Am I correct in saying that lying is telling an untruth to someone who has the right to know the truth?

If so, is it okay to tell an untruth to someone who doesn’t have the right to know, or should you just try to get out of the situation without answering?

Lying is not telling the truth to anyone. Who has a right to a lie?

If someone shouldn’t know something then you don’t say anything. So, yes, try to exit the situation without answering. You could say," I’m not comfortable discussing this right now."

Agreed. And if they persist, “That’s really nobody else’s business.”

There is more than one definition among theologians or philosophers or even normal people. From what I’ve heard, the Catechism used to say, “to someone who has the right to know the truth,” until that part was removed by the then Card. Ratzinger.

I’m not intending to make a mortal sin of telling someone the wrong name of a drink you’re having or feeding an unwanted admirer a wrong phone number. However, just because someone doesn’t have an explicit right to some information doesn’t mean it’s fine to give him untrue information in that matter.

As for a situation along the lines of “where are the Jews hiding?” says the Gestapo officer, I’d say it would still be lying, but justified. What is not lying is perhaps experiments in which people roleplay, using made-up names, lines of work et cetera, such as military intelligence, undercover inspectors, journalists trying to check how things work (e.g. pretending to be ordinary citizens trying to report a crime, receive a document, buy something etc).

I agree that character-names, etc. is not lying because nobody is being fooled. It’s only lying if you intend for the other person to be misinformed. Also, I learned in theology class that hyperbole isn’t lying because the other person knows that you are intentionally exagerating.

I have heard the Nazi/Jewish example before too. If a soldier comes to the door and asks “Are there any Jewish people in this house?” of course you say no. To me, that is the situation where they don’t have the right to know the truth. Maybe, our classification should be:

Telling an untruth to someone who has the right to know the truth - wrong

Telling an untruth to someone who doesn’t have the right to know, but no harm would be caused by telling them you do not want to answer - wrong

Telling an untruth to someone who doesn’t have the right to know, but harm would be caused by telling them you do not want to answer - right


I am not sure about undercover police officers and such. It would be interesting to hear something from the church on that.


From what I understand, the original and official Latin text never had “who has the right to know” in it. Somehow that was mysteriously added to the first English translation. The current English translation now has the corrected its translation.


We all have the right to know the truth. I can’t think of an instance, where this might not apply. Hmm…

Oh I can think of a million…a stalking ex-boyfriend demanding to know where you live…a nosy co-worker asking questions about your personal life…some solicitor on the phone asking things like your credit card number or personal income. Ofcourse in most cases you wouldn’t make up the information just tell them it’s none of their business. I really do believe it has very much to do with the right to the person to know the truth. If some crazed lunatic breaks into my home and my daughter is hiding in the closet -if he asks me if anyone else is home I’m certainly not going to tell him the truth. I hardly think that it would be a sin.

Besides what rayne said, I would add that there are instances when sharing “the truth” would actually be a sin, if it results in defamation of my neighbor’s character. If it is a matter of safety for myself or my family (i.e., the neighbor is a convicted sex offender), that is one thing, but if I am passing along the “truth” that neighbor A is having a flirtation with married neighbor B, I am gossipping, which is sinful. That’s when my earlier response of “it’s really not my business” comes in.

Hi rayne! I can see your points, but when u think about it…still doesn’t ‘require’ lying. I wouldn’t feel compelled to tell a stalking bf a lie so he leaves me alone…I’d get the police to deal with it.:smiley: Or a nosy coworker…I would be vague, or just change the subject. I suppose there are no real necessary reasons to lie. Unless you are in the witness protection program…yikes…that is a grey area!:eek: :stuck_out_tongue:

There is nothing to say that we need to ‘share truth.’ But, when asked, we could be vague…we could say…it’s none of my business, etc…there still is not a need to lie. I don’t have to pass on information, like the game of telephone, to others–even if it is the truth. I think we are splitting hairs. A normal situaton isn’t like these listed, to be honest. I think we know when it would be wrong to lie…I don’t think Jesus would lie, in any circumstance, when I think about it.:shrug:

Knowing the truth and deliberately uttering falsehoods to deceive is objectively wrong. Period. No amount of intent or relative circumstances (even fantastic ones like Nazis at the door) make it justified.

Well what in the world are you supposed to do but lie in the Nazi situation? If you tell the truth, the Jews will be murdered. If you try to tell the Nazis in any way that it is none of their business or that you don’t want to answer, the Jews will be murdered. If you lie, they will be saved. I understand that the end does not justify the means, but wouldn’t letting them be murdered be a greater sin?

And YOU will be murdered right along with the Jews.

There are a couple of Biblical examples of people who lied: Rahab and the Hebrew midwives. They both lied to save innocent lives. Scripture commends their faith and never condemns their methods. The general principle seems to be: Those who would misuse the truth for evil ends have given up their right to the truth.

And I’m sure God will send us to hell for protecting innocent lives from evil murderers.:rolleyes: The Catholic church issued false baptism certificates to Jews during the war.


Let me be one of the first to welcome you to the forums!

Interestingly, Thomas Aquinas (perhaps Augustine too?) points out that the midwives were rewarded solely for their faith, and not their lie.

The midwives were rewarded, not for their lie, but for their fear of God, and for their good-will, which latter led them to tell a lie. Hence it is expressly stated (Exodus 2:21): “And because the midwives feared God, He built them houses.” But the subsequent lie was not meritorious.

As for Rahab, I’ve seen a similar argument, that her reward was not due to her lie, but rather her good-will towards God. . . in other words God was approving a liar’s faith, but not the fact that she was a liar. Similarly, the argument continues, neither did God approve of her harlotry but her faith.

The point, I think, is that in those two events we have something else operative that God may be blessing. I’m not sure we can look to these events to say that God condones lying.

Just my opinion!

Thank you for your comments. I do place a high value on what others have taught *; however, the fact is Scripture commends them without ever condemning their methods. To say that they were honoured for their faith [true] but not their lie is an assumption. Maybe right, maybe wrong. Other Biblical heroes, like David, were certianly held accountable for their sin.

The other story that would seem to support my position is 1 Kings 22:22-23. God, Who cannot sin, authorized a lying spirit to deceive an evil king. If a person authorized someone to do something they are automatically condoning the action and becoming an accomplice; therefore, it could not have been a sin in that case. Or have I missed something?*

I used to lie alot for years, the thing I lied about was saying that I have things which I don’t etc i have never lied and hurt someone with it I just used to say things like;
I have this, I have that, I do this and none of it was true I have not done it anymore but Do I have to go to every person I said these lies to and straighten everything out even though it didn’t hurt them? as all I lied about is having and doing things I actually don’t?
What do you guys think?
Is saying at the confession I lied enough and swearing you will try not to do it again.Or do I need to actually tell every single person who I lied to.

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