I believe that many Catholics think that provided they aren’t going against the 10 Commandments that they are in the clear. But there are a number of ways to participate in someone else’s sin. In fact, there are nine ways that a person can participate in another’s sin.

1. Counsel: If you tell or advise another person to do something sinful, so that they do it, you have sinned by participation in that person’s sin.

Have you ever said, “If I was in your situation I would…” and then suggest something contrary to the Gospel message of love?  If so then you have participated in someone’s sin through the act of counsel.

2. Command: If you have authority over another, and you forced that person to commit something which is sinful, while that person might have mitigated guilt, you don’t.  We can participate in another person’s sin when we command them to do something that we know is contrary to the Gospel.  Sometime we do this simply by giving the person an ultimatum: “Behave this way or else?

3. Consent: If you are asked if you think a sin is good thing to do, and have some power over the situation, and if you permit or approve or yield to the commission of the sin, you’ve sinned.

4. Provocation: You badger or drive or dare a person to do something such that he does it.

We can also find ourselves responsible for someone’s bad behavior when we provoke them into making a bad choice.  I believe we have all done this at one time or another with our families as I am sure at one time or another we have intentionally made a family member grow angry with us.

5. Praise of flattery: Pretty clear.  This is another way of prompting a person. 

If a person was to curse someone out on the freeway, and you applaud them. This is a sin, why? You’ve encouraged that person by praising their actions to sin more.

6. Concealment: A person commits a sin and then you help that person conceal the evidence or the action.

7. Partaking: Another person is the principal person involved, but you are right there helping the actual sinful deed.  For example,  a politician helping an aggressive governor or president or speaker of the house drive through recognition of contrary-to-nature “marriage” by providing a vote.

8. Silence: There is an old adage that “silent implies consent”.  If a person with great authority or moral authority is in a position to stop a sin from happening, and yet stays silent and doesn’t get involved, then that may constitute participation in the sin committed.  This is trickier to figure out, but it isn’t rocket science.  There may be attendant mitigating circumstances, such as the probable invasion of Vatican City, the capture of the Roman Pontiff and destruction of the Church in many places.  In the meanwhile one could work quietly.  One cannot, however, do nothing.  Another point must be considered: the rules governing fraternal correction.  It may not be your place to correct another person, depending on the circumstances.

9. Defense: Pretty clear.  You defend or justify or give an apology in favor of the sin committed.  This is not the same as what a defense lawyer does in the case of a person who is guilty.  If instead of pointing a person in the right direction we point them in the wrong direction or if we keep encouraging them down the wrong path, then we too have committed a sin.

It is good to review this list once in a while with a view to your own examination of conscience.

We all wind up in morally ambiguous or difficult situations in which we are challenged to chose between goods or between greater and lesser evils.   We have to keep track of ourselves and are interactions with others so that a) we do not endanger our souls by participation in their sins and b) we do not endanger other people’s souls by involving them in our sins.

Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager
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