From the time I was old enough to read and reason, I’ve been aware of the eighth commandment, though as a child it didn’t have a lot of meaning for me. We teach little ones to be truthful, naturally, but other than “because I said so” I didn’t know for a long time WHY this was important enough to be included in the Decalogue.
If you listen to most people in the world of relativity the truth is not that big a deal anymore. In fact, “you can have your truth and I can have mine”, is espoused by many, though it is perhaps the biggest lie of all.
My Catechism of choice is the document produced by the Council of Trent in the year 1566. I figure if it was true then, it’s just as true today and besides, I like the language and the scripture references best.
In this most beautiful document the description of the eighth commandment falls into categories. The lesson on this subject begins with reference to the tongue and how it was spoken of by St. James. See James, chapter 3:
3) When we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey us, we also guide its entire body. 4) Or think of ships. Even though they are large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses. 5) In the same way, the tongue is a small member but its pretensions are great. Consider how a small fire can set ablaze a great forest. 6) And the tongue is also a fire, a world of evil that infects the entire body. It sets afire the entire course of our existence and is itself set on fire by Gehenna. 7) For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by man, 8) but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9) With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
The catechism says,
“Hence, the faithful are to be exhorted to pour out their souls in thanksgiving to God, for a commandment of such salutary tendency, a commandment which not only forbids us to injure others, but also, on the same principle of obedience to its dictate, forbids others to injure us.”
The law then is broken into two parts, our obligation to others and their obligation to us. The Catechism says, “the commandment specially prohibits that species of false testimony, which is given on oath in a court of justice; because, the words of a person who thus solemnly takes God to witness, pledging his holy name for his veracity, have very great weight, and possess the strongest claim to credit. “
It further says, “According to the interpretation of Christ the Lord, our neighbor is he who wants our assistance, whether bound to us by ties of kindred or not, whether a fellow-citizen or a stranger, a friend or an enemy.”
It is important that we realize bearing false witness cannot be justified by the mere fact we don’t like someone or believe them to be our enemy.
St. Augustine is quoted in this catechism as saying:
“He who conceals the truth, and he who utters falsehood, are both guilty; the one, because he is unwilling to render a service; the other, because he has the will to render a disservice.”
The Council of Trent created this particular Catechism as an instruction guide for priests to guide their congregations and some of it gives helpful hints for how to explain these commandments and other teachings of the Church to their flock.
An example here is:
“In order that the faithful may be more disposed to avoid the degrading vice of lying, the pastor will place before them the extreme wretchedness and turpitude of the liar. In the Sacred Scriptures the devil is called ‘the father of lies;’ “Because he stood not in the truth, he is a liar and the father thereof;” (John 8:44)
In the first place he will inform them how grievously lies offend God, how deeply a liar is hated by God: “Six things there are,” says Solomon, “which the Lord hateth, and the seventh his soul detesteth; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked plots, feet that are swift to run into mischief, a deceitful witness that uttereth lies, etc.”
It is easy to see that for many people today the end justifies the means even when it includes out and out lies about another person. Lying in fact is simply the tool of choice to destroy most efficiently the person or cause perceived to by the enemy. We see Planned Parenthood lie about “women’s health.” We see feminists lie about the “empowerment” of women. We see all those in opposition to the Republican Party today and the President personally using lies upon lies to damage the reputations of all who stand in their way.
The Catechism says,
But the evil consequences of lying are not confined to individuals: they extend to society at large. By duplicity and lying, good faith and truth, which form the closest links of human society, are dissolved; confusion ensues; and men seem to differ in nothing from demons.”
Does anyone doubt that we’ve reached this point in this country today?
I began this column two days ago. I have returned to it now having just witnessed the day long hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh who ended his testimony with a firm dependence on God for his veracity. No Catholic takes this oath lightly. I line this up to publish tomorrow not knowing what the vote will be for his confirmation, but I can only hope and pray this man’s honor and dignity will be saved.
In the future, I will recall this as the most painful example of the abuse of the eighth commandment by so many for the sole purpose of destroying another person’s life I have ever witnessed. The future of our country is at stake. God help us.