Is it always a sin to lie?


After reading the thread about lying I became even more confused about it. Is it ALWAYS wrong and sinful to lie? Take the example of Gestapo asking me if I’ve seen any Jews around. Does the Church teach that I should tell the Nazi officer the truth even at the cost that it will result in many deaths and suffering? Is truth more important than love and compassion with our neighbor?


1. The thread you mention was about whether or not it can be considered lying to tell kids stories of imaginary creatures such as Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. My response was that it is not lying to create stories for the entertainment and/or education of children. Thus, that thread does not deal with the morality of lying itself.

2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s treatment on lying can be found in paragraphs

3. In a separate treatment of the subject that falls under the heading “Respect for the Truth” (CCC 2488-2492) the Catechism states:

The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it (CCC 2488).

Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it (CCC 2489).

4. What this means is that there can be cases in which it is morally licit to reserve the truth. Avoiding giving the location of people in danger of being murdered if found would be one such case. Although a person in such a situation should try to avoid directly lying, if possible, fear for the safety of innocents and the unjust external pressure brought to bear on him could mitigate against culpability for lying should he cross over the line from mental reservation to lying.

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