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Dealing with calumny and detraction


St. Agnes of Rome, Virgin and Martyr
January 21, 2018

At some time in all of our lives we are the subject of some kind of gossip, usually in the form of either calumny or detraction.  If one is more public facing, it gets even worse.  Besides the basic rumor monger who gets pleasure from gossiping, there are those with agendas who would try to destroy our reputations.  What to do about this?

One of the best things I have ever read on this topic was a letter by Fr. Malachi Martin, S.J.   Father Martin became a fairly well-known author and champion of traditional Catholicism, and because of this he made many enemies over the years, especially within the Church.  They attacked him relentlessly.  For example, Fr. Martin claimed that the Pope had released him from his vows of obedience and poverty leaving only his vow of chastity binding, and that he had not been laicized and still held the office of a priest.  He was called a liar for many years, including by other Jesuits.  After his death, the Jesuits begrudgingly admitted that yes, Fr. Martin had in fact been released from those vows by the Pope and was never laicized.

He clearly had experience dealing with this, and his response is something I refer to from time-to-time to put things in perspective.   There are too many important things to spend time on than to worry about the nonsense people say about us.


I am sending you these few lines as my commentary on the abuse and calumnies flung in my direction by certain members of our Roman Catholic Church. Many of my friends and well-wishers have urged me to respond to the abusers and the calumniators; and remember that this abuse and calumnious attack has been going on for over thirty-three years! That is a long time; and I have become a veteran of such oppression, so much so that in a certain sense I know much better than any of my friends and well-wishers how to deal with this sustained harsh treatment.

The basic lesson I have learnt over those thirty-three years is: not allow myself be diverted from fulfilling my mission as a priest and a servant of the Holy See of Peter. This means not merely refusing to pick up the stones thrown at me and returning them on the heads of my abusers. It means principally that I fulfill my duties as a priest—celebrate daily Mass, recite my breviary, fulfill my pastoral obligations to those under my care. It means that I never allow the distortions—doctrinal and other—of these very zealous abusers and calumniators to enter into my optic or cloud my angle of vision. It means, of course, praying for their spiritual welfare—and also that the Holy Spirit grant them some measure of understanding. For understanding is chiefly what lacks to them.

Well over twenty-five years ago, I wrote to my Superior in Rome complaining about a recrudescence of these attacks, and suggesting a certain course of action. He wrote back quoting that passage of John’s Gospel where Christ warns His disciples that the time would come when they would be ostracized and persecuted by people who would do that to them and think they were doing God’s will. “Can’t you suffer, too, for Christ’s sake?” This was my Superior’s answer.

Besides all that, all these years have taught me a few central lessons; you have to have undergone it all to be able to appreciate the principal lesson. Which is: abusers and calumniators are not out to get the truth, to build up, to edify. Their bent is to destroy, to liquidate. Hence, no matter what information you give them, they will not desist; they will use it to further their distrustful ambition. Hence, I found that there was no point in even trying to communicate with them; anything they learned became merely grist for their grindstones of hate.

A second valuable lesson I learned was this: they don’t really matter in the kingdom of God and in the daily warfare between Christ and Lucifer. There are too many Confessions to be heard, too many Masses to be said, too many souls seeking and needing spiritual direction, too many confused priests to be enlightened, too many aberrant bishops to be corralled back into the fold of Christ, too many holydays in honor of Angels and Saints, too many exorcisms of the possessed and the obsessed, too many of the faithful dying and needing Extreme Unction, too many children needing Confirmation—in a word, too many needy ones for any priest to hesitate for one moment and to tarry over the spewings and spittings coming from the unclean mouths, the jealous souls and the erroneous pens of pigmy men who fancy themselves upon a solid rock and who crave to ascend to fame and vanity over the dead bodies and soiled reputations of their victims.

I have always let such people know that I personally have no difficulty in waiting for the final showdown in the presence of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, as the Just Judge of the living and the dead.

In sum, I have no time to wait—there’s too much work to be done. I know that many of my friends and well-wishers now and again answer some of my attackers. I generally discourage any sustained effort in that direction; the reason? Nothing will ever change the minds of these people—nothing except the grace of God. As I said, I am most willing to wait for God to change their minds. In the meantime, I have far too much to do. I can’t afford to waste time on them.


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