Are we morally culpable when we turn a blind eye to sin? CCC 1860

I was wondering what people thought about CCC 1860, that unintentional ignorance can possibly completely diminish the gravity of a sin to be mortal sin. Of course, venial sin still wounds the relationship with God, but mortal sin turns the person away from God.

Is it better for a person to remain in the dark about their sin so that their venial sin won’t become mortal sin?

For example, a couple, born Catholics, had parents that didn’t teach them about the faith, and that they never learned enough about their faith to know about sins relating to the adult nature of sex. They stopped practicing at a young age. They never learned that using contraception is sinful, in fact, they have been inundated by secular beliefs that contraception is very good. They’ve been using contraception for years, and they got to know a devout Catholic friend. The friend could tell them that contraception is a sin, and it could either result in them stopping the use of contraceptive or for them to sever ties with the friend, but now they are using contraceptives in full knowledge of their sin.

Now, I’m not looking for answers to the example. I am simply looking for your thoughts on the fact that giving someone knowledge of their sin can turn their venial sin into a mortal sin, and if it’s a good or bad thing to tell them about it. Is it better to remain in a state of perpetual venial sin, or is it better to realize it is mortal sin and have the freedom and chance of correcting it even if it means that their choice might be to further lose more of their salvation? Are we morally culpable if we do not provide the knowledge of what is sinful?

I personally think it’s always better to tell them. The secular world is banking on the fact that people are uninformed about what’s wrong. I do believe we are morally culpable if we don’t do anything, and I know that delivering such information requires the most charitable and delicate tone, however, if we do not act at all because we’re afraid of hurting feelings, it’s not their feelings that we should be concerned about, but their spiritual life.

Yes. (extra characters)

I think it’s in scripture, about priests who do not teach the truth about sin. If it’s not there, then I heard a Catholic priest say as much, that he bears responsibility for not teaching the whole truth.

The question falls into two parts, those who are totally ignorant of the sin, and those we know who do know that adultery is sinful, for example, but commit the sin anyway, perhaps because they reject the teaching, for example.

John the Baptist was imprisoned for calling out the sin of King Herod (if I recall the story correctly).

This is like the Jonah dilemma, who gets a calling from God to go to Nineveh to get the people to repent, but he goes in the opposite direction.

We should be driving around towns with loudspeakers telling people to repent. But, we can’t breathe a word at work to anybody about anything without fear of reprisal. We’re in a tough spot.

Yes, it is hard to do what is required of us and do it in a way that doesn’t anger people. I think even with the most charitable cause and voice, people still get angry because they don’t want to know about their sins, yet if we don’t do anything, they remain ignorant rather than to face it. It’s funny because I was asking a question about mortal sin, and people on this forum condemned me of gossip and speaking badly of others. I was just trying to find answers to help a person, not turning a blind eye, and I get attacked instead.

I was listening to something recently that really made my eyes open about my question. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, but, in order to protect his position and to calm the riots, he sentence Jesus to the scourged and crucified. He turned a blind eye to the truth and allowed the sin to happen. We constantly remind ourselves of Pilate’s sin, turning a blind eye to the truth, every time we say the Creeds. I think it’s definitely morally culpable to turn a blind eye, and those who would make excuses not to help a sinner need to think about their position.

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Re: Ignorance

What’s more likely, given how easy information is to get today

1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.” In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.


I think information isn’t that easy to get because there is deception and moral relativism. People are more exposed to secular ideas than Christian ideas. Birth control and abortion are being promoted as a good thing that I remember Abby Johnson’s conversion story. She lived out a large part of her life think she was doing a good thing and helping women working in Planned Parenthood, but when she finally had the truth revealed to her, she wasn’t able to ignore it anymore.

We do have moral conscience imprinted into our souls, but I think it can be stifled with constant, secular conditioning. It takes a lot to bring that conscience back to light, so we all have to be out there to provide the truths and pray.

But sometimes you also have to use your judgement.
For instance, if I knew somebody who was in the process of turning away from sin and finding God, and I knew they were trying to get rid of many bad habits, I probably wouldn’t nit-pick them for things like taking the Lord’s name in vain (which is often a verbal tic), because I wouldn’t want to discourage them, either.

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Oh yeah, for sure. We have to be charitable to those who sin or risk losing them entirely. The great verse for Apologetics in 1 Peter 3:15-16: " but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame."

Apply this not just for defending the faith, but to all things when revealing the truth.


There are clerics that operate on the very belief if a person doesn’t know that their sin is sin and is mortal or if they don’t know Jesus or his Church that it is better for them to be left in the dark with the chance or what they believe to be an assurance of salvation.

