Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Death by Calumny

"This age possesses calumny, which is a much more convenient instrument of death; and it is by calumny that I shall perish." ~Marie-Antoinette

It never ceases to amaze me how people who are careful not to break the Six or Ninth Commandments, who might even scruple about using Natural Family Planning, have not the slightest reservation about violating the Eighth Commandment. The gossip, calumny, slander, and backbiting that goes on in Catholic circles is truly appalling. Lately I have run into situations where either the truth is distorted beyond recognition or outright lies are told. Because they fear the big bad world more than they trust in God, many true believers now see evil where it does not exist. There is enough genuine wickedness without inventing things about fellow Christians who love God and the Church amid many struggles.

If there were not civil laws to protect citizens against slander, it would be much worse, since I have come to the conclusion that respect for the law of God does not keep gossips from shredding the reputations of their neighbors. Women are by far the greatest culprits, I think. It must be kept in mind that slanders and lies reflect greatly upon those who spout them, and can perhaps be attributed to bitterness, backwardness, jealousy or even emotional instability.

As Father Belet writes in his book The Backbiting Tongue (Oeuvre de la Propagande, Turcoing, France, 1870) of those who abuse the reputations of their neighbors:
Two dogs gnawing on the same bone is a rare sight, practically a phenomenon. Now, if you see a backbiter and his listener in perfect agreement, the one to speak and the other to give ear, would you not say that they look exactly like two dogs gnawing on the same bone? Two evil people who analyze the behavior of a good man weigh him, sift him and grind him with their words. This is truly the equivalent of chewing bones and cracking them between one's teeth. (p.57)
In the same book it is written:
My friends, by acting otherwise- by showing less care for others' reputation than for our own- we violate the law of the Lord. The person who sets fire to his neighbor's house is sinful, but so is the man who warms himself by the heat of the burning house. If he is not an enemy, then let him carry some water to put out the fire. In the same way, we do harm not only by backbiting others, but not stopping those who backbite, encouraging them with praise and applause. A sincere friend not only avoids backbiting, but also does everything he can to bring it to a halt. A devoted brother hides his brother's dishonorable vices from others, revealing them only to those who are able to remedy them. (p.73)
On the spiritual level, what is the best response to such attacks? Prayer, of course, especially praying for those whose words have injured us. A friend who has been the victim of some slander and calumny told me how in the long run it strengthened her soul. Sometimes it is helpful to know how the saints viewed such annoyances. St. Teresa of Jesus asserted that those who belong to Our Lord will ultimately be defended by Him, saying: "Remember how the Lord took the Magdalen's part in the Pharisee's house and also when her sister blamed her?" (The Way of Perfection) In The Interior Castle, St.Teresa writes :
...The soul is rather strengthened than depressed by its trials, experience having taught it the great advantages derived from them. It does not think men offend God by persecuting it, but that He permits them to do so for its greater gain. So strong is this belief that such a person bears a special affection for these people, holding them as truer friends and greater benefactors than those who speak well of her.
It is sad but enlightening to recall that five hundred years ago people were calumniating holy nuns like the great Teresa. Anyone who is trying to do what is right should not be surprised about receiving similar treatment. Share


Unknown said...

Excellent post. May I quote a small portion on my blog with a link?

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Alexandra. Of course you may.

Anonymous said...

I have known the pain of calumny all too well. From 'close' friends, no less! It is distressing knowing that others hold false ideas about me. But, I have concluded that people believe what they want to believe anyway. I cannot control others' tongues or thoughts. I must let God handle it and go about my life, which at times is hard.

Thank you for this reminder to 1. mind my own tongue 2. stop gossip when it reaches me and 3. pray for those who have committed this sin.

elena maria vidal said...

Through such sad experiences we come to see that God is our truest and best Friend.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. And Margaret gives very sound advice, as well.

If only people -- particularly those who imagine themselves to be devout Catholics -- who engage in calumny, gossip, detraction and slander would realize how their viciously wagging tongues say VOLUMES more about the smallness and blackness of their own souls and hearts than it does about those whose names they wish to drag through the mud, they would stop dead in their tracks. Such people care more about what others think of them than what God thinks of them. A truly holy person would never consider behaving this way because they are truly senstive to how much it offends God most of all!

"Blessed are you when they say all sorts of vile things against you for My Sake..."

Love and prayers,