Are we culpable for aiding someone in sin?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you knowingly or unknowingly aided someone in committing sin? Sometimes we are caught off guard and don’t know how to respond, or sometimes we feel as if we can’t speak up. Are we morally responsible for helping someone to sin?

“I’m a caregiver for elderly and one of my former clients … is Catholic, but he would have me take him to Family Video and he would go to the adult section. … Is this a sin I need to confess?” asked Carissa. She wrote in her email to Father Simon that she asked her great-uncle, a priest, if this was a sin and he told her it was not.

“You know, Carissa, I don’t think it comes to—especially since you’re questioning it and doubting it—I certainly don’t think it comes to the measure of a mortal sin. But on the other hand, I don’t know that I agree with your uncle. If I were to drive someone to an abortion clinic who wanted to get an abortion, and say, ‘Well, I’m just driving them there.’ No, I would be responsible for having abetted an abortion!” explained Fr. Simon, host of Father Simon SaysTM on Relevant Radio®.

It’s important that we are able to stand up for ourselves and refuse to be a part of something we know to be sinful. “I think that accompanying someone does not mean bringing them into the near occasion of sin, and that’s what that is. Say, ‘I’m not going to be part of that, you can fire me.’ We are so polite and so non-judgemental. One must keep an open mind, so the saying goes, but it is quite another thing to let geese fly around in there,” said Fr. Simon.

“I don’t think it rises to the standard of mortal sin in your life, but on the other hand, you are helping a person to commit sin. And that is sinful. I don’t think you understood and you were advised by someone you trusted that it was not a sin, so your moral culpability is much diminished. But if you’d have asked me, I would have said, ‘Don’t do it!’”

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.