QUAERITUR: Examination of conscience and “Speaking against priests or consecrated religious”

Jesus wasn't 'nice'.

From a reader:

Hello Father! An examination of conscience asks, “Have I spoken against a priest, or against anyone consecrated to God? (This is a sacrilege).” I am not sure what constitutes “speaking against”, but I have made fun of the LCWR to friends and family; have I committed the sin of sacrilege? Thank you.

There are certainly boundaries about what we should say about any person, made in the image and likeness of God. It is best to restrict oneself to manifest, publicly known deeds and words and, even then, to be discreet.

This applies to any person. However, there is an addition sin when we harm a person who is consecrated. That is also the sin of sacrilege. If you strike a person, in an unwarranted way, that is a sin. If you strike a priest, that is also the sin of sacrilege.

Let’s make some distinctions about speaking against people.

Calumny is the harm done to another’s good name by imputing to him, behind his back, something injurious to his reputation of which the speaker or writer knows he is innocent. In short, it is lying about someone to make them look bad. It is slander.

Detraction is the revelation the hidden sins or faults of another, without sufficient cause, so that the person’s reputation is seriously damaged.  It might be, in some cases, necessary to reveal things that are not public to proper authority.  But great care must be done to discern if the matter is grave enough and if the situation really warrants doing so.

You can remember the difference between calumny and detraction by remember the “l” in calumny for “lie and the “t” in detraction for “truth”.

It is not out of bounds to talk in strong terms about the LCWR.  This is a group which brought in to speak at their annual meeting an open lesbian and a woman into new-age cosmic consciousness.  They gave an award to a woman religious with bizarre and erroneous theological notions, such as the ludicrous idea that the Canaanite woman taught Jesus who He was as Messiah, etc.

It is not out of bounds to point with derision to a group of sisters who won’t advance the Church’s teaching about abortion.

As far as the LCWR is concerned, we have to be a little careful not to become too personal in our comments about individual sisters or their supporters.   I am sure that some of the sisters involved in leadership of communities that belong to the LCWR are just fine.  In the main, however, the LCWR is dreadful and deserves to be unmasked.  Their public deeds and words are fair game.

In my opinion, invective is not out of bounds when it comes to the deeds and words issued by the LCWR or the Nuns on the Bus, or the sister who runs the Catholic Health Association, etc. These days, there is in the mainstream and liberal catholic media a fog of pettifoggery when it comes to these liberal nuns and their corrosive work. We have to cut through the fog and the cover provided by their minions. A cutting word or two is not without its medicinal effect, both for the objective of the cut but also for those who are paying attention to the issues.

The pretenders of the Magisterium of Nuns must be brought down for their own good and ours.

 

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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14 Responses to QUAERITUR: Examination of conscience and “Speaking against priests or consecrated religious”

  1. acardnal says:

    With regard to detraction, “the revelation (of) the hidden sins or faults of another” is the operative phrase in my view. If sinful or bad behavior is done publicly and observable to many, I don’t see that it is a sin to speak about it to others, particularly others who have observed it or could. Perhaps I need correction.

  2. APX says:

    This is actually a good question, as I think many of us are pretty good at trashing clergy not out of charity and with any good purpose other than it makes us feel better. I’m wondering at which point it becomes a mortal sin, or if it’s always mortal.

  3. Bea says:

    It may be detraction to speak of the hidden sins of some bishops. They are, maybe, not so hidden but it seem that in this age of lack of reasoning, it does not appear sinful in the eyes of many or they just don’t question certain actions or certain statements and are simply accepted as a legitimate point of view.
    In enlightening others would this be detraction?
    Would this be sinful?
    For example if a certain bishop or rector of a seminary publicly defended his approving the ordination of a seminarian, who later became a notorious child abuser, when he stated there was a problem but he thought another problem was at the root of it and thought it was unfair to not ordain him.
    Then publicly stated a few days later that he didn’t remember the details of this incident in question. Would it be sinful to enlighten others as to the obvious obfuscation AKA “lying” of this bishop to warn others to beware of his statements?
    Where does one draw the line as to warning/enlightening others and detraction?
    We suffer.
    We bite our tongues.
    We wonder is it sinful to shed light on certain issues?
    or is it sinful to NOT shed light on these (and other issues)?
    Some prelates have no idea how we suffer in the pews or if they do, don’t they care? as long as we don’t make “waves”
    The new generation of “fishers of men” are rocking the boat and it appears that they don’t care if the waves that they create sink us as long as its not us that make the waves.
    Sorry for the whine but it seems at times that no one is listening.
    But Our Good God hears and someday He will say “Enough is enough”
    But you hear us Fr. Z and a few good prelates, here and there.
    In God and in priests like you, lie our hope.
    God Bless our good priests.

  4. The Masked Chicken says:

    “With regard to detraction, “the revelation (of) the hidden sins or faults of another” is the operative phrase in my view. If sinful or bad behavior is done publicly and observable to many, I don’t see that it is a sin to speak about it to others, particularly others who have observed it or could. Perhaps I need correction.”

    The general rule is that a public sin may be given a public rebuke while a private sin may be given a private rebuke, certeris paribus.

