There are at least two distinctions between a sin and a crime.
1. A crime is quantitative. A sin is qualitative.
Say somebody, such as an ex-governor of a Midwestern state, is on trial for, say, corruption. In order for this to go anywhere, we have to prove he commited a crime, an act that is a no-no according to law. If we can’t come up with the evidence, there is no conviction. Finito. No crime=No bad.
Sensing, feeling, believing, KNOWING he did wrong is the sin part. Sin=bad.
2. A crime is destrucive. A sin is self-destructive.
My first sin occurred when I was 8 years old, one year into the age of reason, defined by Catholics as age 7, a magic moment when a child knows right from wrong.
Therefore, I could sin. I did.
I visited the house of Anita, a girl my age. Her house smelled like onions and tomatoes cooking, which probably were. Moments in, temptation swooped me into its bear hug. She had a dollhouse and, get this, her doll house had FURNITURE. Teeny sofas, stoves and what not. AND, here is where the heartpounding desire got the best of me…there was a weeny Blessed Virgin Mary statue the size of a safety pin. She was creamy white plastic, arms flared from her sides slightly and palms open, like she was ready to lift her end of furniture. A just-my-size icon.
I took it. Pocketed it. STOLE it.
Technically, that was a crime. But it was more. It was a sin. I know this by the effect, not the consequence. The effect. Instantly.
If a soul can crumble, mine did. I could not look at Anita, nor speak, nor anything but get out of that house, weeny Mary pulsing in my pocket. Nothing didn’t ache, except my hands, which were clenched into numb.
I found a way to put it back simply because I couldn’t live that way. If it were only a crime, that would have fixed it. It was a sin because putting it back didn’t fix me. That takes longer.