My dear People,
This past weekend I challenged our community to spend the Lenten season working to oust a particularly prevalent and commonplace fault, one that has its roots in the depths of our hearts: The sin of Gossip. To aid us as we examine our hearts, I’ve included one resource I found helpful to me in identifying the roots of this fault in my own heart and which has prompted me to begin more thorough examination of when and when not to speak, of what and what not to say. Below find Part I of an article written by Msgr. Charles Pope called “The Sin of Gossip”. The full article may be found at www.aleteia.org. May God Bless your Lent! Fr. Adam
Msgr. Charles Pope | Jan 16, 2015
Idle chatter about others can bring about great harm.
One of the more under-rated categories of sin are the sins of speech. There are many ways we sin, but perhaps the most common way is by speech. Too easily, almost without thought, do we engage in gossip, idle chatter, lies, exaggerations, harsh attacks, uncharitable observations and remarks. With our tongue we can spread hatred, incite fear and maliciousness, spread misinformation, cause temptation, discourage, teach error, and ruin reputations. We can surely cause great harm with a gift capable of such good!
And not only do we sin by commission but also by omission. For frequently we are silent when we should speak. We do not correct when we should. In our age the triumph of evil and bad behavior has been assisted by our silence as a Christian people. Prophets are to speak God’s word but too often we fulfill Isaiah 56:10 which says, Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep.
Well did James say: Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect! (James 3:2) And too easily do we dismiss sins of speech as of little account. While it may be true that not every sin of speech is serious or mortal, it is possible to inflict great harm with speech and thus have the matter become very serious, even mortal. Jesus warns, But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Matt 12:36)
With this in mind, it may be of value to focus in on one aspect of the sins of speech commonly called “gossip.”
In defining gossip in a general way, the term can merely apply to talk of a personal or trivial nature. But the sin of gossip is more specifically considered to be idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It usually involves uncharitable or inappropriate conversation about others not present, and has a reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted. St. Thomas includes it in his treatise on justice (II, IIae 72-76) in the “Summa” since, by it, we unjustly harm the reputation of others, through either lies or truths shared inappropriately. The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes gossip under its treatment of the 8th Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Part II to come next week!