White Lies

I’ve been told that white lies are not to be counted as mortal sin, because they are not grave matter.

But is this a mortal sin?

I was talking to a good online friend about judging people, and I told her how I often struggle with judging others, and that God is helping me get over that.

She then asked, “do you ever judge me?” She asked it out of sadness and worry, really.

I have judged her in the past, but I do not ever wish to do so again, because I know it’s wrong and that I don’t really feel judgmental towards her, that she does not deserve it.

So, I simply said, “Don’t worry about it, I wouldn’t trade our friendship for anything, you’ve had a huge impact on my life.” Which is true.

Was this lying? Did I commit a mortal sin? :frowning:

No, it was not any kind of lie. You simply diverted the conversation in a better direction. You calmed her fear without actually answering the question. That’s a good way to handle it.

Phew! Thank you, that helps a lot :slight_smile:

Sometimes honesty is the best policy,tell the moo cow to mind her own damn business and not to worry about what people think.

Konohage was honest. He told the truth.

Also–“Tell the moo cow”? :rolleyes: Insulting people is not a sign of honesty.

Agree, no sin at all, much less approaching mortal.

“Do you judge me?” implies a yes or no answer is expected. You did not say yes or no.

I think the sin of being judgmental about someone requires much more than being aware of their views and abilities -that may be somewhat different than mine and relating APPROPRIATELY.

Someone may be better able to articulate an idea than I can. But is he a “know it all?” Another may not be as well informed as I am on a subject. Is he stupid? On any subject, there was a point where I knew nothing or not enough to employ that knowledge well. What is true for me is true for others.

Each of us is constantly growing based on our education (formal and informal) and experience. Each of us is also imperfect. Some seem better, and some seem worse to us.

As Christians, we are to LOVE one another and encourage one another. The second part of your answer did that quite well.

We tolerate each other’s differences; we encourage, and if necessary, in the face of a seemingly serious flaw, we try to correct with as much love as we can in that effort. And hope others would do the same for us.

Ya I always wondered if a situation arised and a burglar broke into my house and had a gun and asked me if there was anyone else in the house and lets say my kids were hiding under their beds, Im obviously going to lie and say no, there is no one else in the house…that can’t possibly be a sin right? “Thou shalt not lie”

Culpability is generally reduced when you’re forced to answer something or say something you don’t want to.

No… a burglar does NOT have the right to know the truth concerning your children. Therefore, it is NOT a sin to lie to him. Just as it was not a sin for those hiding the Jews during WWII to lie to the Nazis and it’s not a sin for an undercover law enforcement officer to lie to a “perp” with regard to who he really is. Further, if you read the book of Judith (especially chapter 10 and beyond) you will see plainly that lying is not sinful if the person being told the lie has no moral or legitimate right to know the truth of the matter at hand.

The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it (CCC 2488).

Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it (CCC 2489).

Thankyou I always wondered about that!! =)

Actually I don’t agree. All lying is a sin. It is simply an issue of whether it is a sin of grave matter or venial matter.
You are right that some people (your examples) do not have the right to know the truth but we should not be thinking that lying to them is not a sin but rather how do we answer them without telling them the truth.
I’ve been discussing this with Father Lukefahr who is a highly repsected Catholic educator (offers free online theology courses) and is well-known to many members in these forums.

He says that “When someone inquires about information to which they have no right or which might seriously harm another, we may use the technique known as mental reservation.”

For example, if a close friend might tell you about a serious problem, trusting you to keep it a secret. Someone else asks, “Do you know anything about this?” You may legitimately reply, “No, I don’t.” Implied are the words (the mental reservation), “I don’t know anything that I’m free to tell others.”

Similarly, if nazis are knocking at your door asking if there are any Jews in your house, the mental reservation would be: “There are no Jews in this house” (that I am going to turn over to you).

So these are not lies which are not a sin. They are not lies at all and so cannot be a sin.

