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Bishop Egan says uncharitable use of social media a ‘grave matter’

By on Thursday, 20 March 2014

Using social media for abuse or to attack the reputations of other people is a direct sin against the Eighth Commandment, said Bishop Egan (PA) Below: Bishop Egan (CNS)

Using social media for abuse or to attack the reputations of other people is a direct sin against the Eighth Commandment, said Bishop Egan (PA) Below: Bishop Egan (CNS)

The Bishop of Portsmouth has asked Catholics to use Lent as a time to repent of sins committed on social media.

Bishop Philip Egan described the uncharitable use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter as a “grave matter.”

Using social media for abuse or to attack the reputations of other people was a direct sin against the Eighth Commandment, forbidding people from “bearing false witness” against their neighbours, he said in a pastoral letter released March 19.

“We must exercise discretion, respect others and their privacy and not engage in slander, gossip and rash judgment,” the bishop wrote in the document that was to be distributed in parishes the weekend of March 22-23.

“We must avoid calumny, that is, slurring and damaging people, and not spread abroad their sins and failings,” he said.

The bishop encouraged the faithful to ask themselves “How do I use Facebook or Twitter? Am I charitable when blogging? Do I revel in other people’s failings? “All this is grave matter,” he said.

“Yet when we think of our news media and TV, in which fallen celebrities are pilloried, reputations shredded and people’s sins exposed, it sometimes seems our popular culture thrives on breaking this commandment,” he added.

Bishop Egan invited parishioners to turn away from such sins by praying regularly and by participating in the sacrament of reconciliation.


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  • Simon James Perry

    I agree he should expend his energies on other things. Blogging is of little consequence and hardly anyone pays much attention to it. The Bish would be better off running a hot bath, pouring himself a large glass of Chateaux Margaux and lighting a ciggy.

  • Simon James Perry

    If calling upon bloggers to exercise charity is a campaign then I wholly endorse it. Of course,bloggers can do what they like and disregard bishops, unless they are clerics perhaps; and if they are clerics then perhaps they have too much time on their hands and should put it better use

  • Struans


  • MIKE

    See “Catechism of the Catholic Church” ‘revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II’ regarding “Use of the Social Media” #2493 – 2499.
    CCC: ” 2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
    – of RASH JUDGMENT who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
    – of DETRACTION who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
    – of CALUMNY who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them. ”

    Code of Canon Law: under “OBLIGATIONS and RIGHTS of ALL the CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL” – ” 212 §3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church
    and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful,
    without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. “

  • CCTV

    You’ve changed your tune! Just read this clause?

    Other people were days ahead of you, Mr CCC.

  • MIKE

    No changes by me. Have no clue what you are talking about. I always have advocated contacting the Diocese Bishop or Vatican as appropriate.
    And lies and half truths are sinful. Taking things out of context to perpetrate a lie is sinful as well.

    The Magisterium of the Church wrote the CCC, not me. I’m not that gifted.

  • FrereLapin

    “Diocesan” bishop. And contact WHO in the Vatican exactly? The butler?

  • FrereLapin

    CCC 2496
    “The means of communication can give rise to a certain passivity among users, making them less than vigilant consumers of what is said or shown.” A bishop’s statement would be very welcome on the unwholesome reliance on quotations from the CCC.

  • MIKE

    Your Diocesan Bishop along with his contact info can be found on the internet. As we know the Diocesan Bishop has authority and prime responsibility for everything ‘Catholic’ within his own Diocese.

    Depending on what you want to discuss, here is the link to the Curia at the Vatican. There will be a description on the various responsibilities of each of the Offices, and ususally there will be contract information.

    The home page of the Vatican web site is –

  • MIKE

    The CCC is contains the TRUTH of what the Catholic Church teaches rather than personal opinions that can be false – accidental or purposeful error.
    If anyone does not like what the Church teaches on any given topic, he or she need not visit Catholic blog sites.
    Some people do not like the truth.

    It is false that there is unwholesome reliance on the CCC. In fact Pope’s Francis, Benedict and John Paul II have all asked us to study the CCC to know Christ and our Faith better.
    For quotes from our Popes see: “What Catholics REALLY Believe SOURCE”

  • FrereLapin

    Ah, good: you’ve now learned the correct term. Well done.

  • MIKE

    What are you talking about? I have always promoted appropriate contact with the Diocese Bishop, and the Vatican if necessary.
    Let’s not take up space on a blog site that is not educational (which is a waste of time, and space).

  • FrereLapin

    Why don’t you lighten up, mate?

    CCC 1929 “On the Sunday ride, members should stop at the side of the road and assist when a rider has a puncture. This should not be an occasion to relieve yourself in the nearest hedge if there are motorists passing.”

    Canterbury Cycle Club

  • MIKE

    Because the devil is at work sewing confusion and lies.
    No time on the internet for games, and socializing on someone else’s site. This Catholic site is not owned by us.
    I have a family and friends to spend spare time with. Would prefer it not be over silliness, like your post.

  • FrereLapin

    The silliness is to carry on boring people with the CCC. In a series of seminars, I spent three months on the CCC and it is a thoroughly well-worked out document, as all of us agreed. To misuse it – as you do – by quoting like the Little Red Book is dire.

  • FrereLapin


  • MIKE

    Please provide any official Church document that states we should not quote the CCC.
    Please use the Vatican web site.
    I will not follow you, nor do I believe you. Based upon your statement, you clearly would prefer distortions and error being propogated in the media.

  • FrereLapin

    We are not Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church does not require that we enter into the marketplace quoting the CCC ad nauseum. “Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

  • MIKE

    You do what you think is best for yourself, as long as you do not make errors, you will not be corrected on a Catholic web site.
    But do not tell me and others what to do unless we are in error.
    My accurate actions are none of your business.
    Your personal opinion of my actions means nothing to me, and I will continue to disregard.

  • FrereLapin

    Well, that is all very clear. Thank you for your patience.

  • Bartolus of Sasserferato

    You’re on a hiding to nothing with this bloke Rabit.

    He’s one of those yankees (probably an ex-prot) who think we are a religion “of the book”, as the desert denizens think and would have us think and as many modern Catholics seem to think (wrongly).

  • Sceptic

    I am waiting for the CH to comment upon the rather more interesting pronouncement made by Bishop Egan this week. It is rather revealing that not a word has appeared on this, and one can only speculate as to why this is.

  • Hegesippus

    Reality is far more boring when you rely on fiction as an argument, of course.

    So I presume you will avoid any explanation of your belligerent attitude towards the folks you seek to placate?

  • James M

    “Bishop Philip Egan described the uncharitable use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter as a “grave matter.””

    ## Given these words:

    “The bishop encouraged the faithful to ask themselves “How do I use Facebook or Twitter? Am I charitable when blogging? Do I revel in other people’s failings? “All this is grave matter,” he said”[,]

    it looks as though he may be using the language of moral theology – but the way in which he is reported leaves some doubt as to whether he is. There is a difference in meaning between “X is a grave matter” & “X is grave matter”.

    It would be useful to know whether “grave” (sometimes AKA “serious”) sin is a synonym for mortal sin (something which must always be confessed, unlike “venial” sins); or whether grave means “serious, but not necessarily mortal”. Theological precision – which has the good of souls as one its ends – is not well served by using colloquial language.

  • James M

    The Catechism might have done better to define in what those sins consist, rather than to say “He becomes guilty of Sin X, who does Y”. Culpability depends on many more things than doing of bad act Y. That is why there is a science of moral theology, and why there is casuistry, and has been for many centuries.

  • James M

    To be all alone as he was must have taken exceptional moral courage. The incident does not say much for the clergy, which is terrible.

  • James M

    “”Protect the Pope is a private initiative and is in no way officially associated with the Diocese of Lancaster.”

    If I am a church official or employee, especially an _ordained_ one, working under the supervision of the local ordinary, and I publish that information on my blog (even with the disclaimer “in no way associated with”, then I make my blog the RESPONSIBILITY and the CONCERN of the local ordinary, whether I intended to do so or not, and whether I like it or not.”

    ## That seems to be very odd reasoning – typical of the DoubleThink that seems to be so common in the Church these days. This, OTOH, makes sense in every way, to say nothing of coming from better authority than that of bishops.

    “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” [Matthew 5.37]

    “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.” [James 5.12]

  • James M

    How very gracious :)

  • James M

    Maugrim may be stoned.

    Is “unsavd”, “unsaved”, “unsavvy”, both, or something else ? This is where a bell might be useful. Or is it a new deplorable word ?

  • James M

    The Stones are probably too stoned to do any such thing.

  • James M

    Mensa is a feminine noun, no matter what anyone says.

  • James M

    “We wonder why the great mass of youngsters – idealistic and lovers of truth, as the young always are, in their hearts – turn from the Church with a mixture of dismay and utter contempt.”

    ## How about – because people have a longing for goodness; and for all sorts of reasons, goodness is perhaps not the quality that immediately comes to mind when the CC is mentioned ?

  • James M

    That development is itself quite astonishing.

  • James M

    God is Reality, and the “standard” of all other (i.e., created) reality – but that doesn’t make created beings totally unreal – it makes them dependent and contingent, and capable of being related to God. Creation is not an illusion, though.

  • James M

    From which newspaper ?

  • MIKE

    The CCC explains what it takes to be a mortal sin (#1859); and also explains that we each have an obligation to educate our own conscience.

    CCC: “1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility.
    This is the case when a man takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.
    In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.”

    With the CCC, the Bible, and today’s media, and some Sunday homilies, most Catholics today know that the Church teaches it is a Mortal Sin to: divorce from a valid marriage and remarry, homosexual acts, fornication, viewing pornography, contraception, adultery, killing, abortion, etc.
    (The 10 Commandments have never changed either.) These have always been the teaching of the Church regardless of our age.

    It would be difficult to feign complete ignorance for the literate.
    However, in very rare cases if there was complete ignorance through no fault of the individual, in that case there would be no mortal sin up until to the time he hears of the Church teaching should he decide to continue sinning.

    Moral Theology does not permit the condoning of Mortal Sin. And never has.

