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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy
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In ordinary conversation one may violate this Commandment in five ways. The

first is by detraction: "Detractors, hateful to God."9 "Hateful to God"

here indicates that nothing is so dear to a man as his good name: "A good

name is better than great riches."10 But detractors take away this good

name: "If a serpent bite in silence, he is no better that backbiteth

secretly."11 Therefore, if detractors do not restore this reputation, they

cannot be saved.


Secondly, one may break this precept by listening to detractors willingly:

"Hedge in thy ears with thorns, hear not a wicked tongue, and make doors

and bars to thy mouth."12 One should not listen deliberately to such

things, but ought to turn away, showing a sad and stern countenance: "The

north wind driveth away rain as doth a sad countenance a backbiting



Thirdly, gossipers break this precept when they repeat whatever they hear:

"Six things there are which the Lord hateth, and the seventh His soul

detesteth . . . him that soweth discord among brethren."14 Fourthly, those

who speak honied words, the flatterers: "The sinner is praised in the

desires of his soul, and the unjust man is blessed."15 And again: "O My

people, they that call thee blessed, the same shall deceive thee."16


9. Rom., i. 30.



10. Prov., xxii. 1.


11. Eccles., x. 11.


12. Ecclus., xxviii. 28.


13. Prov., xxv. 23. "This Commandment not only forbids false testimony, but

also the abominable sin of detraction. This is a moral pestilence which is

the poisoned source of many and calamitous evils. . . . That we may see the

nature of the sin of detraction more clearly, we must know that reputation

is injured not only by calumniating the character. but also by exaggerating

the faults of others. He who makes known the secret sin of any man at any

time or place unnecessarily, or before persons who have no right to know,

is also rightly regarded as a detractor and evil-speaker, if his revelation

seriously injures the other's reputation" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 9).


14. Prov., vi. 16, 19.


15. Ps. ix. 24


16. Isa., iii. 12. "Flatterers and sycophants are among those who violate

this Commandment, for by fawning and insincere praise they gain the hearing

and good will of those whose favor. money, and honors they seek" ("Roman

Catechism," "loc. cit.," 11).


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