Thursday, June 16, 2011

Answering a question about gossip.

I've read it numerous times online, 'gossip is a mortal sin.'  Numerous times I have said, 'no, it is not.'  So is it or isn't it?  Idle chatter is generally an imperfection.  Idle chatter generally includes harmless gossip and sometimes juicy tidbits.  What is needed for it to be mortal sin?  Grave matter, full knowledge, and full consent, which, for all intents and purposes, involves intent.  For gossip to be grave, that is - a mortal sin - it usually consists of detraction, calumny, and rash judgement.  Rumor mongering and tale-bearing, when it harms the reputation of another or relates a fact otherwise unknown can be gravely sinful, depending upon the harm caused, damage done, etc.  If the rumors are true, consent and intent comes into play, as well as the 'need to know'.  If the story is factual and public knowledge and one repeats it to comment or ask a question - well it can get to be rather complicated.  Therefore one has to understand what mortal sin consists of.  Briefly, it has to be:
a) An act of grave matter that is...

b) Committed with full knowledge and...

c) Deliberate consent.

All three dispositions must be present.
If we go with the 'all gossip is a mortal sin' idea, that means that most bloggers, journalists, news anchors, reporters, as well as church basement  donuts and coffee clutches are rife with gossip and all of us are going to hell.  If one is so concerned then one ought to cease from blogging and commenting online and enter a monastery.  Oh wait - they're online now as well.  See, John of the Cross was right, "the majority of humanity will be lost!"
Sarcasm aside - don't mistake what I say for spiritual direction.  Instead, study your catechism and ask your confessor or spiritual director, and sometimes ask him to explain it further if you are still confused. 


  1. In the work environment it is very easy to get "caught up" in the gossip and rumor mills that goes around the coffee pot. I understand that sometimes folks are just trying to make conversation, but often it turns to being just plain mean.

    Mortal sin or not...I find that it is just best for me to just leave when it starts getting catty...

    I'll stick to talking about the weather and the Bruins.. :)


  2. I watched the game - I wish I could have seen the riot.

  3. If all gossipers go to hell, will it be to a gossipy part of hell? Will gossipers still be able to gossip, in hell? Well, maybe it wouldn't be the worst part of hell?

    Isn't that terrible. That's the thought that flitted through my head, when you said about hell and gossipers. Terry walks right into my soul sometimes, shining his truth torch into areas I've been meaning to get around to.......... sometime. It's very disconcerting!

    So, I started to think......

    What would there be to gossip about in hell though? I mean, gossip depends on the 'latest' doesn't it? Or at least, it has to be the first time you've personally heard it, or the person you're telling the gossip to has to be hearing it for the first time, so that we can hear them go..."Nooooooooooo?" and we can reply "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!"
    After a time in hell, where there is no 'new' anything, just more and more of the same and no possibility of change, all gossip will become old. When the last person has been admitted to 'gossip hell' and the last cry of "Nooooooooooooo! Look who's just walked in!" has been uttered and all the gossipers who were listening intently at each other's Judgment Days have spread the muck on everyone else's uncovered sins....there will come a time, when there is just re-hash of same old, same old.

    Now speaking as someone who's ear is inclined to gossip, that would be true hell. Retold stories, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever..............without the Amen!

    I repent! I repent! I see now, why gossiping is wrong!

    News! That's different. ? ! ?


  4. A Random Friar7:47 AM

    Yes, not all gossip is mortal sin. But I have heard enough stories from both sides to know the destructive impact malicious gossip can have.

    It most definitely can be a vicious attack against truth and against charity, done in a spirit of fully intending to destroy the other.

    There is a difference of trading stories "Oh, how is poor George doing?" and "I think" or "I heard that George is embezzling! How could he afford that car?" etc.

    Gossip: if you can't change the course of the conversation, excuse yourself. If you worry that then your friends will talk about *you*, you will know what gossip means.

  5. Random Friar - very good advice - thanks much. And I really, really know what gossip means.


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