St. Francis’ Shocking Words on Detraction

Many are quick to pronounce their judgments on Church leaders with haste. May the words of St. Francis of Assisi bring caution and prudence:

The Sin of Detraction

“The vice of detraction, my Brethren, is an enemy to the very source of piety and grace and is abominable to the most merciful God; because the detractor feeds on the blood of the souls he has murdered with the sword of his tongue. The impiety of the detractor is far greater than that of th etheif, because the law of Christ (which is fulfilled by showing mercy) commands us to desire more ardently the salvation of the soul, than the safety of th ebody.

The Religious who murmurs against his Brethren, or his Superiors, what does he do but drench his Mother, holy Religion, with the gall of bitterness and insults? Detractors are of the generation of Cham, who ridiculed the shame of the father instead of hiding it; thus these make known and exaggerate the faults of their Superiors and their order and they consequently deserve to be cursed by God.

These, like swine, wallow in mire; for, after the manner of these unclean animals (being themselves far more unclean in their consciences), they feed and gorge themselves on the defects and weaknesses which they curiously seek for, and often falsely affirm they see and find in others; like mad dogsthey grumble at religious discipline and correction; they bark against their Order and their Superiors; and when they can, they bite. This is what the detractor says: ‘My life is most imperfect, I have no particular grace or merit, therefore I cannot find favour either with God or man. I know what I will do. I will discover the defects of my brethren, and and thus I shall obtain favour with my Superiors. I know they are men like unto myself, and in this way I may also get into office, because, when the cedars are fallen, the branches only will remain in the way.’

Alas! miserable man, feed thyself upon human flesh, and unable to live otherwise, gnaw the entrails of my Brethren.

Detractors wish to appear good without being so, to declaim against vice, but not to give up practising it; they praise only those in authority, whose favour they wish to gain; and they never praise anyone unless they think he will hear of it. They make themselves pale with fasting for the sake of praise that they may be considered spiritual; they can judge all things, and may not be judged by any. They glory in the good opinion of men, not in good works; in having the name of angels, but not the virtues.”

– St. Francis of Assisi

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