Thistle, I have read MANY of your posts and I always find them to be exceptional. You are, without a doubt very knowledgeable concerning the faith and at the same time very charitable when replying to others. BUT, you knew there was going to be a “BUT” didn’t you? In this case, and with all due respect to Father Lukefahr, what he calls “mental reservation” I call semantics or perhaps verbal gymnastics. In the examples above you speak of a way in which a person can avoid lying by simply changing the question being asked. If a person who is asked by the Nazis, “Are there any Jews in your house?” takes that question, rewrites it, and then answers the rewritten question as though he were answering the question as it was originally asked, he is lying; though still not sinning. Why not rewrite all questions in matters that would allow us to lie without sinning. For example, when a parent asks a child where they were all evening. The child could, by the “mental reservation” method, take the question and rewrite it to say, “Where were you all evening on February 1, 2010?” To which he could reply, “I was at the library.” Despite the fact that he knows his parent was speaking of the evening of the 4th. This last example is sinful because the parent has the right to know his/her child’s whereabouts.

I’m sorry; I have to respectfully disagree with you and Fr. Lukefahr on this one. My opinion will have to remain that lying is NOT always a sin. The matter rests (in part or in whole) on whether or not a person has a moral and/or legitimate right to know the truth concerning the question asked. That is not to say that if a friend asks you what your favorite color is you should lie to him/her because they have no right to know the answer. Rather, it is to say that where there are situations in which lives, property, scandal, etc. rest on a given answer; and in situations where someone may get hurt or worse, one should weigh the question of whether the inquirer has a right to a truthful answer. Remember also the story of Judith and how she was praised for her lies and deceptions against the enemies of Israel.

I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one.:slight_smile:
I’m intrigued by this mental reservation technique.
I don’t see this is a lie without being a sin. I see it as not being a lie.
If I say out loud “there are no Jews in this house” and continue silently in my head to say “that I intend to hand over to you” the nazi may not have heard the second part of the answer but I have in fact completed a sentence which is not a lie.

Well, in the end, the Nazi doesn’t find out about the Jews so, I suppose whatever you or I wish to call it, the effect is the same. :wink:

No argument from me on that.:thumbsup:

I think what Tietjen is getting at is the ‘mental reservation’ is willfully withheld from the asker, and you KNOW that the part you did tell them is going to give a different impression than the ‘whole’ answer. You know that if you told the nazi “There are no Jews in this house that I intend to hand over to you” that he would be on to you, so you intentionally conceal this from him. So you are still effecting a deception, so you may be said to be lying. That’s my take on it at least.

I agree its a grey area which is why there are many debates on the subject of lying.
When Father Lukefahr told me of the mental reservation technique he said the words of the mental reservation are implied. The fact that the nazi, who according to the Church is not entitled to the truth, may not understand the answer is his problem.
God knows the whole sentence you are saying (both parts).

Sadly this is another teaching (lying) which we all largely understand because the Church largely makes it clear but when we get down to nuances it gets fuzzy.

Whether this constitutes a lie but not a sin, or a lie only of venial matter, or not a lie at all, none of using that technique would be separated from God.

But what about the misstatements made to (innocent) others to maintain the ruse with respect to the “perp.” Why don’t those ordinary folks have a right to the truth?

Why would they have a right to know the truth? Being “innocent” does not in fact give someone the right to know the truth. At best, it is a neutral position in the case above. When I refer to a “legitimate right to know” or a “moral right to know” I’m talking about situations where a person is accountable or responsible to the (or for the) subject of the lie. For example, if you were asked by the mother of “Betty” if you had seen her today, you are to speak the truth. Betty’s mother has a “right to know” as she is responsible in the eyes of God for Betty’s health and welfare. If, however, a law enforcement officer who is working undercover must lie to a stranger in order to maintain his/her cover, how is it that the stranger has a “right” to know that he/she is actually a police officer? Even if the stranger in question is not the intended target of the sting, the stranger still has no legitimate or moral right to know that the person is law enforcement.

While I agree that not all innocent third parties have a legitimate right to know, in my opinion, some do have that right. For example, if I am the owner of a club that the officer has decided will be a meeting place as part of the sting. Perhaps the officer has decided that it is an appropriate place, but I think I have the right to know so that my security guard doesn’t mistake him for a gun carrying thug, try to carefully get him out so that the club is safe, in the process angering the target and causing a shooting in which 3 “strangers” are seriously injured.

So, I don’t think it always the case that “strangers” have no right to know to protect themselves and others just because the officer decides to use a place you own or are responsible for.

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