noted some of the difficulty with correctly understanding the way the Confessions teach the distinction between mortal and venial sin. He thought they gave the impression that any time sin breaks out into action or is indulged--any time one sins against conscience--it is a mortal sin. I disagreed that that is what the Confessions were getting at.
Rather, the Confessors certainly reckon with the fact that we live the Christian life in great weakness, are frequently overwhelmed in temptation, and succumb to it. But the difference is in this: does one get back up again? Does one immediately cry to God for mercy, seek His grace, confess the sin, receive absolution and continue to fight against the sin - or does one simply sit back, conclude that "that's just the way I am and God will have to deal with it" and not bother with it anymore.
It's the difference between simply wanting to be set free from the consequence of one's sin and desiring to be set free from sin itself. In the Private Absolution, the penitent concludes his confession with these words: "I am sorry for all this. I ask for grace. I want to do better."
I have heard it said that in the monasteries of the east the monks will fall down and stand up, fall down and stand up, fall down and stand up. If you ask them what they are doing, they will tell you: practicing.
"The righteous fall seven times and rises again; but the wicked stumble in the day of calamity." Proverbs 24:16 It is not the falling that is ultimately deadly; it is deciding that lying down in the sin is okay, the refusal to stand up again.