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제목 8th Commandment - You shall not bear false witness(2016-05-14)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-05-16




8th Commandment - You shall not bear false witness.(2016-05-14)


My dear brethren,


We have seen so far that all the Commandments were dealing with LIFE: they are the path that indicate what should a holy life on earth be, so as to reach eternal life; they command us to worship God as the supreme Author of Life, to respect our parents as the channel through whom we received life, to respect life itself, its transmission and the means to sustain it. But now, how is the 8th commandment connected with life? It protects social life.


Man is not made to live alone, but rather in community with others: he is a “social” being. Indeed from birth he is in need of his parents to nurture him, to protect him, to educate him, and he needs them for many years! Hence family is the first and most natural society. But even further, since one man cannot have all skills, each one needs the help of the skill of others: thus some are farmers, others builders, others make garments, others are doctors, others are teachers, etc. Hence humans need to live in society with other humans. And these differences and mutual need are intended by God, so that we may practice charity: each one making the others benefits of the skills God had given him.


Life in society requires communication between individuals. Since man is not a mere animal, he has not only a sensible life, but also and more importantly an intellectual life: communication between humans is not merely at the sensitive level, it is essentially at this intellectual level: it is a communication of ideas. Yet we cannot communicate directly our ideas to our neighbour – we are not angels: angels can do that, but we cannot! Thus human express their spiritual ideas by sensible words: this is human language. The same spiritual idea can be expressed in different languages: language is a mere sign of the idea. Now it is essential that these signs be truthful.


To lie, to say something while thinking the opposite, this destroys communication so essential to social life: if one cannot trust his fellow man, then he is left alone. If you are surrounded by liars, you no longer know whom you can trust, you are alone. Thus lying destroys social life. Hence St Paul says: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man with his neighbour; for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25). See how St Paul connects the duty to speak the truth with the fact that we are not alone, but “members of one another.”


Eternal life is promised to the truthful man: “Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle? or who shall rest in thy holy hill? He that walketh without blemish, and worketh justice: He that speaketh truth in his heart, who hath not used deceit in his tongue: nor hath done evil to his neighbour: nor taken up a reproach against his neighbours. In his sight the malignant is brought to nothing: but he glorifieth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his neighbour, and deceiveth not; he that hath not put out his money to usury, nor taken bribes against the innocent: He that doth these things shall not be moved for ever” (Ps. 14:1-5). And Isaiah says the same thing: “He that walketh in justices, and speaketh truth, that casteth away avarice by oppression, and shaketh his hands from all bribes, that stoppeth his ears lest he hear blood, and shutteth his eyes that he may see no evil. He shall dwell on high.” (Is. 33:15-16). “The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips:” (Mal 2:6).


St Augustine teaches that lying is always a sin – and never permitted. But it is not always a mortal sin: if no grave harm is done to the neighbour, then it is a venial sin. Yet it is a sin, and should not be done. If one lies to cover up the failures he has done (e.g. if a student did not do his homework and makes up a story as an excuse), one adds a second evil to the first: this is never a good solution! The good solution is rather to “confess one’s first sin” with the firm purpose not to commit it again and to make reparation for it.


But if a lie does grave harm to the neighbour, then it is a mortal sin. That can be for instance in frauds and deceits in business (double sin, against the 7th and 8th commandment). But it can also happen if one does grave harm to the reputation of others through calumny: a calumny (or slander) is to accuse someone of a crime he did not commit. This happens also if one exaggerates the sin of others: in as much as it is exaggerated, it is false, and thus slanderous. Be careful: when one is hurt by another, one easily tends to exaggerate the offense, and make the offender look worse than he actually is. So one must be careful to moderate oneself: it is always safer to accuse less than to accuse more, to accuse only that which is certain and not that which is doubtful. And one should easily forgive and not hold grudges against one’s neighbour.


Connected with calumnies is the sin of detraction: it is not in itself a lie, it is to make known the hidden sin of someone without reason. Yet it is a sin, because it spreads evil and makes the situation worse. In some cases, one may disclose the sin of someone: but always for a proportionate good purpose. That can be for instance in order to obtain the correction of the offender: thus if a neighbour sees a child doing something wrong, he may report it to the child’s parents, but it should be clearly for the good of the child, not out of spite or other wrong motive. Or if a teacher is a child abuser, a parent may (and should) warn the school authorities and the other parents to prevent their children’s harm. But one may not speak of such evil to third parties who are in no way concerned by the situation: this would be the sin of detraction. As much as good is worth to be known, evil is not worth to be known, and should not be spread around.