  • Mutley

    The watering down began earlier……otherwise VII and the “Spirit of VII” wouldn’t have happened. It is interesting to look at the original schemas for VII, the ones which were rejected. A quick glance at a few paragraphs shows the difference.

  • Furtrapper

    Not true: the Catholic Church has always preached that this world is real, we are real, our bodies are real, our sin is real – and resurrection means reasurrection of the body, our perfected, physical bodies.

  • Furtrapper

    Sounds more like authentic narcissism.

  • Tylers_Twin

    Thus if a bishop declares in public “we are no longer looking over our shoulder at what Rome says”, the laity are not meant to find this comment gratuitously offensive? I seem to recall this was the tagline of the bishop emeritus of Portsmouth.

  • FrereLapin

    “You can know the CCC rulebook back to front, but if you can’t ride a bicycle don’t turn up for the Sunday ride.” – Canterbury Cycle Club

  • Deacon_Augustine

    James M, to avoid all doubt about the context of Bishop Egan’s comments and his use of “grave matter” in the traditional sense, I have pasted the relevant excerpts from his Pastoral Letter below:

    “But let me draw closer to my theme. From the Bible and from the Catechism, we know that there are basically two types of sin: mortal and venial.3 A sin is ‘missing
    the mark,’ a failure to follow our in-built drive towards truth, goodness and love,4
    an offence against God and neighbour, a thought, word, deed or omission breaking God’s law, damaging self, hurting others and harming our society.5 A mortal sin, as its name suggests, is lethal; it cuts us off from Christ and His Church, deserving the “eternal death of hell,”6 whereas a venial sin is a disorder that wounds and impairs our communion with God.7 To commit a mortal sin, three conditions are necessary.8 We must have full knowledge. We must give complete consent. (Obviously, external pressures, disordered emotions and pathological or addictive patterns of behaviour can diminish the free character of the offence committed.) It must also be a grave matter, something that directly contradicts one of the Ten Commandments.

    Let us consider the Eighth Commandment, not least within the context of today’s digital age. The Ten Commandments make explicit the natural law written into every human heart. They tell us to love God (Commandments One to Three) and to love our neighbour (Commandments Four to Ten). The Eighth Commandment says this: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”9 In other words, we must exercise discretion, respect others and their privacy, and not engage in slander, gossip and rash judgment. We must avoid calumny,
    that is, slurring and damaging people, and not spread abroad their sins and
    failings.10 How do I use Facebook or Twitter? Am I charitable when blogging? Do I revel in other people’s failings? All this is grave matter. Yet when we think of our
    news media and TV, in which fallen celebrities are pilloried, reputations
    shredded and people’s sins exposed, it sometimes seems our popular culture
    thrives on breaking this Commandment.


    One last point. This Lent, I urge you to make good use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.17 There is no better way to effect Lenten renewal than to meet Jesus One to one, Face to face, in the Sacrament of Penance, burying our sins in Him and rising with Him to new life. This Sacrament is the only means of being forgiven a mortal sin and a huge support in dealing with venial sins and bad habits.18 The ‘secret’ of a good confession is a careful examination of conscience, which is why reflecting in prayer on the Ten Commandments is a great help. Indeed, on our Lenten journey with Christ in the desert, we will not reach Jerusalem unless we make a good confession, and so I urge you to find
    time to celebrate this therapeutic Sacrament now, with a priest near you.”

  • Atilla The Possum

    Thanks for the heads-up, MenAreLikeWine!
    Before your startling – and sickening – revelation as to the identity of the old dear in the photo.
    A stereotypical bingo-hall hogger who hangs around outside the local Gala puffing on an electronic ciggie…
    She looks only capable of murdering a cup of tea!
    Talk about don’t judge a book by its cover!
    What next? Will she join Femen or Pussy Riot?
    Industrial-strength, intense recitation of the Holy Rosary is so sorely needed, people! She needs to be frogmarched to the nearest Confession box – stat!
    She won’t be the first nun to do that nor will she be the last!
    By ‘eck! So, the Rebel Angels could also look like her! How could the Renaissance artists, in their depictions of Hell and its inhabitants, have got it wrong all these centuries!
    Jesus, Mercy! Mary, Help! Saint Michael the Archangel – defend us in battle!

  • More Tea Vicar?


  • Struans

    Do I know you from AATW? You must have a different name there.

  • Sixtus_Maximus

    We do like to sound off on issues and at times can be heated exchanges. It’s good to be aware of not falling in mortal sin in the act of baring false witness to someone. We should be out spoken on the evils that Governments perform daily against God and His people. Not to candy coat it and let it prevail. I would like to wish more Bishops Comdemn these acts in Governments such as War and more forth coming on Abortions and Gay Marriage and the Education of Homisexuality to Children stealing their innocence from God and leads them to mortal sinfulness and perversion. It’s a tragedy that the Catholic Church is not so forceful and is more worried about the evil doers reputation being damaged by his or hers dirty deeds which must be admonished by someone perhaps the Holy Church!

  • Sixtus_Maximus

    Deacon Augustine thank you and God Bless! Praise Jesus and Mary!