Warning other people of their sins

About a month ago, based on the scripture passage of Ez 33, 7-9, the priest where I went to mass in his homily talked about our responsibility for other people.
That is the passage where it says: “If you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.” The priest spoke about how we are responsible for those around us (for example, our children, but I think not limited to them).

This made me think as I know a lot of people who… well, don’t live by Catholic rules or values.
It made me feel like ahving to talk to them immediately.
The question of the right timing of course arises here.

Present situation: Somehow, over the internet, getting closer again with somebody living far away. I think this person may live with somebody without being married. But to spoil the getting closer again by, out of nowhere, saying/mailing something like: “By the way, you are in a relationship, right? You should not live together if you are not married”… it would feel very wrong and might be taken the wrong way.
So I let it be for now.
But since we live far away from each other, how can I somehow get a chance to say something? Maybe I’d have to wait until we will see each other… but that is months away. And who knows if the topic will come up.

What if by any chance I or this person dies before I get the chance?
Then I will be responsible?

And this is just one example.
I have often been in this dilemma. Sometimes saying something, even risking being taken the wrong way or insulting somebody. But I am not sure if that is good if it is said at an awkward moment (for example, if somebody has just helped me a lot, and then out of nowhere I am supposed to suddenly say something like this? This is really difficult. I thought and thought about how to put it, maybe put it like a joke… but it just still felt like the wrong moment).

So the maybe ethical maybe moral maybe philosophical question would be: Can we risk waiting for the right moment???

I think of this often. There is usually a topic that comes up, and I let people know of the right way or what the Church says is the right way. If they disagree, I dont argue back. If they question, I answer. Thats it. I figure as long as I did my part in informing them once, the rest is on them. There is a right time for it, yes. Think of how Jesus behaved. When the situation called for holy silence, like at His trial, He was silent. When the situation called for him to speak up, he did. When the situation came that he needed to flip tables and get loud, he did that too.

Btw, I foresee quotes of plank removal coming soon :p. Truth is, I would also want and expect others to inform me of the plank in my eye, too.


Because of your scrupulosity, you simply must talk to your pastor about this. You cannot take everything literally nor interpret all homilies as literal. You cannot apply everything to yourself literally.

In general, we have obligations such as this. Most clearly to those who are members of the Church we know well and with whom we have a relationship-- family and close friends.

Pastors are responsible for their flock.

But as you point out, you should not do this with people you don’t know, strangers on the street, people with whom you have no or only a small relationship, people at work, etc.

Please talk to your pastor, and make sure he knows of your scrupulous tendencies, telling him his homily troubled you.

NO you are not responsible for every person on earth, and whether they reform their life or not.

Regardless of the situation, I believe such discussions must be private. I don’t care for public chastising of anyone. If I become aware of some behavior or attitude in a coworker, friend or family member that is sinful or can lead to sin, I will wait until I can discuss the situation with them.

My approach is usually one that includes my confessing to having a related problem or that I can fall into the same trap or bad thinking. I never use an accusatory tone, and I try to make sure the person is on a receptive frame of mind.

It is not perfect, but I try what I can and let God do the rest.

While I think 1ke has some good advice, I think it goes too far in calling you scrupulous, Kathrin. Your concern over this is in no way foolish or irrational. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

I think MOST Catholics do not realize that this IS their duty, but I’d be hard pressed to find someone doing it that actually worked and they got through to the person. Rather, it usually ends up alienating that person from the one being warned… EVEN if done in a loving way. These days, its seems that is what you can expect, but I believe we are still supposed to do it… IT IS NOT EASY. YOU WILL NOT BE LIKED!

I can remember one time I was approached by such a Christian telling me what I was doing was wrong.   I didn't want to hear it, so I (this was before my conversion)  was thinking they were rude to suggest that I was so sinful when I was ok with it.  I didn't like them for speaking up.   I look back now with utter respect for that person... they TRULY are being loving by notifying me of my sin.   That takes GUTS to do it since practically no one likes to be told they are wrong, but what other way is there to show love other than to warn people of the danger that most likely will come from bad choices?

