Thursday, March 16, 2017

One of the Top Ten

A Boston Globe column writer recently described a firestorm of digital accusations and unkind remarks about a female public servant from a small town in the Boston area. Accusations of wrong doing, insults and other negativity filled the lady's hometown Facebook page. Without fact-checking their postings, several people assumed the worst and defamed their town's hard-working councilwoman. Writers assumed the worst instead of fact-checking the event. The lady in question was near another small town which had just suffered a destructive tornado. Since that town's administrator was out of state, this lady stepped in and helped organize rescue and rebuilding efforts. The lady in question did what she did at the cost of sacrifice without receiving pay. She called her boss and asked to make the day she spent helping another town as a "sick day" not a paid work day. People who sent nasty messages to the town's Facebook page implied that the council woman was spending their town's money on another town which in their opinion was an unpardonable offense. Without informing themselves of the realities of the woman's motives and her communications with her own boss, she was being painted as a quasi-criminal stealing from her fellow citizens. To me it sounded like a bit much. Yet in today's volatile social climate it is a sad reality that one of the Top Ten, The Ten Commandments, Number 8 has been transgressed. This is how the 8th Commandment is worded: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16) In ordinary parlance it is translated, "Don't lie about your neighbor. Rather, tell the truth." How many times have I blurted out something which I soon later regretted! From my own experience as well as what others have said, mistakes such as white lies, or blatant big lies, come from not thinking enough. For Lent I one of my resolves is to think about what I am going to say, and how I say it, write it, or record it, or send it out on the Internet. A Maryknoll priest stationed in China shared his homily online. Here is part of it:
In ancient Greece, Socrates [470-399 BC] said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He said that when he was on trial, facing the death penalty. He could have kept his mouth shut and lived longer, but he wanted people to live better. He kept asking his fellow citizens in Athens what they were doing and why. It is annoying when people challenge us to think. Thinking is hard work. People prefer to speak without thinking and to act without thinking. Socrates. believed in an afterlife. He did not know much about the One God, but at least he knew that death is not the end of everything.(From the Sunday Homily of Father Michael Sloboda, MM, 3/12/17)
Thinking before we speak can indeed be a penance. It's far easier to speak spontaneously and passionately. But, then we may have to symbolically "pick up the pieces" left by our unscripted speech or writing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a great statement about truth telling:
Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and guarding against duplicity; dissimulation, and hypocrisy... Respect for the reputation and honor of persons forbids all detraction and calumny in words or attitude. (CCC, nos, 2505 and 2507)
When I read the Globe article I reflected about my own social media use. At times my Facebook page gets filled with various rants against elected officials, or Hollywood personalities, or Bishops, and even against the Holy Father. Thankfully, there is an "X" option. I do not forward nastiness or lies. For every "You shall not" commandment, there is a "a shall do" element. If I do not lie about someone, I speak well of them. Or, I remain silent. Lawyers unfortunately are often judged as sly and even dishonest. However lawyers deal with the law, and with truth. They need to defend what is true. Often gathering evidence to prove the truthfulness of their case requires hours of research and reams of paper, and expensive copy maker use. Pope Saint John Paul II referred to St. Thomas More as a Patron Saint of those who defend the truth, especially Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers.
When we make our daily examination of conscience, a quick review of The Top Ten/The Ten Commandments and how we observe them helps to clear our hearts of daily spiritual debris. And, if we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Top Ten help us to find some material to bring to our Confession. I pray that your Lent is progressing well. God bless you!

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