Are such exam questions sinful?

Hello All,

I will soon be sitting some law exams which often include problem questions. The questions could potentially involve advising a homosexual/cohabiting couple on how to buy a house together or selling a house to such a couple. Could also be advising on drafting a will for someone who is cohabiting/divorced/has lovers/non marital children for whom he wants to leave nothing. The exam scenarios are most likely fiction but still there is a certain unease about them. What should I be doing? Is it a sin to answer such questions?

Thank you.

Look, I’m not sure what to do, but one suggestion could be to answer: Irish law dictates that in this scenario one ought to blah blah blah. You are then just describing the facts of the Irish law rather than: this is what I would do. Would that work? Also get feedback from others cos I’m not saying my suggestion is the way to go.

I once had in a college class questions on how I would use women for a scientific experiment and a class that was not a science class and their usage of contraceptives I made it very clear that I would tell them that they cause cancer and that I probably wouldn’t do it. I know it’s a different situation for you especially since well because I’m not you but I don’t see why these folks have to go into this kind of detail with stuff

Man, this place is like ground zero for scrupulosity.

No, of course it’s not sinful to answer a hypothetical question.

Have to agree with Boom Boom. You are answering a hypothetical question, not publicly endorsing the situation.


As a hypothetical, I would just answer the core of the question and completely ignore the aspects of homosexuality / cohabitation. Quite frankly, it seems rather improper for the exam writer to be including such details in the question.

Unfortunately some aspects of the law are related to cohabitation as opposed to marriage.

But I would think there would be no difference in the law between SS and OS situations.

I’d go with Schrodinger’s Cat’s answer. The feline mind is very subtle… :wink:

You have to look beyond what is happening in these fictional people’s bedrooms. If you can’t answer the hypothetical questions about fictional people, what are you going to do when your boss tells you to handle a very similar case IRL?


You can’t ignore aspects of the question that have legal implications, unless you want your grade to suffer.

It’s not improper to put that in the question. Law school exams discuss all kinds of morally contentious issues. Lawyers have to be prepared to think through that stuff just like anything else. If the question asked about the legal definition of rape, would you think the exam writer was endorsing rape?

This is truly a silly thing to worry about.

OT: Okay, I thought it was just me. :thumbsup:

Back to your regularly scheduled thread.


It’s an interesting conundrum: pharmacists and some medical people have “conscience clauses”, but what other professions do? Now that gay marriage is a law of the land (in the US anyway), what if lawyers, etc. don’t want to take certain cases? I think you have to look at it as your duty to represent your client, whether it’s a murder charge, etc. Murder would be a lot worse than this, right, and I’m guessing you have had to deal with hypothetical murder cases in law school?

Lawyers can decline to take cases.

Okay, lawyers can decline to take cases, but for this reason (disapproval of gay marriage)? Bakers MUST bake cakes, and florists MUST provide flowers, but lawyers can decline cases? If you’re in a solo practice, maybe, but what if your boss says “here, work on this”. Lawyers are a pretty liberal profession, I believe?

Well, you could quit the firm. Yes, that might hurt you financially, but I’m not sure what the solution would be.

I think the biggest sin is to pay huge amounts of money for law school tuition and then blow it with the silly idea that one can sin in answering hypothetical questions.

The outside world is a grown-up place; it would be best to prepare oneself for it.

I think I understand where you’re coming from.
Is your concern that by answering correctly (from strictly a legal standpoint/ to earn the marks you need) that you would be guilty of denying and/or failing to defend your Catholic faith? A perfectly valid question. :shrug: One to which I wish I had the answer. :confused:
More often than not, just because something is legal it does not mean it falls in line with our Catholic faith. I would seriously consult a priest!
Sorry, I’m no help at all! :blush:

As a lawyer, I can assure you that clients do NOT consider lawyers to be any sort of authority on morality (if anything, the contrary), neither do they seek moral guidance from their lawyers.

You have no obligation to give moral advice to people in situations where their moral wellbeing is a) not necessarily your business or b) not likely to be heeded. And both usually apply in the case of legal advice.

This being the case, it is neither scandal nor sin to advise a client on the legalities of a situation on which the Church frowns. It is quite permissible, for example, to tell a client that abortion is legal. Such is not an endorsement of nor an incitement to the sin of abortion. And certainly not a sin to state such in answer to an exam question.

No one reads an exam answer expecting that it is a statement of the student’s moral or religious beliefs. As Lily said, if I wrote on an exam “Abortion is legal in the United States based on the theory that the right to an abortion is linked to the right to privacy.” then I’m just stating what the law says. Or if I said, “A same-sex couple may adopt in the state of Maryland using x, y, and z procedures” I’m just stating what the law says.

No one would read that and think that either answer necessarily reflects my personal opinion on what is right, just or moral.

Anyway, this is all assuming the OP is studying law in the United States, which based on his/her writing I suspect may not be the case. Maybe law school is different elsewhere, I don’t know.

Good point, Boom Boom! :slight_smile:

Couldn’t have said it better myself. As an aside, I teach the “legal” section of our church’s marriage prep course, and advise on things like property distribution in the event of marriage breakdowns and marriage contracts - both of which involve situations on which the Church frowns. I present facts, not my opinions, and refer them to the pastor where the legal information I’m giving has moral implications (e.g. marriage contracts can form grounds for an annullment).

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