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mortal sin/venial sin

A distinction of sins that is stressed in the theology of the Roman Catholic Church. A mortal sin is serious enough to subject the sinner to damnation; willful murder, for instance, is considered a mortal sin. Venial sins are less serious.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.