Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Today's choice is intriguingly titled "Murder by Gossip" from Melanie Baker:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. 2476-7)
names three offenses against respect for the reputation of another:
rash judgment, detraction, and calumny. The pervasiveness and
consequences of these sins are clear enough.
Rash judgment leads
to prejudices, suspicions, inappropriate reactions and a number of other
avoidable problems. If these are not checked, families can be ruptured,
friendships broken, grudges solidified. Feuds can develop, and in some
There are many factors that create a culture of
mistrust and conflict, especially in those regions where centuries-old
racial, ethnic or religious resentments are deeply embedded in the
society. It is easy to see how such ancient prejudices foster the rash
judgment that plays a part in seemingly endless strife riddling the
Middle East, Sudan, and all war-torn regions. The continual plea from
the Church for peace and forgiveness in these tragic situations is not a
plea for one party or the other to be a doormat or to be naïve, but it
is a plea, in part, to keep emotions in check, and to bring not only
reason, but more importantly, a good and merciful heart, to the
judgments that must be made. In practice, such a mindset evokes
questions such as: How does God see the person before me? Are there
pieces of the puzzle I do not know? If I am to err, which is likely,
shouldn’t I err on the side of mercy and the benefit of the doubt? And
then the “measure we have measured will be measured in turn to us” (cf.
Detraction and calumny derive from rash judgment. From
the treasure of the heart the mouth speaks (cf. Lk 6:45). To detract is
to needlessly spread the dirty laundry of my neighbor – it is to speak
the truth, but to reveal the truth without reason, thus inducing others
to dislike or shun the person in question. It is one thing to reveal a
fault so as to stop injustice, or prevent an innocent person from being
harmed. But if the revelation serves only to cause sensationalism, to
provide a fleeting moment of feeling better than the other person, or
perhaps even to get back at someone… how does it lead to anything good?
How does it build? How does it encourage that person, myself, and those
listening to me to continue fighting the good fight? It of course goes
without saying that calumny is an even greater sin, for it is to spread a
lie, and so becomes also a sin of injustice.
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