Sharing in the Sins of Others: By Silence

December 4, 2012

Silence in the face of injustice or evil – does it imply consent?  We cannot know the heart of another, that is, his intentions, but we can say this about ourselves: if we are silent because we are afraid of retribution, or if we hide behind the Nazi claim “I was just following orders,” or if we stand in support of evildoers even if we say nothing or do nothing, we are sinning by silence.

The Punishment of Core and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron (detail), Sandro Boticelli, Sistine Chapel


In Numbers 16-17 we learn of the rebellion against Moses and Aaron by Core and his adherents.  Two-hundred-fifty men, community leaders, council members, and men of note followed Core, Dathan, and Abiram in a confrontation with Moses and Aaron over their right to leadership.  Core’s chief claim (an excuse, really) was that everyone in the community was holy and the Lord was with them all.  How dare Moses and Aaron set themselves above the Lord’s congregation?

The followers of the three let their leaders do the talking and stood by while they committed the first act of schism and heresy in a divinely instituted religion.  It was schism to rebel against the lawful authority of Moses and Aaron; and it was heresy to deny that God had given jurisdiction and the priesthood to Moses and Aaron.

In the end, God punished the leaders along with most of their families (except the sons of Core) with a frightful death – being swallowed up by an earthquake. The 250 followers were burned alive by fire from the pillar of cloud.  God showed many things by this, among them that silence doesn’t exonerate a person from serious sin.

Some ways of sinning by silence today

  • Doing nothing, not even praying, to stop abortion.
  • Following sinful orders from a superior without protest or refusal.
  • Remaining silent when knowing somebody in our family, church, school, or workplace is falsely accused.
  • Shunning arguments and controversy when speaking the truth would save someone from continuing in sin.
  • “It’s not my problem,” the attitude of those who silently watch while another is abused.

We can’t go around minding other people’s business nor does God want that from us.  But He does allow us to recognize sin and at times gives us what we need to take action – authority, know-how, law, etc.  If we don’t make use of the virtue of fortitude in these moments and instead look the other way, we are guilty.  We must also be very careful who we choose to lead us and who we support lest we end up behind leaders whose agendas are sinful and we, by our silence in the face of their perfidy, find ourselves on the wide road to hell.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 Catholic Church, spirituality

6 Comments to Sharing in the Sins of Others: By Silence

  1. “Do nothing, not even praying” You indicate a really powerful way to be effective in the face of evil: prayer.

  2. Joann on December 9th, 2012
  3. The “ifs” in your first paragraph are excellent for a “personal check up.” For an examination of conscience, in other words. Convicting, but excellent. Actually: excellent BECAUSE they’re convicting. Thank you.

  4. Nancy on December 10th, 2012
  5. Thanks, Nancy. Ah, the pitfalls we encounter when trying to live a virtuous life!

  6. barb on December 10th, 2012
  7. Joann, since my body is fairly limited, prayer is what I can offer. My heart is with those actively addressing the evil even if I can’t appear at their side. I hope others will realize the power of prayer.

  8. barb on December 10th, 2012
  9. Good post. This one is very difficult. I find it all too easy to run into this problem at work when silence is expected as a form of tolerance.
    Michael K (@michaelmaedoc) recently posted..Irish Bishops Respond to the Expert Report

  10. Michael K (@michaelmaedoc) on December 10th, 2012
  11. Yes, Michael, the work place is really difficult. We have to exercise prudence yet there are times when we must challenge the status quo.

  12. barb on December 11th, 2012


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