Friday, 30 April 2010

Open season for calumnies

Manila Bulletin

Now is the time to remind people who call themselves Christians that there is a commandment of God which states: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Election campaign period seems to give people license to spread calumnies and besmirch the good name of others. We must keep in mind that a sin of calumny cannot be forgiven if there is no restitution, i.e., the offender must do everything in his power to restore the good reputation of the offended. Every one has the fundamental right to a good name.

In this regard, I would like to borrow from the preaching of St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei, on the “Christian Respect for Persons,” as contained in a collection of homilies entitled Christ is Passing By. Commenting on the impulse of the disciples to judge that a man born blind was either guilty of sin himself or was punished because of the sins of his parents, St. Josemaria affirmed:

“We cannot be surprised that many persons even those who think themselves Christians, act in the same way. Their first impulse is to think badly of someone or something. They don’t need any proof; they take it for granted. And they don’t keep it to themselves, they air their snap judgments to the winds.”

Having been brutally calumniated himself by people who considered themselves good, St. Josemaria identified himself with Jesus Christ: “Jesus suffered a campaign of slurs on his name, defamation of his irreproachable conduct, biting and wounding criticism. It is not unusual for some people to accord the same treatment to those who wish to follow the Master while fully conscious of their natural shortcomings and personal mistakes which, given human weakness, are so common and even inevitable. But our experience of human limitations cannot lead us to condone sins and injustices against the good name of anyone, even though their authors try to cover their tracks by just ‘wondering’ aloud. Jesus says that if the father of the family has been labeled Beelzebub, members of the household cannot expect to fare any better. But he also adds that ‘whoever calls his brother a fool shall be in danger of hell fire.’”

No one of us should be an instrument of calumniators by passing on to others text messages or emails containing negative comments about others unless we have verified the truthfulness of the criticisms beyond the shadow of doubt and making them known would prevent the election of an undesirable candidate. If the person being criticized is not a public official or is not running for any elective position, we do not have the right to spread even truthful information that would destroy his or her reputation. This is one good example of the Christian respect for persons.

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