Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the June AD 1997
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question:  You said it is necessary to make restitution for the lies one has told. How can I make restitution if I didn't steal anything?

    Answer:  The moral law always requires us to make up for the damage we have purposely done to others. The damage can be done in a number of ways which violate various Commandments. For example, physical damage done to a person or his property, theft, scandal, and damage done to another's reputation, all demand reparation. The obligation is less pressing if the damage was accidental. Direct restoration may not always be possible, insofar as the damage is permanent or the sinner lacks resources. Nonetheless, some sort of compensation must be worked out if at all possible.

    A single lie about someone can constitute multiple sins. The untruth itself severs us from Christ who is Truth, it is an abuse of our own intellect and power of speech. It is blasphemous if we invoke or imply that God is our witness. For those in authority it dishonors the position they hold and others who hold it (e.g. a policeman, a judge, or a priest). It may hurt the one about whom it is told, and those who would otherwise benefit from association with him; a physician, for example, or a confessor, or a baby sitter. It may cause other people to sin if they go along with the lie, preferring to believe it at though it were truth.

    Everyone hates a liar, but there are various lesser ways in which one can sin by uncharitable speech. The following is from a sermon outline by Fathers McHugh and Callan, the well known Dominican preachers:

I. The nature and malice of evil speaking against our neighbor.

1. By uncharitable speech is understood every kind of discourse that is calculated to ruin or lessen our neighbor's good name. The sin is committed, whether the effect follows or not, and may be committed even when the speaker does not intend the evil effect.

2. The sin of uncharitable speech is mortal in its nature, (a) because Scripture tells us that railers, like idolaters and adulterers shall be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Cor. vi:˙10); (b) because it injures a man unjustly in his good reputation, which is his most precious external possession (Prov. xxii:˙1); c) because it damages a man in his fortune and the dearest interests of his life, e.g. it causes a person to lose his position and means of support, and creates untold misunderstanding, dissensions, etc.

3. Evil speaking, however, may be only a venial sin if the injury done is but slight; even trivial uncharitableness, however, may become serious by reason of hatred that prompts it, or of the high position of the person attacked, or the scandal that results, etc., etc.

4. This sin may be committed in indirect ways, such as by faint praise, the use of doubtful expressions, qualifications, contemptuous smiling, shrugging of the shoulders, etc.

II. Various kinds of evil speaking:

1. Contumely consists in words or actions of injury or derision uttered of performed against a person in his presence. The sin is committed by reproaching a person for his failings, misfortunes, or defects, or by ridiculing him with sarcasm, nicknames, and the like. Such a a sin, beside injuring a person's reputation and giving scandal, is often an indication of hidden contempt and hatred. At the very least it is a sign of ill breeding. Whether it is a mortal sin or not depends upon the intention with which it is uttered and the foreseen effects that follow.

2. Backbiting is the circulation of one's known faults behind his back. The contumelious man is like the dog that barks at you openly, the backbiter like the serpent that stings you unawares (Ecclus.˙x:˙11).

3. Detraction (libel) is the revelation of one's secret faults without just cause and behind his back. This is sinful, even though the person detracted be dead or the matter be revealed confidentially to but one person. (Lev.˙xix,˙16; Prov.˙xxiv: 9; Ecclus xix:˙10; Rom. i:˙30; Titus iii:˙2; Jas. iv:˙11). It is not detraction to reveal the faults of others when their own or the good of others requires that the faults be disclosed.

4. Talebearing is the carrying to another secretly of what has been said or done against him, when we intend or foresee that it will sow discord. This vice is severely condemned in Scripture (Prov. vi:˙16,˙19; Ecclus. xxi: 31; xxviii: 15, 16), and talebearers are called by the Fathers "the most terrible plagues of society" (St. Augustine) and "meddlers intent on creating and fomenting discord and scandal (St. Bernard).

5. Unjust betrayal of a secret is a sin whose gravity on the intention and injury done.

6. Calumny (slander) is the lying imputation to another behind his back of a fault or crime of which he is not guilty. This is committed not only by those who circulate the lies they have invented, but also by those who exaggerate or put false interpretations in their neighbors conduct. Calumny is more serious than detraction.1

"Wherefore, putting away lying, speak ye the truth, every man with his neighbor; for we are members one of another."2

    1. Charles J. Callan, O.P. and John A. Mc Hugh, O.P., The Gospels and Epistles of the Sundays and Feasts with Outlines for Sermons (NY: Jos. F. Wagner, 1939), Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, pp. 96-98.
    2. Ephesians iv: 25.


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Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
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