Calumny, Detraction and St John Vianney

St John Vianney, the Curé of Ars
St John Vianney, the Curé of Ars

The eighth commandment “You shall not bear false witness” forbids the telling of lies and other sins by which we offend against truth. Particularly harmful are calumny, when we harm the reputation of others by remarks that are untrue, and detraction, which discloses the faults and failings of another, without a valid reason, to persons who did not know them.

The Curé of Ars observed that “The great bulk of malicious talk is done by people who are simply irresponsible, who have an itch to chatter about others without feeling any need to discover whether what they are saying is true or false. They just have to talk.” In our time, this loose gossip can be magnified by the use of social media and a more permanent record of it is made.

Whenever we have harmed a person’s reputation without just cause, we are bound to make restitution.

Cardinal Sarah recently wrote a book called “The Power of Silence. Against the Dictatorship of Noise.” He gives a valuable witness which applies not only to our prayers but also to our lives in the world when we often need to resist the urge to speak about someone else without justification.