Q. 1. What is the eight Commandment and what are the sins against it?
A. 1. The eight Commandment is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.“
What is the meaning of this Commandment? It means that we must not tell lies, especially about other people.
The Old Testament attests that God is the source of all truth. His Word is truth. His Law is truth. His "faithfulness endures to all generations." [PS 119:90; Cf. Prov 8:7; 2 Sam 7:28; PS 119:142; Lk 1:50] Since God is "true," the members of his people are called to live in the truth. [Rom 3:4; Cf. PS 119:30] (C.C.C. # 2465)
What is forbidden by this Commandment? It is forbidden to injure another’s honour and reputation by calumny or detraction.
What is the sin of calumny? Calumny is the attributing of faults and misdeeds to another of which he is not guilty, also known as slander or a malicious false statement.
What is detraction? Detraction is the telling of the faults and misdeeds of another, thus hurting his reputation, also known as damaging a person’s character.
“Slander has driven virtuous women from their homes, and deprived them of the fruit of their toil.” [Sir. 28:15] “Have you heard something? Let it die with you. Be brave, it will not make you burst!” [Sir. 19:10]
Is it ever permitted to reveal the faults of another? Yes. For a grave reason, as, for example, in order to prevent an unworthy person from gaining a position of responsibility which he does not deserve; or, in order to bring the offender to correction.
What are we bound to do if we have injured the character of another unjustly? We must do everything in our power to restore his good name by correcting the evil report we have spread about him.
Does the Eight Commandment forbid anything else besides these grave sins of calumny and detraction? Yes.
- It forbids all unnecessary criticism and faultfinding, all uncharitableness and tale-bearing.
- It imposes an obligation as far as possible, not to listen to the faults of others.
- It forbids boasting or bragging which is an offense against truth. (C.C.C. # 2481)
- It forbids a priest from revealing the sacredness of the Sacrament of Confession. (C.C.C. # 2490)
- It forbids professionals from revealing confidential information. Examples: those in political office, soldiers, physicians and lawyers. (C.C.C. # 2491)
- It forbids interference in a person’s private life, this including the media interfering into the life of those involved in politics. (C.C.C. # 2492)
- It forbids journalists from distorting the truth. (C.C.C. # 2497)
“Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.” [Tit. 3:1-2] “Take care not to err with your tongue and fail victim to one lying in wait.” [Sir. 28:26]