You're in the Global Website |
A Private International Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right


ARTICLES > LETTERS OF AQUILA AND PRISCILLA

When you do these things, should I be silent? - Psalm 50:21

In the bitter U.S. political campaign of 1884, Grover Cleveland was attacked and slandered as an immoral man. Having suffered himself so deeply through slander, the great American writer and preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, resolved to defend Grover Cleveland with all his ability. Thus on 22 October 1884 at Brooklyn Rink he eloquently declared: “When the gloomy night of my own suffering I sounded every depth of sorrow, I vowed that if God would bring the daystar of hope, I would never suffer brother, friend, or neighbor to go unfriended should a like serpent seek to crush him. This oath I will regard now because I know the bitterness of venomous lies. I will stand against infamous lies that seek to sting to death an upright man and magistrate.”

 

The psalmist expresses nearly the same sentiment: To the wicked God says: “Why do you recite my commandments and profess my covenant with your lips? You hate discipline; you cast my words behind you! When you see thieves, you befriend them; with adulterers you throw in your lot. You give your mouth free rein for evil; you harness your tongue to deceit. You sit maligning your own kin, slandering the child of your own mother. When you do these things should I be silent? Or do you think that I am like you? I accuse you, I lay the charge before you.” (Psalm 50:16-21)

 

God hates slander (Proverbs 6:16-19). Slander is a restless evil. That is why St. Paul considers it as a behavior of those who hate God (Romans 1:30) and why St. James calls it demonic behavior (James 3:15-16).

 

Slander occurs whenever someone says something untrue about someone else that results, intentionally or unintentionally, in damaging that someone else’s reputation. As such, slander is a sin against justice and truth. And when it occurs, particularly in a religious community, it becomes a divisive, discouraging, and confusing element that often affects numerous people.

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2487) teaches: “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. The duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another’s reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience.”

 

The book The Catechism Explained: An Exhaustive Explanation of the Catholic Religion edited by Fr. Richard Clarke, S.J., explains clearly the Church’s teaching on slander: “He who has injured his neighbor’s reputation is strictly bound to restore his good name; either by apologizing, if this offense was committed in private, or by publicly retracting his words, if they were spoken before others. Those who do not endeavor to repair the harm they have done by slandering their neighbor, cannot obtain pardon from God, nor absolution from the priest.”

 

In his book Introduction to a Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, writes: “Slander is a kind of murder; for we all have three lives—a spiritual life, which depends upon the Grace of God; a bodily life, depending on the soul; and a civil life, consisting in a good reputation. Sin deprives us of the first, death of the second, and slander of the third. But the slanderer commits three several murders with his idle tongue: he destroys his own soul and that of him who hearkens, as well as causing civil death to the object of his slander; for, as St. Bernard says, the Devil has possession both of the slanderer and of those who listen to him, of the tongue of the one, the ear of the other. And David says of slanderers, ‘They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips.’ Aristotle says that, like the forked, two-edged tongue of the serpent, so is that of the slanderer, who at one dart pricks and poisons the ear of those who hear him, and the reputation of him who is slandered.”

 

St. Francis de Sales further explains very clearly: “He who unjustly takes away his neighbor's good name is guilty of sin, and is bound to make reparation, according to the nature of his evil speaking; since no man can enter into Heaven cumbered with stolen goods, and of all worldly possessions the most precious is a good name.”

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear about the absolute need for reparation in order for the sin of slander to be forgiven and that “those who do not endeavor to repair the harm they have done… cannot obtain pardon from God nor absolution from the priest.”

 

As summarized in the Catholic Encyclopedia, the only adequate way for the sin of slander to be forgiven is “to retract his false statement,” “to declare that he has made a mistake,” and “to unequivocally take back his untruth even at the expense of exhibiting himself a liar.”

 

Not being able to obtain pardon from God or absolution from the priest, the slanderer, as St. Francis de Sales clearly states, “cannot enter into heaven” unless he/she restores the good name and honor that he/she has “stolen” by committing the sin of slander. The slanderer is “strictly bound to restore” the good name of the person slandered by “publicly retracting his words.” All these are necessary because, as Pope Francis says in his April 2013 homily, “there is no doubt whenever there is slander, there is Satan, Satan himself.”

A good name defines a person’s character. It is the most valuable thing about a person’s identity. A good name determines who we are in the judgment of others. Accordingly, a good reputation is an extremely precious asset. Thus, if we damage a person’s reputation unjustly, we steal that person’s good name. And this causes very real and often long lasting injury to people because it is very difficult to restore a devalued name. We cannot fully know what love, joy, comfort, and opportunities we take away from people by slandering them.

 

But God knows fully. That is why God abhors slander. And God will hold us totally accountable for every slander we commit. There is therefore great need for us to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1). This is why, having suffered the bitterness of venomous lies like Henry Beecher, we courageously “stand against infamous lies that seek to sting to death any upright man.” And this is why, like the psalmist, we ask, “when you do these things, should we be silent?”  

 

 

Added on Monday, February 19, 2018



 

#156 20th Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines
TRUNKLINE: (632) 709-4868 FAX NO: (632) 709-4844
Home | The Organization | Ministries | Programs | Formation | Communications | Contact Us

Copyright 2013-2020 All Rights Reserved   Privacy Policy Bookmark and Share