“Ask a Priest: Could My Silence on Moral Issues Doom Me?”

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Q: I saw a homily on YouTube in which the priest says that if we don’t warn everyone of their errors – “the charity of truth” – then we will be held account by Our Lord for their demise. I have some liberal friends who agree with abortion and gay marriage. Because I as a Catholic have not warned them of these errors and others, does that mean Our Lord will send me to hell for this? Please help me to make sense of this. – Thomas

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: There is a lot to be said for the charity of truth. If we truly love others, we want to point them in the direction of things that will help them, and away from things that will hurt them.

If a friend were reaching out for a plate of tainted food or ready to touch a live wire, and you said nothing, you could be responsible to some extent for the harm he experiences. The same principle could apply to the spiritual and moral realm. So, in this sense, that homily you heard has some merit.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we have to go around lecturing people constantly. We want to use prudence about whether and when to raise certain issues.

On the other hand, we have to be careful that our silence on certain issues is not construed as consent. And there is where it helps to gauge our relationship with a particular person. In the case of parents in regard to their young children, it’s absolutely obligatory to teach them well in the faith.

As Catholics we have a general obligation to evangelize and share our faith with others.

Canon Law in No. 781 says, “Since the entire Church is missionary by its nature and since the work of evangelization is to be viewed as a fundamental duty of the people of God, all the Christian faithful, conscious of their own responsibility in this area, are to assume their own role in missionary work.”

We should try to communicate the Gospel in a language our listeners can understand and put into effect based on their degree of faith and their degree of openness to rational dialogue. It’s not always going to be a conversation about, “If you do this (or don’t do that), you are going to hell.”

True friends want to help one another get to heaven. If your friends embrace beliefs that go against core human truths (abortion and marriage are not just Catholic issues), then you might want to reflect what you are doing to help them see the light.

If your liberal friends are believers, you could dialogue with them about abortion using Church teaching and encyclicals such as Evangelium Vitae.

If they are not believers, it’s a simple matter of engaging in conversation on why you feel abortion and gay marriage are wrong, while respecting that they have a different opinion. This could get heated, but as long as you speak from love, with civility and respect, you are giving witness.

You might help to initiate such conversations by little gestures: a bumper sticker on your car; a pro-life “precious feet” pin on a lapel; a pamphlet visible on your work desk. Or you might share links to videos or articles that do a good job of explaining Catholic teachings.

Failure to make any effort to share the truth with friends could, over time, constitute a sin of omission, even a grave sin. And we know where grave sin could lead us. If you are afraid of alienating friends by bringing up certain topics, you might want to consider how deep (or healthy) these friendships really are.

Another consideration: You might think about ways to actively support pro-life and pro-marriage activities. That could include supporting pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers and chastity-education initiatives.

Do that, and you will find it easier to talk about moral issues. You will also find yourself with more friends who share your moral views.

This might be something worth taking to prayer. And perhaps my colleague Father Bartunek’s 60 Days to Becoming a Missionary Disciple might help. Count on my prayers.

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  1. This is a difficult topic to speak about… to those SOULS set in what they wish to do. I’ve been there and simply to start to speak with the words “I think” . . . I found phone receivers slammed in my ear, blocked from e-mail ‘talk,’ doors slammed on me, etc. etc. etc.

    My VERY FAITHFUL mom (to God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit) said ‘we can’t change them.’ (she was well over 50 years to my age of 30 years and onward) Can’t change them. But, I realized my mom had a back up plan to get ‘THE TRUTH’ to those who won’t or can’t hear truth: THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS, aka OFFERING UP ‘the good’ she was about… in union with OUR SAVIOR’S SUPREME SACRIFICE. When we continue to ‘offer up’ for the confused… and not get pulled down to the earthly view (worldly views of truth) GOD IS PLEASED for HOLDING FIRM TO HIS WAY… we keep a ‘cordial’ ‘distant’ relationship but don’t go out of our way to socialize with such who DISRESPECT US. (What do believers have in common with unbelievers, says the Biblical words) ‘THE CULTURE’ treats those of faith not at all with love (because they don’t know love, synonymous with respect)

    St. Francis put it this way: ‘preach’ the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words. (meaning, I surmise, God would charge us with the sin of omission if we are showing the FAITH in GOD TRUTH by our own actions to those who are watching (they will deny they are watching and say they don’t want to hear from us, but WE IN COMMUNION WITH OUR SAVIOR .. are speaking) We live quiet lives, we attend to THAT CHURCH that some ridicule, we OFFER MASS CARDS for them at birthdays or Christmas or Easter (in the local parish or by missions) This is ONE REASON for Mass attendance, daily if possible and Sunday, we show LOVE by offering
    our good blessings for doing as we ought … in PRAYER AS ONE at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass… and we don’t ‘take the bait’ of trying to teach those who ‘don’t want the truth’ (which more than likely they already know) OFFER UP means just being ONE WITH THE SON by the prayers of ONE HOLY APOSTOLIC CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST. (in the world, not of the world)

    Those who ‘taunt’ ‘poke’ ‘provoke’ by telling or ‘boasting’ of their ways… They are KIDS…IMMATURE of spirit
    (whatever their age) Sometimes NOT TO TAKE THEIR BAIT pleases the Lord. Jesus never said anything
    direct to those pharisees, when alone with them. They were provoking and He knew it. It wasn’t His time yet. JESUS AND THE FATHER . . . they know what we are up against.