At a lower level, there is the sin of gossiping: it is to speak about the publicly known sins of others. Since they are already public, such gossip does not make them known; but it is wrong to take some satisfaction about speaking evil of others. This can happen for sins of public persons, reported in newspapers (it is difficult to be a newspaper reporter and avoid the sin of gossip!) At a more restricted level, there can be gossip in the workplace or in the neighbourhood, etc. This is not good! I do not mean that one should be blind about what is going on around, but I mean what St Paul says: “let all things be done to edification” (1 Cor. 14:26). If to say something does not edify, it should not be said.


St Thomas adds two other sin, “whispering”: that is, to raise doubts and discord among friends, thus severing and harming the friendship. This can be particularly bad if it hurts the friendship that should reign in a family, especially between husband and wife. The second sin is the sin of mockery, which is against the respect due to our neighbour: making fun at the expense of others is not good.


The prophet Zacharias says: “These then are the things, which you shall do: Speak ye truth every one to his neighbour: judge ye truth and judgment of peace in your gates” (Zach. 8:16). In these words, he makes manifest that truth is particularly required in judgements, in court.  And this is more precisely the object of the 8th Commandment. Indeed though the Commandments intend a wider application, they usually forbid the main sin in a particular domain. Thus the 6th Commandment intends to protect the virtue of chastity and forbids all sins against chastity, yet it is directly against the main one, adultery. So the 8th Commandment directly forbids false testimony. False testimony is evidently more grievous in court than out of court.


Courts are dangerous places! St Thomas explains that there can be sins on the part of the judge, when he does not apply the Laws of God and the just laws of the state, taking bribes and perverting judgement; there can be sins on the part of the prosecutor, when he accuses falsely (directly forbidden by the 8th Commandment), or when he fails to prosecute evil doers, either through bribes or caving in to threats, thus letting dangerous evil doers go one with their crimes against society; there can be sins on the part of the defendant, by false denial of what he has done, or rejecting his fault on others; there can be sins on the part of the witnesses, especially by giving false evidence or withdrawing due evidence, letting innocents being condemned or helping evil doers get away; there can be sins on the part of advocates, especially in using any kind of falsehood, or even simply in defending evil causes, thus helping evil doers.


Yet Justice is a great good, and a good and honest judge can do a lot of good. Such was St Thomas More, the Chancellor of England, martyred by Henry VIII: he was honest to the end, and stood up for the truth!


St James says that the tongue is the smallest member of the body, yet the most wicked! The whole chapter of St James on the tongue is very important to consider in connection with the 8th Commandment: “For in many things we all offend. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man. He is able also with a bridle to lead about the whole body. For if we put bits into the mouths of horses, that they may obey us, and we turn about their whole body. Behold also ships, whereas they are great, and are driven by strong winds, yet are they turned about with a small helm, whithersoever the force of the governor willeth. Even so the tongue is indeed a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold how small a fire kindleth a great wood. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is placed among our members, which defileth the whole body, and inflameth the wheel of our nativity, being set on fire by hell. For every nature of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of the rest, is tamed, and hath been tamed, by the nature of man: But the tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison. By it we bless God and the Father: and by it we curse men, who are made after the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth, out of the same hole, sweet and bitter water? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear grapes; or the vine, figs? So neither can the salt water yield sweet. Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew, by a good conversation, his work in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter zeal, and there be contentions in your hearts; glory not, and be not liars against the truth. For this is not wisdom, descending from above: but earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and contention is, there is inconstancy, and every evil work. But the wisdom, that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation. And the fruit of justice is sown in peace, to them that make peace” (Jac. 3:2-18).


Our Lord Jesus Christ is The Truth (Jn. 14:6), the Word of Truth, “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). He said to Pilate: “For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice” (Jn. 18:37). Let us ask Him for a great love for Him, for the truth, and the grace to say the truth and never lie! Indeed our Lord said of the Devil: “he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof” (Jn. 8:44). The two camps are clear, and we resolutely choose for Christ and against the Devil, we choose to follow the truth and avoid all lies!

The Holy Ghost is “the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me” (Jn. 15:26): this is the most true testimony! “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth [not new truth, but:] He shall not speak of Himself; but what things soever He shall hear, He shall speak” (Jn. 16:13). The Holy Ghost teaches us that, “doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in him who is the head, even Christ:” (Eph. 4:15).

More than anyone else, the Blessed Virgin Mary always did the truth in charity, that is why she is all in light, all immaculate. Let us pray through her that we may love the truth and put it in practice so as to be admitted to the contemplation of the Eternal Truth in Heaven! Amen.


Fr. Laisney(sspxasia)