Do/Can People Go to Hell Because of Others' Sins?

To set up my question, a few stories:

I heard a story about a woman who went to St. Pio (Padre Pio) to have her confession heard. St. Pio chased her out of the confessional. When she later asked her why, he told her that he had had a vision of her three sons in Hell and that it was because of her permissiveness.

Another story I heard regarding St. John Vianney: Satan was complaining about him to somebody, saying that if there were just three people on Earth like St. Vianney that the gates of Hell would have to close because there would be no more souls being lost.

A third story (which I will attempt to recall) I heard from Fr. Corapi was about Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and (I think) Joseph Stalin. Both were altar boys and both at one point accidentally dropped a chalice during Mass. When Sheen did it, he was forgiven but when Stalin did it he was berated.

So now to my question: I know we are responsible for our own sins, but can a soul also go to Hell/Heaven because of the sins/virtue of other people? To what degree does a person’s environment and interactions with others infuence their chances for salvation?

Well, we can all be an occasion of sin for others. We can lead others to sin by our own bad example, we can raise our children carelessly, we can make our spouse so unhappy that he or she cheats or commits some other sin, we can pay our employees so little that they resort to stealing or cheating on their taxes, we can bully people so that they lash out at others, and who knows what else.

I do think we could be responsible for others going down the wrong path all the way to perdition. Our sin might be the beginning of a life of sin for someone else, or the straw that breaks the camel’s back at the end. We can’t easily take away someone’s free will, though, so they own their sinful choices, even if we influenced them in some way.

I do worry about some of these, and so I offer some penances in reparation for the sins I may have caused others to commit. I have also brought some things like this to confession.

Oh yes, if you’re a parent, whether your children are saved or damned pays a huge part in determining your own salvation or damnation.

You can be saved through them or damned through them, depending on manner in which you raised them. It’s a huge responsibility that God holds one accountable for.

Now, this is not denying freedom of will here – even the very best parenting can fail in the face of this.

So too, whether what you say or do helps or hinders others salvation affects your own fundamentally. If you say something that does lasting harm to others’ spiritual lives – well, then, you’re held accountable. We’re held accountable for every idle word.

You’re held accountable for how you dress, how you act, and how you talk, and the harm or help that gives to others.

If you’re a priest, you’re held accountable for the soul of every member of your parish, if you fail to instruct them properly, and a soul goes to Hell because of this, you’re held accountable and that can cause your damnation too.

May God help us all and make up for our deficiencies. May God have pity and mercy on our unworthy souls.

I still can be quite shocked at how freely people speak here, honestly… If they knew what they were being held accountable to.

no you go to hell because you choose eternal separation from God and your own pride over his will for you irrevocably, in full knowledge of what that choice means. the woman in the story was not warned because of the sins her sons committed, but because of her own sin of failing in her parental duty. Wish I could get the same message to today’s permissive parents. It is a sin, a grave one, to lead others to sin, but it is your sin, not theirs, on which you will be judged. Jesus reserved his harshest condemnation for those who lead the innocent to sin. And yes the culpability of the innocent snared in this way will be lessened if they were seduced by an evil person. And that is not to say that every child who goes wrong is the victim of negligent parenting, as they become adults they have free will and their own pride and willfulness kicks in. But yes we will be judged on how we taught our child to observe the faith and to treat others.

While everybody is responsible for their own decisions (including the 3 sons in Hell due to the woman’s permissiveness), the fact is that our example, actions and teachings often lead others to destruction.

If we do so, we’ll be held accountable for that as well. Thus a hardline atheist like Richard Dawkins, who may well encourage any number of other people to mock God, will be held responsible for doing so. However he won’t be held responsible for their own decision do so.

And I don’t know that our circumstances will have a lot to do with it either. An habitual thief knows what stealing is just as much as an ordinary honest citizen does, even if he was brought up in a family of thieves.

Where are you getting this from? Is this in catholic teaching somewhere or in in Scripture?

It is in the scriptures NT. It practically says that the teachers will be held accountable. I do not remember where but it is quite meaningful to me because I am a catechist on top of being a parent.


If a parent is guilty of culpable negligent and bad parenting, comes to realize this and confesses in Confession, they will save their souls. Where culpable starts and inculpable ends and vv I dont think anyone can determine only God.

Being held accountable for your actions is quite different from beig held responsible for your children’s salvation stated above as “whether your children are saved or damned pays a huge part in determining your own salvation or damnation.” I’d still like to see exactly where it says this.

Is the quote below supposed to relate to the tradition. If so, please explain as I don’t get it.

that is very true and you give a timely warning to all catechists, teachers and parents, but it is not the same as being damned for the actual sins committed by those you taught. If you are condemned it will be because you cling to your own error and wrong teaching even after God shows you himself, and your heart in contrast, and shows you where you were rong, but you chose your wrongness in your own pride (that is the edictorial not personal “you”).

Being held accountable it really means that it plays an active role in your salvation or damnation; however, it does not mean that it will determine it. It is a critical but not sufficient at all. I agree with you that it cannot determine my salvation by itself but saying that it is not critical it is like saying that I do not have a responsibility in other peoples salvation. It could yield to a very subjective interpretation of salvation. I am probably nitpicking here but I think that it is still an important point to make because If I mean well and I do wrong then I am still doing an immoral act and I am going to be held accountable for it.

BTW puzzleannie I was amused buy your explanation of the use of the editorial you. It shows that you (personal ;)) are a sensitive person. I use the word “you” in the editorial form most of my explanations and often people take it as a personal you and then they get offended even if I am not referring to them.

TO AnneTeresa I need to look at my Bible to find the reference. I only remember that it is on a left page in the lower part of the second column. :o

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