Is it News or Gossip?
It shouldn’t be a difficult distinction. But it is, isn’t it?
Especially if we come across an article confirming our prejudice about a person or institution. And then it starts to roll, the judgment, the outrage. I do precisely what I know not to do–confound the sin by talking to others about this evil person. Without even thinking about it, ignoring the plank in my own eye and pointing out his splinter. Hence, my default position should be silence. I know this, have written about it and yet–I do what I know I shouldn’t.
Why is there the lure in “news?” The word—from the fourteenth century— is defined as announcing a recent event, of public interest, often through broadcasting or media. Hence the enticement. The news appeals to our pride: “listen to me, to what I have to say! And you too will be informed!”
However, just a moment or three of reflection reveals where it all began, right? During the prelapsarian (great word, isn’t it?) time in the Garden of Eden, there was no need for words, just the Beating Heart of the Creator. Until …..”And he said to the woman: ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden’?Echoes of Eden
Just don’t look
is a prudent suggestion since so much of what is marketed as “news” is, gossip. Is it news or gossip?
In its definition of gossip, the catechism begins with the eighth commandment. And makes my hair stand on end.
Gossip, also known as detraction, is a sin that harms the reputation of others through either lies or truths shared inappropriately. The Catechism of the Catholic Church categorizes it under the 8th Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Gossip is an offense against both the truth and another person.0 Detraction is defined as revealing something about another that is true but harmful to that person’s reputation.2 Gossip is a sin that makes others uncomfortable and disrespects the person being discussed.3 The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that a person is guilty of detraction if they disclose another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them without objectively valid reason. It is also continuing to talk about those faults or failings for the purpose of curiosity and not in order to offer help or assistance.
Doesn’t this fit much of what is presented as news?
And not just in secular sites but the Christian and Catholic as well?
After I converted to Catholicism in 2010, I often met Catholics who were devoted to the latest, hottest news in the Catholic world, especially obscure, controversial stories out of the Vatican, as if what happened behind closed doors thousands of miles away was constantly affecting (and threatening) their own beliefs and practices as Catholics.
It seemed to a former Protestant like myself, who had been knee-deep in the endless, fissiparous debates within American Calvinism, to be largely unproductive. Wasn’t the whole point of Catholicism – at least as far as the fundamentals go – that it’s universal? That it doesn’t change? One of its many attractions for me was its timelessness, its ability to retain a healthy, detached confidence even amid crises.
Regardless of what silliness is going on in Catholic media, many of us would do well to take Allen’s advice about outlets that are just as bad as their secular equivalents: Just don’t look.Just Don’t Look
The measure with which we measure
In a recent piece, Father John Riccardo writes about our “scandal and gossip loving culture.” If we make the mistake of looking and/or listening, the tone of the speaker is often indignant, morally superior. As if this behavior is unthinkable, unique and worthy of condemnation, dangerously enticing us to do what we know we cannot: judge another.
Jesus warns us, “The way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure you” (Matthew 7:2). Once again, just to be clear, we are to judge actions. Jesus tells us that we judge a tree by its fruits (cf. Mt 7:16). But we cannot judge interiors. I have no access to anyone’s interior. I don’t know the way in which a person might be crying out to God for help, even in the midst of their terrible choices. Sin is, after all, a power, a dominion, an authority that we are powerless to escape on our own, thus our need for a Rescuer to deliver us (cf. Col 1:13).
Last week ended with Thursday’s Triumph of the Cross followed by Friday’s Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Her name, Mary, derives from a Hebrew word meaning bitter: a bitterness of silent suffering unknown by any other.
Just as the Sorrowful Mother stood at the foot
of the Cross of Her Son,
and received the last drops of His Blood,
that came forth when His Heart was pierced,
so too is She close to YOU,
carrying you in Her arms,
receiving into Her Heart
the new drops from YOUR pierced heart —
all your pain, all your offerings, all your acts of surrendering, of Faith, of Humility, of Obedience.
She collects them all and unites them to Her Own
and to those of Her Son, Jesus.
This is what keeps open the floodgates of Mercy,
which the world needs so desperately.
September 15, 2023
Mission of Divine Mercy