When is gossip a mortal sin?

Can someone please help me determine how gossip can be a mortal sin? I can certainly see how it can be, but im having trouble determining this. For example, would talking about why a fellow student got called down to the principle’s office constitute a mortal sin? For it to be mortal, would you have to have an intent to seriously harm the person gossiped about? and would they have to be seriously harmed (reputation wise) in order for it to be mortal? In other words, if someone’s reputation wasnt seriously harmed, and if I had no intent to harm, is it a sin? I find it hard to avoid this type of stuff while being in school, and I often find myself un-noticelingly or non-chalantly informing people rather than gossiping, would this constitute a sin? mortal or venial? keep in mind that none of this stuff is that serious, perhaps the most serious thing would be the example involving the principle i stated above. Deep down I think im being too scrupulous, but my scrupulosity is telling me the opposite.

My own “gossip meter”, if you will, is whether or not what it is that I’m saying about someone I would like said about me. Obviously anything that degrades the dignity of an individual would not be welcomed for yourself nor for another.

if you are passing on detrimental information about another person, to people who have no need or right to know, it is the sin of detraction, a sin against the 5th commandment, and if it is untruthful, also a sin against the 8th commandment. Idle chatter about other people, and passing on information just for thrill of having information others do not possess, is ego gratification and a sin against the first commandment. (got this from Father’s examination of conscience he led the HS kids in last night at our penance service).

I understand all this, ive been going over this for hours, and browsing this subject with the search button. what I said wasnt untruthful. Im just going crazy over this and having another scrupulous attack. the situation basically went like this
I was in class, and someone in the class got called down to the principles office. Afterwards just as idle talk me and some friends were talking, and I mentioned it. I had no intention of harming the person and the person’s reputation wasnt harmed. So is this a mortal sin?

ask yourself: why am I indulging in idle talk with my friends about third parties who are not present? never mind is it moral, is it wise? is it kind? would I like to have them talking about me this way? is it useful speech? could we be spending our time together in more beneficial ways? is this building us up or tearing us down? do we not have anything in our minds except concerns about the minor actions of other people, or anything interesting going on in our lives that we have to get our satisfaction in gossiping about others? should we not think about getting a life?

If the fellow student is so driven to despair by constant gossiping that he kills himself, it would have been a mortal sin. If consequences are less serious it might still be a very grave sin, but not fatal.
The problem is that he might not forgive you. So then it is not possible that both of you should enter heaven until the situation is resolved.

i know this is an old line of discussion, but i am hoping someone has some words of wisdom, insight for me:
i am wondering about telling not nice truths to others about a person who is telling lies about me. This person continues to hurt me by telling people who are my friends or people of influence untruths about me so that i am shut out of groups, activities, etc. It is very hurtful and i know my pride is getting involved. My name is all i have as well.
So, i have tried to explain to others who tell me when things like this are being done to/about me, that this person is untrustworthy and given them examples of when they have lied, cheated, or done evil things (even though they come across so nice) to me and to others. So, that they will not believe or trust what this person says any longer.
My heart says i should not say anything about this person, and i usually do not talk about others and am very good about any type of personal secrets. i don’t want to go against charity.
But, this situation with this one particular person, who has hurt me and continues to do so, is a problem for me and i constantly find myself having to defend myself by revealing them. What do you think of this dilemma? It is a thorn in my side for sure. i have tried and tried but the difficulty is that this person continues to harm my relationships with friens - who once she talkes to them, no longer talk to me and avoid me. i suppose you could say that they are revealed as not true friends and that is the good that comes out of this bad? That is the only thing i can think of. Other than offering it up, turning the other check, etc.
But, then, i hear of another thing they did about/to me, and i’ll slip up again. sigh

I still don’t get why you are talking about this with these people sitting next to you. Are you all friends together, and you were just making idle chat that the person who was sent to the principal’s office wouldn’t care about and will probably be a topic of public disussion WITH your friend for the next five days? or are these random kids sitting next to you that you are chatting nonchalantly about your friend’s business?

Not only do you use the guideline of, “would I mind if it were me in the principal’s office and they were gossiping about me?” but you would also use the guideline of, “will my friend mind me discussing her business with these others?”. Because the two are different you know. I tend to be more open about my business, but my brother is really reclusive. So the two perspectives are different and both need to be respected. What is not serious to you may humiliate your friend and vice versa. Everyone has their pet peeves, yours is definitely not being gossiped about. But you need to respect others that do mind it.

