Breaking the law a sin?

Does breaking various human laws (ex. Littering, speeding) automatically result to sin?

In my opinion, it depends on what happens IF you break the law such as running over a child while speeding.

But recently, me and my sister have been writing works based on novels or video games and just learned that it was ILLEGAL and against copyright. (Which I think is absolutely stupid)

But does this mean that me and my sister have been sinning just by expressing ourselves and sharing our imagination!?

It depends on the law. Most laws in the developed world are there to protect life, liberty, and property, so it is a sin to break those.

But remember the Civil Rights Movement? Those people were breaking the law in some aspects, but were the sinning? No. For as St. Augustine tells us, an unjust law is no law at all.

There’s nothing illegal about writing fanfiction, just selling it for profit. That’s what copyrights do. I could make a movie about Spider-Man, but I would not be allowed to sell it for profit. Unless it was a parody, in which case the law allows for it.

I’m going into the film business, so I know how these are supposed to work.

If a law is unjust (not just undesirable or unlikable but actually unjust), then there is no sin in breaking it and one may even have a duty to do so. For example, if some country passed a law that required parents to abort any fetus diagnosed with a severe disability, we would be obliged to break this law.

However, many laws in the United States today do manifest the legitimate authority of the government, who has the right and the responsibility to protect its citizens. Laws against speeding, for example, must be followed, even if nothing bad happens to a person who does speed. It is sinful to speed, even if one does not run over a child, because speeding is dangerous and puts others at risk. To be callous with human life (including one’s own) is wrong.

I suspect that the laws against certain types of writing are meant to protect the original authors and creators of licensed video games and novels. If you look into them further, you may find that the laws would not forbid you or your sister writing these novels, but rather, trying to profit by them. You don’t sin by writing a short story and letting your sister read it. But it would be wrong if you then submitted this short story, which uses characters that someone else created, to a magazine for publication and attempted to pass it off as your own.

God bless.

Thank you all for your replies!

I have another question though.

Is it a sin to break the laws that are neither immoral nor legal? Such as speeding/Jaywalking/under aged drinking

I also talked to 2 of my priests about illegal file sharing (or in this case, piracy) and both saw nothing wrong with it. They say that it is a sin to break God’s law. What are your thoughts on this?

It can be, and the gravity of the sin depends on the gravity of the act. Thus, 5 miles over the speed limit? Probably not, unless you were aware of endangering someone by doing so. Not coming to a full stop at a stop sign when no traffic is present? Most likely not serious, etiher. However, reckless speeding, definitely. High speed in unsafe conditions, or aggressive, impatient driving endangers lives, and thus is often a grave sin against the Fifth Commandment. (That’s assuming you’re not rushing someone to a hospital in lieu of an ambulance, in an emergency.)

Jaywalking? Well, again, if that results in cars (which are deadly weapons) being forced to come to dangerous stops, swerve, or hit or nearly hit another vehicle, then that is seriously irresponsible, yes. (And I’ve seen that happen in my local area, to the point of causing a fatality of someone else!) Jaywalking to demonstrate how unconcerned you are about local ordinances is more like a form of pride/arrogance. It really depends on the motive. If you’re in a legitimate hurry through no fault of your own, and you’re not endangering anyone, no.

Motives are always important to examine when confessing sins. There was a guest priest on Catholic Answers Live a few months ago, who said he often has to confess his driving habits as the result of his laziness & irresponsibliity about planning – and then behaving as if other people (strangers) should work around his lack of planning.

Circumstances, results, and motivation are three important aspects of examining one’s conscience thoroughly. But it’s equally important not to be scrupulous. We all tend to know when we’ve been selfish or irresponsible. That tends to jump out at us if we’re honest.


So by your logic, if I pull a Robin Hood, It wouldn’t be at all sinful?

Robin did many illegal things and broke many many laws but did it with a good motive. Is this still accepted as sin?

Antonio, it’s not “my logic.” I form my answers based on my training in moral theology and the Church documents: what the Church defines as sin and how we are to evaluate our own sinfulness, or lack thereof. The information, though, is available to anyone: it’s not necessary to have any advanced training or knowledge. There are really good & thorough examinations of conscience out there, and there are spiritual guides regarding the 7 Capital Sins, or the motivators for our sins. Also, the Saints and many simply holy priests have written about how we should assess ourselves as to falling short of God’s commands and the Christian life.

You never mentioned “Robin Hood,” but no, the Church does not approve, generally, of individuals using evil ends for good means. Individual lawlessness is a form of arrogance, not to mention anarchy (disrespect of authoritative law, which the Church tells us we must abide by as part of the Fourth Commandment). True civil disobedience, or the organized effort to oppose universally unjust laws – not just subjectively judged injustice – is approved, such as the civil rights efforts of the 1960’s, etc. Ditto for pacifist activism during similar periods (opposing use of nuclear weapons, opposing optional wars which do not fall into the Church’s Just War category, etc.). Also true conscientious objection to war, such as what the Franciscans embrace as an Order, is an example of legitimately resisting war as an individual, based on allegiance to a philosophy or ethic of an organization or belief system (Quakers also).

But we do not take the law into our hands based on a rogue (Robin Hood) or private assessment of “righting wrongs.”

A legendary “Robin Hood” campaign does not fall into any of the above categories.

I have this other question. How sinful would it be if one were to break a law that is neither immoral nor legal?

Does it fall in Mortal? Venial? Or is it just plain Wrong to do? Because in some cases, there are things that are wrong but not sinful.

whoops. My bad. I meant evil means for good ends, quite the opposite of what I accidentally said in my earlier post!

I think you’d have to give us an example, because that’s very broad. Second, do you understand that our Church provides the guide for what is. as you say, “wrong” (naturally especially through Jesus’ words, and His own adherence to God’s law)?

If something is wrong, as in immoral, it is sinful if the person acted with full knowledge of that and without coercion or necessity.

The Church has been pretty explicit, for example, on what She calls unjust laws: those would be immoral laws, which the Church says we can and should break. One example would be abortion on demand, approved by the Supreme Court in 1973.

However, deciding on our own that a particular Stop sign should never have been placed there, and because it’s “wrong” (or is not visible until a driver is within a few yards of it) and should “therefore” be violated, is not an example of your proposition above. In such a case of a law creating actual danger, the citizen should inform the local government, and explain the danger and ask for modification.

Another oft-mentioned “example” (and I hope you’re not going there, poster) are the drug laws, particularly marijuana. This is many people’s favorite excuse to indulge a recreational activity: there “shouldn’t” be laws “restricting my freedom,” and after all, some people need medical marijuana, therefore I can rationalize my use of it. No, where marijuana is illegal, it’s illegal – growing, using, distributing, selling. Violating those laws is immoral. The correct action, for those so agitated about it, is to work to reverse the laws, rather than acting as your own private legislator.

Another example would be some of the welfare laws, unemployment laws, and other regulations affecting people financially. They can be subjectively viewed (many of them) as unfair, and therefore “wrong.” However, again, when we are not the law-givers we need to abide by the law, and seek to change them by legal avenues. The immoral thing would be to cheat or lie when seeking such government aid in order to redress the “wrong” of it.

Sorry i didnt give this example earlier.

For example, a certain country made fishing illegal.

Half of the population sees this law as just and saves fish from extinction.

The other half sees it as unfair because they would starve.

Say I agree with the 2nd half and I fished. Would that still make it a sin?

I would like to point out that the original Robin Hood stories and the current Robin Hood are a bit different, for example no female love interests in the oldest ones, he was also a rather rough man.

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