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 Duties Of Catholics Concerning Their Neighbours' Faults -JSD 
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New post Duties Of Catholics Concerning Their Neighbours' Faults -JSD
An old article which ought to be of interest to all in the present circumstances.

Duties Of Catholics Concerning Their Neighbours' Faults
by John S. Daly

With Two Appendices On The Virtue Of Patience In Respect Of Any Evils Which
May Befall Us Including Those Which Come From Our Neighbour

The sources for the following are: Father Faber's "Conference" on taking scandal; St. Thomas Aquinas - Summa Theologiae; Scupoli - Spiritual Combat; Scaramelli - Ascetical Directory; St. Francis de Sales - Introduction to the Devout Life; Thomas a Kempis - Imitation of Christ; Balmès - The Art of Arriving at the Truth; St. Alphonsus Liguori; St. John Chrysostom; and others.

We may:

Believe that our neighbour has committed a sin provided that the malice of the act on which we base our conviction is so clear, obvious and palpable that the act is susceptible of neither justification nor excuse. (D'Hauterive: Grand Cat., part 2, section 1, lesson 27, no.n.52)

When the occasion is suitable, and the sin is manifest, correct or reprove our neighbour.

Fly as from the plague from the company of overt and definite sinners.

Where the good of another makes it advisable, denounce a sinner whose culpability is certain, or make manifest our reasonable suspicions, with moderation, to people who need to be informed.

Enquire into the state of conscience of people over whom we have authority, for instance our minor children.

Evaluate the virtue or motives of our neighbour for a specific purpose, such as in order to decide if it is appropriate to employ him in a given capacity, on condition that we hold our conclusions only provisionally insofar as they do not reach the level of certainty.

Suspect the existence of a fault or a vice, or at least doubt the virtue of someone, if necessity obliges us to reflect on the matter and there exist sufficiently solid reasons for our conclusions.

Even report our suspicions to other people, with prudence and charity, for a sufficient reason.

We may not:

Believe that our neighbour is guilty of any sin whatsoever when another possibility exists.

Reprove someone for doubtful faults, or with severity when mildness is sufficient.

Treat someone as wicked until the charitable presumption of his goodness has been definitively refuted.

Defame someone without its being certain that what we are saying is true, nor even report a definite sin unless it is necessary to do so; neither may we reveal an unfounded suspicion or an exaggerated suspicion, nor indeed any suspicion at all without necessity.

Analyse, from the moral point of view, the acts and omissions of our neighbour unless we have authority over him.

"Take on the rôle of censors of our brothers; make a habit of, and take pleasure in, judging others unfavourably." (Bacuez and Vigoroux: Man. Bibl., N.T., n.293)

Generally evaluate the acts and omissions of our neighbour; assign motives, etc., without necessity, or more severely than is necessary.

Attribute to someone a bad motive where another motive, either a good one or a less bad one, is possible.

Believe that our neighbour has committed a sin when he is reported to have done so by people who have good reason for passing on the information and are entirely worthy of being believed.

Suspect the existence of a fault or vice in someone, or doubt his virtue, where we have the reasonable possibility of not forming a judgement or of forming a more favourable judgement.

Report suspicions that are not justified, do so too severely, or do so without necessity.

Attribute a bad motive where a good or less bad motive is possible.

Believe, or even listen to, evil reports of our neighbour coming from people who are not entirely trustworthy or have bad motives for passing on such things.

We ought:

To be too occupied by our own faults, and with the examination of our own conscience and the search for our own hidden and unknown sins, to be able to notice those of our neighbour.

To justify, minimise, mitigate or excuse every fault, real or apparent, of our neighbour.

To prefer to suppose even what appears very improbable rather than to believe ill of our neighbour, particularly of brothers in the Faith.

When faced with the manifest and certain faults or sins of our neighbour, to consider that we are guilty of similar or worse ones, or at least that we should be if we had the same temptations and did not have special graces from God; and to think that, if others judged us with the same liberty that we tend to allow ourselves in their regard, they would find in us more wickedness and with greater justice.

When faced with the manifest and certain sins of our neighbour, to find in them a motive to be more humble and to show him more charity.

