Is holding someone accountable a virtue?

by Marlon De La Torre

North Texas Catholic

March 13, 2018

One of the most challenging situations a person can face is holding someone accountable for their actions. Rarely does someone want to be told what they can or cannot do.

In our current societal state of affirming our right to basically say anything, we might get into trouble for merely suggesting some form of spiritual or moral accountability.    

Yet, Christian holiness is an act of faith in which all are called to participate. It reflects a genuine desire to seek the good in another person and in turn exhibit proper respect and dignity toward our fellow man. We are called to be perfect like our heavenly Father (Mt 5:48). The way of perfection, as described in St. Matthew’s Gospel, requires a spiritual accountability aimed at developing an interior relationship with Jesus Christ.

For us to conceive the actual thought of following Christ’s directive of spiritual perfection we must examine our own relationship with Christ and to a greater degree examine our conscience when we stray.

The First Commandment
The first commandment establishes the groundwork on the virtue of accountability by calling us to worship the one true God, our Father in Heaven (Lk 10:27). In acknowledging our belief and assent in God, we affirm a very basic but most important tenet of our Catholic faith — belief and worship in “I am who am.” The first commandment embraces faith, hope, and charity (CCC 2086). The relationship between those theological virtues, the first commandment, and our act of faith reflects our Baptism and the identity we received as children of God.

By nature of our Christian identity we make a vow to God which involves a deliberate and free promise. It’s an act of devotion that dedicates us to God and to serving Him (CCC 2102)

Holding Someone Accountable 
The first instance required in spiritual accountability is truth. No one ever wants to be lied to or be led into a false narrative. We are bound to always seek the truth and embrace it (CCC 2104). Whether we attempt to hold someone spiritually or morally accountable for their actions, our intentions must be directed towards Christ for the sake of their soul. This means we should first recognize the dignity of the human person. Holding someone spiritually or morally accountable involves a gradual but firm movement toward a conversion of heart. This is so the person in question does not feel threatened and understands the concerns brought to his attention.  

A very crucial tenet of the accountability process is intercessory prayer. Before you decide the time has come to hold someone accountable, it is important you have prayerfully discerned this is the best time to initiate the process. Accountability is not dictatorial — it’s an opportunity to engage in a direct conversation about someone’s behavior and address it in a respectful and prayerful manner. Some key examples of this methodology can be found in Christ’s exhortation about “taking one’s cross” and following Him (Lk 9:23-27), Christ’s healing of the sinful woman (Lk 7:36-50), and man’s resurrection (Mk 12:18-27)

St. Padre Pio offers us a great reflection on spiritual and moral self-accountability:   
“Any mental picture of your life that focuses on past sins is a lie and this comes from the devil. Jesus loves you and has forgiven you your sins, so there is no room for having a downcast spirit. Whatever persuades you otherwise is truly a waste of time. It is also something that offends the heart of our very tender Lover. On the other hand, if the mental picture of your life consists in what you can be or could be, then it comes from God.”

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Marlon De La Torre,  is the Director of Catechesis for the Diocese of Fort Worth and writes articles on catechesis, evangelization, and Christian spirtuality at

One of the most challenging situations a person can face is holding someone accountable for their actions. Rarely does someone want to be told what they can or cannot do.

Published (until 3/13/2035)