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ShouldICorrectThem Sarah wrote:

Hi, guys —

I don't quite understand fraternal correction and it's bothering me more than I care to admit.

I know a lot of people who have done or are doing sinful actions, such as things that are illegal, like pirating movies, etc. A lot of them are family members, some to which I am closer to, but I wouldn't say I'm that close to them or talk to them much. They're more like distant friends that I see often at family parties, etc. Some I just know because they're family but I never really talk to them.

My problem is that I don't know if I should correct them on issues I know to be grave sin. I'm not sure they will listen to me because many are influenced to do these things by their culture, friends, etc., (like pirating DVDs). Some have just fallen away from the Church or are just negligent in their faith. While I think my correction might not be taken in a bad way, I don't think I really have much influence over them so I'm thinking about just praying for them and leading by example. If an occasion arises where I think I have a real possibility of leading them away from their sin, then I will say something.

  • Is this approach good enough?

I just get afraid that maybe I won't correct anybody ever just because I'm using the excuse of not being sure whether they will listen (or not). I don't want to go around correcting people, or having this make me scrupulous.


  { Should I correct my family though I think they won't listen to me or just pray and lead by example? }

Bob replied:


You are not obliged to correct these people. You can, however, if given the right circumstance, witness to why you would never do those things. — Because your relationship with God is more important than having a free movie, etc. Avoid moralizing and be pro-relationship.

  • Why do we follow the rules?

Because we have a loving God who calls us to live to His Standard, a Heavenly Standard.

That means loving first. If you love someone you don't want to hurt them.

So, pray for them and maybe, at some point, you will have a chance to witness but make sure it comes from a place of love first.


Bob Kirby

Mike replied:

Dear Sarah —

Just to add to Bob's answer. Fraternal correction not done in charity and love is not Fraternal correction. We have to discern the best way to correct in charity so the listener will know we just have the best of intentions in mind for them and their eternal soul.

Sometimes it's best to correct (if done properly); other times it is best just to be a good witness. You have to pray about it then discern each situation case by case.

If you do decide to go the Fraternal correction route, make sure:

  1. it is done in charity and
  2. done only once.

If unsure which way to go, just be a good witness; it can be more powerful than you think.

Remember a quote attributed to St. Francis on Evangelization:

Go and evangelize the world, and when necessary, use words.

It's that slow and steady witness:

  • being kind
  • doing charitable things out of love and for no other reason, and
  • helping and assisting people

that will turn your family members toward listening to you.

When people start saying,

She is such a nice person; she gets along with everyone and always does nice things.

they will then start to say to themselves,

I want to be like that person. Let me learn more about that person and what is important in her life.

The key: The non-verbal witness that has to come first.

When I run into situations like this, I ask the Lord (in my private prayers) to send other people into the person's life who will show (him/her) what I am trying to say in a manner in which (he/she) will understand.

Maybe you could ask something similar in your prayers for your family members.

Hope this helps,


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