Dealing With Calumny and Detraction

St. Jerome observes: “No one wishes to relate calumnies and murmurs to ears closed with disgust. Is there anyone so foolish as to shoot arrows against a stone wall?” Accordingly, Father Valuy advises: “Let your strict silence be a significant and salutary lesson for the detractor.”

Father Valuy adds: “Believe all the good you hear, but believe only the bad you see. Malice does the contrary. It demands proofs for good reports, but believes bad reports on the slightest grounds. Out of every thousand reports one can scarcely be found accurate in all its details.”

“When the act is evidently blameworthy, suppose a good intention, or at least one not so bad as apparent, leaving to God what He reserves to Himself—the judgment of the heart; or consider it as the result of surprise, inadvertence, human frailty, or the violence of the temptation.”

The recital of something bad about a person so tarnishes his reputation that even ample apologies cannot fully repair the damage. The detractor, too, suffers, for “the detractor’s evil reports are believed on account of the audacity with which he relates them, but when he wants to relate something good he will not be believed on oath. We know by experience that evil reports spread with compound interest, while good ones are retailed at discount.”

“Expel every doubt, every thought, likely to diminish esteem. They amuse themselves with a most dangerous game who always gather up vague thoughts of the past, rumours without foundation, conjectures in which passion has the greatest share.”

“Even when reports more or less true might depreciate in your eyes some of the community, may they not have, besides their faults, some great but hidden virtues, and by these be entitled to a more merciful judgment? St. Augustine says beautifully: ‘If you cast your eye over a field where the corn has been trampled, you only perceive the straw, not the grain. Lift up the straw, and you will see plenty of golden sheaves full of grain.’ . . . We blame the defects of our brethren, and perhaps we have the same, or others more shameful still. We usurp the right of judgment, which God reserves to Himself.”

Quotations from Benoit Valuy, Fraternal Charity (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1908).

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