Her Doctrine and Morals

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

21 August 2022


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Dear Friends in Christ,

There is a perverse sense of charity when defending those whose tongues speak evil.

Rather than compassion for the victims of vicious tongues, the culprits are protected. This is truly a strange expression of charity. It is not charity at all; it is a counterfeit inspired by the Father of Lies so that the unwary might willingly cooperate in destroying their neighbor.

St. Anthony the Abbot gives a short but effective commentary on today's Gospel by speaking of the evils committed by the tongue.

The Scriptures frequently warn of this common human ailment that has befallen us through the first act of disobedience.

Slander and calumny are the two sources of destruction that are more evil than all the merciless bloodshed of wars.

St. Anthony writes: "All other wounds may be healed, but the wound of the tongue has no cure."

While evil thoughts are contained within the confines of the body, they do little harm except for the one who entertains them. But, once the vile tongue spews this venom onto those around him, the evil becomes like a contagious disease affecting almost everyone.

There are two primary offenses against one's neighbor committed by the tongue: detraction (making known the hidden faults of another), slander or calumny (injuring the good name of another by lying).

Like all sin, this too has its source in secret pride and envy of another. There is something genuinely perverse in man that he finds it difficult to appreciate the good in others. For this reason, he seeks to discover flaws in others so that, displaying them, he may destroy the good name of his victim.

"What is in the heart is on the lips" is a saying that sums it all quite well.

St. James says: "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man," and he also says: "The tongue is indeed a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold how small a fire, what a great wood it kindlith."

The tongue is the source of many evils. The evil speaker often causes loss of property, reputation, life, and the salvation of the injured person. And, we ought not to forget the harm done to the one who inflicts the injury.

Unfortunately, the injured person, unable to bear the contumely patiently, seeks to avenge himself without restraint. Uncontrolled passion, enflamed by a perceived injustice, is quick to explode into worse expressions of revenge.

What is, even more to be lamented is the fact that the offender cannot be induced to make reparation to him whom he has offended. And this is because of perverted shame and a false idea of what is perceived as "honor."

We are told of a woman who confessed her sin of detraction. As a penance, she was told to take a pillow of feathers; go to the top of a hill on a windy day, and release all the feathers in the pillow. Then, she should proceed to gather them all up. To which she replied: "But that is impossible!"

"Yes," answered the confessor, "and that is how it is to repair the good name of someone whom you have detracted."

Once a sharp word tipped with the malice of evil has left the mouth, it goes straight to its target. Its effect is disproportionate to its size.

There is also this to consider: It is not necessary that the word be true or not, that the target be guilty or not. The evil tongue does not consider anything but its own narrow and blind desire to destroy or, at least, to wound. But, such wounds do not heal; they fester and pustulate. They are never forgotten, even though they may be forgiven.

And what is even more painful is that the happy relationship of friendship will never be the same. This is how friendships deteriorate. All is the work of the devil who delights in division and discord.

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