Questions and answers: Section 39: The Eighth Commandment
What is the eighth commandment? You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
What are the sins against the eighth commandment? Lying, calumny, detraction, revealing certain secrets, perjury.
Examination of Conscience
Have I told lies? Have I repaired any damage that may have resulted as a consequence of this? Have I unjustly or rashly accused others? Have I sinned by detraction, that is, by telling the faults of another person without necessity? Have I sinned by calumny, that is, by telling derogatory lies about another person? Have I engaged in gossip, backbiting, or tale-telling? Have I revealed a secret without due cause? Have I willingly listened to the defaming of another? Have I judged others rashly? Have I boasted or bragged to elevate myself at the expense of others? Have I kept professional secrets? Have I committed perjury?
What is a lie? The expression of something which we know to be untrue, made with the intention to deceive. Saying something that is untrue.
How serious is it to tell a lie? To tell a lie is ordinarily a venial sin. If a lie injures someone seriously or is told while under oath (perjury), it can be a mortal sin. It is always serious to deliberately state what is false. The seriousness of the lie depends on how serious are the results of the lie in affecting others.
Is it ever permissible to tell a lie? No, it is never permissible.
What is a mental reservation? Either the use of an expression which may be taken in two ways or the act of leaving something unspoken. Reserving the full truth of a statement when speaking to someone. Examples: (1) ďMrs. Smith is not at home,Ē may be a polite way of saying that she is unavailable, a social convention. (2) If a priest is asked about sins made known to him in confession, he should answer "I do not know," and such words as those when used by a priest mean "I do not know apart from confession," or "I do not know as man," or "I have no knowledge of the matter which I can communicate."
What is calumny? Lying about someone in such a way as to injure that personís good name. Telling a lie about others that will hurt their reputation. Example: Saying that someone is an alcoholic when it is untrue.
What is detraction? The unnecessary revelation of something about a person which is true but which injures that personís good name. Telling something that is true about others that will hurt their reputation. Example: Saying that someone is an alcoholic when it is true, but others do not know or need to know this.
How serious are the sins of calumny and detraction? Both calumny and detraction can be mortal sins if the statement made about another person is seriously damaging to the personís reputation. They are venial sins if what is said about the other person is not serious. Those who have damaged the reputation of another person must make whatever effort is required to restore the good name of the injured person.
How serious is the obligation of keeping a secret? It is determined by the importance of the secret to the person who confided it and by the gravity of the subject matter itself. The secrecy of the confessional may never be violated by the priest for any reason whatsoever, even at the cost of his life.
Closing Prayer: Prayer before Work: Direct, we beg you, O Lord, our actions by your holy inspirations, and grant that we may carry them out with your gracious assistance, that every prayer and work of ours may begin always with you, and through you be happily ended. Amen.