Today I was having lunch with a friend and we were talking about someone we both knew. I expressed that I didn’t like her because she can be very self-centered. I then proceeded to back up my statement by telling my friend a piece of gossip someone else had told me about how she had asked our teacher if she had gotten the highest grade on an assignment we had in class.
As soon as I started saying this, I felt bad, but I finished my thought anyway. I don’t think I damaged this girl’s reputation because it’s not a surprise that she would do something like this, but I still feel guilty.
With regard to the question in the thread title, we may review the three conditions for a sin to be mortal: CCC 1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”
and in the future try to live by this rule: Mama said: “If you have nothing good to say, then don’t say anything at all.”
Gossip and character assassination are the praimary ways people savage and attack one another. It’s relatively rare for enemies in the modern world to just out and out kill one another, so instead they spread poisonous lies about the person. It’s good that you felt bad even as you were in the process of saying what you said. That happens to all of us, but we’re so divorced from our consciences, our ears for hearing God, that we don’t usually catch ourselves in time. It seems to be God’s way of waking us up to what we’re in the process of doing.
Three conditions of a mortal sin - grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate consent. Try your hardest to not talk poorly about others even if it is true. It is being true may make it worse. Do not beat yourself up. James 3:8 “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Detraction is the unjust damaging of another’s good name by the revelation of some fault or crime of which that other is really guilty or at any rate is seriously believed to be guilty by the defamer.
An important difference between detraction and calumny is at once apparent. The calumniator says what he knows to be false, whilst the detractor narrates what he at least honestly thinks is true. Detraction in a general sense is a mortal sin, as being a violation of the virtue not only of charity but also of justice. It is obvious, however, that the subject-matter of the accusation may be so inconspicuous or, everything considered, so little capable of doing serious hurt that the guilt is not assumed to be more than venial. The same judgment is to be given when, as not unfrequently happens, there has been little or no advertence to the harm that is being done.
"Detraction is hurting someone’s reputation by telling about something wrong they have done (that you either know for certain that they did or are pretty sure that they did.)
Detraction and calumny are different because calumny involves telling a lie about a person (and knowing it’s a lie.) A person who commits detraction thinks he is telling the truth. In general, detraction is still a mortal sin because it’s not charitable or just, but in practice it may be something so small or risk very little damage to the person that it’s considered venial instead of mortal. It’s also venial when (as is typical), the person isn’t aware that they are causing harm."
So gossip can be a very big deal, but the main cause of concern would seem to be if you’re intending to harm the person you’re gossiping about. Not infrequently, people gossip so they have something to talk about, not to cause harm to anybody. Still best to avoid it, though.