Is speaking ill of priests a sin?

I keep running across from various statements warning not to speak ill of a priest. Most recently I saw it again today in an examination of conscience as I prepared for confession. I respect our priests, but I’m having a hard time believing that this is a sin, especially given Church scandals.

“Speaking ill of priests” means giving scandal to those whose faith is weak or non-existent, thus contributing to or confirming their distrust of priests. It also means not giving priests the loving respect and fidelity owed our spiritual fathers in Christ. Just as a person should not unnecessarily discuss his natural father’s faults before outsiders, so unnecessarily airing the dirty laundry of our spiritual fathers is morally problematic.

This does not mean that those who have a genuine need to discuss the problematic actions of a priest with those who need to know should refrain from doing so. It only means that one should be careful to discuss just what needs to be discussed only with those who need to be included in the discussion.

The patron saint of priests, St. John Vianney, once observed that there are no bad priests, only priests for whom there has not been enough prayer.

**Recommended reading:

A Crisis of Saints** by Fr. Roger Landry

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