Gossip Chokes Gospel-sharing

You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” –Exodus 20:16

What made Pope Francis suddenly go off at a tangent and launch a tirade against gossip-mongers?

A few days ago, he went to Santa Maria, a Setteville parish on the outskirts of Rome, near Tivoli, to visit an ailing priest Fr. Giuseppe Berardino, 50, who has been suffering from a severe form of ALS for two years.  He celebrated Mass to a delighted congregation. During the brief message, he unexpectedly turned to the subject of gossip. With controlled anger, he emphasized the danger of gossiping, and what harm the frivolous activity does to a church community.

The Holy Father feels very strongly on this subject, everybody knows. Some time ago, when talking to nuns and priests at St. Peter’s Square, he had created a storm when he told gossip-loving nuns and priests emotionally:   “If you get an urge to say something against a brother or a sister, to drop a gossip bomb, bite your tongue! Hard!” the pontiff said in an improvised speech to members of the clergy, and did the same during his message to the above-mentioned congregation.

Young women gossiping over coffee in a cafe

Young women gossiping over coffee in a cafe

He recalled that though the Apostles were envious and jealous of each other, they did not gossip. He recalled the Gospel scene where they fought about who was first among them, and when James and John had their mother come to Jesus to ask they sit at his right and at his left. The Apostles were even “traitors, because when Jesus was taken they all left, they hid, they were afraid,” including Peter, the first Pope, who denied Jesus publicly. However, despite their sins they were still able to bear witness because they did not gossip but testified to “the salvation Jesus brings, and all of them, with this salvation, were converted. They allowed themselves to be saved.”

Having warmed up to the subject, he continued. He said when we read the Gospels, we see that “we have a lot of sins,” including betrayal and jealousy, “but there is one I don’t find in the early believers: they weren’t gossipers, they didn’t talk bad about others, they didn’t speak badly about each other. In this, they were good. They didn’t pluck at each other,” he said, lamenting how often the sin of gossip, “to remove the skin from one another, to talk behind their backs, to believe yourself to be better than others while talking badly in secret,” is present in parish communities.

However, “in the Gospel they didn’t do this.”

With all due respect, we beg to differ. People have been gossipers from Eden onwards, which is why the Bible is full of warnings to gossipers and slanderers. Here are just two examples:

2 Timothy 3:3. “They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.

Titus 2:3. Teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.

Nevertheless, we are with the Holy Father all the way in his “clean up the church” campaign. It was incredible how he got all to enthusiastically agree  when he suggested they make a commitment to hold their tongues because, “a parish where is no gossip is a perfect parish. It’s a parish of sinners, yes, but of witnesses, the kind given by the first Christians?”

He then invited parishioners to make a commitment to hold their tongues whenever they feel tempted to gossip, because “a parish where there is no gossip is a perfect parish. It’s parish of sinners, yes, but of witnesses, and this is the witness given by the first Christians.”

“Start with this,” he said, and prayed that God would give them the gift and grace “to never speak about each other behind your backs.”

by the NLTCE Network

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