Pope Francis said Sunday that gossiping is a “plague worse than COVID” that is seeking to divide the Catholic Church. Francis strayed from his prepared text to double down on his frequent complaint about gossiping within church communities and even within the Vatican bureaucracy. Pope Francis didn’t give specifics during his weekly blessing but went on at some length to say the devil is the “biggest gossiper” who is seeking to divide the church with his lies. “Please brothers and sisters, let’s try to not gossip,” he said. “Gossip is a plague worse than COVID. Worse. Let’s make a big effort: No, gossiping!”
These series of articles are about Sunday Thoughts and have a few religious aspects to them, but when it comes to gossip, do we really need to draw on a moral code to know that gossiping is bad? As a reminder, here is what the dictionary says about gossip:
gossip: idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. A conversation that spreads personal information about other people. To talk idly, especially about the affairs of others – go about tattling.
In this definition, gossiping may be nefarious or not. The nefarious aspects typically have an agenda behind the gossip that is to tear down an opinion of one towards a broader audience. By inference, it seeks to titillate conversation that elevates oneself or group over the person being gossiped about.
The interesting part of Pope Francis’ assertions is that gossiping has been a plague worse than the COVID19 pandemic. That’s a fairly strong assertion. Is he right? He could be. After all, in the U.S., we are in a pivotal election cycle that will determine the direction of the Western world. Gossip, one way or the other, could affect the election outcome and have a long-lasting impact far greater than even the death of several 100,000s people in a pandemic. The issues of Marxism/socialism vs.capitalism are at stake. One ponders the number of deaths brought on the world in the early 20th century via Marist ideologies vs. the number of COVID19 deaths. Perhaps a question many not willing to contemplate, but nevertheless needs to be asked. So yes, gossip can be extremely dangerous.
Here is a case in point. In a recent Atlantic Magazine article, a gossipy assertion was made by its author that, “The president [Trump] has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members and asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades, multiple sources tell The Atlantic.” The article tried to spin a narrative, taking various unrelated gossip points to suggest that Trump believed that military service personal were suckered into their service – even suggesting that they were losers. Of course, many of Trump’s distractors got on the gossip bandwagon and repeated the narrative and even embellished it. The source of this gossip could not be traced, and we were left by the typical gossipy citation of “anonymous sources.”
As gossip goes, once the gossip hits the airwaves, and after further questioning, the real truths come out. The Atlantic editor concedes the central claim of trump hit piece could be wrong. The U.S. Ambassador to France denies the Atlantic story and says Trump “has never denigrated any member of the U.S. military.” Here are eight facts that prove the anonymous Atlantic Trump hit piece was fake news and mere gossip. Here is Trump’s response to the fake news story:
President Trump responds to The Atlantic article reporting that he said Americans who died in war are “losers” and “suckers.” He calls the story “a disgrace” https://t.co/yhk4UFWtZ1 pic.twitter.com/NEQlbgA6RH
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 4, 2020
However, sometimes it doesn’t matter. The gossipers accomplished their goal – to spread the lie far and wide and was an attempt to dictate the national dialogue. This is just one case of gossipers, but in the remaining days of the U.S. presidential election, there will be more. The gossipers will be doing overtime for sure. For the rest of us, we need to be aware of these plots, and when they do occur – think critically and do research to ensure the gossipy assertions are true or not. Don’t allow these people to control the narrative and our minds.
Not to disappoint those who would like to see what the moral code of Biblical text says about gossip – we did do a quick search on gossip – wow!. Like Pope Francis, the authors of these Biblical texts had a mountain of references about gossip. Indicating that, yes, gossip can be hugely destructive. Here is a just a very small excerpt of a choice selection:
Proverbs 13:3 – Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
Proverbs 16:27 – A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.
Proverbs 19:9 – A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.
Proverbs 26:22 – The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.
James 3:8 – But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Matthew 18:15 – If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
Titus 3:2 – To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
So perhaps Pope Francis has a point to be considered. The suggested assertion here is that if you are about to speak harm about someone or something, make sure that 1) it is really true, 2) not nefarious to achieve your own agenda, and 3) is edifying to our society as a whole. One understands that, at times, bad news or events do need to be communicated. But gossip can do irreparable damage in our personal lives as well as our communities we live in. Perhaps you can give further comments below that can give further examples on the subject of the damage gossip can do.