Was this immoral thing to do as a Christian in high school's final exams?

Hello! I’m sorry if this is unpleasantly long post, but I really would want to know answer for this one.

I don’t know very much about high school in America and I’m not sure which terms I should use… But in my country we have big exams in the last year of high school. In one part of the “mother tongue” exam we are given 12 different essay topics and must choose one. Then we have six hours to make a good and inspiring essay about it.

When I was in this exam there was an essay topic about changes in the church membership. I chose it because I thought that I would benefit from my broader knowledge of church culture in my country. In order to make a good essay, there has to be some pondering about the future and what one ought to do. In this part I wrote what the Church (not especially the Catholic church but Christian churches in general) should do in order to keep their membership steady.

I’m orthodox when it comes to Christianity. I don’t think churches should start to practice or speak in favor of modern things like divorce, gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia. I feel that they go against Christianity and God’s will. But in the exam I was desperate and wanted to get a good grade. I know that people who rate " the mother tongue" essays in my country are mostly irreligious liberal humanist women in their 50s. I was afraid that they would not like my essay if I had too conservative opinions, no matter how well I would use arguments and rhetorical means. I don’t know if my fear was realistic but I chose to write what they wanted to hear.

I wrote how churches should come in terms with the modern world and follow secular morality rather than Christian tradition and scriptures. I didn’t say straight that “the church should do this and this” but I used positively oriented words when I spoke about secular side and negative oriented words when I spoke about Christian side. Here the question whether or not the mainline protestant church should start to bless marriages between same sex partners is hot topic and I spoke quite a lot about it. I made it look clear that I was against the teachings of Christianity.

I got the best grade from that exam that could be possibly achieved. These exams are really big and important because they affect one’s changes to get to university and college. Now I feel bad. I went against my morals, Christianity and what I think is God’s will in order to get a good grade. I don’t know if it is a sin but I feel very bad. I’m not yet Catholic but when I have my first confession, should I mention this? Is it a sin? If so, then does this sin have a specific name? And should I explain the whole situation or just mention the name of the sin and context?

Thank you very much for answers.

If you knowingly “went against [your] morals, Christianity and what [you] think is God’s will in order to get a good grade,” didn’t you think it was a sin? Whether or not it was a serious sin depends on whether your knew or believed it was a serious matter. This would be something to discuss with a priest.

Always have recourse to the Blessed Mother in times of scruples.

The following Commandments may be relevant:

I. I am the LORD your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.

Among other things, we are we are forbidden to deny the faith, even to save our own lives. (I think of Peter’s denial on Good Friday.)

II. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Among other things, we are to show reverence for the things of God.

IV. Honor your father and your mother.

Among other things, we are to treat our superiors with special respect (which lying to them violates).

VIII. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Among other things, we are (at least generally) forbidden to deceive, even for a good end. (There is some debate among theologians regarding special circumstances, like Jews hiding in the proverbial basement; I won’t go into that here.)

Some excerpts from the Catechism which may be relevant:

1753 A good intention . . . does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means.

2484 The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.

2487 Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity.

And I agree with Anthony, it would be good to discuss this with a priest, who would be trained in moral theology.

This is a common problem in courses such as political science, feminist studies, sociology, etc. The professor has an agenda and if you go against her agenda by writing an essay contradicting her misguided opinions, she will fail you or give you a low grade thus ruining your GPA and chances to find a good job at graduation.
So, since she has put you under pressure to flatter her by supporting her crackpot ideas, I would guess that it is not a sin. It is just a guess on my part, but generally, saying something that someone wants you to say, while you are being tortured, is not a sin IMHO.

This is something to discuss with the priest who is preparing you for first confession.

Agreed. You’ll get everything from “atta boy!” to “this is apostasy” on a public forum. A priest would be best placed to guide you in such a matter.


Hi Eriophorum, I think it was a sin and I think it would be good for you to mention it to your confessor, idk whether it has a specific name, but scandal, denial etc might cover it, however, if you explain the situation like you did here, I think that would probably be the best way.

Personally, if one of my family members were to do a similar essay, and received an ‘F’ for it because they said what your original thoughts were (which I completely agree with), I would be so proud of the ‘F’ and in my eyes it would be the greatest grade they have ever achieved.

Unfortunately if the teacher wanted to, she could then use your essay to beat those trying to hang on to the truth, by saying “This is what the youth of tomorrow are saying.” “This is why you are losing members and here is my evidence straight from the pen of X person.”

… What would it profit a man to gain the whole world.

I hope this has helped and I don’t mean to be really harsh or anything, but unfortunately there is no other way I can view this, don’t fear failure, Christ was the ultimate failure in the eyes of the world, dying on a cross as a condemned criminal with a Crown of Thorns on His head.

Personally I would think it a great honor to receive an ‘F’ from such people. I will say a prayer for you and I am glad you posted here.

May God Bless You and bring you peace.

Thank you for reading

I am appalled that the religion of secularism has invaded the school system, so much that a deviation from political correctness has severe consequences. In other words, your whole career depends on the marks you get now. (Actually, if it were possible to choose a different topic, that might have been better.) This is made worse by the fact that it is an unofficial religion. People only find out what the rules are when they get punished for an infraction. This is different from Christian morality in which the rules are spelled out very clearly. People have to second guess and by now self-censorship is widespread all over the Western countries.

