A sin to tell your child Santa brought her presents?


So this is a spin off of another recent thread of mine, and here it is: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=911404

There were a lot of people saying here that it would be a sin to tell your friend you liked her present when you really didn’t… because it would be a “lie” and lying is “always sinful.”

While I respected these good people’s views, I was honest and said that I cannot agree with that. I simply cannot accept that God would be offended and upset with me for having told my friend I liked her gift. I will continue to think about it and pray about it, but as of right now, I cannot think God would be so legalistic as to count it against a person for technically having “lied” by telling a generous friend that they liked a present which they did not like.

So I was curious, are there a lot of folks here who would also say it’s a sin to tell their four year old that Santa brought xmas presents? Or is there some sort of difference in your eyes? If so, what is it?

(note, I am not asking you if you like the idea of santa clause, or if you think it’s good… im asking if you legitimately think it is a sinful lie to tell your kid Santa is real. i dont want this to turn into a santa debate, im simply interested in the principle of lying itself.)


First off, if you really didn’t like the painting, but said you did, you didn’t “technically” lie. You actually lied. It’s a venial lie and not mortal, but a lie nonetheless. Now non-grave lies don’t offend God as much as genocide of course, but what kind of faith is it that suggests that it is ok to offend God as long as it is just a little?

With the principle of lying, I sometimes make the parallel that lying is to the mind what masturbation is to the body with the only difference really being that masturbation is always grave and lying isn’t. Most of us will never have the opportunity, means or temptation for murder. Adultery and fornication are more likely than murder, but the availability of willing accomplices limit this as well. Temptations to lie and self-abuse however are all around us, and it is really easy, TOO easy, to stoop to them to avoid inconvenience, combat loneliness or frustration, etc. So it is precisely here that the average person must fight the spiritual battle. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much."

I believe most Catholics are sincere in wanting to live in accordance with the Our Lord’s moral life. But it seems like we want to hedge and keep this little box with “In case of Emergency, break glass” and in it is a pack of lies that we can use to avoid trouble. We need to ditch the box and trust Our Lord when he said lying is from the Evil One.


It is my opinion that most people fail to understand what a lie actually is. To me, a lie is a conscious attempt to undermine someone or a situation to your benefit when you do not have a right to such, as in trying to gain something you do not deserve, to take undeserved credit or to avoid responsibility for an action. A lie is a personal action that is usually driven by selfish desire. In short, a true lie attempts to subvert Justice.

Like you, I do not think that an “untruth” spoken in charity and love of neighbor to avoid hurt feelings or sadness is a sinful action. As you said, that would make telling children about Santa Claus a sin. How can it be a sin when a parent “plays” Santa out of love for their children? Or how is it a sin when a husband, out of love for his wife, tells her that her needlework is beautiful when deep down inside he doesn’t care for it? It all boils down to “intent.” Santa Claus and needlework do not attempt to subvert Justice.


So what do you say to your 5 year old when she looks up at you with her big blue eyes and says "Daddy, is Santa really bringing me presents tonite?"

And do you suggest that if your response is in the affirmative, that God will be offended even just a little?


My kids know about the real St. Nicholas, and that it is fun to pretend that a guy in a red suit brings presets to everyone. But pretending isn’t lying. Now I don’t pretend to know what God thinks of small lies, but we DO know that we are obligated to avoid all lying.

And to your earlier response, lies don’t become non-lies just because our intentions are good.

All lies are wrong. Believe it and trust Our Lord will deliver us even when we tell truths that make trouble for us.


As I said in my first post, you don’t know what it means to truly lie. There is not one person in this world who would say that one has sinned if they told Gestapo agents that there are no Jews hidden in the house when you know for a fact that there are. Is Justice served by allowing innocent people to be arrested, tortured and murdered just as long as you, personally, didn’t lie? Do you really believe that it would please God that you told the truth but that an entire family of grandparents, parents and children were unjustly murdered? But according to you, all lies are wrong? Nonsense. There is a strong school of thought in Catholic theology that basically says that one should only lie when driven to it by necessity (recognizing that not all people have a right to certain facts) and that we should do it like taking medicine, quickly and succinctly.

There is far more to a lie than saying you enjoy the cake someone baked when you really don’t. Your type of answer makes Catholic theology sound like evangelical fundamentalism; everything can be answered in a few short words or a bible quote. It ain’t so.


You are making a lot if indignant noise which is covering for a false dichotomy: that in the Nazi scenario my only choices are lie or betray the Jews I’m hiding. I can think of a number of choices that involve neither lying or betrayal.

All lies are wrong, and no amount of loaded 27-Ninja Scenarios can make it otherwise.


No, you will simply employ those little tactics that, while technically “true,” are in themselves attempts to misguide or intentionally lead to misconstrued and erroneous conclusions.

So tell me, what other choices do you have other than lying or betraying innocent people when faced with an unjust aggressor who will haul you and your own family away just as quick as he would the people he was searching for?


Lying to save the lives of the innocent and unjustly persecuted cannot be wrong. It’s brave, in my view. People who did this risked their own lives, as we all know. They were prepared to give up their lives for another person, which is surely heroic and admirable under those circumstances. Greater love hath no man than this …

I would hope that if I were ever in that position, I would also be brave enough to tell a lie.


