I preached an homily on Second Advent and small part of what I spoke about was gossip. I mentioned it as an example of one of the subtle ways we choose to say ‘no’ to God and to his promise of salvation. There are, of course, many ways we reject God, and my point is that all of us, even those who might consider themselves good Catholics, have the potential to do that. Myself included.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
I was thinking a little more about the content of my sermon because a fellow thought I was speaking about him specifically and reacted negatively by engaging in behaviour that was clearly calumnious, which sort of drives the point home. Even those who consider themselves good Catholics can say ‘no’ to God, His peace and His salvation. A frightening thought isn’t it.
This is the liturgical season of Advent. Turn away from your sins. Turn to God.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.
278 He becomes guilty:
- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbour;
- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279
- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbour’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favourable way:
Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favourable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. 280
2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honour of one’s neighbour. Honour is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honour of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.
2487 Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another’s reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience.
2489 Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.283
2492 Everyone should observe an appropriate reserve concerning persons’ private lives. Those in charge of communications should maintain a fair balance between the requirements of the common good and respect for individual rights. Interference by the media in the private lives of persons engaged in political or public activity is to be condemned to the extent that it infringes upon their privacy and freedom.
2497 By the very nature of their profession, journalists have an obligation to serve the truth and not offend against charity in disseminating information. They should strive to respect, with equal care, the nature of the facts and the limits of critical judgment concerning individuals. They should not stoop to defamation.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” —Matthew 7:12