We ought not:

To occupy ourselves with the state of the soul of our neighbour, his motives or the moral quality of his acts except to search therein for edification, unless we come across manifest and certain defects which demand our intervention.

To blame our neighbour more than we ourselves should naturally wish to be blamed for our faults.

To strive to be "objective" or "realistic" in evaluating the faults, real or apparent, of our neighbour.

To compare ourselves favourably with our neighbour, or our neighbour unfavourably with ourselves.

Ever to take scandal, lose our peace, or permit ourselves the least "commotion of the soul tending to separate us from good" (St. Thomas Aquinas - Summa Theologiae, II-II, q.43, a.5) because of the faults, real or imagined, of our neighbour.


Certain elements of Catholic doctrine on this subject do not lend themselves to this kind of presentation, and are now added:

1. It is false to think that we do not commit a sin in judging our neighbour guilty of some fault or another provided that our judgment be correct. In fact, the general rule that we must try always to believe what is true meets with an exception here (St. Thomas Aquinas - Summa Theologiae II-II, q.60, a.4) and we ought to prefer to believe well of our neighbour incorrectly than to believe ill correctly, unless the sin is evident and undeniable. There are three reasons for this:

(a) Charity requires us to lean in our neighbour's favour;

(b) Our vices hinder us from judging our neighbour correctly;

(c) We do not have jurisdiction (that is to say, the right to judge* ) over our neighbour, for which reason every adverse judgement that we make about him constitutes a usurpation of the rôle that God has reserved for Himself.

2. It is false that it is sufficient to forgive the faults that we notice in our neighbour, wish him well, and admit that we too have our faults and weaknesses. The malice of rash judgement consists in the fact of thinking ill of our neighbour where we have the possibility (a) of thinking or presuming good of him or (b) of putting the whole affair to one side by limiting ourselves to what concerns us or to what Providence has made known to us with certainty.

3. Rash judgement owes itself generally to pride, the most subtle of our spiritual enemies; it makes us trust excessively in our own judgement in all things, but is especially aroused by the Devil to draw our attention to the faults of our neighbour (Scupoli - Spiritual Combat, chapter 43).

4. The sins, faults and bad motives that we allow ourselves to attribute to our neighbour, without having the right to make these judgements, are very generally our own sins, faults and bad motives, which we are ourselves guilty of but have blinded ourselves to, although we should notice them very quickly if we devoted as much effort to examining our own conscience as we devote to usurping the right to examine that of our neighbour.

5. Even the most penetrating intellects are rarely right when they attribute such-and-such a sin or bad motive to their neighbour. Experience of rash judgements of which we ourselves have been the object on the part of other people ought to convince us that the truth is seldom what the human mind thinks it to be when its natural bitterness is not sweetened by charity, and when it encroaches on the authority of Him "who searches the heart and proves the reins" (Jeremias 17:10).

6. We shall ourselves be more severely judged according to the measure that we have judged our neighbour severely, and we shall be less severely judged according to the measure that we have closed our eyes to our neighbour's failings, excused his faults, and refused to believe what tends to his dishonour. But, what is more, solely on condition of not judging our neighbour at all, we ourselves shall not be judged at all! "In all the sacred books, is there a promise more marvellous than that?" asks Father Peter Gallwey S.J. in Watches of the Passion (vol.1, p.792).

7. To obtain this Divine promise - the promise that, at our judgement, the Devil, who is to accuse us of all the sins of our life, will not even for a moment be listened to - it is sufficient to follow this simple rule in respect of the faults of our neighbour: notice little, believe still less of what we hear, excuse promptly, acquit generously, and never condemn.

8. Certainly, however, we are not forbidden to think or speak of what is publicly known, if there is a proportionate reason, provided that we always spare our neighbour as much as possible. And certainly, too, we can discuss the manifest faults of our neighbour and even reflect on the motives for them, if it be with the intention of correcting them, or in order to assist ourselves in making a practical decision, on condition that we never forget that, even when a sin is manifest, its motives and the factors predisposing to its commission are often not manifest and would lend a far different appearance to the matter if they were.

