Detraction of politicians?

Dear CAF,

What is the Catholic moral theology teaching on talking about a public official:
For example, detracting and joking about a politician running for public office?

Thank you

I don’t think there really is one.

Besides…you only have to watch and listen to 'em to see that they are their own worst enemies.

There’s a difference between detraction and speaking facts and truth to and about power.

Let’s see what the Catechism says about detraction:
Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them. (CCC 2477)
Objectively valid reason exists if the disclosure of the politician’s faults and failings is relevant to his (or her) political office. Also one would not be guilty of harming the politician’s reputation if the faults and failings are already known to the public.

I don’t think there is any rule against joking, and humor may be the only way to keep our sanity as we approach this year’s US presidential election.

Joking is one thing, but Christians should avoid the vulgarity that we see in political discourse so often nowadays.

Detraction is linked within the vice of ‘lying’.

You are asking about several different sins.

Detraction is of two kinds - reviling and backbiting. Reviling is the revelation of private sins to the public in order to defame the person (or for some other unjust reason). Backbiting is the same, but to some individual or small group (not “public”).

Derision is the scorn of a person on behalf of his affliction through mockery. The greater the affliction mocked, the greater the sin, for one only mocks something seen as slight… Whether that slightness is seen as something absolute or as something slight in relation to the person while grave objectively will determine whether the sin is venial or mortal. Also, the greater the person mocked, be it in office, in some other special relation (family, for instance), or in virtue, the greater the sin.

But the distinction between “affliction” and “action” must be kept… even though affliction may be the result and source of some blameworthy action. While afflictions inhere in subjects, actions do not.

So too the distinction between “scorn” and “good natured fun” must be kept… One might even joke in order to help the object of the joke. As long as it is not done at the expense of the other, but is either indifferent or actually helps build the person up (even if that is through doing some intentional damage to the ego to help him). So one can joke in a charitable way, certainly.

Most of what is seen on television is at least venial sin.

Americans seem to think the public has a “right to know” just about everything about candidates. I’m epileptic and I don’t think I need to reveal that if I’m running for city council or even US Senate. If someone reveals it to undermine me, that’s detraction. Otoh, I think I need to reveal it if I’m running for Pres.

As for humor, there’s almost always an element of cruelty but candidates know they are taking that on.

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