The Precepts of the Catholic Church say:

You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor

There are already several discussions about what servile labor is, boiling down to things that are more work than recreation (I'm simplifying here).

Is it also unlawful to cause others to perform servile work? Examples might be eating out or shopping on Sunday.

  • Welcome, and nice question! Thanks for contributing. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 15:18
  • I think the accepted answer is correct here, but that's because the question is "is it unlawful." Whether something is unlawful/sinful is a distinct question from whether or not we should do something. We Catholics should start asking the second question more.
    – jpyams
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 1:15

2 Answers 2


At least as regards some of the activities mentioned in the O.P.—especially, eating out—it is not problematic for those who are dedicated to providing others with leisure to do so on Sunday or other holy days.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states expressly:

Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day. Traditional activities (sport, restaurants, etc.), and social necessities (public services, etc.), require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure (no. 2187, emphasis added).

Regarding keeping stores open, the situation is less clear. Some stores are clearly a public service (pharmacies, etc.), and so keeping them open is not a problem. In other cases, whether there is truly a need to keep the stores open is a matter for prudential judgment, and so the Church has refrained from making any detailed pronouncements.

In any event, in societies (such as the United States) that are predominantly non-Catholic, it is simply not prudent or possible to control when stores will be open. Catholics are not expected to refuse to work on Sunday and holy days, especially if their future employment or advancement is placed in jeopardy. (It would, however, certainly be a good gesture on an employer’s part to allow Christians to take Sunday off, to the degree that it is possible.)

It follows, then, that there is no absolute prohibition against causing others to work on Sunday. An effort should be made to help others keep their Sunday rest to the extent possible, and so it seems prudent to refrain from unnecessarily requiring others to work—e.g., by doing the weekly grocery shopping on a Sunday. This is, however, a prudential judgment, not a question of a strict moral prohibition.

(My answer to the O.P.’s related question, According to Catholicism, is going to work on Holy Days of Obligation sinful?, will also shed light on this question.)

  • 1
    Let me comment on this (note: this is not official teaching, just my appliance of it). Shopping: unless there is some necessity (running out of gas during the trip and thus purchasing fuel at the gas station, medicals in case of sudden health issue) activities like weekly grocery shopping are not necessary work (taking care of home) and as such consist both breaking of the 3rd commandment and force others to work. Eating at the restaurant: while it looks like CCC explicitly allows it on the other hand it is unnecessary demand. So for me it's something we (Catholics) should not do.
    – MirMasej
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 15:13

Regarding giving others an occasion to sin, St. Thomas Aquinas gives a similar scenario when explaining that one can without sin borrow from someone who exacts usury.

St. Thomas writes (Summa Theologica II-II q. 78 a. 4 arg. 2) that

for no temporal advantage ought one to give another an occasion of committing a sin: for this pertains to active scandal, which is always sinful, as stated above (q. 43, a. 2).

Thus, if you go to a restaurant on a holy day with the intention of making those working there not observe the holy day, then it is a sin.

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