Gradualism: the heresy that says God's Grace is not sufficient for our conversion; it is modern Pelagianism of course, seems to dominate contemporary German theology. It is what is behind those terrible words of Cardinal Kasper that ordinary Christians aren't meant to be heroes. It suggests that Christianity is not about conversion, or radical commitment, and worse, that grace is not continually poured out on us.
One of the problems is loss of the distinction between mortal and venial sins. Ages ago I heard a missionary priest in Paris celebrating Mass for some English speaking Africans, this is his half remembered sermon.
Some sins are like crocodiles, the devour us, after tearing us limb from limb. The Church understood that Murder, Apostasy and Adultery were sins beyond all other that destroyed our relationship with God - they are deadly, instantly!
There are other deadly sins, these are like snakes that sliver into our lives, when they bite us they their poison infects us and we will die.
Then there are other sins, which are like lice and fleas, all of us have some of these, if we allow them to grow, they too can make us seriously ill because they carry viruses and we become like some sick buffalo, that falls prey easily to snakes and crocodiles or simply can't keep with the rest of the herd.
The crocodiles are easily avoided, we avoid going to the places they live, and in fact unless we go into the long grass were we loose sight of Christ or start wading in muddy water we can see them coming and we get away from them. If we can get to the Confessional even if we have lost part of our arm or leg and can only crawl we must get there, and if we see someone who has been mangled by a crocodile, carry them there!
Snakes are a bit more difficult but if we keep the commandments, if we are faithful to God, to our religious obligations, if we honour our mother and father, the faith that has been past on to us, if we keep our marriage vows and make sure the family is sacred place, if we keep our hearts pure of wrong desires. We can see the snakes coming, and either kill them or run from them, and if we are bitten, we must run to the Confession before the poison kills us.
These are mortal sins!
Venial sins, lice and fleas, we get rid of these by soap and water, by being close to Christ, through Holy Communion - soap, through water - prayer, doing good, following Jesus, by keeping ourselves clean.
The problem with lice and fleas is that we know we have an itch but we are not sure where it is or what has caused it, it just stops us from being what God wants us to be. If we can identify it, take to Confession, that is why it is good to go to Confession frequently, to expose our itching skin and our rashes to Christ for him to heal them and to stop us getting worst. Have you ever seen lion or another animal with mange? Well that is like us, we all have a bit of disease, a few lice and fleas, some of us have lots, that is why we need to visit the Heavenly Physician regularly.
Crocodiles and snakes can be easily avoided, when the have attacked us it is obvious, lice and fleas are a little more difficult to deal with, we catch them more easily. Crocodiles, perhaps we never encounter, snakes sliver into our lives especially in our youth, as we get older we tend to become aprey to lots of lice and fleas, we very easily become immune to their presence, even comfortable with them, sometimes when the grow fat on sucking our life-blood we pets of them, and feed them so they become even plumper, and end by considering them a virtue! (or at least I do - mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!).