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venal, venial - vocabulary

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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Venal: willing to sell one’s influence in return for a bribe; associated with bribery.

From what we already know, . . . some churchmen had dealings with the SB [Polish Secret Police] for no other reason than that anyone in Poland who wanted a passport had to speak to the SB. Others, like Wieglus, signed agreements-to-cooperate; but there was a wide spectrum of cooperation, some of which did little or no harm. Still others constantly blabbed clerical gossip to the SB, which in the case of a former classmate of John Paul II, seems to have had more to do with ego than with any intent to harm the church. Others were venal, cooperating for money. And still others agreed to work with the SB because they were persuaded, somehow, that doing so would help liberalize the tight-ship church of Cardinal Wyszynski.

—George Weigel

“The Archbishop and the Secret Police”, January 9, 2007

Venial: that may be pardoned or forgiven, a forgivable sin; trifling, not seriously wrong.

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.

—The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (3d ed. 2002)

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