Deathbed Forgiveness

Is it permissible to deceive a person on her deathbed so that she may die in peace?

You should never deceive anyone.

Can you give more details about this hypothetical?

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What do you mean by ‘die in peace?’ exactly? What exactly are you (or whomever) going to lie about?

Ditto what Prodg|Architect said. It’s doubtful true and lasting peace will be the outcome of deception, but maybe we’re missing important information. If you were going to make up a scenario … what’s your thinking how it would all play out?

If we do not forgive those who have wronged us - then God will not forgive us - you look at it as helping her - in truth the person healing will be you by forgiving this person.You are seeing it the wrong way - this is YOUR last chance to forgive this person and heal from the damage done.

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A scenario where a man involved in a hit and run but never owned up to it is dying. He had been tortured by the scene and has asked a priest for forgiveness. He is forgiven but not at peace. If he is told that the victim did not die, that he might be at peace…permissible?

That would be a lie. While society has programmed us to believe in “noble lies”, Scripture and Church teaching are clear. Lies are of Satan.


And he is going to die and find out the truth. How have you made his death peaceful? Don’t you think that when he stands for his particular judgement that in addition to his sorrow and repentance for his own sin, he’ll also be feeling sorry for, and guilty about, the fact that somebody chose to lie to him before he had a chance, knowing the truth, to once again come to terms with the TRUTH instead of being fed a lie?

Talk about a bad scenario.

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Anne, that is a lie like any other. So, no.

Whether he dies “at peace” or not is really not even relevant. That’s subjective and emotional.

What matters is whether he dies in a state of grace.

No. That would not be acceptable.

To withhold telling him would be acceptable (in other words, just say nothing) but to actively lie about it would be wrong.

Part of the reason is that the man wants forgiveness. It would be unfair to him if someone else were to outright deceive him about the nature of the sin.

I knew the OPs scenario sounded familiar!

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I recognized it immediately when I read it.

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(I did too, but couldn’t figure out where I heard the story. Thanks for pristine it so I didn’t have to go crazy wondering.)

Did anyone else watch the link Cajun provided?

I just watched the movie now.

I am NOT comfortable with the ending. Priests do not have some sort of license to lie, to tell people what they want to hear.

I can think of other ways this could have been handled.

But no, telling a lie is not the right way.


The more I think about it, the less I like it.


But Father, he will also be forgiven when he confesses, wouldn’t he? He is, after all, only human, and not perfect. I thought it was a very thought provoking film. It made me think about God’s mercy being available to all of us, and that we are also capable of great mercy towards others.

Perhaps as a priest you see it through a different lens than we do…
I am not saying better or worse, just different.

Yes. He will be forgiven.

However, it is an injustice to him to make him think he’s being forgiven for a situation where the victim lived instead of the reality of a situation where the victim died.

That’s the injustice. He thinks that he “did not kill anyone” when the reality is that he did.
Edit: By the above, I mean that it is an injustice to lie to him, for him to be the recipient of someone’s lie.

We’re dealing with a work of fiction here. I think the writers could have done a better job of having the priest express his own forgiveness without having the priest lie. He could have been just as merciful without lying.

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