US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Slandering the faithful

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Mudslinging has become so common in mainstream media nowadays that we barely notice it, but I'm always astonished at the willingness of some Catholics to stoop to scoop up slime. The latest: A Canadian "activist," John Pacheco, has spent the past few weeks calling into question the orthodoxy of Richard Gaillardetz, a lay professor of Catholic studies at the University of Toledo, a Catholic university, according to Catholic News Service.

Unhappy that the Canadian bishops have invited Gaillardetz to speak at their fall meeting, Pacheco and other contributors have pasted Gaillardetz as a "dissenter" on their Socon or Bust blog. That slander, picked up by, has gone on so long (beginning with a Sept 21 post) that Gaillardetz felt compelled to write in his own defense to the president of Canadian bishops' conference, which Gaillardetz has been invited to address.

The problems with Socon's critique of Gaillardetz are legion--mostly a series of snips from this or that source--and it's clear that its writers know very little about theology, how it works, or the task of a theologian. What they should know is that slander--the use of information, true or not, with the intent of harming someone's reputation--is considered a sin against charity.

Richard Gaillardetz has written beautifully, not only about ecclesiology and church authority (which he values) but the spirituality of marriage as well. His works are well-rooted in our broad and living tradition. If you'd like a taste of his thinking, you can check out his interview with US Catholic, "Who's the boss?" and his Sounding Board, "Let's pray, pay, and have our say." The Canadian bishops chose well.

Too bad Gaillardetz has had to reply to what can best be described as intemperate self-righteousness with an Internet connection. The Web is great for making voices heard; too bad some people abuse it with slander instead of engaging the issues that matter, with good arguments tempered by a healthy measure of the charity God calls us to.