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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Our Duty: To Suffer for the Truth!

Every now and then a theme crops up everywhere I look and demands attention. Over and over the echoes roll over me like a tidal wave: on social media, in news feeds I follow, in magazines I read, etc. Often it has a lot to do with what's happening in my life at the moment. "Pay attention!" my guardian angel reminds me, "This is important!"

And that's been the case the past week or so. Every time I pick up a book, read the saint for the day, receive an article, etc. the subject is about truth: living the truth, defending the truth, and, most telling, suffering for the truth.

What spurred this post is Fr. Jerry Pokorsky's article, Honest Tenacity; Tenacious Honesty. Father doesn't just address the "bald-faced lies," but the little lies of convenience that help advance a man in his job or make him seem more important. (Think of all the academics and politicians padding their profiles with made up accomplishments. Think of the plagiarizers and those who suck up to important people. Think of the flip-floppers with fingers in the wind who immediately change their views and values to fit what's popular at the moment.)

But Father doesn't stop there. He discusses the gossips and tale-bearers who use the truth to create dissension and hostility among neighbors. He reminds us that:

Speaking the truth is a matter of justice. The Eighth Commandment reads, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Don’t lie. A few moral precepts that cluster around this Commandment are: don’t gossip; don’t unjustly reveal natural secrets (detraction); and don’t slander.

Silence is golden. Not everyone needs to know the fullness of the truth about difficult family situations, sins forgiven and forgotten from long ago, persistent emotional difficulties, etc. A defendant in court has a right to claim the Fifth Amendment, reckoning that his words may incriminate him in a court of law. Although the accused (like St. Thomas More) may refuse to testify, he must not lie. We may sum up the Eighth Commandment: “Never lie—and do not reveal natural secrets unless required in justice and charity.”

Years ago I made a decision to repeat every good thing a person tells me about someone we mutually know. "Do you know the major impact you had on Jane and Joe Doe? They told me that you were an inspiration in their lives and brought them back to the faith. God bless you." On the other hand, I never repeat a negative thing said about a mutual friend. Why on earth would I say something like, "Do you know what so and so really thinks of you?" Sadly, I know some pot stirrers who love tittle-tattle. You learn pretty quickly you better be very careful what you say around them even if you are defending the truth. 

Public scandals need to be addressed publicly. Private matters, as Father says,  should remain private. 

Fr. Pokorsky linked to an article by Alexander Solzhenitsyn a truth-teller extraordinaire. He listed Solzhenitsyn promises to always defend the truth and refuse to become an accomplice of the lie. He promised he:

  • ”Will not write, sign, nor publish in any way, a single line distorting, so far as he can see, the truth;
  • Will not utter such a line in private or in public conversation, nor read it from a crib sheet, nor speak it in the role of educator, canvasser, teacher, actor;
  • Will not in painting, sculpture, photograph, technology, or music depict, support, or broadcast a single false thought, a single distortion of the truth as he discerns it;
  • Will not cite in writing or in speech a single ‘guiding’ quote for gratification, insurance, for his success at work, unless he fully shares the cited thought and believes that it fits the context precisely…
  • Will not raise a hand in vote for a proposal which he does not sincerely support; will not vote openly or in secret ballot for a candidate whom he deems dubious or unworthy; 
  • Will not be impelled to a meeting where a forced and distorted discussion is expected to take place;
  • Will at once walk out from a session, meeting, lecture, play, or film as soon as he hears the speaker utter a lie, ideological drivel, or shameless propaganda;
  • Will not subscribe to, nor buy in retail, a newspaper or journal that distorts or hides the underlying facts.”

Solzhenitsyn certainly suffered for the truth! And his suffering increased here in the U.S. after he spoke at Harvard. He was denounced by many including first lady Rosalyn Carter. How dare he criticize American exceptionalism and our superiority over the rest of the world! Sad to say, the truth has not been welcomed here for many a long year, as witnessed by our depravity as our tyrant leaders serve the one who was a liar and murderer from the beginning!

And let me mention another, more recent truth-teller who has been in jail for years because he would not admit that he was a child abuser, Fr. Gordon MacRae. 

Father has spent over a quarter of a century in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Like the January 6ers now being held as political prisoners, he became a scapegoat of the priest sex abuse rampage.

He could have been out in a year if he lied and said he committed the crime. Instead, he has lived as a prisoner of the truth. His story is a tragic indictment of what our justice system has become. You can read aboout it at Beyond These Stone Walls.

I urge you to become familiar with his story. This Lent can you send him a letter of encouragement and share his way of the cross with others? Truth matters! It's unfortunate that so many of the political prisoners held in the D.C. jail accepted plea deals that involved "confessing" to what they did not do. The perversion of justice will go down in history with the Russian gulags, the WW II concentration camps in Germany and the United States and other travesties. 

May the fire of God's justice rain down on those who deliberately lie and withhold exculpatory evidence in order to gain a conviction against the innocent.

The gospel for yesterday's Traditional Latin Mass was the story of the blind man. Jesus put clay on his eyes and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam. What a courageous truth teller! The pharisees want him to denounce Jesus or at least play word games, but he bravely proclaims that Christ is a prophet, that no one could do such a thing unless He was from God. His sarcastic testimony enrages the pharisees and puts them to shame. While the man's parents vacillate because anyone who professes Christ will be put out of the temple, the healed man boldly professes his belief that Jesus is from God. What's the final result? He's cast out by the religious leaders. But Jesus comes and asks a last act of faith. "Dost thou believe in the Son of Man?" He responds, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him." And Jesus identifies Himself as the Messiah, something He did to only a few chosen souls. The man whose physical and spiritual eyes have been opened, responds in joy proclaiming, "I believe," and falls down and adores Him.

What a testimony to truth! Let us pray to imitate his faith and his boldness in proclaiming truth to power. Let our eyes be opened as his were.

And, finally, let us pray to use our words to advance the kingdom rather than to tear it down. May we always proclaim and defend the truth. 

May we all embrace silence rather than stir division among family and friends over private matters. Let us only repeat the good things people say about others and put a watch on our own tongues. For many of us, our repeated sins in the confessional swirl around the 8th Commandment. Help us, Lord, to shut our mouths and close our ears to gossip, slander, and detraction. May we always speak the truth! In public matters, may we speak publicly; in private matters, may we also speak the truth, but keep it private!

Lord Jesus, who during his passion "opened not His mouth," have mercy on us.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

St. Thomas More, martyr of truth, pray for us.

1 comment:

  1. "In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”
    -Theodore Dalrymple

    “We know they are lying.
They know they are lying.
They know that we know they are lying.
We know that they know we know they are lying.
And still they continue to lie.”
— Alexander Solzhenitsyn
    Solzhenitsyn knew about communism.

    Sadly, it seems as if we are living in, at least, soft communism in America, today.

    Don’t capitulate to lies or “political correctness”.
    Stand strong with the Truth.
    The Truth will set you free.

    (FYI: I found the first quote online and then looked up Theodore Dalrymple. It is the pen name of Anthony Malcolm Daniels, a conservative English cultural critic, prison physician and psychiatrist.)