Sins and Faults Distinguished

Father Frassinetti assures us: “It is not too difficult a thing to attain this Christian perfection or perfect union with the Divine Will. . . . It is not too difficult to avoid even venial sins, and to seek in all things that which is most pleasing to God.” With regard to venial sins, he distinguishes between venial sins committed out of malice and venial sins committed more out of weakness than out of malice.

Concerning the first type, he writes: “We should notice that there are venial sins of which we are fully conscious—that is, those which we commit with open eyes, knowing clearly that we are doing wrong at the moment; as, for instance, if we are aware that we tell a falsehood in order to excuse some ill-advised action, and in the mean time we tell it, knowing the malice of that falsehood; or if we are aware that such and such a recital may even lightly injure the good fame of our neighbour, and yet, knowing the malice of mentioning it, we do not refrain from doing so.”

Concerning the second type of venial sin, he writes: “On the other hand, there are venial sins of which we are not fully aware, and which we commit more from weakness than malice, such as certain distractions in prayer, or some useless words or impatient actions, and similar errors into which we fall without being well aware of them.”

Then Father Frassinetti draws a distinction between sins and mere inadvertent faults. He writes: “Faults committed quite inadvertently are by no means to be called sins. . . . When there is absolutely no consciousness, and therefore no voluntary malice, they cannot be called even venial sins, but are only imperfections and weaknesses of human nature, from which we cannot in any way guard ourselves, and of which we cannot in any way repent. . . . St. Augustine says, where there is no voluntary malice there is no sin.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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