The sacrament of penance. Some facts on the sins of detraction and calumny.
Are calumny and detraction forbidden by the eighth commandment? Yes, and also tale bearing, and any words or actions which injure our neighbour's character. Calumny is saying something wicked against our neighbour which we know to be false (slander / libel). Detraction is telling (or writing) something against him which is true but not known. Both calumny and detraction are mortal sins, if we do grave injury to our neighbour's character, and before God will forgive us, we must repair the evil if we can: but this is much more difficult than restoring stolen property. Tale bearing is telling someone what others are saying about him. Back biting and the betraying of secrets are forbidden by this commandment.
This sin of detraction, the lessening of our neighbour's reputation, is an act of injustice towards him. This sin is the one most frequently met with. "Rarely" says St. Jerome "do we find anyone who is not ready to blame his neighbours conduct", this comes from pride, for many people imagine they exalt themselves in proportion as they decry others. Detraction is a hateful sin. It is an ugly and shameful thing to do. Mud should be covered over, not stirred up, for no one can touch it without defiling himself. "Oh fool" Exclaims St Alphonsus "Thou dost disclaim against the sin of another, and meanwhile by evil speaking (and writing), dost commit a far greater sin than that thy blamest in thy neighbour". Besides the detractor in disclosing the faults of another, discloses his own, for he shows that he has no charity.
It forbids all false testimony, rash judgement and lies. False testimony means giving false evidence in a court of law. Rash judgement means forming or expressing an evil opinion of someone without sufficient grounds. A lie involves the deliberate deception of another by telling him what we know to be false. Lies told in jest or to offer an excuse are small lies. Lies which do serious harm to a person's reputation are grave lies.
The forgiveness of sin.
There is no man upon earth without sin; consequently there is none who does not need the forgiveness of sin. If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us. God permits us to fall into venial sin again and again, to keep us humble. As we sin daily, we must daily ask for the forgiveness of sin in the Our Father. Without the succour of special grace it is impossible to avoid venial sin for any length of time.
We can obtain forgiveness of sin, because Christ merited it for us by the death of the cross; and because He gave power to forgive sins to His apostles and their successors.
There is nothing more consoling for mankind upon earth than the forgiveness of sins, for nothing causes us more misery than sin. Even in pagan times Socrates looked forward hopefully to the advent of a mediator who would teach mankind in what manner remission of sins was to be obtained. Christ earned the grace of forgiveness for us by His sacred Passion and death upon the cross. Christ is the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sins of the world; in Him we have redemption through His blood, the remission of sins. Christ is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. Christ conferred the power to forgive sins only upon the Apostles and their successors. He himself exercised this power when He healed the paralytic He said expressly "That you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, I say unto thee, take up thy bed and go". This same power which He possessed Our Lord gave to the holy apostles, when after His resurrection He said to them: "receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained".
In the Catholic Church alone is remission of sins, for she alone has received the Holy Ghost as a pledge of this grace.