Does one sin if they neglect to do a work of mercy?

Hey everyone. Does one sin if they neglect to do a work of mercy, either spiritual or corporal? If so, is it grave matter or is it venial in nature?

I will give a little more detail. Basically I was with someone and that person was gossiping about others and I did not tell them to stop. I was completely uninterested in hearing the gossip and I even lowered my head to express disinterest in the conversation and I tried to change the subject but it didn’t work. Did I sin?

For certain, it was not a mortal sin as you did not deliberately consent to it. In your circumstance, I would not even classify it as a venial sin. It doesn’t sound like you have evil motivation here.

In general, there are a lot of circumstances that have to be considered…including the motivation.

For example, “feed the hungry.” There are a lot of charities who would like you to believe that if you don’t donate to them when they send their requests you have sinned (as well as not a few panhandlers on the side of a road). However, I would tend to think that it would only be a sin if you choose not to donate with the attitude of “it’s your own fault that you are in the position you’re in. To blazes with you.”

For example, “instruct the ignorant.” Again, if your attitude is “figure it out yourself” – then you may have something to confess; however, that does not imply that you need to correct literally every misconception heard about the teachings of Christ literally every time you hear it. Prudence.

Saint John Vianney once said that “If something uncharitable is said in your presence, either speak in favor of the absent, or withdraw, or, if possible, stop the conversation.”

The key phrase here is “if possible;” if you try and can’t stop the conversation, then just leave it and don’t worry about it. Do your best! :slight_smile:

Holly, since you struggle with scrupulosity, I am going to suggest you have your regular spiritual director help you work through this.

Can anyone tell me if this is grave matter or not? I am really worried that I might have committed a mortal sin.

Hello everyone. I talked to my pastor, another priest, and my spiritual director about the issue and they all told me that I did not commit a mortal sin. My spiritual director said I didn’t sin at all.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The others have already told you the answer. You did NOT sin.
Please talk to your priest or spiritual director otherwise scrupulosity can make your life miserable.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit