"Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." -John 20:21-23
Did you notice see Jesus gives His apostles, the first members of Christ's priesthood, the power to forgive OR NOT to forgive? This IS VITAL for understanding Reconciliation.
Say that you work at a gas station and a car pulls in for directions. Now when the driver gets out, how do you know what directions to give them? How do you know whether to tell them that they're on the right road or the wrong road? Do you just guess based on looking at them, or do you LISTEN to them first?
It's the same way with a Priest during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. By necessity, a priest can only know whether to forgive sins or hold them bound ONCE HE HAS HEARD THEM. Hearing the sins is essential.
Also, when people say that a priest can't forgive sins, or that they don't need to go to a priest, we need to know how to explain the role of the priest in confession. During the sacrament, we aren't confessing our sins to the priest, but to God. The priest is acting "in persona cristi capitis", which is a big way of saying, "in the person of Christ." At that moment in confession, through the power of the priest's ordination, the priest is standing in the physical place of Jesus. That's why the priest says, "I absolve you" and not, "Jesus absolves you." It's the same during the consecration at Mass when the priest says, "This is MY body," not "This is His body" or "this is Jesus' body."
--LifeTeen - Bible Geek
Q: "What are some examples of mortal and venial sins? Where in the Bible does it talk about them, and what is the difference?"
We see in the scriptures, most specifically 1 John 5:16-17, that there are different types and degrees of sin:
“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.” - 1 John 5:16-17
This is a wonderful example of the earliest understandings we, as a Church, held regarding not only the very real consequences of sinful acts, but, also, their effects on the entire community, and not just on the one who is sinning.
The “non-deadly” sins that the verse above is speaking about are what we refer to as venial. The “deadly” sins are known as mortal.
Venial sins are still serious, even though they are not as severe as mortal sins. With a venial sin, there can be reparation/atonement made, by the sinner, like when we say “I confess to almighty God…” at Mass, and then follow it up with “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”
The mortal sins function to separate us from God’s grace in a different way. Mortal sins severely affect us and inhibit our chances of getting into Heaven. Some folks disagree with the idea that sins will keep us out of Heaven, they need to re-read passages like Rev 21:27, Heb 12:4, and 2 Cor 5:10.
We can’t exactly put together a list of every sin that is mortal or venial. Some venial sins can become mortal over time, depending upon a few different factors. As the Catechism outlines for us, for a sin to be mortal it must fulfill three criteria:
1. The sin must be of grave matter.
2. The sin must be committed with full knowledge.
3. The sin must be committed with complete consent.
Basically, venial sins might include yelling at your little brother, cutting people down, being overly sarcastic or disrespectful, and some lying.
Basically, mortal sins include drug abuse, drunkenness, cheating, stealing, taking the Lord’s name in vain, missing Sunday Mass, masturbation, premarital sex (including oral sex), some lying, and obviously murder, including abortion or assisting someone get an abortion.
Again, there are different conditions (the three listed above) that dictate whether a sin is venial or mortal, but rather than using those conditions as “loopholes” or justifications when we sin, we should use them as “x-rays” that reveal our internal heart and motivations…that will reveal our nature, conscience and, ultimately, our love for God.
This is a very deep area of spirituality, but one that needs to be discussed more. If you get the chance, read more about sin in the Bible, the Catechism and other works to illuminate yourself even more.
If you’ve never read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, I highly recommend it. Remember the words of St. Angela Mereci:
“The devil doesn’t sleep, but seeks our ruins in a thousand ways.”