Objections


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You Sinned against Charity and Purity
by Exposing Gill

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Hello TIA,

I support your position against Distributism, and am against The Angelus magazine and the IHS Press promoting it.

I don’t know if you have seen this, but here is the latest piece published in The Angelus (February 2007 issue) attacking your exposure of Gill’s scandalous life. It is a letter by Fr. Peter Scott rambling about principles of common good and morality in order to accuse you of sinning by exposing Gill’s vices.

I would really like to know your answer to this accusation.

Keep up your fight. We need learned people like you to help us.

       Regards,

       M.C.


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Questions and Answers by Fr. Peter Scott


Is it permissible to publish the sins of deceased persons?

It is certainly true that a man's reputation is the most precious exterior possession that he can have, as the book of Proverbs states, `A good name is better than great riches (Prov. 22:1), and that he has a strict right to it in justice. It is also true that despite the fact that the modern world considers that a reputation is of little consequence, it is a sign of honor and goodness that a man values the opinion that others have of his excellence. Finally, it is also true that reputation concerns principally a man's practice of virtue, and only secondarily his other good qualities, and that this right is not extinguished by death, for a man, having an immortal soul, always has a right to his reputation.

Consequently, the deliberate telling or publishing of the sins that a man committed during his life, without proportionate reason, is a mortal sin of detraction both against justice and against charity, even if the facts told are perfectly true.

However, the right to one's reputation is not absolute, and has limitations. Just as we can tell the sins of the living, if it is necessary for their own good (that they might be corrected), or for the good of a third person (to prevent him from being led into error or sin), or for the common good, so also do there exist reasons for relating the sins of deceased persons. In the case of the deceased it is usually the common good that is invoked, and rightly so.

In fact, an historian of the Reformation who would not tell the sins of King Henry VIII or Luther could not be considered an historian. He would not tell the truth, and his history would serve no purpose. Likewise an historian of Pope John Paul II who would not tell of his public sin of religious indifferentism at Assisi in 1986 would not tell the truth. History is the master of life, as the saying goes, and to do so it must tell all that pertains to the truth, the evil as well as the good, the faults of Catholics as well as their virtues. Hence the moral theologians are in agreement that for the sake of history itself, there is always a sufficient reason, in virtue of the common good, for relating all certainly true events, and backing up with documents (cf. Prummer, II, § 194).

This applies to all persons who are public, who have a role in history, and notably writers, authors, artists and men of ideas, and even with respect to acts that were not publicly known while they were alive. It is only by the full picture of their lives that their impact on history can be evaluated. Thus it cannot be considered a sin against justice for persons to have made known the already published sins of Eric Gill, who as an activist in the Catholic Distributist movement was a public and historical figure.

Nevertheless, a disorder can frequently arise in such matters, due to a certain curiosity about evil things that is common to fallen human nature. It is very easy for the mode of telling of sins to be excessive and scandalous, and to become a serious sin against charity.

Such is the case of those who would concentrate on a man's sins before his conversion, or who would describe his sins in a very graphic manner. This is particularly the case with sins against the sixth commandment, in which all detail is an occasion of sin, and very dangerous to relate or to read. Some people, however, wrongly take advantage of such sins to promote their own cause. The Internet is easily abused for gossip mongering, and those who went into the details of Gill's moral life on the Internet were sinning against charity by the manner and publicity that they gave to this discussion, and also on account of the scandal that an unnecessary and excessively public discussion of sins against purity does cause.

The key issue is the common good. Persons who have a particularly immoral life should only be discussed if the common good requires it, as it does with Luther or Henry VIII. However, the Catholic in charity ought to avoid so doing if it is not really necessary for history. It is for this reason that prudence dictates that it is preferable not to quote from or bring up the subject of such persons, particular if they are Catholic, on account of the scandal that the telling of historical facts could cause.




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TIA responds:


Mr. M.C.,

Thank you for the information. We didn’t know that Fr. Peter Scott had made this indirect attack on the articles of Mr. Patrick Odou exposing Eric Gill as a pedophile father and a pornographic and blasphemous artist.

The accusation of Fr. Scott is essentially this:
“Those who went into the details of Gill's moral life on the Internet were sinning against charity by the manner and publicity that they gave to this discussion, and also on account of the scandal that an unnecessary and excessively public discussion of sins against purity does cause.”
There are two charges here: to sin against charity and to sin by favoring impurity. We will refute both of them.

Charity

We do not agree with Fr. Scott that there is a sin against charity in exposing a man who was a sexual maniac.

Eric Gill was being wrongly presented by the editor of The Angelus magazine as a leader who should be respected and followed: “He not only had a distinguished career as a thinker, social critic, and art philosopher, but he was a skillful engraver, sculptor, and typographer" (March 2005). In that same issue the magazine published an article by Gill on the education of children.

Mr. Odou’s articles exposing Gill as an incestuous and pedophile father should be highly praised as an act for the public good. The exposure prevented parents and children from following Gill without knowing who he was. This seems to characterize an act of charity toward society, and not a sin against charity for exposing the criminal.

Fr. Scott seems to have mixed up his morals regarding charity and the common good.

Purity

Also regarding purity, Scott’s argument is a sophism.

A lawyer who gives evidence of sexual abuse is fundamentally proving that the defendant is guilty and trying to put him away from society.

This is what Odou’s articles fundamentally intended to do: to expose Eric Gill before public opinion in order to put him out of the public arena.

We have seen confirmations of this procedure ad nauseam in reports on lawsuits against pedophile and homosexual priests that have been published from 2002 onward in the United States. No one with common sense viewed those reports as an encouragement to sin against purity, but rather saw it as an act of social healing.

It would seem that only a collaborator with the sexual predator would pretend that the evidence should be suppressed because it could inspire bad thoughts in the minds of the public.

When Fr. Scott attacks those who expose Eric Gill as a sexual maniac, is he really concerned about purity, or is he covering up for the guilty?

Again, it seems that either Fr. Scott mixed up his morals on purity, or he is covering up for both Gill’s vices and the complicity of The Angelus with them.

We hope that these considerations will be of some help to you, Mr. M.C.

     Cordially,

     TIA correspondence desk

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