April 27, 2012

Mortal Vs. Venial

Religion makes it pretty clear what differentiates mortal sins from venial ones. Mortal are the really bad sins and venial the lesser ones. But in our everyday lives, it can be really difficult to determine just how bad we've been. This week we have stories of people trying to figure out that question.

Note: The audio has been modified from the original broadcast. We added language to make clear the extent of the coordination between Jeff Smith, his staff, and Skip Ohlsen.


Host Ira Glass plays tape from a political rally in support of a Chicago politician named Derrick Smith, who had just been arrested for accepting a bribe. His supporters likely believed that Smith had erred...but they also believed that the other candidate was even worse. Then Ira speaks with a Franciscan priest named Father Augustino Torres, to help clarify what separates serious sins — the mortal ones — from the not so serious, venial sins. (9 minutes)
Act One

The Postcard Always Rings Twice

Producer Alex Blumberg tells the story of Jeff Smith, a former Missouri State Senator who spent last year in federal prison. The story of how Jeff ended up there includes large sins, but begins with a relatively small one. In other words, it's the story of a venial sin turning into a mortal one. Alex can regularly be heard on Planet Money, which is a collaboration between NPR News and This American Life. (33 1/2 minutes)

Act Three

The Geeks Come Out at Night

Because the line between a mortal and venial sin can be hazy, sometimes the only way to tell is to test it. And that's particularly true when you're a kid, trying to figure out if you agree with where your parents draw that line. Producer Jonathan Menjivar tells this story about a time when he tested that line. (8 minutes)