Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Following my last letter,
I would like to emphasize the dangers of the Internet.
When we speak about the
threats of the Internet, we first think of the immoralities against the virtue
of purity. Obviously, this is a real danger from which everyone must protect
himself. Here, however, I would like to draw attention to another risk,
The moral principle that we
must consider in this regard is that the reputation and honor of any man, living
or dead, is a spiritual good. To damage this reputation by rash judgment,
detraction, or calumny is in itself a grave offense against justice and charity
even though, did the injustice not regard grave matters, the fault might be
The honor of a person can be
impaired by rash judgments, by assuming without sufficient foundation the fault
of others, by calumny, through expressing false accusations, or by detraction,
disclosing real faults and failings of others. Since rash judgment is one of the
most common forms of slander, it is useful to remind ourselves that in order to
avoid rash judgments, we should be careful to interpret our neighbors’ actions,
sayings, writings, and thoughts in a favorable way.
There are, on some rare
occasions, reasons that may justify us to speak publicly about certain faults of
others. One of the main reasons is the protection of the common good. Of course,
this is exactly the argument used to “justify” most gossip and detraction,
especially on the Internet. However, even when justified by good reasons, this
may never be done without charity and respect. Therefore insults, slander, and
boastfulness are always sinful.
Moral theology teaches also
that whoever is guilty of damaging the reputation of others without sufficient
cause is obliged in justice to repair and restore that reputation.
Further, it is not only
sinful to spread rumors attacking the reputation or honor of others, but it is
also sinful to listen to them or read them, especially when one makes no attempt
to stop the violations of the honor of others whenever possible.
As you can see, this problem
is not new and was addressed long before the Internet even existed! The world of
digital media just makes the offense easier, more widespread, more quickly
spread, the damage far worse, the reparation nearly impossible, and therefore
the sin of spreading or reading much graver. Allow me therefore to give a few
“Thou shalt love the Lord
thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind,
and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is
like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other
commandment greater than these”(Mk. 12:30-31). The virtue of charity must
lead all our relationships in real life as well as in the virtual world of the
Internet. As an act of charity, but also of justice, we ought to give a
favorable interpretation to others’ actions, words, and writings, and not to
condemn them immediately.
The more responsibility and
authority our neighbor has, the more favorably we must perceive them. It is a
very modern tendency to easily condemn those with authority, leading so
effortlessly toward distrust.
On an even more practical
note, everyone should forbid himself to chase these rumors, refusing or
immediately deleting invitations to listen to or consult them, avoiding going to
websites and blogs known for their disrespect and continual detraction, rash
judgment, and calumnies. It is obviously not without sin to visit these types of
media, even out of mere curiosity.
Above all, let us all make a
genuine effort to spend less time on the Internet and dedicate a little more
time to prayer. A rosary or an act of charity does much more good for the
restoration of all things in Christ than hours lost on the computer. Every
Catholic knows this. Do we have the courage to put it into practice?
May the Immaculate Heart of
Mary help us all to follow her request. Prayers and sacrifices are the answers
to our modern trials and anxieties.
With my prayers and blessing,
Fr. Arnaud Rostand