The examination of conscience that I have says that “serious slander or insult of a sacred person or object” is a mortal sin. At a ladies’ meeting, someone told me we have “no leadership” in our parish because our priest doesn’t promote the rosary or inspire men to be active in the parish, etc. I simply nodded my head b/c I felt she made a few good points. But then I mentioned some GOOD things about the priest, because I didn’t think it was right to talk badly about him. Does this sound like “serious insult of a sacred person”? I didn’t say anything bad about the priest–I simply nodded in agreement with some of the things she was saying, but then I mentioned some good things about him, as I said. I feel like I need to pray for our priest now. Does this sound like mortal sin or venial sin? I know what slander is (saying something false) but what would constitute serious insult of a sacred person?
It is always good to pray for our priests.
It sounds as if you might be bordering on scrupulosity. We don’t always react immediately as perfectly as we should. Sounds like you did defend the priest shortly afterwards.
If we try to speak the truth in love, we can’t go too far wrong.
Our lord is not sitting there watching us, to see if we slip up. He is working to help us become holier and more like Him.
First, I am not sure that counts as an insult, at least not a serious one. Based only on what you wrote, I would call it unkind or exaggerated criticism. She could have chosen better words to make it a more constructive criticism. Furthermore, one should avoid remarks like “no leadership” which may erode parishioners’ confidence in the priest, thereby undermining his authority. That is not good for the priest or the parish.
(By the way, perceptions of criticism vary around the world. In some cultures, straightforward criticism is perceived as insulting. I have assumed that it is acceptable in your community.)
If this took place at a small, private meeting about parish ministry, and once again taking local customs into account, it may be okay to speak roughly in order to emphasize a point.
It doesn’t appear that you expressed agreement with the “no leadership” remark. You nodded your head, meaning that you heard what she had to say. You mentioned some good things about the priest. I see no reason you should feel culpable for her remark.
Finally, is the priest a “sacred person”? I thought that title was reserved for saints, but I could be wrong.
At the end of the day a priest would welcome any criticism as our priest has said so in the past. He has told us to tell him if we don’t like anything etc.
They are only human and do trip up now and again.
Look up the concepts of Calumny and Detraction.
It does not matter that the object of negative comments is a priest or a Lay person - it is a serious sin to spread slander or libel against any person. In fact it can be a worse sin than the one you accuse the other person of.
To do so against your Father or Mother is also to break the Forth Commandment “Honour your Father and Mother”
This applies to our Spiritual Fathers and Mothers as well as our natural ones.
You describe a situation where you remained quiet in the face of other people committing these sins. You responded by countering the allegations by pointing out some good facts about the person slandered. It would probably not have been a charitable act to stand up and denounce the person who most likely did not know she was committing a sin of grave matter in criticizing her Priest. Fraternal correction should always be carried out in as charitable a fashion as possible. 1) in Private. 2) quietly with one or two brethren, 3) in front of the “Elders” (ie. Priest / Bishop).
Therefore while you may find a opportunity to discuss the churches teaching on Calumny and Detraction with some or all of the members of the committee, it may be best to find a way that is non accusative. In keeping with the virtue of charity, it’s best to assume that these other committee members simply don’t know the teaching.
Alternatively, you could ask your priest if he could find an opportunity to teach on that topic from the Pulpit some week soon.
I would also remind the members of the comittee, that the setting up and running of Lay associations to inspire and support the lay members of the parish, is the responsibility of te laity, not the responsibility of the Priest.
If your parish lacks active chapters of groups like “Couples for Christ”, The “Knights of Columbus” “Opus Dei” or any of the other lay associations who aim to support, catechize and inspire Lay men (alone or with their families) then perhaps you are being called (as a committee) to try to do something about that.
If you try to get a group going I’m sure your priest would give his support…
(But it may be worth checking which groups he wants first… Some are disliked by some priests. - so while one priest might like the Neo Catechumenins, but try to discourage or ban the Opus Dei, another priest might take the opposite approach)
Well, if I saw you nodding, I wouldn’t know what, exactly, you were nodding about, especially after hearing you defending the priest by pointing out some of his good qualities.
Yes, I consider a priest a ‘sacred person’ and have confessed speaking badly about a priest or a nun when I could have better remained silent - or - been party to a conversation in which others spoke badly about a priest or nun and I remained silent instead of speaking up in some way (as you did).
We should not talk too much about others behind their back, why don’t they invite him to the next meeting and ask in a gentle, respectful way for his contribution of ideas on how to improve the situation.
We are to love one another as He loved us.