Is Snooping A Sin?

I was hoping you could help settle this. Is snooping considered a sin? If it’s done just out of nosey-ness and not to try and help someone, would this be a sin? What about if you read someone’s email? Is this a sin, and if so it mortal or venial? Thank you in advance.

Jesus said to love others as we love ourselves.
Do we like someone else to read our private email?
No, so we shouldn’t do it to others.
To do so just to snoop is against another person’s right to privacy. The sin would be compounded if we used the information to gossip or hurt the other person in any way, or to make unkind judgement about the person.
It’s doubtful that it would be a mortal sin, as such, to snoop…but the resulting guilty conscience tells you it’s wrong.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

2492 Everyone should observe an appropriate reserve concerning persons’ private lives.

The fact your asking means you probably know it’s wrong.

Yes, it’s wrong, but it’s probably not at the level at mortal. Too many people slap around the term “mortal” and it cheapens the term.

I believe this belongs in the Moral Theology subforum.

Just as a heads up for next time.


Yes, I think it’s wrong if only for the purpose of snooping. If you want people to trust you, don’t read their emails. What do you gain by it? If it’s something you should know, then ask the person for it.
(I use ‘you’ not directed at you, GreatBeliever, but just as a means of expression :))

That said, if you don’t mind, I’ll add a question to this thread: what is the line between snooping and going through someone’s stuff (emails, Internet history, etc.) because you want to find out if they are doing something (watching porn or visiting negative websites, for example)? Is that a sin? I’m thinking it falls in the same category as ordinary snooping because it could be argued it’s not your business, but I’m not sure.

I have two things to say about this post…

  1. To answer the question about snooping,
    I would point out the biblical teaching of
    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  2. When I was quickly glancing through the list of posted topics in the forum,
    I first mistakenly thought the stated question was: “Is Snoopy a Sinner?”,
    and did a double-take!

Everyone has secrets (or, at least things s/he would not post on a Facebook wall for everyone to see). Unjustly taking these secrets is a form of theft. It is not the same as theft of gold, where the thief denies the owner access to his property, but it is still a form of theft. People who “snoop” have taken something (information) that does not belong to them, and which they have no right to take.

Did you mean to word this the other way around? If so, this sounds like an “ends justifies the means” argument, which is not well justified in Catholic theology (but it’s not categorically condemned, either). This is really a matter of circumstance. Few people would argue that a parent has the right to search a minor child’s room to look for drugs if the parent has reasonable suspicion that the kid is taking. But if this same child becomes an adult and establishes his own residence, the parents would have NO right to barge into his home and search for drugs, even if they suspect he is taking.

But to snoop on someone just to see what you can discover is certainly an offense against this person and is **certainly **sinful.

For a sin to be “mortal” it must meet three criteria: It must be a serious matter, such as a violation of one of the Ten Commandments (and theft is such a violation), and it must be committed with full knowledge of the seriousness of the offense, and it must be committed with full, deliberate, and complete consent of the will.

Theft of knowledge could fit the first criteria. The determination of culpability for mortal sin depends on the snooper’s disposition regarding the other two criteria.

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