Whenever you read or hear, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor", realize that this statement is not reserved just for courtroom drama, where the threat of perjury hangs over the violator. What we term gossip also has application under this 8th commandment. Although the Catechism doesn't use that specific term, paragraphs 2475-2479 warn us of certain offenses against truth. Since Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, these sins then are personal offenses against Him, and require reparation.
One type of gossip, detraction, involves disclosing someone's supposed faults and failings (without objectively valid reasons) to persons who did not know them. Another type, calumny, also known as slander, is the harming of someone's reputation by making misrepresentations and/or remarks contrary to the truth, whether deliberate or not. Both are types of gossip that offend against the virtues of justice and charity as well. As paragraph 2507 tells us, "Respect for the reputation and honor of persons forbids all detraction and calumny in word or attitude."
We should thus be encouraged to make prudent use of social media communication and realize its immediate and widespread effects and the fact that gossip is not limited to the spoken word. It should also inspire us to guard against the subtle portrayal of gossip as a completely acceptable practice, especially as seen on reality television and in other influential areas of "news" and entertainment.
The Epistle of James tells us that the tongue is a restless evil, full of poison. Rather than ridding ourselves of that poison, gossiping tends to increase it's potency and at the same time foster an undesirable and sinful habit. While gossip is often done thoughtlessly and without prudent judgment, the writer of Sirach simply states, "Whoever repeats gossip has no sense."
The evil results of gossip cannot be controlled or undone. While it is also not proper to listen to or encourage it, there are times when we are inadvertent recipients, such as in a group setting, or when a friend may be confiding in us or seeking a sympathetic ear. In that case we can again rely on the wisdom of the OT and read in Sirach 19:10, "Let whatever you hear die within you; rest assured it will not make you burst."
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