Conscience Matter

I have a question about conscience matters and private vows. I would like to hear people’s opinions on this question. Please do not hesitate to answer freely. :slight_smile:

Katrina is a woman who believed that she vowed to stop cohabitating with her boyfriend by a certain date. She believed she also added a punishment to the vow to say two Rosaries if she didn’t. However, despite her vow, Katrina did not stop cohabitating with her boyfriend. She also did not say those two Rosaries. She blew her vow off.

Katrina discussed all this with her friend Sampson, who told informed Katrina that she never actually made that vow. In fact, Sampson presented Katrina with incontrovertible evidence that Katrina never even ventured to make such a vow! Upon thinking about it further, Katrina realized that Sampson was correct. She was mistaken and her belief was misplaced.

**It’s obvious that Katrina needs to stop cohabitating with her boyfriend.

It’s obvious that Katrina is still guilty of sin even though her vow did not exist. First of all, cohabitation itself is a sin. Also, even though the vow wasn’t real, she believed it was. Therefore, she acted against her conscience by not stopping her cohabitation by a certain date. Then she acted against her conscience again by not saying the Rosaries! So she should confess her sin in this regard.

However, what about the two Rosaries?

Is she bound to say them? It seems like the answer would be “no” since there was no vow.

Nevertheless, I don’t know if the conscience matter changes things. It appears the only thing she is bound to do is to confess cohabitation and the sins against her conscience.**

But what do I know? I want to hear your opinion. Tell me, what do you all think?

(Also, I understand that certain elements of the story are ridiculous. For all intents and purposes, just suspend your disbelief a little higher than normal. ;))

Look. I don’t know much about deep thinking stuff. But I mean it seems to me that someone who thinks they made a vow actually made one. I mean how could they think they did and then find out they didn’t anyway? If I think I’ve made a really strong promise to a powerful guy in my town do you really think my finding out later that I didn’t would mean I wouldn’t have to do what I had agreed to do? I guess what I’m saying is if she didn’t make a vow, what did she actually make?

But OK, I guess if we are pretending, we can pretend that weird stuff like this is possible. So if a non-vow is made then it is a non-vow. So if I thought this powerful person in town had heard me make a vow, but later realized I’d just been mumbling and no one heard then I guess I don’t have to go through with it. If it’s a non-vow all bets are off.

But really, if you ask me, this Katrina is coming off as a bit of a flake. I don’t think I’d loan her money or ask her to take care of my dog or whatever. She can’t even seem to figure out if she is making vows or not. And then there is this Sampson guy who is just there giving really bad advice and all that. I think he needs to think more about what would be best for Katrina. But maybe he’s also a friend with Katrina’s boyfriend? I don’t know. It just seems like she should be careful about him. He sounds like a bit of a manipulator. Well anyway, I guess we’ve pretended long enough with this. I’m giving these people back to you to sort out. They’re your pretend people after all and not mine.

Just don’t start talking about Sampson having a really powerful hair situation and I think we’ll be good.



People can sometimes mistakenly believe things. Sometimes, someone can believe she made a commitment she didn’t make. For example, not being able to recall whether you promised someone to attend a birthday party. Just because you believe you may have doesn’t mean you did. It matters what actually happened. (In this case, you’d probably just ask the person.) It’s not being flaky. It’s being honest: Did I made this commitment to God or didn’t I? You can’t burden yourself with imaginary commitments. That doesn’t seem healthy.

I think you missed the point of the post. In essence, do the obligations of a private vow exist if someone violates it in conscience even though that vow was never made?

Ok. So if I think I am doing something wrong, do it anyway, and then find out later it wasn’t wrong? Is that a sin? I’d have to say yes. I’d have to think that anytime we are doing what we think is wrong, but just go ahead and do it we are showing our true colors. We are showing that we only really care about ourselves at that point. We only really care about what we want to do after all. That shows that we really are a bit flaky. And no, I still wouldn’t trust her with my dog. And I really would not loan her money. And I still think Sampson is a bit of a trick. I mean there’s a guy who convinces a girl that what she said to God really didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because of a technicality. I mean this is God, right? Sampson is walking a fine line here. I think he’s in big trouble with this. I think Sampson is probably a lawyer. Or should be. Or whatever.



