Accessory to another's sin and mortal sin

When does being an accessory to someone’s sin become a mortal sin?

I’m having an issue at work at my job right now that is really upsetting me and for the record I can tend to be scrupulous.

My job puts me in a minor position of authority, and one of the minor unwritten rules at the job is routinely broken by people under me and others at work (rule being refreshments offered to customers, not supposed to be taken by employees) It seems to be more of an annoyance than anything warranting discipline to my bosses, and though I have mentioned it to them in the past (and some small measures were taken) they don’t really seem motivated to do anything substantial about it. What is my obligation in situations like this? I’m not even sure if it is my responsibility to steer them away from breaking this rule (but in the absence of certainty I have tried to hinder them nonetheless), I’m just supposed to supervise them and this rule doesn’t seem to really have to do with what they are at work for. Today I noticed two working under me taking some and I wanted to speak out but I just got a bit nervous and locked up (I have anxiety issues) and couldn’t bring myself to speak out.

Did I sin here? Did I mortally sin? And more generally, what is the relationship between being an accessory to another’s sin by silence and mortal sin? I just don’t understand how I could be sinning here even though I fear I might be. I don’t want to do wrong, I don’t want those under me to do wrong, but it’s just my anxiety is preventing me from speaking out when I’m not even sure I really have to speak out. If I was sinning in such situations do I take on the same guilt as if I had stolen/broken this rule myself? Is this the rule when it comes to being an accessory to sin by silence? Say if someone under your authority does something wrong and you don’t prevent them or say something, is this as if you did the sin yourself? If so I find this so hard to understand since I have no desire to do wrong and it’s a situation where I just feel like I want to do the right thing but circumstances (such as my often paralyzing anxiety) prevent me from acting how I think I might have an obligation to act.

Help is appreciated.

In order for it to be mortal, you had to give deliberate consent. It sounds like your anxiety flared up the moment you had to make a decision. As the anxiety impaired your decision making ability, you cannot be fully culpable, so you could not have committed a mortal sin.

I’m not quite sure what the sin is though. It seems to be some employees are stealing refreshments, either left over ones that customers haven’t consumed or maybe fresh ones (take a sip before server delivers them to the customer). I think sipping customers’ drinks before they receive them would be mortal, but not when the customers have left and the drinks will otherwise be discarded. Most likely those employees are only committing venial sins, so you would maximally be incurring venial sin, but this also depends on how much authority you have to correct this behavior. Because you have scruples I recommend speaking to a priest about this. No matter what anyone of us says here, you will most likely feel a little doubt whether our interpretation of the events pertains to reality. That can cause even more scruples. The only thing that will truly satisfy you is speaking to Jesus one on one through the priest in the confessional.

On a practical note, if you find it hard to verbally broach this issue with your co-workers, why not send a polite (but unequivocal) email around to everyone in your team, reminding them of company policy re. refreshments? You are their immediate supervisor and therefore it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

This is not a mortal sin.

The snacks are intended to be used by customers. If management intended for them to be used by employees the snacks would be placed in the employee break room.

Does the management know the employees are taking the snacks? If they know, have they done anything to stop it? In some workplaces, taking customer refreshments is a firing offense. In other workplaces management allows the employees to help themselves to leftovers, although that’s often done by placing the leftovers in the break room.

If you violate company policy, or overlook others’ violation of company policy, you are showing yourself to be an untrustworthy employee, unworthy of a supervisory position.

My recommendation: schedule a private meeting with your supervisor and ask for advice.

This is not a mortal sin in any way I can think to twist it. In addition, you have reported the problem. You should have mentioned it to those taking advantage, but that is not so much a question of sin, but of anxiety. Send an email around reminding everyone on your team of the rule and that you intend to enforce it in the future. No problem!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.