Confused about the Sin of Detraction


Detraction - what exactly is it? I’ve read Aquainas’ definition and evidently, I’m not bright enough to grasp it.:shrug:
Recently I told a friend that a mutual acquaintance of ours had plagiarized from St. Therese’s writings, among other things. It’s true; but detraction includes that which is true. Should I not have said anything? :confused:


Hi Rosalie -

Without looking anything up, what comes to mind is that everyone, saint and sinner alike, is entitled to his or her own good name and reputation. Detraction diminishes a person’s reputation and can ruin a good name. Unless there is serious reason to reveal a person’s faults, it is best kept to oneself. You can apply the golden rule here - would you want the thing you are considering saying to be said about you?



Recently I told a friend that a mutual acquaintance of ours had plagiarized from St. Therese’s writings, among other things. It’s true; but detraction includes that which is true. Should I not have said anything?

If I am understanding you correctly, did you tell your friend that this other person had borrowed St. Therese’s writings and pretended they were her own? In the words of our saint, Therese experienced this in the convent when somebody had “stolen” a light she received from the Lord, and expressed it as her own thought, without giving credit to St. Therese who told it to her. Her evaluation? That the thought came from the Spirit and was not hers anyway, so how could she be angry.

How well she knew herself, that the stings of pride were trying to unravel her peace.

But the real nitty-gritty beneath the act concerns the reason you mentioned the fact to your friend, which could have many motives: obtaining counsel from someone you trusted, casual or mindless conversation without any intent to demean, or a keen satisfaction in taking the person down a peg or two by the disclosure of her failing – even if it was true. Each has a varying degree, as you can see, and the first two many not even be sinful.

This article from Jesuit Fr. Hardon explains a lot about detraction and rash judgment, and I have it saved in my reference documents. You’ll find a lot of food for thought in it. Since the tongue is the hardest organ to tame, we have a difficult time keeping it under control, and it is the ruin of many a good reputation. I can’t think of any sin that I am more sensitive to than those of the 8th commandment.


That St. Therese herself wouldn’t mind puts me to shame!:o

I spoke of the person’s plagiarism to my friend as he was a false prophet and we were both on his “path” for many years before we both returned to the Church. She is my best friend and we were both under his thumb. He had also said something from Jesus Christ himself, “He who is not with me is against me.” He was constantly “borrowing”, which we didn’t learn about until we broke free.

However, from what you’ve said in the above posts; I will consider this a sin and confess it and try to better control what I say in the future. :thumbsup:


Excellent and comprehensive article, Carole…thank you…I’m keeping it on file too!:thumbsup:



Dear Rosalie,

Since you and your friend were more or less intimidated and in spiritual bondage from the person you discussed, it is not likely that your conversations fall under the category of “grievous matter.” Rather, it seems to be a common suffering between the two of you which opens the door to, " Guess what X said THIS time!!" Indignation spoils the joy of your coming together, and can become habitual griping that serves no good purpose. If you catch yourself unawares, cut the conversation short and invite your friend to share a quick prayer for the one who offends you.

Since it is not in the category of serious sin, you are not obliged to confess it, but in doing so, you gain spiritual strength to “avoid the near occasions of sin” as we promise in our Act of Contrition.

The beauty of a pure of heart enables us to be much more sensitive to the Holy Spirit. This exceeding blessing is diminished when we indulge in verbal offenses against our neighbor, even slight ones. How few know this secret!



Thanks. I do confess faults and venial sins regularly and this detraction, although a lesser sin, will be confessed. My friend and I have prayed for the soul of the false prophet who died about a year ago. Things still come up about him on a website of former followers who are struggling with their similar experience of having been caught up in his web. (perhaps I should avoid going there) I had a conversion, thanks be to God and the Holy Spirit, and returned to my beautiful Catholic faith. My friend returned to the faith before I did.
Thank you all for your input.:wink: Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!


What about detraction regarding celebrities? Last night, while talking to my sisters, I made some reference to an unpleasant thing that a certain celeb said that they probably didn’t know.

Where’s the line between slight and grave?

Thanks in advance! :o


Since a celebrity said it, most likely it was made to the general public, seen by thousands. To repeat it, may or may not have been sinful, depending upon your interior motive.

If what was said by the celeb was despicable, then it is good to state your objection to it so that the listener may not be influenced by the celeb’s words.

If you personally despised the celeb and deliberately try to cause your listener to despise him, as well, then your motive is not one of warning, but one of gossip, and the degree of seriousness depends on what you revealed and your motive in revealing it.

As the article by Fr. Hardon mentioned, even denigrating the reputation of the dead can be wrong. - something we rarely consider thinking they are gone, so who cares?

Our hearts are plainly visible to the Lord, and every act of despising another, whether slight or not, whether spoken or just entertained in our thoughts, wounds charity and offends the Holy Spirit. I may not engage in speaking of others’ failings and think I am therefore virtuous, But I assure you, I have had to fight my thoughts because it is easy to get into judging others with an uncharitable attitude, though I do not speak of it to anyone else.

