This is a moral question that has been puzzling me for quite some time and I was hoping for some answers. The catechism says this on the subject:
1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
by protecting evil-doers.
Now my big question concerns the not disclosing or not hindering aspect; does this mean that if we say nothing when we have an obligation to do so, when we see someone doing wrong that we receive the same guilt as if we committed that sin ourselves? Or is it a separate, possibly lesser sin?
I ask this because I feel at this point in time, I’m often faced with many situations where I have people working under me who are doing certain wrongs on a regular basis and it’s becoming very stressful with the uncertainty of whether or not I’m just as guilty for their sins by not hindering them, and feeling that I have to babysit them morally.
Take for example something that happened this past week; it was lunch time and a worker under me went into a main office and took a few small bags of chips (which we are not allowed to, to my knowledge) and I saw him walk out with them while I was eating, and I wondered if I should say something to him; I didn’t know 100% that he was “stealing” them, maybe there was the slight chance he asked (but I doubt it) so I stayed seated and said nothing lest I make a fool out of myself for reprimanding him when he did nothing wrong even though my hunch is that he did not have permission to take any.
So in situations like these, what is my moral obligation? Stealing seems to be universally considered wrong even by people who are not religious, people know it’s wrong, so what extent must I go to to dissuade someone from stealing in situations like these if they are? If this worker was stealing, am I also guilty of his theft by saying nothing as his immediate superior?
And as a general question on this issue, what is the gravity of sins of silence or not hindering someone when we have an obligation to do so as the CCC puts it? Does motivation play a factor at all? At times when I feel I have been silent when I should have said something, my motivation for silence was more about fear and anxiety about saying something than it was about wanting someone to sin or wanting them to succeed in their sin, on the contrary I desperately wanted them NOT to sin.