Truth and Charity in Discourse

Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl published a column in his archdiocese's newspaper on the importance of truth and love in Christian discourse. Speaking to the importance of presenting truth, through a lens of charity, in all our discourse, the newly elevated Cardinal writes:

We are called to a higher level of respect for the truth and for each other than is often witnessed on some radio and television talk shows. The intensity of one's opinion is not the same as the truth. Speaking out of anger does not justify falsehood. Frustration or disappointment does not condone a lack of charity. The Catechism reminds us, "respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury" and calls "rash judgment," "detraction" and "calumny" offenses against truth (2477).


Wuerl's comments certainly apply to a broad range of media, and perhaps bloggers, and the concomitant commenting classes, would do well to pay special attention. Read the entire piece here.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tom Maher
7 years 8 months ago
"Christian discourse"?  What a strange comment.   As if Catholics were big participants in public affairs and their speech and thoughts needed to be tempered and controlled.  Why most other groups urge their members to boldly paticipate and speak up on public affairs.  Catholics are being told to be very careful; and inhibited in their speech.  Speech is dangerous you might say something in the heat of debate that is not quite tfue or complete.  How awful.   Better to ramin auite and "mind your business".  It not your place to speak up, you might risk saying something incorrect.   

Ironically this perfectionistic standard is what a southern sheriff in the 1960s sued civil rights groups for insisting that speech crticizing him be exactly and perfectly true.  Initially the sheriff won liable suits against people who criticized the Sheriff's handling of his job.   However on appeal the U.S. Supreme  Court in a milestone free speech case, NY Times vs Sullivan of 1964, corrected this obsession with perfection by allowing speech not intentionally in reckless disregard to the truth or intentionally and  materially false and malicious, very high standard of proof that are extremely difficult to prove.   The Supreme Court did not want rigid standards that would have a "chilling effect" of preventing free speech criticism of public officials or public figures.    

Catholics should not be inhibited by a need to be perfect in speaking up on public affairs. 
7 years 8 months ago
Tim, I agree with you; however, my point was simply that certain bloggers have a tendency to post inflammatory rhetoric (considering that this is a Catholic magazine) and then condem the commenters for a percieved "lack of charity" when they do not like the response.

Perhaps a minority of these posts are uncharitable to Catholic thought/tradition, and it is the commenters who are being charitable in their retorts?

That said, I do enjoy much of the other posts on the blog/magazine and understand your position - but I guess that is the joys of being a web editor ;)
7 years 8 months ago
Dose this mean we will not see any ad hominems by the authors here?  No snide remarks about Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck or whatever cleric or politician is out of favor with certain groups now?  No references to ''right wing'' anything?  No calling someone a whacko?

That would be a plus and maybe a chance to discuss and hear opinions that do not resonate with the choir in this particular church.
7 years 8 months ago
Right, being critical of the America blog authors and holding them to account for the agenda that they are pushing (while claiming neutrality) is not being uncharitable as such.
7 years 8 months ago
Perhaps neutrality if the wrong word, but I am speaking of the passive aggressive stance that many of your bloggers take in attacking Catholic teaching - esp. by Mr. O'Loughlin and Fr. Martin.

These contributors regularly post pro-homosexual material and then claim that critical responses (usually heated but respectful) to this view are "uncharitable".  This is dishonest and it is simply a way for liberal Catholics to try to silence opposition by calling them, more or less, "un-Christian."

A similar move is used in the secular world (with out the reference to theological virtues, of course) - any opponent of same-sex marriage is called "homophobic" - i.e. they have a phobia - an irrational fear that should be treated by a professional and therefore their opposition is null and void.  This is despite the fact there are many legitimate rational secular and religious reasons to oppose such social changes.

It is a demonization of the opposition while claiming the high ground  and normalcy for your particular view (or neutrality...)

David Cruz-Uribe
7 years 8 months ago
Since Cardinal Wuerl has a blog, one obvious explanation is he reads the comments (or has them summarized for him) from his blog.  And having read the comments on Archbishop Dolan's blog out of NY, I am sure the good cardinal has been excoriated, misinterpreted and otherwise vilified by both his enemies and his erstwhile friends. 
7 years 8 months ago
see Nicholas Lasch's article here and the idea of "dissent" which permeates the division and damage in many posts.
Liam Richardson
7 years 8 months ago
America tolerates far more dissenting comments than, say, Fr. Z.
Marie Rehbein
7 years 8 months ago
I think how something is said is considered more significant than what is said.  I know all my comments regarding the death penalty were accepted even though the editors obviously did not share my perspective.  Some people, though, take personal offense when their opinion is at odds with that of the editors.
7 years 8 months ago
PS - I do not want to give the impression that I am questioning the loyality or service to the Church of someone like Fr. Martin - because it is unquestionable; however, I think I can question his judgement on some of these issues and be well within the limits of charity.
Bill Mazzella
7 years 8 months ago
The way Tim and Bruce dialogued is a good example of how to disagree agreeably. If we are honest both sides can get out of hand. Usually the heat rises when others ridicule one's point of view. We are living in a new age where the authority of the magisterium is not enough to settle issues even of faith and morals. Nor does that mean that the Vatican can not be a very constructive mechanism for bringing all Christians together. We have to realize that the Reformation and Counter Reformation are over and that Christians are reaching out to each other beyond dogmatic lines and seeing that the Beatitudes trumps everything. So the heat will continue at different highs and lows. If we are peacemakers we will get through it.


The latest from america

 A photo panel shows Pennsylvania Bishops Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown, Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg and Lawrence T. Persico of Erie. The Pennsylvania attorney general released a grand jury report Aug. 14 on a months-long investigation into abuse claims spanning a 70-year period in the six dioceses. (CNS photo/courtesy of the dioceses)
The state’s attorney general said that his office’s two-year investigation identified 301 priests who abused children and more than 1,000 victims.
One of the leading novelists of our age on faith, fiction and his distrust of religious institutions.
James T. KeaneAugust 14, 2018
Panel members Ivor Frank and Alexis Jay at a public hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (courtesy of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse)
The new report finds evidence of appalling sexual and physical mistreatment of students as young as 7, as well as a culture of secrecy, at two abbey schools.
David StewartAugust 14, 2018
The Gospel calls on all of us to get past “analysis paralysis,” where direct action is always put off in favor of more research and discernment.
Mary M. McConnahaAugust 14, 2018