A good rule of thumb you can remember is this- Jesus told his disciples to go and preach, that when they entered a house to bless it and if they did not respond then the blessing would come back onto them. He also said if people did not listen, to shake the dust off your shoes and move on. You did your duty to God.

Also, when it comes to warning people of their sin its important to remember to do it with love and prudence. There is a quote (sorry I do not know who it is from) that says:

Truth without love is brutality and love without truth is hypocrisy.

We must worship God in spirit and in truth. These quotes and the Scripture noted above is a good thing to remember when warning others. We should do it with love. Not necessarily the easiest thing to do, but absolutely necessary, for without it we are a ‘noisy gong’ as Scripture puts it. It also requires prudence, that is, knowing WHEN and HOW but sometimes there is no other way than outright telling a person. That I can’t really advise on… prudence is truly a gift of the Holy Spirit. And in saying that, I do say when in doubt… just pray about it somewhere quiet and listen for God to guide you.

I need to state here that Holy Scripture indeed says that we are our brother’s keeper. We aren’t supposed to just leave it up to the pastor. That’s like a sibling letting another sibling drown and saying its the father’s fault because he is the one supposed to protect. !!! If you love your neighbor and would want someone else do the same for you , then you help save. You don’t wait. It is good to get a pastor’s help though… No disputing that.

  I should note, that personally, there are some cases in which I do not say anything-  Like with a gay couple I know.   I do not bring it up because I am not that close with either of them and I know that both of them were raised in Christian homes, so they have to know what they are doing goes against what God has taught.   I also do not believe I am equipped to talk with them since I have not lived or experienced those trials.   They also know I am a Christian.   With prudence I feel it is better to pray for their conversion, be kind and loving and IF they bring it up, share my beliefs with them.    Its not my duty to hound them as this would do nothing.   If I brought it up, I do not believe it would do a thing for them to convert.  I do know that it is my duty to make sure a person knows about The Gospel if I think they do not know about The Good News.   I say, share what you have.   Don't go beyond that. 

Eternal One… so right about planks… I feel I have a few I’ve collected in mine lately. :frowning: But it is really is such a great thing when someone sets you right… no matter how stubborn and hardhearted on might be.

In Ezekiel 33, God has made Ezekiel a watchman, whose duty it is to warn house of Israel about their sins.

This passage does NOT say that we are to go and do likewise. Most of us do not have the wisdom or charity to point out another’s sin.

No you misunderstand. I’m not calling Kathrin scrupulous, Kathrin is scrupulous and under the care of her spiritual director.

A story of the desert fathers.

When a brother committed a fault and Moses was invited to a meeting to discuss an appropriate penance, Moses refused to attend. When he was again called to the meeting, Moses took a leaking jug filled with water and carried it on his shoulder. Another version of the story has him carrying a basket filled with sand. When he arrived at the meeting place, the others asked why he was carrying the jug. He replied, “My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” On hearing this, the assembled brothers forgave the erring monk.

I would never take it upon myself to decide what other peoples’ sins are! And then have the audacity to tell them what their sins are!!! That is going way out there. “Judge not that ye be judged!”

It is my understanding that fraternal correction is rarely an obligation for those who are not clergy.


I also think you need to realize you are reading the Old Testament.

And another…

“Saint Poemen the Great relates that a certain monk, carried away by zeal, was subjected to the following temptation. He saw another monk lying on a woman. For a long time he wrestled with the thought that urged him to stop them from sinning. At last he gave into the temptation and he gave them a kick with his foot. Suddenly he realized that it was two sheaves of wheat lying one upon the other.”

You don’t have to judge, and still, with certainty know that everyone (including ourselves) have, indeed, sinned. So, as we are not called to judge, neither are we called to specifically confront them. But we are called to pray for them.

This is evidenced in the Confiteor when we are praying as a single body for others, when we ask our brothers and sisters to pray for us.

So in this sense, regardless of what other posters have said, we ARE responsible to others, in that we are called upon to pray for them as commanded by Christ.

Peace and all good!

