Good morning Father,
First of all I would like to thank you for the great work you do in answering so many questions and dispelling many doubts. Taking advantage of your availability, I would like to ask you for advice on how to behave in some situations.
I am a 15-year-old boy, very attached to religious things, but I often find myself chatting with peers, listening to malicious speeches (murmuring, slandering towards companions, teasing them, etc.) or vulgar talk (jokes, sexual discourses, blasphemies etc.). I would like to know how I should behave. Should I pretend nothing has happened and soon bring the speech to a better topics? Should I reprimand the speaker with kindness? And how does all this relate to the precept of ‘fraternal correction’?
I had to specify that most of the time we do not go beyond idle chatter, therefore not about serious things; other times, however, we go even further.
A specific case. Once, a friend of mine asked me in confidence for an opinion. She told me that she had slept with a boy. Although upset, I replied that it was not for me to judge her, or her behavior. Did I do right or wrong?
Thank you very much in advance for your kind response and I wish you well.
Answer from the priest
1. It would be nice if all of us were like Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young man from Turin who died at the age of 24 and was proclaimed blessed by the Church. We read that when he was present in person, no one was able to initiate slander or equivocal speeches and if he came while others were making such speeches, they could no longer go on.
I would like to clarify that Pier Giorgio was not ill tempered, but was always happy and sometimes so noisy that instead of calling him Pier Giorgio Frassati they called him Pier Giorgio Fracassi, which is a game of words where Fracass means rumbles; so his name translated to Pier Giorgio Rumbles. On May 28, 1922, at the age of twenty-one, he became a Dominican tertiary, in the Church of Saint Dominic in Turin. After the celebration many were struck by the recollection about the party made in the sacristy. They made such a noise that a man in the chronicle wrote: “it seemed that they smashed the sacristy, the church, and the convent“.
2. Certainly a guy who never speaks badly of others or says bad words is exceptional. But, the secret of his spiritual life was the daily Eucharist to which he had committed himself with a vow in his early adolescence and the sacramental confession which he participated, but not out of scruples, two or three times a week.
3. But coming to you, how do you behave when you find yourself in the midst of guys who make slander, speak vulgarly, and even swear? Well, if they blaspheme, you must never laugh because at that moment, the name of God, Jesus, or the Blessed Virgin is profaned. I could say that at that moment the door is opened to the devil who can enter your midst “to steal, to destroy and to kill” (Jn 10:10). Not laughing, and even a certain sadness, is already eloquent in itself because then everyone understands that the pleasure of being together is spoiled.
4. The observation made on the spot and in front of everyone is not always fruitful.
But, if you have the opportunity to talk about it face to face in an atmosphere of true confidence, you can make it clear that blasphemy is always completely out of place and that it does not attract any grace from God.
5. While talking behind peoples’ backs, or while using vulgar speech, it is sometimes easy to turn the conversation around with a few lines. Sometimes, you could say that it is appropriate to raise your tone and that you can laugh and joke without vulgarity and without backstabbing. In any case, do not offer any holds on your part that could lead to bad speech.
6. Backstabbing, however, must be distinguished from being able to smile at the characteristics of certain people, such as their way of speaking, walking, and doing other things. Sometimes you may get a big laugh from this and there is nothing wrong with that. Some boys are also particularly skilled in imitating others, especially teachers. This is also part of that being together in a way that is pleasant for everyone without offending or denigrating anyone.
7. I like to recall what St. Thomas affirms, “for a natural debt of good behavior, man is required to be together with others in such a way as to be pleasant;, in certain cases or for a reason of real usefulness, it is not necessary to sadden them “(Summa theologiae, II-II, 114, 2, ad 1). Being joyful and hilarious is a duty. But it must be done in such a way that no one is offended and that the virtues to which we must all strive and about which we are all called to create the most favorable climate to exercise them are not mocked.
8. For your part, try to cultivate your Christian life with sacramental practice with even daily participation, if you can, in the Eucharist. It would be the best thing. In particular, I recommend Confession on a regular and frequent basis. It is in this sacrament that you receive a strength that dampens the inclinations to evil. And, since each one speaks from the abundance of his own heart and life, as the Lord said, it will be natural for you to also propose to your friends to renew their lives by following the ways of God.
9. With that friend who revealed a detail of her life to you, I think you had the right attitude. You said it wasn’t up to you to judge her behavior. You did not praise or encourage her. Your answer was eloquent if she wanted to understand it.
I wish you well, I will pray to the Lord for you, and I bless you.