While the Church does believe in the possibility of salvation for those outside the faith through invincible ignorance and that other people of other denominations and faiths have some degree of truth and are searching within the shadows to find the one true God we also believe outside the Church there is no salvation.

We believe in a just and merciful God who judges us by our knowledge and circumstances in the life that we lead.

It is fair to say that there is a hypothetical possibility for people that died outside the Church to be saved but it’s not a 100% certainty in every case.

We do not believe in a revolving door for these types of people we are not universalist.

If such a person is saved they are saved through the Church because the Church is the mystical body of Christ and it is through Christ that they are saved.

Also we must consider the fact that it only takes one mortal sin for a soul to be damned for all eternity.

Even for people who are not Catholic there are certain truths that every person knows because the law of God is written upon our hearts.

So while yes we do believe in the hypothetical possibility of salvation for those outside the Catholic Church and Christian religion it is not a hard line dogma of the Church.

What I mean by that is that we cannot say for certainty that all people or everyone that is not Catholic will be saved.

We don’t have a certainty for those people and that’s why people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are not canonized and should not be canonized.

That’s why evangelization is important and that’s why the purpose of ecumenism and religious dialogue should be for conversion of the other party not a social visit or some prolonged correspondence that doesn’t lead to anything.

People died for our faith and were tortured in the most atrocious and horrible ways that are unimaginable to us so I believe in today’s age we can muster up the courage to speak truth and to evangelize and convert others.

Knowing the truth about the moral law or what God has revealed is never harmful. As St. Paul asks rhetorically, “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?”

Ignorance is only an excuse for culpability when the ignorant person is otherwise properly disposed toward the truth. If you seek to know and conform your behavior to the moral law and the revelation of God as you come to learn it, whatever it may be, then there is no sin in ignorance. To such a person, the truth is a gift that fulfills their desire and frees them from the darkness of ignorance. As Jesus says “Every one who is of the truth, hears my voice” and “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

If you prefer to follow your own opinions no matter what the truth is, then ignorance would not be an excuse.

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Today there are over 7 billion smart phones in use. Watch how fast any person with a phone can access an answer to a question they don’t know. They have it in seconds.

Even if one has no smart phone, any library has computers to use free of charge. Information on virtually any subject is phenomenally easy to access.

As the quote I used says, If one takes little trouble to engage their personal responsibility to find out what is true and good, or is so mired down in sin such that their conscience is blinded by their habits of committing sin, THAT doesn’t excuse them from guilt. It makes them culpable for the evil they commit.

There is the prayer of general confession at Mass; this line in particular:

“… in what I have done and in what I have failed to do …”

Surprised no one has brought that up yet. The “what I have failed to do” represents the failure to properly catechize born Catholics, among others.

Yeah, but it’s not the internet that will have the answers. The internet is full of lies. Imagine if a guy loves having sex, has sex with multiple women, hook-up culture, no commiment whatsoever, because everyone on the internet, the mainstream, is doing it, even celebrating it. Then the guy looks up what his Catholic faith says and sees that the Church objects to his behaviour. He’ll just think sex makes him feel good, so the Church must be wrong, and then stop being Catholic.

He needs a real lesson from a Catholic who knows his/her stuff to really get the real information.

I was just watching a Confession series on Formed that just brought that up. You are definitely right on that. We say that all the time, and that really is the answer to my question. Even if enlightening a person on their sin makes it mortal sin, it’s better for them to know for their own sake.

He will find that The Church condemns his behavior, AND a Catholic who knows his/her stuff gives him the same information. Either way, that Catholic gets the same message. Point being, The offender has the truth. Their disagreement with the truth doesn’t get them off the guilty hook.

Is it better for a person to be distant for God or come into complete union with God?
Answer should be obvious. We come to know God by committing our whole being, not
by entertaining ignorance.

The more we know, the narrower the way. As it should be because God is so good and worth our effort.

Thanks everyone. I was fairly sure in my answer to my own question, but it’s good to hear brothers and sisters proclaim the same thing. Amen.

God Bless all of you.

This is just staggeringly shallow analysis. I await “skewering” by an isolated passage of the Catechism. :woozy_face:

You can mention it just in a subtle way. Don’t do what I did when A colleague said she hadn’t been to confession in years say ‘oh you need to go!’ Total knee jerk reaction then apologised and said I am one of those annoying over enthusiastic converts and we laughed about it.
But hopefully something may have sunk in

I don’t do that. AND please don’t respond to me again. Your rudeness is over the top.

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Clearly someone is feeling skewered.

…he said to no one in particular.

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