I think that’s correct. The reality is most of us do not have the gift of discernment. That is a gift of God just like hope and joy etc. If we try to make correction without it we risk doing more damage than good.

Curtsey of sermonquotes.com/post/48229328249/truth-love-brutality-hypocrisy-wiersbe:
Warren W. Wiersbe

Red flag for The Reginator:

We cannot judge the state or eternal destiny of someone’s soul, but that quote gets overused in our modern society to implicate that Catholics are hypocrites if they point out the sinful behaviours of others.
We cannot be quiet all the time. When we know that a close friend or family member is involved in sin we have an obligation to have a discussion. Perhaps we will have our own eyes opened when we understand a particular situation. Or perhaps we will be God’s instrument to help save them from eternal damnation.
The other times we must be vocal about sinful behaviours, outside of what the OP is discussing, is in the public square … abortion and the normalization of immorality come to mind immediately.

Dominus vobiscum,

And you may be the instrument of theirs of your own damnation. Without discernment you can’t know the difference.

"Worldly people and many living the religious life, through ignorance and inexperience, often praise as spiritual zeal something that stems from conceit and pride. They extol this zeal as zeal for the faith, for piety, for the Church, for God. It consists in a more or less harsh criticism and condemnation of one’s neighbors in their moral faults, and in faults against decorum in church and the liturgical rites. Deceived by a wrong conception of zeal, the imprudent think that by yielding themselves to it they are imitating the holy fathers and martyrs, forgetting that they, the zealots, are not saints but sinners themselves.

…The consequences of blind and ignorant zeal, if our neighbour opposes it, are usually displeasure with him, resentment, or vengeance in various forms; while, if he submits, our heart is filled with vainglorious self-satisfaction, excitement and an increase of our pride and presumption" - St Ignatius Brianchininov

Dear everybody

thank you for writing so much under this topic - I was surprised because for some reason I did not get (or oversaw) an e-mail message that there were any replies.

Inspired by Ike, and also because the current problem I have is very specific and a bit too private to put on this forum in detail (that is why I kept it kind of general in my question), I called the parish office and happened to get the pastor who had held that homily :). He advised me on how to handle the specific situation that made me wonder about this yesterday.

About being scrupulous: Yes, I must say in defense of Ike , he (she? sorry I am not sure or I forgot! :slight_smile: ) didn’t write that because of this question, but because he/she has read other questions of mine and KNOWS that my conscience has the tendency to be hyper hyper sensitive :).

There is a fine line though sometimes between being scrupulous and just having a sensitiv conscience. I think the second one is ok and good… BUT one must learn to live and deal with such a conscience, that it doesn’t become a burden in an unhealthy way. Scrupulosity is not healthy.

By the way, I moved this year, even to a different country. So it is not really true anymore that I am under the care of a spiritual director. I also have been dealing much better with my conscience now. I think that if sometimes still questions come up, that is not such a big problem, to some degree it is even normal, as I am not the only one who asks questions here. :slight_smile: I think I have come so far that I am able to deal with answerrs I might get here. Sometimes it really helps to hear/read other people’s opinions on something.

But in this case it was definitely good to ask the priest directly. Thank you Ike :).


Very good advice.

And I had an additional thought last night:
Maybe the risk of me or the other person dying must also be weighed against the risk that my saying something at the wrong moment might close the door to the other person’s heart… ?

Seraphim73, first of all let me say that I really appreciate your cautionary quote in post # 17.
But as to;

That is what the Catholic Church is for. Jesus left us with a Church, a Church that teaches with authority.
We know many things that are displeasing to our Lord. To ignore these things in others and in ourselves is an extreme danger to our immortal souls.
Some things, in the proper circumstances, must be said. At other times we need to be able to dicern when to keep our peace.
Personally that scares me the most. It seems that I naturally tend to be a stickler for rules. (In my past jobs I would even correct other peoples work if it landed on my desk … just to be sure that everything matched the regulations.) I can get all worked up over evil but sometimes it’s not because I love a person, it’s more because I know that they are doing something wrong. Imagine that. Doing something wrong!:o
Where’s my love. [Over there, in a box?]

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