February 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 33

Acute Awareness in Examining Our Consciences
part six

    Several articles in recent weeks have been presenting an examination of conscience. They can be found in the archives of this website. I encourage you to print these articles out and refer to them for helping you make a good confession. My reference is a booklet entitled: A Contemporary Adult Guide to Conscience for the Sacrament of Confession by Fr. Richard J. Rego.

    I continue with the study of the Eighth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This Commandment forbids detraction, calumny, lies, gossip, revealing of secrets, rash judgments, and critical, negative, and uncharitable talk. Even flattery or adulation can be sinful sometimes.

    Calumny is the act of telling untruths about others thereby ruining their reputation by lying about them. Everyone has a right to his good name and reputation. To knowingly and willingly tell lies about anyone is to sin against the Eighth Commandment. If involving grave matter, it could be a serious sin.

    Detraction is the act of revealing the real faults and failings of others without a good reason to someone who did not know them.

    Rash judgment is the act of judging another of a moral fault without having sufficient foundation for doing so. One can commit this sin without ever speaking of the fault to another. We must make sure of our facts before we “condemn” another, even in our thoughts.

    Lying is the act of deliberately telling an untruth for the purpose of deceiving another. It could be a mortal sin, if a person lies deliberately under oath, as in a courtroom situation.

    Moral law DOES permit mental reservation, however, which is no sin at all. Mental reservation is the act of veiling the truth because we are bound in conscience to do so as in the case of protecting a person’s reputation. The late, great Father John Hardon in his book entitled "The Catholic Catechism" wrote regarding the justification of using mental reservation: “The main reason is the need for preserving secrecy, where the value to the common good is greater than would be the manifestation of something that is sure to cause harm.” Mental reservations must be used with prudence. In the previous book mentioned, Fr. Hardon explains three kinds of secrets.

  • “Natural secrets are those that common sense (right reason) tells us are to be kept confidential.

  • Promised secrets are those that a person has promised to keep after having received or come upon the confidential knowledge. ...

  • Entrusted (or committed) secrets ... must be kept hidden because of an agreement reached before the confidential information was given.” Professional secrets belong to this class.

        If by flattery, adulation, or complaisance one encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct, they can be considered sins. If a person tells a lie about another, justice and truth demands reparation and effort to set the story right.

        People who work in social communications have a serious responsibility to speak truth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “By the very nature of their profession, journalists have an obligation to serve the truth and not offend against charity in disseminating information. They should strive to respect, with equal care, the nature of the facts and the limits of critical judgment concerning individuals. They should not stoop to defamation. (Paragraph 2497)

        We can see how this defamation today has turned into the "politics of personal destruction," particularly among the secular media who betray our trust.

        God bless you, dear reader. More next week.

    Sister Mary Lucy Astuto

    For past columns by Sister Lucy, see GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER Archives

    February 2, 2001
    volume 12, no. 33
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