:thumbsup: I would rather choke down one of my husband’s 98 year old grabdmother’s cookies and tell her they’re good, than to tell her she may have not followed the recipe quite right. I think God would look at our motives. JMO. I may be wrong, if I am I pray that I may see my error.


Thank you for the response, but you didnt address the question about santa clause. It is your opinion that all parents who have told their kids about santa clause need to repent?


Great post, and great perspective. I agree 100% with this assertion. :thumbsup:


Once again, amazing post.


Just stopping in to this interesting thread to say that this bit has two schools of thought. First, that what we see as ugly or not worth appreciating may actually be beautiful to God, and so saying that the wife’s knitting is lovely is not lying because the care the person has taken is no doubt beautiful to God and if we are appreciative people we will probably even prefer not-so-professionally knitted work done by people who tried hard. Second, it depends if (if it is a jumper) you have to wear it! (:p), no seriously, I think the intent, the heart, comes into play here as this clear post I’ve quoted explains. Inspire hearts not break them. Not everything is always black and white.


…another point, this time about Santa, is that it could be considered educational to let the child figure out the truth for his/herself! Most kids figure it out for themselves anyway. Although, in one sense, St. Nicholas can be prayed to over Christmas, and so, in a sense, this is not lying either. After all, the Santa spirit, and presents in stocking, can be attributed to him. BTW…I liked what Timothysis used as an example of lying to Nazis in order to save. Maybe the word ‘lying’ needs to be re-evaluated or dissected in a new dictionary(?) - we need a new word.


I dunno…I’m sitting here wondering just how much “spin” we can out on the 10 Suggestions.
Or were they Commandments…:hmmm:


This makes no sense me, I’m sorry. :frowning:

For 2 reasons.

  1. If you say something other than no, even if it isn’t a yes, its still going to seem fishy and may give them a reason to search. I just dont think it’s right to take that sort of risk when innocent peoples lives are at stake.

  2. If you didn’t directly say no, yet what you said was still with the intent to deceive or lead them to believe there is no one there, how is that different? The intent to deceive and purposely try to lead them to believe in something that is false is still there.

It all just seems very legalistic to me, IMHO.


A lie is a lie. The weight of the lie is subjective to the disposition and motivation of the liar.

If you lie to your kids about Santa motivated by the magic of childhood, that’s not the same as lying to them because everyone else does it or you’re insisting they have the childhood you were denied.

It’s not the fact that one lied. That’s the wrong focus. The focus should be the motivation which directly affects the culpability of the liar, and that is not for humans to judge other humans.

Imagine the two following conversations from two imaginitive particular judgements:

Person A: “I lied to save a family of Jews from the Nazis.”

Person B: “I lied to my wife about my affair.”

Now, let’s continue those:

Person A: I lied to save a family of Jews from the Nazis, but I let the Nazis use my factory to make rockets using slave labor because I’d turn a profit in the war.

Person B: I lied to my husband about my affair, because he beat me for years and I felt safe with my paramour.

Or let’s say that persons A and B are the same person who confesses, " I lied to the Nazis but also lied to my husband about my affair." Qualifiers may apply.

Yes, a lie is a lie, white lie or not. We can discuss the consequences of lying (tax evasion, loss of friendship or family trust), but the reason (or excuse) for that lie that weighs in on another’s soul isn’t for us to weigh in on.

If I went to confess to my priest that I lied to my boys about Santa, he’d chuckle. If I confessed to a different priest, I may get a good talking-to about his philosophy. But in both cases, if I said, “I lied to my sons about Santa because I had that happy experience and wanted my children to share that,” either priest would know that my lie was rooted in “good intention” as opposed to my saying, “I lied to my kids about Santa because I don’t care about their moral upbringing.” That is a different ball o’ wax.

Intent matters as much as the lie itself.


Exactly. Maybe we could tell all the terrorists where our secret agents are and uncover national security?! Or tell them where we are intending to head for in our campaign against terror - maybe the planes could send the anti-aircraft weapons their exact co-ordinates so as not to seem sneaky! Maybe the UN should tell terrorists where the refugees are that haven’t made it into other countries? Surely not telling an unjust perpetrator where innocent Christians are is lying by saying nothing? Maybe people should have just given up the Jews hiding from viciously unscrupulous and evil Nazi’s - betraying their own people to these monsters certain they will be tortured and/or killed?! Maybe priests shouldn’t have tried to rescue thousands of innocent Jews as did other historic figures, in secret, and possibly having to, from a one dimensional view, lie? Maybe husbands and wives should disclose every single secret from their past since childhood to each other?! Maybe we could go to disabled children’s schools and take apart their drawings telling them they are not up-to-standard? Maybe we could tell them that they have a severe disadvantage over all other kids?

As suggested above by the OP, let’s not be so legalistic, let’s keep the worldly spirit out of Christianity and the laws of kindness, and be guided by the Holy Spirit instead. As another recent post I’ve just spotted says near the end: ‘intent matters.’


Wow there have been some strange conversations on here lately. :cool:

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