Catholics divide sins into two categories, venial and mortal, and each category has its own form of punishment. The more severe a sin, the heavier the punishment will be. Proper penance can clear away the eternal and some of the temporal punishment for a sin. However, some form of rectification must occur in order to restore the justice of God that was disrupted through the act of sinning. In essence, though, the Catholic view of punishment for sins is more a cause-and-effect reaction than a penalty for wrongdoing. It is a reactive conclusion rather than a vindictive punishment.
Venial sins are sins that occur when the Word of God is transgressed. This means any time an observer sins inadvertently or without full knowledge, a venial sin has been committed. Examples of these transgressions include wasting time, distraction during service, acts of unkindness and other small deviations from the proper path. Venial sins can be forgiven easily without confession.
Mortal sins are more serious. These sins are done willfully and knowingly and pertain to the fundamental beliefs and principles of Catholicism, such as blasphemy, murder and adultery. If not repented, these sins will incur eternal punishments on a man's soul.
Levels of Punishment
Catholics believe that there are two levels of punishments for sins. The first level is temporal and is received in this world. These punishments can take the form of physical discomfort, emotional struggles, financial losses or other difficulties. The second level of punishment for sin is eternal. This form of punishment takes place after death, in Purgatory or Hell. The temporal punishments are carried out automatically, though penance can be done to lessen the effect. Certain rituals or sacraments can be performed to lessen or even clear away the heinous eternal punishment.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament -- religious rite or ceremony -- that can be used to forgive mortal sins. It is made up of four elements: remorse, confession, absolution and penance. The sinner must feel remorse for the sin he has committed, the physical damage he has done and the distance he has created between himself and his creator. After confessing to a priest, the sinner is absolved and some of the sin is removed. Finally, the spiritual impurity that still remains can be removed by acts of penance, such as fasting, prayer, giving charity and acts of kindness or mercy.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images