Now that Pope Francis is winging his way back to Rome, and has probably “deplaned” by now, and let us remark that “deplane” is one of the more patently offensive neologisms of the twentieth century; whatever happened to “disembark” . . . “de-ship”? . . . “de-car”? . . . “de-bus”? . . . “de-train”? . . . but we digress . . . anyway, it’s time to take a brief moment and talk about . . . calumny.
Yes, calumny. What is it, and what does it do?
What is it? It’s going around attacking the reputation of another by communicating things that you cannot prove are true about that other person. And it has to be actual proof, not suspicion, supposition, hearsay, rumor, or anything else. We’re talking empirical, verifiable, none-genuine-without-this-signature proof.
It can’t even be an argument without a single logical flaw, because (surprise) that is not proof in the sense demanded. Why? Because an argument takes the form, “If such-and-such is true, then thus-and-so must be the case.” Unless you can prove beyond the shadow of any doubt whatsoever in any way, shape, or form that “such-and-such” is, in strict fact, true, then you do not have the required proof, and you must — not merely should, but must — keep your mouth shut.
In traditional moral philosophy, calumny is what Catholics used to call a “mortal sin” — something so bad that you go straight to Hell when you die if you haven’t repented . . . and you’re in for quite a stretch in Purgatory if you haven’t made reparation for saying such things. Calumny is a type of “detraction of another,” and is classed as “detraction of another,” a type of (believe it or not) murder.
Yes, murder — a sin that “cries to heaven for vengeance,” and for which reparation must be made. Ironically, calumny is almost impossible to make reparation for. Some saint or other made this point when a penitent came to him and confessed she was guilty of calumny, and didn’t seem to take it too seriously. He assigned her the penance of going up to the church bell tower and ripping open a pillow during a high wind, scattering the feathers to the four winds. She was then to come back to him for further instructions. She did so, and her further instructions were to gather up all the feathers again — thereby illustrating the difficulty of restoring someone’s reputation after you have ruined it.
So what’s this got to do with Pope Francis?
CESJ is not a Catholic or even religious organization, and we could be wrong, but doesn’t it seem to you as if maybe — just maybe — the anti-Francis hysteria is getting a little out of hand? Just a little? It’s as if you’re in line at the supermarket and you look at the headline of The National Barf, and it reads,
Anti-Francis Hysteria Hits New Heights (But Can Go Higher)
Believe it or not, that’s not an exaggeration. We’ve seen much worse than anything we could make up. For example, this is an actual headline:
Read the article if you’ve got a strong stomach, and you’ll notice that the article does not once quote Francis directly. Also, note the “related posts” seem to be slightly off the wall:
Biggest Threat to World Peace: Israel (Zionist) Controlling America
Israel to Nuke America & Blame Iran Conspiracy
America is Completely Owned & Ruled by Jews
Iran-Israel Fake Enemies Created to Deceive the World
And so on. We concluded that the article about Pope Francis may not be entirely objective or accurate. Then we saw a few more, e.g.,
and, of course,
Oh, wait. That last was in The Washington Post, a completely objective periodical without a single ax to grind.
Oddly enough, much of what has been said about Pope Francis was previously said about Leo XIII and other popes. As a result, many people fail to hear what Pope Francis actually is saying. They labeled him based on what others have said, and are either guilty of calumny or stupidity for not demanding proof — real proof — of what is said before passing judgment.