In answer to the part of your question about confessing, there is no point in confessing her sin about the vow since she is living in sin with a person who is not her husband. Confession while one is continuing with the sin is not a good confession and therefore will not absolve her sin. No point worrying about a vow, while still continuing to live in the state of mortal sin.

This isn’t my scene at all (or at least it hasn’t been since almost longer than I can remember) but it strikes me Trident is spot on about the technicality slant.

Reminds me of my mates Ethel and Isaac. Ethel keeps being late for the bus. Ethel then promises herself she will have one hour less at the internet for every three times she misses the bus. She carries on missing the bus but doesn’t reduce her internet use that much.

Enter her pal Isaac. Isaac is more sophisticated than Sampson and says that a conscience in the process of being educated in an ongoing way will figure out practical ways of benefitting from life’s opportunities. This is a separate matter from “promising” oneself one will burden oneself as a way of trying to manipulate oneself.

Note the - silly little - sin is attempted manipulation more than the not fulfilling self-imposed and pretended “obligations” to be “self-burdened”. Trident is saying an obligation is an obligation, which it is. (In the example, catching the right bus might be exactly that. Miss a bus, miss an opportunity - growth is our obligation to ourself and thence towards those around us.) If we don’t even know what we have been getting ourselves into isn’t it time to just plain deal with first things first and trust God to help us deal with later things later.

Her scrupulosity - and her avoiding the “promised” burden - are completely unnecessary sins against herself like her bigger sin of substance is but - Isaac proposes - should be addressed in a completely different way (probably by looking at this sort of thing in slower time). Perhaps she could use an A3 sheet and jot down in abbreviated form the very different two kinds of sin - in pencil - at opposite ends. Isaac is the first to admit he is a layman of the most untutored sort, by the way. Religious experts could probably drive a humvee through what he says. He is very blase and hard-boiled about everything and wouldn’t be Katrina’s type at all. He is also over 100 years old so his long perspective has gone to his head!

Sampson is about getting off the hook and the more trivial the better (getting out of technicalities by means of technicalities - ever decreasing circles - think Basil Fawlty and Hyacinth Bucket combined - come to think of it I used to be like it myself in the dim and distant past). Isaac is saying let’s look what the hooks really are and resolving quirky bits of our personalities can wait till another day - if they haven’t resolved themselves by then!

Trident’s description of the manipulator Sampson with the powerful hair is wonderful!

  1. Katrina is setting that man a bad example, no matter if he is setting her an even worse one or not.
  2. Katrina making out she is in “scrupulosity” territory while she is doing thus is blatantly false.
  3. If she is hiding fact (1) from Father Sampson then she is herself manipulating him into manipulating her.

Solution - get out from that man by any means. YWCAs might have a room by the week.

Oh ah and according to lax old Isaac who just texted me, rosaries aren’t punishment (it’s blasphemy to say they are) they are growth opportunities just like keeping on catching that bus at the time it is there for one.

Incidentally purely for myself as I can’t count and pray at the same time I say Our Fathers back to back and that keeps me praying.


Can. 1191 §1 A vow is a deliberate and free promise made to God, concerning some good which is possible and better. The virtue of religion requires that it be fulfilled.

§2 Unless they are prohibited by law, all who have an appropriate use of reason are capable of making a vow.

§3 A vow made as a result of grave and unjust fear or of deceit is by virtue of the law itself invalid.

Can. 1192 §1 A vow is public if it is accepted in the name of the Church by a lawful Superior; otherwise, it is private.

§2 It is solemn if it is recognised by the Church as such; otherwise, it is simple.

§3 It is personal if it promises an action by the person making the vow; real, if it promises some thing; mixed, if it has both a personal and a real aspect.

