Mortal sin of omission?

If I know that a certain family member/friend/acquaintance shouldn’t be going to receive Communion, and I don’t say anything to them, is that a mortal sin on my part? I ask this because I have been feeling really guilty about not telling them and yet I’m too afraid to tell them. I have tried indirect means but they haven’t worked (e.g. leaving a pamphlet in their house about who should receive communion). Advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

I’m not sure yours is a mortal sin (not qualified to make that assessment) but I can say that your friend/acquaintance/family member may not be aware that he/she shouldn’t be receiving the Eucharist. I wonder if there is a backdoor way to bring it up, so that at least you’ll have planted the seed of doubt in their mind and they can research it further without the embarrassment of having you “aware” of their sin. wow…that was a long sentence! :smiley:

Tricky situation… bumping this up, maybe somebody has a suggestion about what you could do.


The best thing to do on this one is ask Father the next time you go to church. Because remember we cant judge, I know you mean well but sometimes things like this could get real ugly real fast, You know what i mean.

I would mind my own business unless this was a person for whom I was directly responsible, i.e. a minor child. When we think we know the state of someone’s soul based only on outside observation it is really easy to get into rash judgement. (See the CCC about sins against the 8th Commandment.)

Thanks for all the responses. I don’t have much time to respond to everything but I’d like to say a few things to clarify.

Yeah, that’s my fear, that the situation may get ugly and I don’t want them to reject the Church. However, this is the Eucharist, and so I feel that perhaps I am just making excuses and that my fear is more cowardice than anything.

Well, no, I am not responsible for them in that sense, in fact if anything it is the other way around (regarding some of them). But it is quite clear (at least objectively, I am not claiming I know the state of their souls) that they shouldn’t be going to Communion…missing Mass most Sundays, cohabitation, never going to Confession, etc. But since they are either family or close to me, I think I have an obligation to do/say something. I just don’t have the courage or the slightest idea of how to go about it.

Sometimes I find myself sitting in the pew because I knew I needed to go to Confession while they go up to receive Communion, and even though this has happened quite a few times they never ask me why I did not receive. I was hoping they would so I could tell them (this way it wouldn’t seem like I was going after them, a sort of “backdoor way” that kristie_m mentioned).

It seems like everyone, whether properly disposed or not, goes up to receive Communion these days. I really feel like I’m contributing to all this sacrilege by being silent, which is why I started the thread.

Perhaps the best prayer you can offer for them is,

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke (RSV) 23:34)

I am not sure how to answer this. I have a certain family member which now claims to be Catholic and persistently goes up for Communion when they come to church with us. Problem is, she was raised Episcopalian, went to Catholic schools, married a Catholic, but I am not sure she was ever actually received into full communion. Meanwhile, she seems to think the rites of the two are entirely interchangeable, though they are clearly not. And on the unusual occasion she does attend (once a month or so, tops), she sits crocheting throughout most of the Mass.

I am certain that if I were to say something, she would be irritated by my “extreme legalistic view” and seriously offended. Further, she might quit coming to Church altogether. So at this point, I have bided my time in prayer and have made a concerted effort to set a good example. Perhaps this is not quite right–I don’t know. I do take the opportunity in friendly conversation, when it arises, to give the CCC’s viewpoint on things without accusing her of anything in particular, and I’ve taken the time to share just how much the Holy Eucharist and Mass mean to me. But so far these more subtle efforts have been entirely ignored.

So, if you figure it out, do please share the answer!

As for it being a mortal sin on your part–it is only a mortal sin if it meets all three of the following requirements: 1) it is a serious/grave matter, 2) you are aware of the seriousness of the action (or in this case, inaction) and 3) you deliberately choose to commit the sin anyway. Seeing as how you are uncertain whether or not it is your place to say anything to this (these) persons, I should think it would be a venial sin at worst.

You did mention the possibility of your fear being simply cowardice-- but I am not sure this is so. People are often offended by such, and it could drive some people from the Church–clearly not the goal of evangelization. Perhaps watching and praying for an appropriate teaching/personal faith sharing moment is the way to go. It may take longer to get the message across, as it will likely come in bits and pieces, but at least you will be sharing it and in a non confrontational way.

Evangelization is the central mission of the Church, and each of us share in the responsibility to evangelize. It involves living out our faith honestly, as lights of Christ’s light for others, and inviting them to hear God’s Truth (the Good News). That is our responsibility – we are NOT responsible for how others feel or respond to truth. We can’t force it down people’s throats, and must share the faith with charity and without judging others, of course, but neither should we be afraid that we will be disliked, or that someone will reject it and choose to not grow in fuller understanding and acceptance of the Truth.

