Fr. Robert Bengry: The Duty of Reparation

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that every offence committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation. This duty of reparation also concerns offences against another person’s reputation. 

Have you harmed someone’s reputation?

The Catechism teaches us that respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. The question here, I suppose, is your definition of what would be ‘unjust’. It’s worth thinking and praying about because I think many in an age where anyone can publish anything (and find an audience for it) have lost sight of what is just and what is unjust.

To help in this area, one can think about the sin of rash judgement: do you, even tacitly, assume as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbour? Do you think “I read it on the internet” or “I heard it from some guy who says he knows” is a sufficient foundation? Have you ever spoken to the person himself? or is your information second and third hand? Is the excuse “he wrote something bad about me and so I’ll write something bad about him” justification?

Are you guilty of detraction by disclosing another person’s faults and failings (even if they are true) to persons who did not know them — without objectively valid reason? What would be an example of an ‘objectively valid reason’? 

To avoid rash judgment, and detraction, the Catechism tells us that “everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbour’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favourable way”. St. Ignatius wrote:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favourable 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.

The internet has become a place for many to forget their Christian obligation to love one’s neighbour. If even done in jest, the things we publish on-line hurt real people. How often is that truly justified? I think very rarely. What do you think?

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The photo above is of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, Harrisville (no longer there) near to the old Bengry homestead. This was my double great Grandmother’s parish. The Bengry’s were CofE but there were a few Catholics peppered here and there. My own mother was a convert to the faith and although I was raised Catholic, I had a spiritual awakening in my late 20s and found myself at an Anglo-Catholic parish. But God is patient! and he finally brought me back to where I started and where I should have been all along! It needs to be said though, that God can use even our lost and wandering years to His glory and I am so grateful to Him for showing me the way home patiently and lovingly and little by little. Fr. Bengry

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The photograph: From the Robert Shane Bengry collection. Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved.