Monday, November 12, 2007

Fr. Benedict Groeschel admonishes Catholic bloggers on discussing Fr. Francis Mary's leave: Don't engage in detraction

The humble priest, at the end of yesterday's Sunday Night Live, made an appeal to Catholic bloggers: Don't engage in detraction, and if you have, know that it is a mortal sin. As Father pointed out, even if something is true, it can be a mortal sin to pass it along. I must say that Father appeared disappointed, and was firm in his catechesis on detraction which is not well understood these days.

EDIT 14-Nov-2007: I think some may be misunderstanding the message. Father did not say "do not discuss", but "do not cross the line into detraction". And, he provided a simple explanation of detraction. I offer examples in the comment box about 4-5 posts down. Perhaps we should ask, how much discussion is too much discussion? The time spent seeking out details is better spent in adoration praying for priests. If you really want to do something worthwhile, adopt a priest spiritually.

First, what is detraction? From the CCC:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
  • of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

  • of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

  • of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them

Fr. Groeschel reminds us that detraction involves revealing faults that may very well be true. Because they are true, does not mean, unlike what secular society teaches us, that they are to be disclosed. This is a fallacy that belongs to the world and the media, which earns a living off of gossip.

If one spreads something they know to be untrue, then it is calumny. Both are mortal sins, requiring sacramental confession should we discover we have engaged in them.

In the case of the recently departed priest from EWTN, to which Fr Groeschel was referring, something led him to believe people were engaging in detraction in Catholic blogs. This could have been actual blogposts, or it could have been commenters, or both. Perhaps it was all sparked by speculation with the words of his brother priest saying that, "sin will not prevail". That one statement opened the door to that speculation and certainly this was not Father's intention when he said it.

Some think that when EWTN doesn't give more info, that they are hiding something or trying to protect their image. I believed right from the beginning that the friars would have revealed more if they didn't feel they would be crossing the line into detraction. There are facts that the priest in question may himself share, but others in the know, may not. This is why I believe cricitism of EWTN for not revealing more is a bit misguided. Fr. Francis Mary was one of the most visible public figures among the friars. It became necessary for them to strip reference to him on it's website and programming, something not uncharacteristic of a religious order when someone leaves. With this particular case, it would have been difficult without some kind of statement first to help everyone understand why this material was being removed. A greater scandal could have been created by saying nothing and simply removing his material - especially if Father were seen out and about in lay clothes.

All of this applies not only to bloggers, but to people who have left comments in various blogs, as well as in email exchanges. Each of us must do an examination of conscience on the matter. If there is even the slightest doubt that something crossed the line, the best thing we can do is share it in Sacramental Confession and let our confessors judge our deeds. I iinclude myself first in this regard.

I think it is a healthy thing for any blogger - to truly examine the morality of our writings, and with any doubt that arises with regards to detraction, discuss it with a solid priest who is well grounded in holiness.

As a truly holy man, and wise spiritual Father, I take Fr. Groeschel's words to heart and I hope you will too.

EDIT 15-Nov-2007: If you want more catechesis on the sin of detraction, I have made a post with the explanation of the late, great theologian Fr. John A. Hardon.

Bloggers, please pass along Fr. Groeschel's admonishment for all to consider.

EDIT 16-Nov-2007: There is much traffic coming to this blogpost from Spirit Daily. Please see my blogpost of today on the scandal being created by the NY Times in the way they are irresponsibly misrepresenting what the bishops said about abortion at the USCCB meeting.

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