Slander


Slander - Pope Francis  


Slander is as old as the world and it is already mentioned in the Old Testament. It suffices to think of the episode of Queen Jezabel with the vineyard of Naboth, or that of Susanna with the two judges. When it is impossible to obtain something “in the right way, in a holy way”, people have recourse to slander which destroys. This reminds us, that we are sinners: all of us. We have sinned. But slander is something else. It is a sin but it is also something more, because “it wants to destroy God's work and is spawned by something very nasty: it is spawned by hatred. And the person who generates hatred is Satan”. Falsehood and slander go hand in hand since in order to make headway they need each other. And there is no doubt, wherever there is slander there is Satan, Satan himself.

Psalm 119 [118] : “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your testimonies are my delight”. The just man in this case is Stephen, the Proto-Martyr mentioned in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen “gazed at the Lord and obeyed the law”. He was the first in the long series of witnesses of Christ who spangle the history of the Church. Martyrs abound, not only in the past but also in our day. Here in Rome, we have a great many witnesses of martyrs, starting with Peter; but the season of martyrs is not over. We can truly say that today too the Church has more martyrs than she had in the early centuries. Indeed, the Church has so many men and women who are slandered,
persecuted and killed, in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith. Several are killed for “teaching the Catechism”; others, for “wearing the cross”. Calumny finds room in the large number of countries where Christians are persecuted. They are our brothers and sisters, who are suffering today, in this age of martyrs. This must give us food for thought. Persecuted by hatred: it is actually the devil who sows hatred in those who instigate persecution.

The first Latin Antiphon of the Virgin Mary is “ Sub tuum praesidium ”. “Let us pray Our Lady to protect us”, and in times of spiritual turbulence the safest place is beneath Our Lady's mantle”. Indeed, she is the Mother who cares for the Church. And in this season of martyrs, she is, as it were, the protagonist of protection. She is Mother.

Trust in Mary, address to her the prayer that begins with the words “Under your protection”, and remember the ancient icon showing her “covering her people with her mantle: she is Mother”. This is the most useful thing: in this time of “hatred, of spiritual turbulence, the safest possible place is beneath Our Lady's mantle.




Gossip, is destructive to the Church. Jesus often spoke of this to Peter and to all the others. He asked Peter several times “if he loved him, if he loved him more than the others. Peter said ‘yes’, and the Lord gave him his role: ‘feed my sheep’”. This was “a real, loving conversation”. However, at a certain point, Peter was tempted to interfere in the life of someone else (cf. Jn 21:20-25).

Peter, was a human being and so could not but likewise be tempted to interfere in the life of others, “as the vulgar expression says, to ‘stick his nose into other people’s affairs’”. This also happens in our lives as Christians. How often, are we tempted to do this? Dialogue “with Jesus has been diverted to a different track”. This interference in others’ lives comes in many different forms. The
constant comparison of oneself to others, and gossip, which is literally, “flaying each other”. Three other common forms of negative behaviour, are misinformation, false accusation, and calumny.



St John said that anyone who expresses resentment or hatred for his brother or sister is in fact a murderer at heart. There is a need to enter into the logic of perfecting or reviewing our conduct. Of course, this calls to mind the subject of discrediting our brother or sister, starting with our inner passions. In practice this is motivation for insult. Furthermore, recourse to marvellously imaginative insults is widespread in the Latin tradition, for we invent one insult after another.

As long as the epithet is friendly let it go. However the problem arises when there is another epithet that veers towards the offensive. We then go and qualify it with a series of definitions that are not exactly evangelical. Verbal abuse, is a way of taking people down a peg. 

There is no need to go to a psychiatrist to know that when people do someone else down it is because they themselves are unable to develop and need to feel that the other is less important in order for them to feel that they count. What Jesus simply said was quite the opposite the: “do not speak badly of others, do not
belittle them, do not discredit them; basically we are all walking on the same path”.

With regard to insulting, Jesus is even more radical and goes much further. For he says that when you begin to feel something negative in your heart against one of your brethren and express it with an insult, a
curse or an outburst of anger, something is wrong. You must convert, you must change.

The Apostle James who says that “ships are guided by a rudder and people are guided by their tongue”. So if someone “is unable to control his tongue, he or she is lost”. This is man’s weakness. 

Cain’s natural aggression towards his brother has been repeated in the course of history. It is not that we are wicked; we are weak and sinful. This explains why it is far easier to solve a situation with an insult, with
slander, with mud-slinging, rather than with kind words, as Jesus says. 

Ask the Lord for the grace for all to be a little more careful with their tongue regarding what we say of others. This is without a doubt a small penance, but it yields good fruits. It is true that it demands sacrifice and effort, since it is far easier to enjoy the fruit of a racy comment against another. In the long run this hunger is rewarding and does us good. Hence our need to ask the Lord for the grace to conform our life to this new law, which is the law of
docility, the law of love, the law of peace. We must start by pruning our language a little, by cutting back a bit our comments about others or the explosions that lead us to insulting them and flaring up in anger.




Pope Francis   16.02.14   Holy Mass  Pastoral visit to the Roman Parish  San Tommaso Apostolo         Matthew 5: 17-37       
6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A      

One time, the disciples of Jesus were eating grain because they were hungry; but it was Saturday and on Saturday grain was not allowed to be eaten. Still, they picked it [rubbing his hands together] and ate the grain. And they [the Pharisees] said: “But look at what they are doing! Whoever does this breaks the Law and soils his soul, for he does not obey the Law!”. And Jesus responded: “nothing that comes from without soils the soul. Only what comes from within, from your heart, can soil your soul”. And I believe that it it would do us good today to think not about whether my soul is clean or dirty, but rather about what is in my heart, what do I have inside, what I know I have but no one else knows. 

