TO the malice of detraction calumny adds that of falsehood. It is a

lie, which is bad; it is a report prejudicial to the character of

another, which is worse; it is both combined, out of which combination

springs a third malice, which is abominable. All the more so, since

there can exist no excuse or reason in the light of which this sin may

appear as a human weakness. Because slander is the fruit of deliberate

spite, jealousy and revenge, it has a character of diabolism.

The calumniator is not only a moral assassin, but he is the most

accomplished type of the coward known to man. If the devil loves a

cheerful liar, he has one here to satisfy his affections.

This crime is one that can never be tolerated, no matter what the

circumstances; it can never be justified on any grounds whatsoever; it

is intrinsically evil, a sin of injustice that admits no mitigation.

When slander is sworn to before the courts, it acquires a fourth

malice, that of irreligion, and is called false testimony. It is not

alone perjury, for perjury does not necessarily attack the neighbor's

good name; it is perjured calumny, a crime that deserves all the

reprobation it receives in this world--and in the next.

To lie outright, deliberately and with malice aforethought, in

traducing a fellow-man, is slander in its direct form; but such

conditions are not required to constitute a real fault of calumny. It

is not necessary to be certain that what you allege against your

neighbor be false; it is sufficient that you be uncertain if it be

true. An unsubstantiated charge or accusation, a mere rumor given out

as worthy of belief, a suspicion or doubt clothed so as to appear a

certainty, these contain all the malice and all the elements of slander

clearly characterized. Charity, justice and truth alike are violated,

guilt is there in unquestioned evidence. Whatever subterfuge,

equivocation or other crooked proceeding be resorted to, if mendacity

in any form is a feature of the aspersions we cast upon the neighbor,

we sin by calumny, purely and simply.

Some excuse themselves on the plea that what they say, they give out

for what it is worth; they heard it from others, and take no

responsibility as to its truth or falsehood. But here we must consider

the credulity of the hearers. Will they believe it, whether you do or

not? Are they likely to receive it as truth, either because they are

looking for just such reports, or because they know no better? And

whether they believe it or not, will they, on your authority, have

sufficient reason for giving credence to your words? May it not happen

that the very fact of your mentioning what you did is a sufficient mark

of credibility for others? And by so doing, you contribute to their

knowledge of what is false, or what is not proven true, concerning the

reputation of a neighbor.

For it must be remembered that all imprudence is not guiltless, all

thoughtlessness is not innocent of wrong. It is easy to calumniate a

person by qualifying him in an off-hand way as a thief, a blackleg, a

fast-liver, etc. It is easy, by adding an invented detail to a

statement, to give it an altogether different color and turn truth into

falsehood. But the easiest way is to interpret a man's intentions

according to a dislike, and, by stringing in such fancies with a lot of

facts, pass them on unsuspecting credulity that takes all or none. If

you do not think well of another, and the occasion demand it, speak it

out; but make it known that it is your individual judgment and give

your reasons for thus opining.

The desperate character of calumny is that, while it must be repaired,

as we shall see later, the thing is difficult, often impossible;

frequently the reparation increases the evil instead of diminishing it.

The slogan of unrighteousness is: "Calumniate, calumniate, some of it

will stick!" He who slanders, lies; he who lies once may lie again, a

liar is never worthy of belief, whether he tells the truth or not, for

there is no knowing when he is telling the truth. One has the right to

disbelieve the calumniator when he does wrong or when he tries to undo

it. And human nature is so constructed that it prefers to believe in

the first instance and to disbelieve in the second.

You may slander a community, a class as well as an individual. It is

not necessary to charge all with crime; it is sufficient so to

manipulate your words that suspicion may fall on any one of said class

or community. If the charge be particularly heinous, or if the body of

men be such that all its usefulness depends on its reputation, as is

the case especially with religious bodies, the malice of such slander

acquires a dignity far above the ordinary.

The Church of God has suffered more in the long centuries of her

existence from the tongue of slander than from sword and flame and

chains combined. In the mind of her enemies, any weapon is lawful with

which to smite her, and the climax of infamy is reached when they

affirm, to justify their dishonesty, that they turn Rome's weapons

against her. There is only one answer to this, and that is the silence

of contempt. Slander and dollars are the wheels on which moves the

propaganda that would substitute Gospel Christianity for the

superstitions of Rome. It is slander that vilifies in convention and

synod the friars who did more for pure Christianity in the Philippines

in a hundred years than the whole nest of their revilers will do in ten

thousand. It is slander that holds up to public ridicule the

congregations that suffer persecution and exile in France in the name

of liberty, fraternity, etc. It is slander that the long-tailed

missionary with the sanctimonious face brings back from the countries

of the South with which to regale the minds of those who furnish the

Bibles and shekels. And who will measure the slander that grows out of

the dunghill of Protestant ignorance of what Catholics really believe!