So…does your friend know you told others her business? Does she mind? How did she react? Is it a secret because you know she’d get upset?

I dunno, where I come from, you don’t talk about your friends. That’s part of what separates friends from non-friends.

You would have to ask a priest about absolutes, but I would think (and this is MOHO, not a Church teaching) that if you are doing it purposely to hurt someone, I would consider it a mortal sin. If you’re doing it because you need to some practice exercising restraint, then I’d say it was a venial sin. But if you continue doing it with full knowledge that you should not, and that it bothers people, then it can be mortal sin again. Learning how to keep your mouth shut while in school is part of growing up, I’m afraid :hug1: It’s called learning how to be descreet and believe me grown ups know how valuable descretion is.

Talking about people, whether it’s the truth or not, or whether harm is intended or not, is still sinful. You have an obligation to live by a higher standard in not just words, but in actions as well.

I am speaking from personal experience: I have been where you are while in high school. People spread bad rumors about me that weren’t true and it was horrible. I had a horrible time in high school and I thought everyone hated me. It was painful, so I know what you’re going though. So I developed a chip on my shoulder and had an “I don’t care, what are you going to do about it” attitude. One day, I was in gym class, and I was made to play volleyball. I hate volleyball >_< Anyway, I was put in a team of course. And I refused to participate because I was an angry teenager with a chip on my shoulder and thought everyone hated me. When the ball came to me, I ignored it and cost my team a point. And someone on the team angrily told me that she thought all those rumors were lies, but now she sees they’re right about me. Well that was an eye opener for me. I never thought about what I reflected back to the people around me. I didn’t play volleyball still that day, and I was still angry and had attitude, but I was more coopertive when I had to interact with people after that.

The point is, people will eventually judge you by your actions, even if they’re thinking about the gossip surrounding you. What do you want them to see by your actions? If you wanted them to describe you by three words, what would they be? what would it look like, and how would you project it?

Retaliating by telling lies about them will taint you. And not only will it taint you, but it doesn’t help your situation. And not only that, everyone gets caught when they lie eventually, which will destroy your credibility in the midst of the lies that people are telling about you. So I really discourage you doing that. Stick to the truth.

As to the person who is lying about you. Can you not just avoid her? Just be civil, and interact with her as little as possible. Ignore rumors unless directly asked about them. When asked about them, just answer truthfully and keep it short and sweet. Don’t talk about the person who started the rumor, keep the topic on you. Your friends will be your friends and will stand by you. Those who are so easily influenced by gossip aren’t friends and you don’t need them. Yes I know it hurts, but it’s part of growing up. Surround yourself with people who will help draw you up, not drag you down.

Another person’s forgiveness is not required for you to be saved.

If you commit a mortal sin but go to Confession and make a sincere confession you will be absolved.

There are three fonts (sources) of morality.
An act has objectively grave matter if any one font is gravely disordered, i.e. gravely contrary to the love of God and neighbor.
If any one font is grave matter, the act is an objective mortal sin.
No matter how good the other two fonts may be, the act cannot be less than an objective mortal sin.

  1. intention - If the intention in gossiping is to do grave harm to your neighbor, then the matter is grave. Any intention that is entirely incompatible with the love of God and neighbor is a gravely immoral intention.

  2. moral object - The act itself of gossiping is not gravely disordered. Some gossiping is only a venial sin, and other gossiping is a mortal sin. Whether or not gossiping is intrinsically evil depends on how you define it. If by gossiping you mean merely repeating truths about a neighbor that are somewhat detrimental, it would not be intrinsically evil. But if it is defined as speaking evil about your neighbor, then it would be intrinsically evil, but not always mortal. Similarly, lying is intrinsically evil, but not always a grave matter.

  3. consequences - If the gossiping can be reasonably anticipated to have bad consequence that gravely outweigh any good consequences, then the matter would be grave.

Does this mean the sin of detraction may be a sin of grave matter or may be a venial sin?

It seems to me the true test of whether or not something is gossip is this: Would you say it if the subject of the gossip was there to hear it? Most of the time, the answer is no, and so it is gossip, and therefore it should not be said.

