Summary of text [comment] pages 27 & 28
Schoonenberg examined the various enumerations of sin in the OT and NT and concluded that there were two varieties: ones that led to excommunication (in spirit if not in act); and ones that are “trespasses” for which we daily ask God, our Father, to “forgive our debts”.
Christ empowered his disciples to forgive sins. The empowerment supports empirical questions: What acts did Jesus’ disciples forgive? At what price?
Over generations, ministers identified gradations of sin. This is reflected in the Sacrament of Penance, where ecclesial penance is required for serious sins and prayer, fasting and alms-giving is expected for less serious sins.
What constitutes a sin that requires ecclesial (or sacramental) penance?
Apostasy, murder and adultery top the list. These are “mortal” sins. These are also in the 10 commandments.
What constitutes sins that are remitted by prayer, fasting and alms-giving?
Any act that shows an unclear conscience should be considered a “venial” sin. After all, even a kindly act can be performed for selfish reasons. Vanity and self-righteousness may wear the robes of humility and purity. The person who goes against the counsel of God does not completely reject God’s law. She commits a sin in the classic sense of “missing the mark”.