The 8th commandment is a difficult one to follow indeed, because so few of us are sensitive enough to the Lord’s inspirations to recognize that these seemingly innocent pastimes of gossip are displeasing to Him.


This is an interesting turn to the question. I was just thinking about Ted Bundy and how it would probably not be a sin to repeat to someone that he was a serial killer.
The person I was referring to was a false prophet. His followers are still trying to draw people into his cult, even after his death. They are trying to present him as a savior. :eek: Many people who left his cult are still trying to work things out. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll gladly confess the sin of detraction; but now I’m once again wondering if it is detraction in this case. The other day I saw a flyer for a public presentation to draw people in to learn about this false prophet. I took the flyer down without thinking twice about it. I’m going to confession tomorrow, as I try to do every two weeks. I’d appreciate any and all additional feedback about this.:slight_smile:


Hi Rosalie,

In the link I gave you from Fr. Hardon, he made a good point that addresses your situation with the false prophet. It is good to oppose false teaching and prevent others from spiritual danger and harm. It is important first of all, that you are certain of your position and truth before attempting to warn others. As we have seen on these threads, some people are misguided about the Charismatic Movement and think they are sent by God to warn others. Yet the truth is, that the movement is approved by the Popes, so they do more harm than good.

The only thing I would suggest is that you exercise care in despising the sin and not the sinner, as you reveal the necessary truth to those who need to know.

When the revelation of another person’s fault is necessary or very useful, as in defense of self or of others, no injustice is done in revealing it.


Is it detraction when speaking about people, such as a particular group, in general? Or only when referring to a specific person?



I think I’ve got it. My revelation of this person’s deception was told to those who needed to know. This is not at all like the charismatic movement allowed by the Vatican. Charismatics are worshiping Jesus Christ.
This man claimed to be greater than Jesus Christ and his followers worship him and want others to join them in doing so. He is definitely in the category of a false prophet. I do not hate him. My friend and I agreed that he did help us to some extent; but also did some harm. It is, to some degree, confounding. My friend and I were fortunate and blessed to have been baptised Catholic. The Holy Spirit brought us back to the church.
I don’t feel like I’ve been appointed by God to stop anything; but I won’t allow anyone else to be deceived if I can help it – perhaps in small ways, like if he comes up as a topic, or if I see a flyer from the cult and take it down. Thanks for your help. :thumbsup:


Hi Rosalie,

:clapping: I’m glad to know you “got it.” God bless you whenever you feel called to fight the good fight in His name!


Hi kms123,

Having read the description in the link from Fr. Hardon, I think that it can be both. A person could expose unpalatable things about a group as well as about an individual and it would be detraction. Naturally, it is a sin if told without good reason, e.g. the dangers of sects and cults should be talked about, though as Joysong notes, the warning should always concern the sin, not the sinner.

Hope that helps. :thumbsup:


I’m deffo with Joysong on this one! :cool:


Thank you very much, Joysong. What it was: you know that model who said she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day? Yeah, it was she who appeared on this advert and I made reference to it. Thinking about it, I don’t really like the action of the model but I think the remark she made has sullied my opinion of her. To be honest, I think I wanted my sisters not to like her either. However, as soon as I revealed the fault, I felt bad for saying it. I think it’s venial and I did receive Communion the next day, but I think I’ll confess it anyway the next time I go to Confession. :o

I agree, those last few Commandments are really tricky to follow at times… I don’t like lying at all and I’d stay far away from calumny. I think my main problems in regard to the Eighth Commandment are that I’m sometimes dishonest to my parents (about small things - though I still feel guilty) and detraction. At least now I know what constitutes detraction and have some idea of what is grave and what is not-as-serious I’ll be able, with God’s Grace, to speak more charitably about others. Man…that can be tough sometimes!! I hope that it’s still okay to talk to someone trustworthy about hurt caused by others (hating the sin, rather than the sinner, of course)?


[quote=nahbios] At least now I know what constitutes detraction and have some idea of what is grave and what is not-as-serious I’ll be able, with God’s Grace, to speak more charitably about others. Man…that can be tough sometimes!!

Isn’t that the truth!! But if we nip the thought before it’s spoken, then we gain control.

I hope that it’s still okay to talk to someone trustworthy about hurt caused by others (hating the sin, rather than the sinner, of course)?

That is a good practice, to obtain counsel from someone who is able to help us. That is what Rosalie did in posting the thread. :wink: Our Lord often inspires us to open our hearts in this manner so that we may encouraged and set free from error. It is a “spiritual work of mercy” to counsel the doubtful and instruct the ignorant.


:smiley: Many thanks, Joysong! Well, there’s one more spiritual act of mercy to your name! :smiley:
May God bless you and yours. :wink:
Siobhán. xx


I am confused about the nature of detraction also. Recently I went to confession and the next day my mom asked about the priest who I went to and how it went. I told her that he is doing fine but said that he had seemed to change in demeanor and was a little less helpful/warm and more stern. Considering my mom’s impression of him before was somewhat good, could this have been sinful? I don’t think my motive was to hurt his reputation, but more to emphasize my lack of peace/confidence in my confession. Still, it bothers me and I am wondering if anyone has any insight about this.


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