You did well, Francesco, to leave some literature for this person. If the person has ignored it and continues to ignore the Catholic Church’s teaching about who is allowed to receive Holy Communion, show him/her what is usually in the front cover of the missalette (if your parish provides the OCP one) re: “Guidelines for the Reception of Communion.” You can explain 1 Corinthians 11:25-27 (discerning our worthiness before receiving). You can explain why you sometimes do not receive. You can pray daily for that person to yearn to shed willful ignorance and arrogance.

Jesus gives us such an awesome gift in this sacrament, for which we are not entitled – it’s a privilege, not a right – thank you for caring about Him in this way! I don’t know that you’ve committed a mortal sin (I doubt it, but ask a priest during your next Confession) – but if you continue to act on your cowardice, my opinion is that you ARE committing a sin of omission. We ARE our brothers’ keepers. We ARE to bring God’s light of love and truth to others.

I’ve been scorned by my own family members, and others, when I have respectfully talked with them about this same issue – but I am at peace for having stepped out of my comfort zone, loving them enough to care about the state of their souls and to share the truth. I pray first – and keep praying, for myself, and for them.

from: Debra C
I have a certain family member which now claims to be Catholic and persistently goes up for Communion when they come to church with us. Problem is, she was raised Episcopalian, went to Catholic schools, married a Catholic, but I am not sure she was ever actually received into full communion. Meanwhile, she seems to think the rites of the two are entirely interchangeable, though they are clearly not. And on the unusual occasion she does attend (once a month or so, tops), she sits crocheting throughout most of the Mass.

You can ask your relative if she has participated in RCIA or has officially been received into the Catholic Church. If so, perhaps ask her why she is rejecting so many of the Church’s teachings? If not, explain that receiving the Eucharist in the Catholic Church is a visible sign of our unity of faith, and that Episcopalians and Catholics do not share communion of faith. Tell her she can participate in RCIA, to learn more about the faith, without committing to becoming Catholic, but that as a non-Catholic, she may not receive the Eucharist. Keep praying for her.

This is exactly what I’ve been thinking. I’m going to try and raise it when I go to confession today. I’ll see if I can bring some of them along with me. Thank you for posting this.

On a side note, does anybody know what the Church teaches about when a sin of omission is mortal and when it is venial?

From reading the replies here, it seems like there is a consensus that in this situation my sin is venial or an imperfection (I’m still going to confess it and see what Fr. says.) This brings to my mind a question. When exactly is a sin of omission mortal and when is it venial? What constitutes grave matter for sins of omission? I know missing Mass and not fasting/abstaining on the prescribed days are mortal, so does that mean that there must be a command or obligation that is not fulfilled for it to be mortal?

RCIA wouldn’t have existed, at least not prevalantly, when she would have converted. I would expect if she did so, it would have been through her Catholic high school or through private instruction. But she has never mentioned having done so (which leads me to think she did not, as I couldn’t keep such a joyous thing secret). In fact, up until my husband and I were received into full communion, she declared herself Episcopal, though oddly, the only time she went to Mass was midnight Christmas Mass at a Catholic Church. She took communion then, too.

I have no question that she understands that she shouldn’t according to Church teachings. Even if she didn’t understand that before (which I seriously doubt), she certainly does now, having witnessed the process we went through relatively closely. She even attended the Easter Vigil at which we were welcomed into the Church. So like I said, the only result I could expect would be her getting angry. It distresses me greatly that she seems to have so little respect for it. I do hope that her eyes are opened before it is too late.

Well, intentionally skipping Mass, as you mentioned, would be a mortal sin of omission. I would think also intentionally skipping out on other things the Church teaches we are obligated to do would also, such as not keeping the fast before Communion and receiving anyway, or not abstaining from meat on Fridays of Lent. Also, doing nothing in response to witnessing the commission of a serious crime might rise to that level. You might not be expected to act heroically endangering your own life, but you should certainly at least call the police or come forward as a witness. Also, if you leave a store and discover you have accidentally left with something unpaid for, but don’t return it or go back and pay, especially if it is something expensive. Realizing a serious error in your favor in calculating the cost of goods you are purchasing, but saying nothing. Perhaps upon finding a lost valuable, not doing what you can to find and return it to the rightful owner. All of these could be considered theft by omission. Failing to say anything when you witness someone else slandering another person unjustly, and maybe failing to assist someone you know is seriously in need and whom you have the resources to assist simply because it would be inconvenient. Perhaps the most obvious one of all would be to intentionally omit a mortal sin during reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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