Being honest with yourself is not easy! Because we always try to cover it up when we see something wrong inside, no? So that it doesn’t come out, don’t we? What is in our heart: is it love? Let us think: do I love my parents, my children, my wife, my husband, people in the neighbourhood, the sick?... Do I love? Is there hate? Do I hate someone? Often we find hatred, don’t we? “I love everyone except for this one, this one and that one!”. That’s hatred, isn’t it? What is in my heart, forgiveness? Is there an attitude of forgiveness for those who have offended me, or is there an attitude of revenge — “he will pay for it!”. We must ask ourselves what is within, because what is inside comes out and harms, if it is evil; and if it is good, it comes out and does good. And it is so beautiful to tell ourselves the truth, and feel ashamed when we are in a situation that is not what God wants, it is not good; when my heart feels hatred, revenge, so many situations are sinful. How is my heart?...

Jesus said today, for example — I will give only one example: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘you shall not kill’. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother has killed him in his heart”. And whoever insults his brother, kills him in his heart, whoever hates his brother, kills his brother in his heart; whoever gossips against his brother, kills him in his heart. Maybe we are not conscious of it, and then we talk, “we write off” this person or that, we speak ill of this or that ... And this is killing our brother.

That is why it is important to know what is inside, what is happening in my heart. If one understands his brother, the people, he loves his brother, because he forgives: he understands, he forgives, he is patient.... Is this love or hate? We must be sure of this. 

And we must ask the Lord for two graces. The first: to know what is in our own heart, not to deceive ourselves, not to live in deceit. The second grace: to do what is good in our hearts and not to do the evil that is in our hearts. 

And as for “killing”, remember that words can kill. Even ill-will toward another kills. Often, when we listen to people talking, saying evil things about others, it seems like the sin of slander. The sin of defamation had been removed from the Ten Commandments and yet to speak evil of a person is still a sin. Why is speaking ill of another a sin? Because there is hatred in my heart, aversion, not love. 

We must always ask for this grace: to know what is happening in our heart, to constantly make the right choice, the choice for good. And that the Lord help us to love one another. And if I cannot love another well, why not? Pray for that person, pray that the Lord make me love him. And like this we move forward, remembering that what taints our lives is the evil that comes from our hearts. And that the Lord can help us.




Pope Francis   28.04.20 Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)    Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter   Acts 7: 51 - 8: 1

Pope Francis Santa Marta 28.04.20

In this time when we begin to have provisions to exit quarantine, let us pray to the Lord to give his people, to all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to the provisions, so that the pandemic does not return.

In the first Reading of these days we listened to Stephen's martyrdom: it's a simple thing, that happened. The doctors of the Law did not tolerate the clarity of the doctrine, and as it came out they went to ask someone to say that they had heard that Stephen blaspheme against God, against the Law. And after that, they attacked him and stoned him: simple as that. It is a structure of action that is not the first: they did the same with Jesus . They tried to convince the people who were there that he was a blasphemer and they shouted: "Crucify him." This is acting like beasts. Acting like beasts, starting with false testimonies to arrive at injustice. That's the pattern. Even in the Bible there are cases like this: they did the same to Susanna , they did the same to Naboth, then Aman tried to do the same with the people of God. False news, slander that ignites the people who then demand justice. It's a lynching, a real lynching.

And so, they bring it to the judge, for the judge to give legal formality to this: but he has already been judged, the judge must be very, very brave to go against such a popular judgment, done on purpose, prepared. This is the case of Pilate: Pilate clearly saw that Jesus was innocent, but he saw the people, he washed his hands of it. It's a way of doing law. Even today we see it: it takes place even today, in some countries, when they want to make a coup or take out some politician so that he does not go to the elections or whatever, this is done: false news, slander, then they rely on a judge that is to their liking to create law in these types of situations that lead to a condemnation. It's a social lynching. And this is what was done with Stephen, that's how Stephen's judgment was made: brought to be judged, someone who had already been judged by the deceived people.

This also happens with today's martyrs: that judges have no chance of doing justice because they come already judged. Let us think of Asia Bibi, for example, that we have seen: ten years in prison because she had been judged by slander and a people who wanted her death. In the face of this avalanche of false news that creates opinion, so often nothing can be done: nothing can be done.

I think a lot about this, the Holocaust. The Holocaust is such an example: an opinion was created against a people and then it was normal: "Yes, yes: they must be killed, they must be killed". This is a way to proceed to get rid of people who are bothering you, disturbing you.

We all know that this is not good, but what we do not know is that there is a small daily lynching that tries to condemn people, to create a bad reputation for people, to discard them, to condemn them: the little daily lynching of gossip that creates an opinion. And so often we hear someone say: "But no, this person is a good person!" – "No , no: it is said that ...", and with that "it is said that" you create an opinion to take down a person.
 
Truth is something else: truth is the testimony of the truth, of the things that a person believes; the truth is clear, it is transparent. Truth does not tolerate oppression. Let us look at Stephen, a martyr: the first martyr after Jesus. The first martyr. Let us think of the apostles: they have all given witness. And let us think of so many martyrs who – even the one of today, St. Peter Chanel – it was the chatter that created the opinion that he was against the king ... a reputation is created, and he must be killed.
 
And let us think about ourselves, of our language: so often we, with our comments, begin such a lynching. And in our Christian institutions, we have seen so many daily lynchings that were born from gossip.

May the Lord help us to be just in our judgments, not to begin or follow this mass condemnation that is provoked by gossip.