Every Catholic who is striving to grow in holiness finds himself with some frequency kneeling in the confessional, humbly acknowledging his or her sins and faults. The person who frequently confesses their faults is a fighter. They haven't thrown in the towel, resigned themselves to their sins, or made friends with their sins. They are soldiers engaged in an epic battle against the power of evil. Knocked down, they get up again. Sometimes, they feel like they have been traitors or cowards. And yet, they drag themselves to the aid station and then return to the battle. For some, they battle the same faults and sins for years upon years. As long as this has not settled into some sort of routine and empty ritual, they have no cause for shame. If the Lord commanded us to forgive our brother seventy times seven times, will he not also do so for us?
We live at a moment in time, however, when instead of encouraging one another to fight the good fight, we are tempted to discourage one another. True love--true friendship--doesn't abandon our fellow soldiers on the battlefield. True love demands that we rally them, encourage them towards holiness, and carry them to safety. When we encourage others to sin, to abandon the fight, to yield to the powers of evil, the flesh, and the world, we fail them. We fail them and inflict grave spiritual harm upon them. We expect that an enemy might try to destroy us, but we should be able to count on our friends to aid us. Friendship and love means willing the good for the other. Most importantly, it means willing their spiritual good. It means wanting to do everything possible to help that person attain eternal life.
When we cooperate in the sin of another, we are not only wounding ourselves spiritually, but we become an enemy to the one who is supposed to be our friend, our comrade in arms. When we cooperate in the sin of another, we take the side of the Enemy. Instead of saving his life, we participate in his destruction. So, it might be helpful for us to review the nine traditional ways in which we cooperate in the sins of another.
By Counsel: In this instance, we advise a person to act in a manner contrary to the Divine Will. "If you really love this woman, I think it is fine for you to cheat on your wife."
By Command: In this instance, we command a person to do some act of evil. "You have to lie to the customer in order for our business to flourish.."
By Consent: In this instance, we affirm the person's decision to act contrary to the Divine Will. "You're going to get blackout drunk tonight? That's wonderful. Have a great time!"
By Provocation: In this instance, we appeal to someone's foolishness or pride to act contrary to the Will of God. "You should decide for yourself what is right or wrong. You shouldn't listen to some old fashioned commandments. Do you really think you're going to go to Hell for not going to Mass?"
By Flattery or Praise: In this instance, we celebrate someone's sinfulness. We heap praise upon them for doing something that is contrary to the Divine Will. "I think it is great how you cheated on that test and didn't get caught."
By Concealment: "If you take this money that doesn't belong to you, I won't say anything to anyone."
By Partaking: In this instance, you actually benefit from the sin. "I'm glad you stole that money so that we could enjoy this nice vacation."
By Silence: This in some ways is the "live and let live" cooperation. "I know that you are cheating on your wife, but for the sake of peace and tranquility, I won't bring it up. Better for us to stay friends than for me to make things awkward."
By Defending the Sin: In this instance, we argue that the evil act is not evil at all. "You deserve to be happy and if that means doing what is forbidden by God, then that must be okay."
Friends, we are engaged in a spiritual battle. Our Enemy is crafty, sinister, and relentless. We need true companions to be at our side during this war. We need friends who love us and who don't leave us for dead on the battlefield. We need friends who encourage us to fight against temptation, not yield to it. We need friends who help us to repent, not to relent. We need friends who lead us to the Confessional, not traitors who abandon us to the Enemy. We need friends who help us cooperate with grace, not cowards who cooperate in our sins.
Don't abandon your friends on the battlefield. Don't let them get discouraged. Don't let them surrender to the Enemy. Better to fall in battle a thousand times, to repent, and to return to the fight than to be abandoned and discouraged.
If you love your friends, help them to be holy. Stand by them, love them, and encourage them to never stop fighting for holiness. That's what comrades and companions do.