Saturday, November 10, 2007

Issues of Charity

I've seen a number of troubling offenses against charity by Christians against Christians around the Internet lately (I'm thinking of at least three particular instances I've seen quite recently, completely unrelated to each other). Rather than pointing these out and adding to the chaos, I thought it would be a good time to consider what the Church teaches about charity, judgment and protecting the reputation of others:

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2477-2478):

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.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:
Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. (St. Ignatius Loyola - Spiritual Exercises)
Making a moral judgment about someone based on whether they like or don't like a particular book or movie or style of educating their children can be really dangerous territory. There are certainly reasonable cases where someone's tastes in movies and books might make you cautious about them influencing your children, but what I'm talking about is more along the lines of publicly accusing people of being bad Christians or Catholics based on such things.


The Bookworm said...

Well said!

Kristen Laurence said...

I'm not aware of the instances you're referring to, but well said, Alicia.

nutmeg said...

Thank you, Alicia...

This needed to be said. Just because we are operating in a different medium, doesn't mean we are exempt from common courtesy and, most of all, heavenly charity.


Margaret in Minnesota said...

Oh come on, Alicia. Tell us what you read!

I'm kidding, I'm kidding. You make some excellent points and one we'd do well to post above the computer.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Alicia - I've been bothered by a few of these lately too. Fraternal correction is one thing and while difficult, sometimes necessary. Being uncharitable and making assumptions and rash judgments is something else entirely.

Margaret Mary Myers said...

I want to commend you, Alicia, for saying this so well, without any hint about who or where things were said that may not have been as charitable as they might be.

I was totally unaware of whatever has been going on, so thank you for letting me remain in my blissful ignorance. :)

I was reading an article the other day which said that medical people wish parents wouldn't be so quick to give Ipecac, as in some situations it makes it harder to dilute the poison. I think that's kind of what happens when someone publicly corrects someone for detraction and calumny. It just makes things worse.

So, again, thank you for your delicacy, and for a universal reminder about charity, that doesn't hurt any of us.

Maureen Wittmann said...

A good reminder for all of us Alicia. Thank you.

Karen E. said...

Don't know and don't want to know -- I'm usually blissfully ignorant, too, Margaret Mary! But, this reminder is *always* timely for *all of us*!

Thanks, Alicia!

Nancy C. Brown said...

Dear Alicia,
Thanks for this. I think that a) I am so quick to jump to rash judgment and b) I am so quick to see when someone else has jumped to a rash judgment and c) I normally am blind to the difference.

I think the most important thing, to me, is what it says in the Catholic Dictionary under detraction:

"Revealing something about another this is true but harmful to that person's reputation. It is forbidden to reveal another person's secret faults or defects, unless there is proportionate good involved [naturally, this involves prudence, something else I struggle with!]. Detraction is a sin against justice. It robs one of what most people consider more important than riches, since a person has a strict right to his or her reputation whether it is deserved or not.

Food for thought. Thanks for letting us discuss this here.

Sanctus Belle said...

Excellent post. We must all remember that even though no one on the internet may know who we are, God sees everything we do, say and think.

ladyofvirtue said...

Thank you for helping us to spell things out--wonderfully convicting!