Gossip, even if true, is frowned upon in Judaism. In a sense, it is worse than theft, for in the latter case, one can return the stolen item to the rightful owner and, by doing so, make amends, while in the case of gossip, impugning the reputation and good name of another person cannot be undone so easily. A careless word about another has further ramifications since gossip and rumor are likely to spread way beyond the confines of the gossiper and target. Those who are silent witnesses to gossiping may be implicated in the sinful behavior as well.
I have always felt this is a mischaracterization, in spite of recent comments from the Holy Father that seem to support this approach. Instead, I think that gossip is like any other form of communication - it can be used for good or ill. Since we don’t always know how it will be used, it’s wise to be prudent when we share gossip.
A couple examples I’ve heard or shared in recent months:
“I heard that Pope Francis carried his own luggage onto the plane… imagine being a member of the curia used to having others tote your bags; you wouldn’t dare do that now with all the photographers on the tarmac as you follow Francis up the stairs.”
Potential negative effects: It casts Francis as a bit impulsive in not following the traditional way things have been done, makes it look like he doesn’t care if the curia is uncomfortable and on the spot, and reinforces the idea that the curia are a privileged class that is insulated from normal daily life. But Francis has pretty firmly projected most of this in his other actions, is a master communicator, and so this is basically reinforcing the message he has tried to deliver through his other actions.
“Did you know Jane got a warning from the boss for not doing the daily paperwork?”
In this case everyone knew Jane was a good employee, and that the daily paperwork was often ignored by every employee if other duties were pressing, so it didn’t paint Jane in a bad light. I suppose some could use it as more evidence of the capricious nature of the boss, but it is expected that company priorities will change, and sometimes the boss will tighten up enforcement of rules if that’s required. Instead, the effect was simply to warn Jane’s coworkers about the change in enforcement, making them less likely to get in trouble, making it less likely the boss would need to intervene, and thus making the workplace more efficient, exactly what the boss wanted.
In reply to the above to develope my understanding
Why would one want to tell another about the habits of particular person or something he did (carry his own lugage) unless he wanted to cast a good light (okay) or cast a bad light (not okay)
So yes converstation is not sinful yet all conversation is direct towards an end is it not therefore talking about someone carrying lugage in the form of gossip not directed towards needed understanding can only lead to a negative light.
As for Jane employess could have been simplied told to do the paper work or you will get talked too as one of your fellow workers have been caught not doing their paper work
There is no need to gossib about something Jane did. The employess do not need to hear gossip about a specific person only general situation.
This cast Jane in a negative light regradless of what peoples opinion of her were before. No one can know that everyone would her this as something not hurtful or know that everyone knew Jane was a good employee.
Someone, possibly one of the saints, was trying to compare gossip to having a stack of papers and a wind comes by and blows them all away. Trying to correct gossip, after the fact, would be like going back and trying to find, and pick up, each and every one of those papers wherever it had gone.
Where did you get that? Is it quoted from an authoritative source?
Here is what the Catechism has to say: 2477Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
[INDENT]- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them. 2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:
Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. 2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.[/INDENT]
I don’t see that the Catechism calls it gossip, but clearly the terms used above, rash judgment, detraction, and calumny, apply to the more harmful kinds of communication (talk, email/text, facebook, etc.) that we might call gossip.
In this case I shared it with someone because I found it an amusing anecdote about Francis’s boldness of style. While I consider it slightly more positive than negative, I could see how some might take it negatively. Overall, I considered this gossip to be neither positive nor negative, but neutral. However, I had no qualms about sharing it in person or here online because it was so consistent with other actions that Francis was sharing with the world that I considered it “pre-approved.”
Actually, in this case the person sharing it knew that the small group I was a part of all did respect Jane as a good employee, and this was what made the message more relevant - if Jane could get in trouble for this, everyone else had better shape up. I assume the gossiper and others were not so careless as to share this in other departments where people did not know Jane as well. On the other hand, if the gossiper had done it in the way you suggest, people would naturally be playing the guessing game: “I bet it was Tom, he’s had a few brushes with trouble before.” Jane, although she was gone for a couple weeks, did not mind that the episode was shared, as most of us have shared our own experiences to help provide guidance for coworkers in dealing with other departments, clients, etc. Most of these anecdotes would properly be classified as gossip, but the information is invaluable in helping us anticipate problems and perform our jobs more effectively. So this is a case where gossip is promoting harmony by helping us better understand our neighbors.
I think this extends to family and relatives as well. When I was younger, I naturally idolized my grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. More recently, various relatives have shared with me gossip about events and disagreements from long ago. I am glad they did not heed the admonition to “not speak ill of the dead”. This gossip has
*]Helped me better understand the dynamics of my extended family, and appreciate the reasons for what I thought had been simple stubbornness by some relatives
*]Allowed me to see that the relatives did not lead lives of unreachable sanctity, but instead trod a similar path to my own
*]Allowed me to imagine myself in their shoes so I can use them as very real examples to try to emulate in many cases, but avoid their mistakes in others.
*]Made me grateful that in spite of difficulties they may have had with themselves and others, they shared so much love with me.
I hope that when I am gone others will be willing to gossip about me, so that those listening may learn from my life and hopefully be able to live theirs better.
I think “why are we sharing this” is a good question to ask. Here’s an example:
If I share my mother’s faults with someone else in order to gain advice on my own situation and insight into some of the thought patterns I’ve learned, I am not gossiping. Even though it may reflect badly on her, I am sharing with the purpose of finding some legitimate good out of the situation.
If I share my mother’s faults with someone else in order for them to look at her and say “oh what a bad person,” or so I can puff myself up for “dealing with her”, then I am committing a sin. That is what gossip is - sharing the negative about someone else for the purpose of putting them down or putting yourself up.
GOSSIP. Idle talk, especially about others. The morality of gossip is determined by the degree to which time is wasted in useless conversation, by the failure in justice or charity committed against others, and by the damage done to people’s reputation by those who gossip.
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