    One way to SPEAK TRUTH is objectively… we avoid giving support to Hollywood movies, we don’t watch certain TV sitcoms with the sexual innuendos, we even avoid TV game shows when they allow persons to speak of relationships on the air that SPIT in the face of God. If our ‘friends circle’ smaller these days, we are on right track to being ‘drawn into temptation’ to ‘bite at their bait.’ WE SPEAK TRUTH ‘as one’ by being careful what businesses we support, what jobs we hold, and HOW WE VOTE in elections to say NO to a very obvious group of persons who SPIT IN THE FACE OF GOD.

    They who arrogantly tell us ‘they won’t be changed’ . . . WILL BE CHANGED: by our prayers said as a whole in the Sacrifice of the HOLY MASS… and with that, God will never rebuke us for a sin of omission. WE ARE ONE WITH THE SON, and with MARY . . . who will speak of our good efforts. (not a hair on our head will be harmed who attend to the HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS ‘for those who taunt, poke, provoke … or try to)

    If you think I have something wrong in this, let me know Father.

  2. Correcting one line in the above:

    God would NOT charge us with the sin of omission if we are showing the FAITH in GOD TRUTH by our own actions. (NOT left out in my haste)

  3. another typo corrected

    If our ‘friends circle’ IS smaller these days, we are on right track to NOT being ‘drawn into temptation’ to ‘bite at THE bait’ of those humans who WANT TO RILE US and get us to GIVE UP OUR PEACE. Avoiding such shows FAITH IN GOD’S WORD . . . Avoiding TEMPTATIONS to speak to those who ‘are looking for a fight’
    (verbal or physical) . . . is not the sin of omission. It is THE HOLY SPIRIT, counselor giving us WISDOM to keep a distance and distant relationship… AS LONG AS WE CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR THEM… in this WE RISE and eventually ‘THE LORD WILL BRING THEM AROUND ALSO’ (usually when they finally hit ‘rock bottom’
    addicted to their drugs, having to suffer illness for their ‘love relations,’ (ahem) in debt for their non prudent ways. (SOME FOLKS just have to ‘hear’ THE HARD WAY)

    Of course, EVEN THE GOOD suffer… suffer because of ‘THE WAYS OF SIN’ ‘in the world’ (He will never forsake those who are striving for holiness by the taking and eating of the BLESSED BREAD… not a hair on our head will be harmed. DON’T LISTEN TO THE TAUNTERS AND PROVOKERS to PULL US FROM ‘THE

  4. I am glad Father M prefaced that it is the obligation of parents to ‘young children’ to teach them well in ‘THE WAY’ they are to go. Church . . . and liturgical practices or at least Sunday worship of some type… (in accord what the parent was brought to know of loving God as ONE BODY in Christ) As well as to live those 10 Commandments written in stone. (which goes for many other faith practices)

    Once ‘the child’ leaves the household of the birth family (adult with free will) While the NO NO’s may not be effective anymore, the continued prayers for God to guide their sons and daughters ‘in the world.’ Not to pray could be a sin of omission, correct Father M? As the Lord said: they who hear ‘us’ (human) hear HIM.
    . . . I think this means, be prudent in ‘lecturing or preaching’ . . . to adult children, brothers and sisters, cousins, etc. IF THEY LIVING THE FAITH in God, with understanding … no words are necessary. If NOT living
    the faith in God ‘in the world’ . . . no amount of words will suffice. (this is what I believe Father M was alluding
    to when he said we must be prudent in what, when, or how we speak the moral issues) Sometimes all one can do is ‘OFFER UP’ for those who were swayed or strayed from the narrow path. Remaining silent of actual words to those who ‘won’t hear’ . . . would not be the sin of omission IF with SINCERITY OF LOVE we ‘offer up’ for others asking the Lord to enlighten those minds ‘darkened’ . . . we who enjoy the ‘fruit’ and ‘blessings’
    of His Spirit on this earthly journey. This is TRUST in GOD’s Holy Spirit that ‘God’s will prevails for our wayward loved one’s.’ God’s will is that ALL RISE eventually.

  5. . . . and be humble in the offering up for others. Don’t go ‘telling’ those we know are lacking in virtues “I am praying for you.” or “you are in my prayers.” (it only irritates them) When the Lord Jesus Christ healed anyone, His words to that soul was SHHHHHH, do not tell anyone. TELLING others of our faith, or ‘new growth in faith’ is not humility in the Lord. SHHHHH. The faithful quietly live THE FAITH . . . IN but NOT OF
    this earthly world of fleshly types. Do the daily disciplined duties for our ‘state of life’ (married, single, or
    religious) SUNDAY WORSHIP ‘as one’ is a must. PRAYER time morning rising and evening before sleeping.
    (grateful for a new day and grateful for His guidance throughout the day)

    The married life means one of the two as one goes out to earn the daily bread, for the material NEEDS of the
    family. (and sometimes wants) one takes care of ‘the little blessings’ God sends (laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning and paying for those needs and wants …the bills) Single state of life means CHASTITY. (married
    persons also exercise this virtue) Single means single. Singles are available to assist neighbor or family as
    the Spirit so prompts…and one’s church family. Singles work ‘a job’ so as not to burden anyone (and if blessed, live ‘in the family home’ with parents who have the grace of home to share or apartment to share) Single persons need not ‘duplicate’ what God already provided. Share home life with birth family, does make one an ‘independent adult.’ RELIGIOUS state of life is to pray for those one ‘pastors’ and to live ‘wholly’ the life of Christ (yes, socialize with others, but prudent in words and actions)

    This is a quiet and humble ‘hidden life’ IN CHRIST … to ‘the world’ we look ‘like them’ but WE ARE DIFFERENT.
    Meek, Humble, and CONTENT in the ‘state of life’ called to.

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