Detraction vs gossip

What’s the difference between gossip and detraction? At what point does gossip become detraction?

I have a very good examination of conscience that lists mortal and venial sins. It lists gossip under venial sins and detraction under mortal. What I’m unclear about is where is the line drawn between the two?

Detraction is a form of gossip, distinct from calumny. Both are forms of gossip, but detraction involves talking about things that are true, while calumny involves lies.

Gossip - either detraction or calumny - may or may not be considered grave matter. Much like say theft, there are degrees and it depends on the harm done.

I suggest this article by Jimmy Akin as a good starting point for working through this:
jimmyakin.com/2006/05/psst_did_you_he.html

Try this link for a good treatment of detraction:

catholicism.about.com/od/Catholic-Dictionary/g/Detraction-Definition-Of-Detraction.htm

Thanks for the links. I am wondering though about different online review sites such as Angie’s lists and google. which one can post the good and the bad about contractors etc. If one did have a bad experience with lets say a painter, then can one post that on lists like Angie’s lists and not be guilty of distraction? If someone is truly a horrible contractor, should the great community know about it? I don’t think this is as simple as presented.

Detraction has both a canonical (moral and spiritual law) definition and a legal one.

Posting a review of proven shoddy workmanship is not the same as, say, telling a mother-in-law that her son-in-law is cheating after he’s repented and the couple is following the advice of their pastor.

In this case there is a good reason for revealing the others faults - which is to potentially protect others from the bad contractor.

One must be careful of course - careful in motive (is it out of revenge or genuine care for others?), careful in facts (are you telling the facts as they are, or embellishing, or not being fair?), and careful in presuming the best in others (giving people the benefit of the doubt when we can).

But while exposing the faults of a contractor may have a common good that justifies it, most (I would suggest) cases of detraction don’t serve such a good - they are merely cases of careless gossiping about people in our lives to others who have no need to know their faults.

Thanks to both for the answers! That may be a real situation for me so I appreciate the clarification and a check on motives.

1 Like

Thanks for the links! I guess my question is, what are some examples of grave matter when it comes to gossip/detraction? In the article Jimmy Akin mentioned someone losing their job or marriage as a result of detraction. Yes, I can definitely see that being one example. But do other smaller things constitute grave matter? Where do we draw the line?

For example, let’s say co-worker A is not good at her job. I talk to a co-worker B about person A, complaining about their annoying mistakes. Person B doesn’t have authority to fire anyone, and the mistakes themselves are not major as to put anyone’s job in danger. But as a result of my gossip, person B probably views her co-worker in a different light than before. It seems like person A’s reputation is negatively affected, at least in person B’s eyes. Grave sin? Why or why not?

Or, let’s say I’m talking to a friend who asks about another mutual friend of ours ("How has X been?) I tell her that friend X is going through serious financial problems that in my own opinion are due to her poor choices and inability to manage money. Now, I’ve previously told my friend X that her financial troubles are due to her own mistakes, so it’s nothing I wouldn’t say to my friend X’s face. But would it be a grave sin to reveal this to another mutual friend, provided that friend X didn’t specifically ask to keep it a secret? Why or why not?

That’s beyond my pay grade.

It’s sort of like asking when does theft go from being a venial sin to a grave sin. There are degrees and many shades of grey.

Please note also that in either of the examples you give, there may hypothetically be good reasons for talking about those issues anyway, in which case there would be no sin.

Your priest is the best person to help you with these questions.

Here are two things I have often wondered:

a)If I e-mail say my parents or a friend who live in another country about what I have done during the day, and I want to mention something that includes another person, just because it is a good story or because it says something about ME (for example, I give an example to my friend that I have gotten better/wiser in how to help homeless people) and I mention some facts about a person (e.g. a homeless person), without saying their name, would that be detraction?

b) when the purpose is asking for advice, and I try to as good as possible hide the identiy of the person, then it is sure ok, I think?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.