Calumnity and detraction

What is the difference in talking about someone in a valid proper way. And then talking about someone in a caluminous (word ??) or detractive manner? What would be a valid way to talk about someone’s personal life?

I think for the most part we are called to not discuss negative aspects of someone even if they are the truth, because it’s unkind. Unless the information you share is necessary to share for some valid reason. Then you should do so in the utmost charity and only share the necessary information.


2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

  • of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

  • of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279

  • of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.280

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.


In my opinion—and I have absolutely zero authority here, so take this with a massive grain of salt—it would be valid to talk about someone’s personal life:

(1) To get them needed or necessary help;

(2) To inform someone of information they genuinely have a right to know;

(3) To discuss with a close friend or relative information about how someone has affected you for the sake of, say, gaining psychological health, but not simply to detract them.

Examples might be:

(1) Getting family members together to set up a plan to deal with grandpa’s alcoholism;

(2) Truthfully revealing to your of-age daughter that her boyfriend has been previously married several times, even though he claims he hasn’t;

(3) Telling your husband, “you know, my dad was really often pretty harsh on me, and I think this is how it affects me even today … .”

I think that **intent **has a lot to do with this, and also, the seriousness of the information you reveal to others, and the resulting seriousness of damage to a person’s reputation.

However, all of the above describes things relating to detraction; calumny is a different matter, and is probably always problematic.

But you have to be aware of harsh judgment.

One thing that is being talked about here is the Duggar family. Josh Duggar as a young man did some bad things. This has been several years ago. They were criminal actions yet as a minor he may not have understood the repercussions that would occur. There is quite a bit of talk. People have told me since this was criminal action it should be discussed. Yet I think it was long ago and he seems to have straightened up. At the time he should have had counseling and I guess had some. Is this detraction because people are saying they should’ve and could’ve done this or that. It seems to be over I hope. Isn’t this in the past?


Not if you keep bringing it up. :shrug:

From here:

There are times, nevertheless, when one may lawfully make known the offense of another even though as a consequence the trust hitherto reposed in him be rudely shaken or shattered. If a person’s misdoing is public in the sense that sentence has been passed by the competent legal tribunal or that it is already notorious, for instance, in a city, then in the first case it may licitly be referred to in any place; in the second, within the limits of the town, or even elsewhere, unless in either instance the offender in the lapse of time should have entirely reformed or his delinquency been quite forgotten. When, however, knowledge of the happening is possessed only by the members of a particular community or society, such as a college or monastery and the like, it would not be lawful to publish the fact to others than those belonging to such a body. Finally, even when the sin is in no sense public, it may still be divulged without contravening the virtues of justice or charity whenever such a course is for the common weal or is esteemed to make for the good of the narrator, of his listeners, or even of the culprit. The right which the latter has to an assumed good name is extinguished in the presence of the benefit which may be conferred in this way.

OK I see here you’re quote is from the site. I know it and it is very good. I’m also thinking of persons wrongfully convicted. The system nevertheless passes sentence. They are pretty much “caught in the system” and this does occur. Someone talking about an offense that never occurred in actuality or has been stretched via the grapevine. This still is ok in the situation? If anyone knows? lol “Bad Catholic” I like your religion title. :wink: I am saying this too for myself. I can’t control others but if I hear something about someone and I know it’s true. I say something. Then add, “It was long ago.” or something similar. And let it go. I hope I am doing right.

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