Vincible ignorance

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Vincible ignorance is, in Catholic ethics, a moral or doctrinal matter that could have been removed[clarification needed] by diligence reasonable to the circumstances. It contrasts with invincible ignorance, which can not be removed at all, or only by supererogatory efforts (e.g. exceptionally remote location).

While invincible ignorance prevents a sinful action from being a sin, vincible ignorance at most mitigates it. It may even aggravate guilt. The guilt of an act performed or omitted in vincible ignorance is not to be measured by the intrinsic malice of the thing done or omitted so much as by the degree of negligence discernible in the act.[citation needed]

Ignorance stemming from making little or no effort is termed crass or supine; it removes little or no guilt. Deliberately fostered ignorance is affected or studied; it can increase guilt.

Ignorance may be

  • Of law, when one is unaware of the existence of the law itself, or at least that a particular case is comprised under its provisions.
  • Of fact, when not the relation of something to the law but the thing itself or some circumstance is unknown.
  • Of penalty, when a person is not cognizant that a sanction has been attached to a particular crime. This is especially to be considered when there is question of more serious punishment.

Vincible ignorance can also refer to the intentional refusal to understand or consider a particular point of doctrine.

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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.