How Bound Are We to the Civil Law?


Get ready for a challenging but very mediocre question.

I ask this as I know that we are bound to moral civil laws. I don’t want to do anything wrong, my situation is this:

I would quite like to play a daft little game on my computer, as I currently have very little pastimes. The game requires a monthly subscription, but the latest version does not interest me at all, I would much rather play an older, long redundant version (that I used to pay for). The problem is that the older version is only hosted illegally.

Now, I could pay for a regular subscription to the latest legal version, while using the older illegal version. This, I am sure, would cover me morally in usual circumstances, but if the Church binds us to all civil laws even in slight matters, and since the 6th way of being an accessory to a sin is by partaking, I would be an accessory to the crime if I used the older version, albeit slightly, and therefore I would be bound not to do this.

This would be a shame because I find that the lack of a pastime is proving rather unhealthy and that this might be good for me, but I want to ask this as although it is the sort of thing that someone will probably never question, since I have questioned it I am now bound morally!

In short, the question would be: Are we bound by the faith to observe civil law to the utmost degree (providing they are moral laws) even if the offence is very slight?

Any help is much appreciated!


Surely, with all the games out there, there’s one that can be obtained legally that would interest you.


No it’s not like that. It’s just that I am quite a boring person, and only really liked this particular one. It has changed so much now that I wouldn’t be interested in the newer version at all, though if it were possible to play legally I definitely would.

The only reason why I ask is that I just want to have something to help me unwind in the evening. It wouldn’t be a matter that necessarily has to do with the law, as I would still pay the monthly charge for the latest version of the same product, only using an older version. I wouldn’t face any penaltys even in the most severe courtroom, for instance. My only fear would be going against the laws of the Church. If you understand.


Find another game.

It might be no or only a minor sin to play a game on an illegal host, but at some point, it will get shut down and you’d be without it anyway.



It would be the reasons why that would interest me. I’m stuck, because it seems that I am almost being scrupulous by being rational.

I get that we are bound to civil law, it is only that the infraction of the law is so minor, where the intention of the law is that using a paid for product for free is wrong, yet in my case I would still be paying for the legitimate one.

To be more exact and more scrupulous, the illegal hosts of the older version may not have actually broken the law, as European laws differ with this sort of thing and they would likely rent a server somewhere with legal immunity.

But yet, even with this, I’d still be breaking the terms of service, by making the game connect to these servers and thereby making a small modification to the software. So that would still be illegal, though an incredibly small offense.

Like I said, my concern is more with regards the Church, and if she teaches that we are bound to the civil law even in the smallest of matters then I can’t and won’t do it, but it is only that, for instance, the Church teaches that cheating in wagers is wrong, unless the money gained by cheating is so little that it wouldn’t be considered significant in any way by the person that had been cheated.

Since it teaches that, I thought that perhaps the obligation to the law would be something similar with such small offenses.

You understand where I am coming from, I decided to ask on the moral theology section to get some advice on this as if I were to bother any priest with such a difficult question for such a minor thing they would tell me to go away and leave them alone! Or they would take a guess and say go for it, or don’t go for it. But I don’t want that, I want to know objectively whether it is right or wrong. Come on Catholic answers forums!


It is a simple simple question. Why do you think it is difficult?

You are asking if you can knowingly and purposefully disobey a just law because of your desire. And much of your reasoning sounds a lot like a drug user’s reasoning about such laws.
people are dying or being punished for disobeying unjust laws that go against their religion. Babies are being cut in half in the times we live in because of disobeying an unjust law. But you want to play a game. A game that is not Holy, is not part of your faith and is even offered legally!? Really!?

Brass tacks my friend,
You have an unhealthy attachment to a game. It is affecting your moral life. That is a way bigger problem than some copyright law.

I wish you well. The answer is simple and you know it.


Unfortunately the problem with such an unusually complicated question is that it is too open to simplification.

The reason why I want to play this particular game is because I played it some time around 2 years ago and quite liked it, where I don’t particularly like other games (there’s only so much chess you can play). My situation for asking is that because of my work situation I am very secluded and don’t have much else to kill time with in the evening before I go to sleep. Because of never really getting much rest for my mind I am now finding that this is affecting me worse and worse.

But you’re right in thinking I am getting rather desperate, because I have struggled for a long time with sins of the flesh, and recently it is much more difficult. It is getting so much more difficult than it used to be to keep my mind off certain things and so to keep myself from falling into bad habits I thought that playing a daft game in the evening would help, only because it is one thing that diverts your entire attention, whereas reading and television don’t (or even make it worse).

But I think you have gotten it the other way around. I am not and will not - if it is truly wrong, but it is only because it is such a very slight technicality and that I am still counteracting by actually paying the fee to the right people regardless. It is a borderline scruple, the only thing stopping me is if the Church binds us even to technicalities like this.

In hindsight I’m not sure if CAF is the correct place. I have sent the same question to a canon lawyer who could perhaps give me direction.


I encourage you to seek help. Please talk with a priest.


That’s sort of how I got here.

For the sake of Google if nothing else, I will update this thread of I come across any more information.


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