9. Finally, the public enemies of God and of His Church have only the right to justice and truth; what charity moves us to give to others can, and often must, be refused them in order better to practise charity towards those whom such people might otherwise lead astray.

Appendix 1 on the virtue of patience


Textbook Of The Spiritual Life - Leading By An Easy And Clear Method
From The Beginning Of Conversion To The High-Point Of Holiness

Father Charles Joseph Morotius, Cistercian monk, theologian and preacher

Part Two, Chapter 8, Section 4

Patience and Its Associates, Longanimity and Equanimity

1. Patience is the virtue by which we bear the ills of this world in calmness of spirit so that on their account we are not unduly troubled or saddened inwardly, and do not allow ourselves to do anything wrong or unfitting. The ills of this life which patience bears are illnesses, exiles, mental anguish, disgrace, mockery, abuse, insults, calumnies, reproaches, hunger, thirst, cold, the deaths of parents and children, family and friends, massacres and public calamities, and other things of the same sort which generally befall every day. Longanimity is the part of patience that strengthens the spirit against the annoyance occasioned by delay in receiving something we look forward to. It differs from patience in bearing evils for a long time and awaiting consolation delayed for many days, months and years. Thus God is called longanimous because He tolerates our delays and hesitations while inviting us to repentance. Equanimity too is not a distinct virtue from patience, although it is thought to be especially concerned in moderating the annoyance which arises from the loss of exterior goods.

2. The proximate matter which patience is concerned with is the affliction of mind and sadness on account of the ills enumerated above: this virtue either entirely represses them or so controls them that they do not exceed the requirements of right reason. Hence the chief actions of patience are:

(i) To bear all the aforesaid ills calmly, willingly, cheerfully and with thanksgiving, and without any murmuring or complaint.

(ii) To bear these ills even blamelessly, and even if they are inflicted upon us by those who have received many benefits from us.

(iii) To ascribe all our troubles and hardships to the Divine will alone, no matter through whom they may arise.

(iv) Whenever we are pained or irritated, to turn to Jesus crucified as present, seeking patience from Him and offering Him all that we suffer.

(v) To offer oneself first thing every morning to God to suffer no matter what and to arouse an ardent desire in the soul to suffer all possible evils in imitation of Christ.

We have many occasions for exercising patience at almost every moment in putting up with the ills and losses which befall us in respect of our good reputation, life and external goods.

3. The marks of patience are:

(i) Calmly to bear the imperfections of others.

(ii) Not to give way to hatred when abused by our neighbour.

(iii) Not to murmur against Divine visitations.

(iv) Not to avoid the company of those who wrong us, but rather to seek them out, love them and pray for them.

(v) In any sickness to pray God to increase our suffering.

(vi) To be silent in the midst of wrongs, not to excuse oneself, but to commit everything to God after the example of Our Lord who, even when called upon to speak for Himself, preferred to remain silent.

Now who would not do everything in his power to exercise this virtue with the greatest care, considering the patience and longanimity of God who not only tolerates sinners with kindness but does not cease to heap the greatest benefits upon them? And does not the life of Christ and His most bitter passion furnish the supreme example of patience?

Neither should the example of the saints both of the Old and New Testaments, particularly of Job and Tobias and of the countless martyrs, be neglected. Moreover, if anyone will attentively consider the unspeakable torments of Hell which he has so often escaped from on account of the infinite mercy of God, will he not consider the inconveniences of this life, no matter how grave and painful, as of no importance, and treat them even as pleasures?

Finally, as the Apostle says, "Patience is necessary to you," (Hebrews 10:36), for it fortifies faith, governs peace, helps love, instructs humility, excites repentance, makes satisfaction for sins, curbs the tongue, afflicts the flesh, guards the spirit, perfects every virtue and endows us at the end of this life with blessed immortality: "For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Appendix 2 On The Virtue Of Patience

Sermon by the Rev. Oswald Baker dated 26th February 1995
entitled "Frustration and Patience".

