Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When Sin Should Be Private Even As To Public Figures

Tip of the Hat to Mysterious Things for this.

Here is something that I don't hear quoted a good bit from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2492 Everyone should observe an appropriate reserve concerning persons’ private lives. Those in charge of communications should maintain a fair balance between the requirements of the common good and respect for individual rights. Interference by the media in the private lives of persons engaged in political or public activity is to be condemned to the extent that it infringes upon their privacy and freedom.


2489 Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.283

There appears to be some political scandal in the UK that has got people talking. The Catholic papers over there have picked up on it and offered some wise comments. First see Nobody has any right to know about the sex lives of footballers and incompetent bankers from the UK Catholic Herald.

Now to take this beyond the Press and legal issues that we see in the UK versus the USA, there is a good follow up to this article that was done by a UK Catholic Priest also in the Herald. See Sins are not meant to be a form of public entertainment-The existence of the seal of the confessional reminds us that these things belong firmly in the internal forum.

He says in part (BOLDING IS MINE) :

....There are two reasons, I suppose, why people make such efforts to keep their private life private. The first is the obvious one: some things are simply private of their very nature. No one could possibly want strangers to pour over one’s bank statement or one’s tax return, could they? Likewise, when it comes to ordinary (that is, non-criminal) sexual matters; these are no one’s business but our own. The desire to pry (or what is called voyeurism) is very strong, but it ought not to be indulged. There was a good example of this recently when Ann Widdecombe stoutly repulsed Piers Morgan’s efforts to get her to talk about her private life on television. “Some things are meant to stay private,” she said to him; and the audience, quite rightly applauded; that shut Piers up.

The second reason is this: if facts about our private lives are made public this exposes us not to the sympathy of the general public, but to the fury and cruelty of the mob. There is a very long history of the so called gutter press using sexual imagery and stories to torment people they do not like. Witness what happened to Marie Antoinette in the years before the French Revolution. Mr Giggs is now open to ridicule at the very least, torment at the worst, by a crowd that is itself not noted for its moral standards. Moreover, this crowd is not motivated by anything other than cruelty and the desire to humiliate someone who has until now been its idol. We often hear the phrase “sense of fair play” and of its association with the British character. If only this were true. People should leave Mr Giggs alone. Yes, he has sinned, but we are all sinners. We should remember what our Blessed Lord did when confronted with another adulterer...

He ends his piece:
.....Finally, we need to reflect on ourselves. Do we rejoice in the wrongdoing of others? Do we enjoy reading about their failures and misdemeanours? Taking pleasure in the sins of others is in itself a sin. St Paul says as much in one of his most famous and memorable passages.

I actually thought of this in my the reaction to the whole PORN and Bin Laden episode. First it should be apparent I am not out defend the HOLINESS of Bin Laden by any means.

However it was quite a leap to first make the assumption it was his in the first place. But what got me what was the hypocrite charge. LOOK HE WAS A TOTAL FRAUD!! Really? No matter what you think about Bin Laden I am not sure that charge is well founded. His cause might be evil, his view of Islam misguided but I am not sure a few porn tapes tend to show his lack of insincerity . Perhaps I had no illusion he was a Radical Islamic Superman. Note I have no real objection of how this was used against an evil man and terrorist. But the fact that people seemed to focus on that sexual vice with such gusto made me think. Instead of focusing on the butcher he was we are talking porn tapes. Which led me to another what if.

Lets say , and I am picking a name out of hat here, that after Billy Graham dies they find a stash of Hustlers magazines in his home. Has his whole life been a fraud or was he like any human being that struggled in that long race St Paul talks about. Regardless you can bet dollars to donuts that charge would be made. If Billy Graham had porn does that mean that harms of porn should not be talked about because Christian Ministers and Priests might engage in that sin from time to time. What if it came out Billy Graham in the 80's had an affair for a couple of months but He later repented. Would that invalidate everything he taught? Well I hope not and I am not sure how society would function if such a standard was imposed on everyone on many issues of sin.

That is not to say Ministers and Priests should not be held to a high standard. But when I now see calls that Priests that might have violated their vows decades ago WITH AN ADULT be exposed to the public I have to ask for what purpose.

We see this often on attacks on what are labeled "Family Values" politicos in the USA. To be fair this sinful voyeurism is quite bipartisan. Some aspects of digging into President's Clinton's life was well uncalled for.

But we see this all the time. A person that is anti abortion or pro traditional marriage or speaks up for the family once he has a failing is condemned as a HYPOCRITE. Well the Church is full of hypocrites by that standard. That is why we have the Sacrament of Confession. I am much more concerned about the small lines at Confession than politicos or public figures in religious , political, or cultural life that do not always meet the mark.

I also wonder about the people that love to indulge in the piling on when someone fails or sins. What are their private lives like? They might be not be in the public square but I hope they are teaching lessons to their kids. Does their "private" sin make everything they teach their children a BIG LIE. Should their kids disregard their parents and extended family members passing down lessons and rules of moral conduct? Does the fact that they might have a private sin invalidate their entire role as moral teacher?

The other troubling aspect of this is the tendency to try to make hypocrisy impossible. That is solving the problem by a constant lowering of standards and morals.

Lets get out of the political field. Did we REALLY need to know all that about Tiger Woods? One gets an uneasy feeling that too many people are taking a "sinful" enjoyment of this public morality play they were feeding and demanding. A play that one further suspects that if their private lives were exposed would perhaps not be such a great comparison. That so many people can not comment and lash out t behind the safe wall of the anonymous social media of social media makes it seem even more distasteful.

I agree with the Priest above that some sin is just private. This is not to say I am taking sin (sexual sin or other sin ) lightly. I just not sure how the common good is often helped by exposing it for all to see. Maybe I am wrong and there are a lot of SAINTS walking around. However I know I am not one of them.

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