Detraction Question.

When someone bears false witness against me is it not detraction so say they are bearing false witness against me? Should I then just allow them to say whatever lies they want otherwise I will commit a mortal sin?


If someone makes an accusation against you, you can refute it without saying, “This person is a liar.” You say, “This is what happened, this is what I did, this is what other people were doing.” Make it about facts and not about judgments. If this is a work issue, your supervisors have a right to the truth and it is not detraction to disclose the facts. Your goal is to tell the truth and defend yourself, not harm the other person.

Now, if you went to this person’s spouse or friends or acquaintances and told them what you knew, when they had no reason to know and your goal was to harm the person’s reputation, that would be wrong.

It is permissible to inadvertently damage someone’s reputation when it is necessary. For example, when reporting a crime. If someone commits false witness against you, you can certainly tell people the truth if you think it is necessary. You won’t be culpable for detraction since you are simply defending yourself against false accusations. Also, detraction is only a mortal sin if the damage done to the person is huge, and I doubt the situation you describe would count as huge.

Stick to the Catechism on this.

Thanks for the replies.

Is there a difference between calumny and bearing false witness?

Here’s what my Catholic dictionary says.

False Witness Perjury; the making upon oath a statement known to be untrue; always a grievous sin against religion. Should the perjury cause harm to another, the additional sin of injustice would involve the obligation of reparation. The Eighth Commandment has in view any harm done to another by our words.

Calumny is slander, the deprivation of another of his good name by imputing to him, behind his back, something injurious to his reputation of which the speaker or writer knows he is innocent of. It incurs an obligation of making restitution so far as is possible.

So it seems false witness is lying under oath while calumny is damaging someone’s reputation by lying about them, but not under oath.

There are three conditions for something to be a mortal sin. I do not think it is sinful to defend yourself. If what someone is saying can badly damaged your reputation, do not allow it to happen.

Mortal sin pre-supposes you know what you are doing. Pre-planning, includes in it. Pre-meditative sin, pre-supposes an evil act of at least over a year.

The three conditions for a sin to be mortal are:

  1. Grave (serious) matter
  2. Full knowledge that it is of grave matter
  3. Full consent of the will

There is no one year or any time involved.

In short if a person knows an act is of grave matter but goes ahead and commits it anyway then that person has committed a mortal sin.

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