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Carol Donovan wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a question on fraternal correction when it comes to scandal.

Every one, whether having an official competency, or not, is bound to give admonition when sin is committed, whether it be from ignorance or not, because it is hurtful to the offender, a third party, or is an occasion of scandal.

That said, in some instances, I have been around people who do, or say, things that are gravely sinful right in front of me, like putting on a pirated movie or a supervisor, who is telling me she is thinking about getting artificially inseminated.

  • Am I bound to correct these people whether or not I think they will listen to me?

If I don't say anything, it might make them think, as a Catholic, I'm OK with it . . . making their (words|behavior) a scandal. I just have a hard time talking to people as it is, and correcting them due to scandalous behavior seems terrifying to me, especially when I am not close to them or when they are my boss.

Because of this, I feel like I have to go around correcting those who do things (or bring things up) that are gravely sinful in front of me.

Again, it's hard for me to correct them when I'm in an awkward position around people and afraid to tell them.


  { Am I bound to correct these people when I am in an awkward position and afraid to tell them? }

Bob replied:


Fraternal correction implies brotherhood, a shared kinship, as in the Christian brotherhood, so there is a distinction between witnessing and admonishment.

You can admonish someone you know when they are violating the covenant they have as a believer, conversely to a non-Christian, you can witness to the truth, the right, and the good, but you do not share kinship. The effectiveness of that witness depends on a host of things, not least of which is the other person's openness to hear and receive the truth. So if a boss asks for your opinion, you can say,

As the Catholic I don't believe in artificial insemination, because we believe that the conjugal act is integral to the morality of how children are conceived.

If she has a follow up question, you can go further, etc. That is the basis for a good witness but don't hit her with everything at once. Test the waters with a statement like that to see if it can provoke more discussion around our understanding of faith and morality.

Talking with a Catholic/Christian you can say,

  • Aren't you Catholic? You know that taking the Lord's Name like that is wrong, right?
    . . . or whatever the scandalous (words|behavior) are.

Sometimes it may be ignorance, sometimes it may be laziness that causes their misdoings, but if you are moved, you can speak up. Especially if the person is a professing/practicing Catholic or Christian.

How and when any of this takes place requires discernment and gentleness, and you must add that you care about the person and that is why you are bringing it to their attention.

If you go the Lord first and seek Him to know whether you should speak, you will be able to assure your conscience that you are not culpable for remaining silent; He will give you the push, the strength, and the wisdom to do it well when He wants you to.

He may also impress you to sit it out and lay low by saying nothing.

Just make it about doing what the Spirit wants and you'll solve each dilemma as they come.


Bob Kirby

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