St. Paul's account of his ordeals in the course of his Apostolic mission affords a lesson in forbearance, longsuffering, tenacity, equanimity, self-command, placidity, composure, benevolence, patience. Endless patience. "Man's anger does not bear the fruit that is acceptable to God" (James 1:19). He who loses his temper, loses. You always lose more than you gain when you give way to temper. Three minutes of rage will sap your strength more drastically than eight hours of work. It puts a terrific strain on your body. When you are angry, blood rushes to the major muscles of your arms and legs, and so you have increased physical strength. But your brain, lacking its full blood supply, is reduced in efficiency. This is why you speak and behave in an outlandish way. And you lose the respect of those who witness the explosion. Patience is a winner.

Suppose you are standing in a queue at a sale, and someone who has crowded into line just ahead of you buys the last of the articles on sale. What is your reaction? Horrible, pushing, greedy thing? I suppose I should have come earlier? Ah well, it doesn't really matter, she probably needs it more than I do?

Suppose the telephone jars you awake when you are having a lie-in, and it turns out to be someone trying to sell you something you don't want. Is your reaction: Stupid nuisance? I suppose I really ought not to lie in bed all morning? It's nothing to be upset about; it's his job?

If somebody borrowed a raincoat from you and returned it badly stained, is your feeling: That's the last time I lend her anything? I suppose I ought not to have lent her anything that soils so easily? She wouldn't notice it was soiled; she'd have had it cleaned?

If an acquaintance passes you without speaking, do you think: Now what's upset the mardy thing? I suppose I should have spoken to her first? She probably had something on her mind and just didn't see me?

You see the pattern in the three kinds of reaction? In the first, you blame the other person and become resentful. In the second you blame yourself. In the third you blame nobody; you may be embarrassed, but you are not angry. The first kind of disposition is called extrapunitive, inclined to blame others. The second is intrapunitive, blaming self for one's frustrations. The third is impunitive, assigning no blame and trying to ignore frustration. The life of virtue requires us to strive always for the second or third, blame self or blame nobody. It is good, and necessary, to reflect, and ascertain what kind of incidents most readily cause you to feel frustrated, and how you handle such situations. Frustrations are an inescapable part of life, and how you react to them is a key to your character. If you are dissatisfied with your environment, your job, your associates, even your dear ones, you might, perhaps, cast about for someone to blame, whereas the possible cause one should first investigate is the immaturity or other inadequacy of oneself. Perhaps you do not adjust well to life in general. Consider these questions: are you inconsistent in your behaviour? Are you emotionally stable? Have you an unwarranted feeling of insecurity? Do you think you strive to give rather than obtain satisfaction? Are you ostentatious? Do you think you have a satisfactory sense of humour?

Our life on earth is a warfare, and in every sphere we must expect to meet with trial, adversity, reverses, all of which can be utilised for our good by the virtue of patience. If we would acquire the equanimity and composure conducive to patience, three reflections. (i) How little is what we have to endure, in comparison with what we have deserved by our sins. If this fails to move us, we must pray for a keener sense of sin, and ask Our Lord to eliminate in us all trace of complacency, conceit and humbug. (ii) Consider the exemplary patience of our Saviour and the suffering He endured for our sins in the course of His Passion and Death. (iii) We must fix our mind on the holy Will of God, Who sends us trials for our greater good, Who knows what is best for us, and ordains all for the best if we resign ourselves to His loving care.

* Certain authors make an exception in the case of a manifest sin (for instance, St. Augustine); others, such as St. Francis de Sales, think that the precept of not judging does not admit any exception, but rather that it is not, properly speaking, a "judgement" if we notice, despite ourselves, what is so evident that nothing can conceal it.

In Christ our King.

Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:26 am
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New post Re: Duties Of Catholics Concerning Their Neighbours' Faults
Pax Christi !

This is one of the most profound posts I have ever read.

John Daly- Many thanks !

In Xto,

Sun Jul 01, 2012 9:28 am

Joined: Tue Sep 20, 2011 12:31 am
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Location: Moscow, Idaho, U.S.A.
New post Re: Duties Of Catholics Concerning Their Neighbours' Faults
Absolutely beautiful!

Sigh.... put it in practice...

Kenneth G. Gordon

Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:26 am
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