their point: “For whoever keeps the whole Law, yet stumbles in one point, has become guilty of all.” However, in his book With One Accord: Affirming Catholic Teaching Using Protestant Principles, Douglas M. Beaumont explains the real meaning of this verse and the Church’s teachings on sin.
Beaumont affirms that common sense tells us all sins aren’t equal. When someone breaks a law, they are a lawbreaker, but the consequence of their action depends on how severe their offense was. Someone who drives five miles over the speed limit is not going to have the same sentence as someone who robbed a bank.
There are several Bible verses that indicate that there is a difference between mortal and venial sin. In 1 John 5:16-17, St. John warns that even though all wrongdoing is sin, not all sins are “deadly.” Therefore, not all sins are equal.
Beaumont explains how some sins we commit are wrong, but do not separate us from God, while others are in fact more severe and completely break our relationship with Christ, and we need to seek reconciliation in order to come back to Him.
The Catholic teaching on mortal and venial sins is not only supported by Scripture, it is also fundamental to understanding our relationship with God and our salvation.
If you are looking for explanations about the Catholic faith to refute common Protestant misunderstandings, check out Douglas M. Beaumont’s With One Accord, sold here.