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District Superior's
Letter to Friends & Benefactors

November-December 2012

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, specifically “cyber-gossip.”

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 venial.

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 practical resolutions:

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
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