ProLifeCorner.com – 7-17-2014 –Intro by Staff – Gossip has been a problem for hundreds of years and it hasn’t improved over time. Idle gossip hurts the good name of the one at the center of the tale and it also hurts the person who promotes such calumny to others by placing them in a state of sin. It benefits no one and harms all in contact with it. At one time or another I’m sure we have all been guilty of this but we must try to curb our tongue. It is said the pen is mightier that the sword and that may well be true, but gossip stabs the heart of so many. Perhaps we should all try harder not to spread idle rumors or incorrect opinions to others. A man that bears false witness against his neighbor is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow. (Proverbs)
At the age of 16 St. John Climacus entered a monastery on Mt. Sinai and was taught about spiritual life by Martyrius (an older monk). After Martyrius died, St. John then lived as a hermit for 20 years. St. John wrote the Ladder of Divine Ascent c. 600 at the request of Abbot John of Raithu on the Red Sea. The Ladder soon became one of the most widely read books of Orthodox and Eastern Catholic spirituality.
Even today Eastern Catholics and Orthodox feature some version of the icon of The Ladder of Divine Ascent for veneration on their tetrapod. (A tetrapod, similar to a lectern, is used to display icons.)
This icon features several monks climbing a ladder of 30 rungs, each rung based on a chapter of St. John’s treatise. Angels are shown helping some cumbers while devils try to drag others off the ladder. St. John devoted the tenth rung of his Ladder to “Slander.”
“Imagine that no one with any sense would dispute that slander is the child of hatred and the remembrance of wrongs.”
To slander is to speak evil of someone behind his or her back. It is to criticize and to malign them to others. It is common for people to disguise their slander by hiding behind pious intentions.
I have rebuked people who were engaged in slander, and, in self-defense, these evil doers claimed to be acting out of love and concern for the victim of their slander. My answer to that was to say: then stop that kind of love… If, as you insist, you love that person, then do not be making a mockery of him, but pray for him in secret. “
St. John saw spiritual danger in slander because it is hypocritical. Slander is speaking nothing directly to the victim yet speaking negatively about him to others. This is hypocritical behavior.
A charitable and sensible mind takes careful note of the virtues it observes in another, while the fool goes looking for faults and defects.
Furthermore, St. John condemned slander because slander is the result of a judgmental spirit. Climacus quoted the Apostle James to explain that when we judge others, we invite God’s strict judgment upon ourselves.
Judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). How often are our judgments erroneous?
St. John shared a personal observation: “Do not make judgments and you will travel a quicker road to forgiveness of your sins.”
In February 2009 Pope Benedict XVI stated that despite the fact St. John Climacus lived a hermit’s life on Mt. Sinai 1,400 years ago. his treatise The Ladder to Perfection was nevertheless relevant to Christians today. Pope Benedict called the treatise of St. John Climacus one of the great works of Christian writers of both East and West. Pope Francis also appeared to be familiar with The Ladder of Divine Ascent given his homily of Sept. 13, 2013 in Santa Marta when he spoke on humility:
“Those who live judging their neighbor, speaking ill of their neighbor, are hypocrites, because they lack the strength and the courage to look to their own shortcomings.” Pope Francis reflected the “Lord does not waste many words on this concept.”
Pope Francis recalled that in John the Apostle’s first letter, the Apostle stated “anyone who has hatred for his brother is a murderer, he who judges his brother walks in darkness,” and those who judge or speak ill of others are “Christian murderers.”
Pope Francis continued: “A ‘Christian murderer’…It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother.And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in history.”
“Gossip,” Francis cautioned, “always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip.” Quoting St. James the Apostle, the Pope observed that the tongue is designed to praise God, “but when we use our tongue to speak ill of our brother or sister, we are using it to kill God…the image of God in our brother.”
Pope Francis challenged those present, saying perhaps none are blasphemers, but “if we ever gossip we are certainly persecutors and violent.” “We ask for grace so that we and the entire Church may convert from the crime of gossip to love, to humility, to meekness, to docility, to the generosity of love towards our neighbor.” (this article is based on: Ascending the Heights: A Layman’s Guide to The Ladder of Divine Ascent by Rev. John Mack; Conciliar Press 1999)