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Carol wrote:

Hi, guys —

Good morning,

I have a question regarding sin.

  • Is it a mortal sin not to stop someone from committing a mortal sin?
    • What if you knew it would not stop them anyway? or
    • you tried to stop them from committing it, but only by acting passively, instead of actively?

My husband masturbates and he tries to involve me while I sleep. I have talked to him countless times regarding this matter and when I wake up because of it, he acts like he wasn't doing anything but getting into bed. I have tried to passively stop him by leaving the bed, rolling over and things like that, but as soon as I'm back asleep, he's doing this again.

So this last time, I tried to passively stop him again, but I didn't really try to stop him. I know he was masturbating and trying to involve me, but instead of leaving the room or anything, I just laid there because I knew nothing I said would stop him from doing this.

  • Did I commit a mortal sin in not trying to stop him?

Thank you,


  { Is it a mortal sin "not" to stop someone from committing a mortal sin if you knew it wouldn't help? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Carol —

Thanks for the question.

Since the main focus of our ministry is evangelization and apologetics, I'd recommend you talk with your local priest or pastor about the pastoral issues involved in your specific situation.
Nevertheless, let me address your questions without getting into the specifics.

You said:

  • Is it a mortal sin not to stop someone from committing a mortal sin?
    • What if you knew it would not stop them anyway? or
    • you tried to stop them from committing it, but only by acting passively, instead of actively?

The Catechism gives us the following criteria for a mortal sin.

IV. The Gravity of Sin: Mortal and Venial Sin
1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose:

  1. object is grave matter
  2. which is also committed with full knowledge, and
  3. deliberate consent. (Reconciliatio et paenitentia 17 § 12 [95])

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother. (Mark 10:19) The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart (cf. Mark 3:5-6; Luke 16:19-31) do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of Hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

We can't control another person's free will; we are only responsible for our own free will.
This includes admonishing the sinning party, your husband, once in charity, and striving not to be an accomplice in his sin.

If this is done, there is no mortal sin to worry about on your part because there is no complete consent on your part to encourage him.

Beyond this, I would recommend you bring this issue up, next time you go to Confession. One of the key purposes of Confession is for Jesus, through the priest, to give you counsel and advice.

Hope this helps,


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