I understand that gossip, slander and detraction are sinful, but what if you are telling someone something bad about a famous person who is deceased? We read about bad things that certain people have done in our history textbooks, but what if it was something that no one knew about, and you tell people it? And by doing so, you really do ruin that person’s reputation.
What would be the point of spreading such information? It could neither help nor hurt the person who is now deceased. What it will do is hurt those who loved him. Gossip is always bad! Don’t do it! It is, IMHO, sinful.
if it’s something people don’t know about, i would say leave it to rest.
as a general rule, don’t say anything about people if they are not around to defend themselves, is my opinion
There needs to be a proportionate reason for telling. So, if the deceased person was the teller’s relative and they were telling a counselor that the dead person had hirt them somehow, and this was necessary for the counseling process, that would be one one thing. A salacious recounting of a bad rumor about a dead famous person unconnected to either the teller or recipient of the information would be wrong.
The Catechism says this, and I highlight in bold the part about detraction:
2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
[INDENT]–of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
–of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
–of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.[/INDENT]
If we are talking about history, and there are lessons we can learn from the faults and failings of others, there may be an “objectively valid reason” to disclose them. To decide this, I think you would have to examine the nature of the person’s faults, the possible harm it may do to his reputation, and the possible benefit to the rest of mankind.
A related question is whether consent can be presumed. If the person had had the chance to consider it prior to his death, would he have agreed to make his faults and failings known? If the benefit to society and to future generations is significant, it is quite possible that someone might set aside his pride and allow the world to know of his mistakes, as if to say “Oh mother, tell your children not to do what I have done.”
johnnyt3000, what kind of faults and failings did you have in mind?
It is not sinful to study history.