Can. 1193 Of its nature a vow obliges only the person who makes it.

Can. 1194 A vow ceases by lapse of the time specified for the fulfilment of the obligation, or by a substantial change in the matter promised, or by cessation of a condition upon which the vow depended or of the purpose of the vow, or by dispensation, or by commutation.

Can. 1195 A person who has power over the matter of a vow can suspend the obligation of the vow for such time as the fulfilment of the vow would affect that person adversely.

Can. 1196 Besides the Roman Pontiff, the following can dispense from private vows, provided the dispensation does not injure the acquired rights of others;

1° the local Ordinary and the parish priest, in respect of all their own subjects and also of peregrini;

2° the Superior of a religious institute or of a society of apostolic life, if these are clerical and of pontifical right, in respect of members, novices and those who reside day and night in a house of the institute or society;

3° those to whom the faculty of dispensing has been delegated by the Apostolic See or by the local Ordinary.

Can. 1197 What has been promised by private vow can be commuted into something better or equally good by the person who made the vow. It can be commuted into something less good by one who has authority to dispense in accordance with Can. 1196.

Can. 1198 Vows taken before religious profession are suspended as long as the person who made the vow remains in the religious institute.

Another thing Katrina can do is look for a quiet B&B where a simple supper can also be got, or a landlady looking for a lodger. I was lodging for 10 years while I was working.

I clearly addressed this by mentioning she sinned against her conscience. I conceded her actions were sinful because she thought she was doing something wrong. This post is about whether she is obligated to a vow that did not exist.

I addressed this with point number one: “It is obvious she needs to stop cohabitating with her boyfriend.” So she needs to stop her cohabitation and confess it.

It’s not a technicality. She had a lapse in memory and mistakenly believed something. That doesn’t create something she both never made and also never intended to make. However, I’m wondering whether it changes things when she sins against her conscience.

Thistle, I am aware of the Canon Law, but we’re discussing a vow she never in fact made. She is still guilty of sin because of her sinning against a vow she thought existed. She can’t be held to a vow she never made or wanted to make.

But does the conscience matter change things? That is the question.

I don’t know what you want from me here. I mean are you Sampson? If so I am very sorry for what I said about your hair. I think this could end badly for me.

But otherwise I think I tried hard to answer your bit about sinning against your own conscience. I mean what more can I say other than if you THINK you are sinning, do it anyway and then LATER find out you didn’t, what does it matter? I mean maybe we are getting a bit slippery on whether this is a vow and all that. I guess maybe it wouldn’t be a vow in the strict sense because to make a vow you have to be dead clear about that. But the core of the issue is the same. If you are willing to cross your own self, how can I trust you not to cross me too? So really it has to be a sin. Doing something you think is wrong–even though it isn’t–is a sin. It meets the criteria. It’s like a Jewish person consciously eating bacon (because they secretly want to) and then later on finding out it was simulated. Too bad. The sin is done. You don’t get off on a technicality. Sorry Sampson.



Hey thanks for wording me in there. Thanks for the support. But how did you ever get a 100-year-old to learn how to use texting on a cell? :wink:



To my own highly untutored mind (I didn’t get a chance to text old Isaac) in Katrina’s circumstances it all merges into one in effect, but that’s just me.

In my own past way back (as a slow developer in some ways), I was mixed-up about what my conscience was and what it wasn’t.

I extricated myself from some dicey situations by dealing with the things that were weightiest in substance (i.e directly impacting other people) before worrying about my soul, if you see what I mean. At the same time and very importantly it has to be said that God helped a huge amount by intervening in the circumstances e.g what people did at that point helped the situation improve hugely.

I.e God piggy-backed on my resolve to make it happen, and my resolve and God together are what saved my soul (as far as I can tell :wink: ), I didn’t need to save my soul first, separately from dealing with the substance. (I can’t remember if I went to confession but it probably wouldn’t have mattered much at what point I did if I did.)

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