Telling the teacher what she or he wants to hear is nothing new and it exists in varying degrees. I was up against it in Christian schools, in fact, had a reputation of being an irritating gadfly. I still am as a matter of fact. It is just me. I know others have a harder time with challenging authority.

Was this supposed to be an essay about your personal thoughts and feelings, or was it just supposed to demonstrate that you can write essays on assigned topics?

Years ago, when AP History was actually rigorous, there was a question on the AP test asking you to give the Confederate POV on states’ rights, based on certain documents. They did not expect us to agree, but they did expect us to understand it and be able to present it.

Similarly, if you take Debate, you have to be able to argue for and against given positions, whether or not you agree with them yourself.

So if logic and rhetorical skill were being tested, it did not matter what side you presented, and there is no moral issue. If you were supposed to write about your own personal opinions and beliefs, there is a moral issue.

I completely agree, and if this is the case, it would make the OP’s case very different and there would be no sin in it, as one would just use words like ‘they said’ ‘they thought’ ‘they believed’ etc.

Personally I got the feeling from the OP’s original post that this wasn’t the case but I’ll wait for the OP to clarify.

God Bless You

Thank you for reading

I’ll orientate my answer more to your first confession, rather than the exam answer you wrote.

If, by the time you make your first confession or are preparing for it, you can name the sin (eg. “denying Christian morality, for fear of the consequences”), then you can do so, and leave it at that. You are also free to just say in your own words what happened, and ask the priest’s advice. Perhaps, after thinking about it some more, you may decide there was no sin, in which case you don’t have to mention it.

While confessing “kind and number” of sins in confession is sufficient, we are never restricted to that. Any matter which troubles our conscience can be raised, and described in our own words. Usually the simplest way to do describe something is to just say what happened, rather than to summarise or use overly general words.

Thank you very much for answers and advice! I’m definitely going to talk about this with a priest when I have an opportunity. I regret what I have done and maybe I should have at least chosen a different essay for the exam. This one was just easier for me because I know more about church percentages, age distributions and movements within the church than an average student. It was easy to make a 4-5 page essay with extra exact facts that would impress the critics.

[quote=Anthony V]If you knowingly “went against [your] morals, Christianity and what [you] think is God’s will in order to get a good grade,” didn’t you think it was a sin?

I didn’t stop and think if it was a sin when I was writing the exam. Writing the parts about my “opinions” didn’t feel nice and I remember that I would have wanted to express my real views but didn’t dare to. Guilt and scruple became afterwards. And now I’m not sure if it was a sin or not.

[quote=Mintaka]Was this supposed to be an essay about your personal thoughts and feelings, or was it just supposed to demonstrate that you can write essays on assigned topics?

It was an essay where only the title was given and there was no material, so the viewpoint must be chosen by yourself. Here we are taught that essays like these must be informative, interesting to read, speculative and also explain our own opinions. In the same time we must be able to show critics that we have writing skills and ability to use nuanced language and keep the text cohesive.

If faced with a situation like this in the future, you could simply present both sides of the argument and conclude that there will be challenges ahead as churches seek to hold onto what they believe to be right, whilst still showing sensitivity to social change.

It’s difficult. I have had similar gnawings of conscience when writing about my beliefs.

I think it depends on the situation, which I am still unsure about. Did one give such an answer because it was the only answer allowed due to the parameters of the assignment? or was it simply lying to please the ears/eyes of the marker in order to get a more favorable review/mark?

If the latter, than I think it’s similar to when St Peter denied Christ when under pressure/temptation. If the former, then the marker and all those who read it should know that one doesn’t hold such views because it was part of the parameters of the assignment.

Anyway, just some of my thoughts on the matter.

I hope this has helped

God Bless You

Thank you for reading

I think you have answered it for yourself here, if they asked what your ‘opinion’ on the matter was, and you told them what they wanted to hear rather than the truth, than I think it’s similar (writ smaller scale) to St Peters denial of Christ.

I hope this has helped

God Bless You

Thank you for reading

It is easy to compartmentalize under pressure to succeed. I have fallen prey to such situations, with serious results which I later had to bring up in confession. So I see how you could have fallen into this problem.

However the difficulty is that the next time such a situation comes up, you have inured yourself to taking the easy way out. You might have even less ability to resist the enemy. For that reason, it’s important that you talk it over with a priest, so that you can recognize the temptation if it arises again. And it probably will.

Remember, there may come a time when a man with a gun to your head asks if you’re a Christian, and you want to have the courage to speak the truth.
God bless.


I must admit, this is probably a dilemma faced by every Catholic in academic life at some point. I imagine this situation where you are doing an assignment/exam and the temptation is to seem somewhat anti-Christian is there, is quite common.

I know that many of my lecturers, even theology ones, are not totally on board with the teachings of the church.

I would say that it is certainly acceptable to “play the game” in order to get good grades. By that I mean write something that you know will please a certain lecturer in order to get a good grade. I have certainly done this. For example, I have a poetry lecturer who is a lesbian, she often would read gender-ambiguity into poetry where it really isn’t present. I know this is the case so occasionally, in my essays for her, I will do the same, for the sake of argument.
I think you went a bit farther than that though. It seems like you made out that you held anti-christian beliefs. I’d say to you that that is probably not the best way to go. Most teachers and people who mark exams aren’t examining your personal views, but the academic knowledge and skill of the writer. I think that what you should have done, and maybe will get the chance in the future, is to present various views in an essay, and remain vague about the one which you espouse.

Very true

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