When does silence become A SIN?


I am confused! Two days ago, i went on a pizza and a guy at the table next to mine said God’s name in vain (very disrespectfully). I knew it would be good to react and I thought that non reacting could be sinfull, but I didn’t. :frowning: The reasons I didn’t were: 1.I had no relations to that guy and he wasn’t talking to meneither did he know i heard him 2. He was older and seemed drunk. I went to confesion this morning and asked a priest if that was a sin. He told me it was. I was sorry and confesed it. I have a lot of respect for that priest, but could he be wrong on this? If he is wrong, what is a sin of silence? If he is not wrong, what are the limits? Should I when I see people on a bike that cuss God run for them to warn them? Should I when ever somebody mentions he/she is divorce stop any conversation and try to convert them? I mean, I know everything would be better if I warned them (nothing bad can come out of it, as Michael Voris says:“The worst thing they can do to you is kill you”), but my question is was my silence SINFUL?


Additional questions:
Whould it be sinful if I, for example, saw a man buying condom without warning him?
Do I have to warn atheist every time he misses a mass?
What about Muslims, Jews and pagans?


Your question made me think of James 1:27:

27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

It does not say that pure religion means to go out and warn / admonish anyone else.

In general, you can only change people by your example, not by your words.

If you want to speak out about injustice, focus on societal wrongs (abortion, pollution, etc.) and speak out about those.

If you are concerned about individuals, then just be the best example you can on both counts of James 1:27 (serving the poor and keeping your own nose clean). Acts of love / service to others is much more powerful than a verbal warning. Also, depending on the circumstances, you can be involved in evangelizing (spreading the faith).
That is best done with some supervision (your parish etc.), especially if you are a minor.


I will just say that you should never try to confront a drunk person who is being belligerent or swearing. They will turn on you in a second.


There is a saying, “you have to pick your fights” going up to strangers or people you do not know well to tell them they are doing wrong or sin or whatever is asking for trouble. Honestly do you think they are going to stop and say to you “you are right, i am sinning, I need to stop”. the short answer is no and all you are doing is asking for a fight. This isn’t the way to reach people for Christ. As one poster pointed out, going up to someone drunk who is not at all in their proper frame of mind to tell them they are sinning is probably the fastest way to get a punch in the nose. Now if that is what you are looking for, more power to you but you are looking at this all the wrong way and going down a road that will end up driving people away from God, not bringing them closer to Him.


Thanks, but where exactly is the limit? And was my behaviour sinful?


your behavior in my estimation based on what you shared doesn’t seem to be sinful in my book. One isn’t going to reach others by going up to them and telling them they are sinning. I think you should look at how Jesus reached out to the woman at the well. He didn’t start the conversation with telling her that she is a sinner. He engaged her, talked to her, treated her as a human being. Only later in the conversation, did her living arrangements come up and again Jesus didn’t tell her she was going to Hell. I think you need to refocus yourself on this model. Does it really reach out to others by going up to mostly strangers and telling them they are sinning or going to hell? It doesn’t at all. It is not a magic bullet here where what point are you sinning by being silent. This isn’t a matter of silence. You should focus on how to show love and concern for others and leave all the rest to God.


No it wasn’t. A drunk isn’t in control of his or her emotions so calling him on his language would have little impact. Confronting a drunk you don’t know is potentially dangerous. You have to use prudential judgement. God doesn’t expect you to be a martyr just to prevent someone from swearing…

Moreover, if you call everyone you see sinning, on their sins, you’ll spend all your time doing this because everyone sins. It’s best to work on one’s own sins (and this wasn’t one…), and evangelize by example.

If a friend swears in your presence, there’s nothing wrong with gently pointing out that you wished more respectful language was used in your presence; I once pointed out to a good friend that I didn’t care to receive inappropriate pictures from him by e-mail; we’re still friends. But approaching a complete stranger… that’s a major danger signal in this crazy era.


Be careful when confronting a stranger. I once, in passing asked a man at Sea World, who was walking with his wife and kid, to stop using the f word over and over because there were a lot of kids around. I just said it and walked away. He followed me into a store and started yelling at me for correcting him in front of his kid. An employee wanted to call security.

On the other hand I once confronted a man at Disney for physically abusing his child. That time there were at least 100 people waiting at the train station with me so he didn’t say anything. I’m sure he was cursing me under his breath.
You have to choose your situation carefully and a drunk is unpredictable. Shame on your priest for calling what you did a sin.


I think in the latter case I would have just called the police.

Interesting true story. A well-known radio personality (now deceased) in our area was an insulin-dependent diabetic. While driving from Montreal to Toronto, he had to stop and inject some insulin. He did so in his car, and someone called the police about a “drug addict shooting up in his car”.

He was stopped by the police and had a considerably difficult time proving that he was a diabetic on insulin. Apparently the cops hadn’t heard that diabetics sometimes (gasp!) need to shoot themselves up… so I’m not sure the police would always be of help in a case like yours either.


Thank you all for replies, but if it’s not a sin could you maybe tell me the distinction between that and particapating in sin? And could you tell me what to do in this weird situation in which I am since I confesed a thing for which I am not really sure was sin anymore? If it is sin, am I still forgiven even if I doubt it’s sinfulnes, since I was sorry during the confesion?


P.S. I am not sure if he was drunk and he wasn’t just swearing; he sweared God.


You didn’t sin because you didn’t participate, or approve of his sin.
You confessed it and are forgiven, don’t worry about it. You might ask the priest for clarification about why he said it was a sin.
In such situations, I would consider making a sign of the cross in reparation for the person’s swearing. You wouldn’t have to say anything to anyone, but it might be a good influence if anyone noticed.
God bless.


Thank youu all for replies, but I must admit this one was the clearest. I don’t know why priest told me that that was sin, he is very wise man… I said that I was eating next to some all man and that he sweared God and that I didn’t react, but I didn’ mention restaurant, so maybe he thought I was home, eating next to MY “old man” and that my “old man” (my father) was talking to me :slight_smile: You know, thare is that phrase in Croatia, so that really could be the case…

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