    The Chicken

  5. THREEHEARTS says:

    Is it sinful to ask why some bishops do not support humanae vitae and some do? Is it wrong to question the unity of the hierachal college in this case? Is it sinful as long as no names are mentioned? Is it sinful to point out errors in the deliberate ignoring of Papal office directions or the instructions of the Congregation for defense of the Church and the Sacraments? I think so. So tell me Father those who ignore the Council of Trent on not receiving Communion in a state of grave or mortal sin or committing those any of those indiscretions above are rightly disposed to receive the Eucharist. Are they not severely comprimised in their knowledge of the Faith and what the Church teaches? If there is any truth in what I am asking and knowing God does not share His Temple with His enemies, is it Christ they are receiving or is the sacrificial offering they claim to make even valid??? I am very interested in the answers. I find this question severely comprised. Is a pastoral counci,l is a oecumenical council part of the Magisterium? Is it one, or the other or are both. We should all think very deeply on the answer. Are in honesty and practice so many theologians needed in the Church today?

  6. THREEHEARTS says:

    now you have read my previous comment, make a moral observation which you can, i.e. not decide I am going to Hell, sentence me that is, and decide what kind of Catholic I am.

  7. Imrahil says:

    You have not committed a sacrilege if you could in good conscience talk the same way about a layman (i. e. without fear commit an insult or a libel, or the wish to sow enmity or envy).

    There certainly is a thing that is speaking with special respect as regards clergy and consecrated people, but that is below the line where sacrilege, or indeed any mortal sin, needs to be feared.

    If you made fun of them, I’d ask whether the fun actually did make fun. Mockery does not; here you can distinguish mockery, which is never good, from plain making fun which often is even a tribute of respect to one whom we owe respect.

  8. Jack Hughes says:

    Is it ok to tell someone if you’ve been mistreated by an orthodox Priest?

  9. acardnal says:

    To put the questioner’s mind at ease, I have reflected on this a bit more and thought of the priest Arius (ca 250-336 AD) who spread his heresy throughout the Roman empire. His beliefs, writings and preaching were rightly denounced and criticized. I would just be careful that you criticize the behavior and philosophy of the person in question and not make ad hominem attacks on the individual’s character – in this case, Arius – like calling him a stupid jerk, even though it may be true.

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  11. ocleirbj says:

    I agree with Fr. Z’s distinctions between calumny and detraction, and that it is not a sin to give fair comment, truthful comment or clarifications when someone’s words and actions contradict what actually happened in a certain case, or differ from the teachings of the church. I also agree with him that “It is not out of bounds to talk in strong terms about the LCWR” when making such comments, and also with his further statement that “Their public deeds and words are fair game.”
    However, the original poster’s question was not about whether it’s a sin to expose the contradictions or false statements of his theological opponents, but about whether it is right to “make fun” of them while doing so. This is where I must (unusually) disagree with Fr. Z. He says, “It is not out of bounds to point with derision to a group of sisters who won’t advance the Church’s teaching about abortion.” I say, that it is out of bounds for Christians to point “with derision” to anybody. We are certainly supposed to “speak the truth in love”, but also not to sin in our anger and “give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:15, 25-27), which is what we do when we refer to our opponents in insulting or demeaning terms – it only distracts everyone from the serious point we are trying to make.
    Fr. Z. rightly says that when engaging in controversy, “A cutting word or two is not without its medicinal effect.” But this word should cut into the issue and clear away the fog, not be a personal insult or a derisive name. (I am thinking of e.g. “Fishwrap”, or “Magisterium of nuns”). We are to love our enemies, since Jesus also loves them, and is it right to “point with derision” to those we are loving for his sake? Jesus himself warns us against calling a brother (or sister) by contemptuous names for this has grave consequences for our souls, especially as we approach the altar of the Lord (Matt. 5:22-24).
    I think that it is incumbent on us as Christians to treat our enemies with the greatest possible courtesy, and it makes me uncomfortable to hear (and read) much of the invective that we hurl at our enemies, especially other Christians, apparently with the clearest of consciences.

  12. Imrahil says:

    I’d advocate, though, not to confuse derision with amusement. The latter, as long as it really is the latter, is not in danger of constituting a distinctive sin. (I say distinctive, because “having respect” is a matter of degree which could be touched here to the point of venial sin.)

    Also, I think a short utterance even of real derision, albeit purified of any hatred or contempt, can be tolerated where it serves as as a rebuke in argument, while at the same time proving the opponent guilty of inconsistency.

    Contempt or hatred never is allowed.

  13. acardnal says:

    ocleirbj said, ““A cutting word or two is not without its medicinal effect.” But this word should cut into the issue and clear away the fog, not be a personal insult or a derisive name. (I am thinking of e.g. “Fishwrap”, or “Magisterium of nuns”).”

    First, the term “Fishwrap” and “Magisterium of nuns” are not personal insults directed at a specific individuals. One is a newspaper and the other represents an organization.

    Second, our Saviour used the terms “hypocrites” and “white washed tombs”; and He said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Gehenna?” (Matthew 23:33). St. John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Saducees a “brood of vipers.”
    I could go on with more because there are many such statements in the scriptures said by holy people.

    Additionally, there is room from satire and more when criticizing public statements and actions made by public persons.

  14. Imrahil says:

    Dear @acardnal,

    I agree in effect, but I don’t follow your first argument. The technicality that we are not dealing with an individual should not, at least not alone, serve as excuse.