Detraction refers to revealing what is true about someone, but is known to be harmful to reveal. So the second font is good; revealing a truth. And there may be some good consequences to revealing this truth, such as to warn others about a danger to body or soul. The bad consequences to the person’s reputation must be considered, for a person who is guilty of sin might have repented, or might soon repent; so revealing the sins of others is not necessarily good. Therefore, detraction is not intrinsically evil, and may be either moral, if the good consequences outweigh the bad, or a venial sin, if the bad consequences outweigh the good (but not to a grave extent), or mortal, if one anticipates that the bad consequences will gravely outweigh the good.

"Detraction is the unjust damaging of another’s good name by the revelation of some fault or crime of which that other is really guilty or at any rate is seriously believed to be guilty by the defamer.

“An important difference between detraction and calumny is at once apparent. The calumniator says what he knows to be false, whilst the detractor narrates what he at least honestly thinks is true. Detraction in a general sense is a mortal sin, as being a violation of the virtue not only of charity but also of justice. It is obvious, however, that the subject-matter of the accusation may be so inconspicuous or, everything considered, so little capable of doing serious hurt that the guilt is not assumed to be more than venial.”

On the other hand, calumny is “the unjust damaging of the good name of another by imputing to him a crime or fault of which he is not guilty.” So calumny includes the sin of lying, in the second font, and adds the sinful intention in the first font to damage the reputation of the other person. “the sin may be venial, either because of the trivial character of the subject-matter involved or because of insufficient deliberation in the making of the accusation. Objectively, a calumny is a mortal sin when it is calculated to do serious harm to the person so traduced.”

Gossip is always a venial sin when you mean to pass in information you have received, either as confidential from your source, or by accident, which the people you are speaking with have no right to know. This is because gossip by definition is passing on information about someone in order to show that you possess some secret or new info and want to feel important by sharing it.

Gossip becomes a mortal sin when the damage done by that revelation is grave, or when it moves beyond telling what you know, into telling what you guess, surmise, fantasize, and elaborate that is detrimental to the person. The actual sin is the sin of detraction, relating information that puts someone in a bad light to people who have no need to know.

Telling your friend’s parent that she is thinking about suicide is not detraction or gossip because the parent has a need to know and it is a matter of possibly saving a life. Telling a couple of your mutual close friends may not be wrong if you want their help in approaching the parent, keeping an eye on her, helping her. But telling the whole lunchroom, or telling in a way that you know the information will be spread around is sinful, and becomes gravely sinful when your intent is to put her in a bad light.

Even the habit of sharing every bid of casual information you have about people can become sinful if you are doing it to appear important, to have the inside track, to influence the people you are speaking to, or someother unworthy intention.

OOOPS sorry I did it again, jumped back into an old thread, sorry

Gossip can be defined in a variety of ways, some sinful and some not. Using “information others wouldn’t want me sharing” as a definition, it is generally a venial sin, unless you have some proportionate reason to share it (but then it wouldn’t be gossip).

Detraction is revealing a fault of another that you don’t have any right to reveal. It can be a venial or mortal sin. As a general rule, in the past it was if a venial fault was revealed, it would be venial; if a grave fault was revealed, it would be mortal. I’m not so sure that this still holds today, since what was once considered a reputation-destroying serious sin could now be something that, although still seriously sinful, does not harm a person’s reputation. However, one disclosure of information is sometimes all it takes to “murder” a person’s name, and done with all the usual prerequisites of mortal sin, it would be mortal.

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

  • 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.

as to if detraction is mortal…

for a mortal sin one needs a grave matter, full knowledge and full consent.

if one of these is lacking it is not mortal.

an example of a grave matter would be – telling that the person is a closet active homosexual …without good reason (like protecting someone) …

and then one would need to have full knowledge and give full consent …at the time of the act.

an example of a venial matter would perhaps be that you heard the person lie about her age…that she said she is 59 when she is really 60 and you tell someone this without good reason.

if it is serious it is mortal like did u hear that this guy killed someone or other bad stuff. i have a question, do ALL sins go under the 10 commandments?


Examination of conscience:


Regarding the “broad subject of gossip” catholicreference.net/index.cfm?id=33786

(detraction was already referenced which gossip often is…)