An act, when it is not ordered towards that which is good, is considered to be sinful – either venially or mortally. When such an act is venially sinful, it entails subject-matter that is not considered to be "grave". Such an action, even if it is committed with full knowledge and full consent, remains venial, so long as the subject-matter of the act is not serious. If the subject-matter of a given act is "grave", however, the commission of that act may be mortally sinful. Intentional ignorance and "hardness of heart" increase "the voluntary character of a sin". Thus, in discussing the distinction between venial and
As such, one can arrive at what kind of sin, for example, was committed, by asking the following three questions:
If all three questions are answered in the affirmative, the criteria for a mortal sin have been met. If any one of the three questions are answered in the negative, only the criteria for a venial sin have been met. In cases of doubt regarding any of these three questions, it is assumed that the criteria for a mortal sin were not met.[
According to the
In all this, one ought not to take venial sin lightly, especially when committed deliberately. No one without a special grace (generally taken to apply only to the Blessed Virgin Mary) can avoid even semi-deliberate venial sins entirely (according to the definition of Trent). But one must, to avoid mortal sins, seek (as far as possible) to overcome venial sins. The Magisterium teaches that although a number of venial sins do not themselves add up to a mortal sin, each venial sin weakens the will further, and the more willing one becomes in allowing such falls, the more one is inclined towards, and will inevitably fall into (if one continues along this path), mortal sin.