Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, has a history of being misquoted or denied a proper context to his statements, and this has caused many problems as a result. Pundits seize on anything that can fit their agenda, no matter the legitimacy, and this can spread confusion among the faithful. Centuries of tradition seemingly vanish over night due to the lies of a few individuals wanting a larger audience.
This is not the pope's fault. Instead, he is a victim of a war against truth itself. Whether a symptom of moral relativism or the desires of the ambitious, distorting the truth in any way to create controversy is far from appropriate. Far too often, true journalism is replaced by clickbait.
In a speech to journalists on Dec. 16, Pope Francis reminded them: “It is important that the criteria of judgment and information are offered patiently and methodically so that public opinion is able to understand and discern, and is not stunned and disoriented.”
He then went further, reminding them that journalistic abuses are a sin against God: “There is no need to fall into the ‘sins of communications’: misinformation, that is saying only a part which is calumny and which is sensational, or defamation that seeks out things past and old and bringing them to light today.”
This sin is not limited to journalists; we are all capable of causing grave harm. That is why Pope Francis speaks so often against those who would abuse language to further themselves, especially through gossip and rumor-mongering.
In another speech, Pope Francis reminded us of what was written in the Epistle of James, 3:8-10: “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers.”
While journalists spreading false or biased information causes great public harm, gossip and rumors can cause great private harm. It is for this reason Pope Francis declared: “There is one image I like to use in describing the spirit of gossip. It is terrorism. Yes, terrorism, because those who speak ill of others do not do so publicly.”
Ultimately, these are two sides of the same problem: division. There is much profit to be made through dividing people, and both journalists and regular citizens seek out attention no matter if it is positive or negative. But what humans want is not what God wants, and he gave us his only Son to bring us together.
We are called to be honest in all things, and we should not make excuses for poor judgment because it fits our political agenda. We should not be quick to share that which harms others, but we should be quick to apologize for our errors. We must seek truth in all things, or we will become unfit for the truth of Christ's love.