Evil Speech

Started by TerrorDæmonum, December 28, 2021, 01:16:57 PM

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A grave sin that is often overlooked (not only on this forum) is a sin of speech, evil speech. The Douay-Rheims usually translates it as "rail", which means:

Quote from: Merriam-Webster
to revile or scold in harsh, insolent, or abusive language

It is a general term and is a sin against Justice, committing verbal injuries, and this includes related evils:

  • Reviling: railing speech towards a person
  • Backbiting: similar speech about a person (to another)
  • Tale-bearing: gossiping
  • Derision: mocking in jest
  • Cursing: cursing
Scripture describes the potential for great evil and the ease in which it takes root:

Quote from: James 3:5-10
Even so the tongue is indeed a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold how small a fire kindleth a great wood.

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is placed among our members, which defileth the whole body, and inflameth the wheel of our nativity, being set on fire by hell. For every nature of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of the rest, is tamed, and hath been tamed, by the nature of man: But the tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison. By it we bless God and the Father: and by it we curse men, who are made after the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

This is a grave matter, for such speech is a mortal sin:

Quote from: Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 72
Article 2. Whether reviling or railing is a mortal sin?

On the contrary, Nothing but mortal sin deserves the eternal punishment of hell. Now railing or reviling deserves the punishment of hell, according to Matthew 5:22, "Whosoever shall say to his brother . . . Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Therefore railing or reviling is a mortal sin.

I answer that, As stated above (Article 1), words are injurious to other persons, not as sounds, but as signs, and this signification depends on the speaker's inward intention. Hence, in sins of word, it seems that we ought to consider with what intention the words are uttered. Since then railing or reviling essentially denotes a dishonoring, if the intention of the utterer is to dishonor the other man, this is properly and essentially to give utterance to railing or reviling: and this is a mortal sin no less than theft or robbery, since a man loves his honor no less than his possessions. If, on the other hand, a man says to another a railing or reviling word, yet with the intention, not of dishonoring him, but rather perhaps of correcting him or with some like purpose, he utters a railing or reviling not formally and essentially, but accidentally and materially, in so far to wit as he says that which might be a railing or reviling. Hence this may be sometimes a venial sin, and sometimes without any sin at all. Nevertheless there is need of discretion in such matters, and one should use such words with moderation, because the railing might be so grave that being uttered inconsiderately it might dishonor the person against whom it is uttered. On such a case a man might commit a mortal sin, even though he did not intend to dishonor the other man: just as were a man incautiously to injure grievously another by striking him in fun, he would not be without blame.

It is important to know it isn't the sounds that are sinful, but the intent of the speaker. It is not necessarily spoken words, but communication of one mind to another by any means, the normal human means being speech.

Railers are listed among those who are excluded from the Kingdom of God:

Quote from: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God.

And people to be avoided by the faithful:

Quote from: 1 Corinthians 5:9-11
I wrote to you in an epistle, not to keep company with fornicators.  I mean not with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or the extortioners, or the servers of idols; otherwise you must needs go out of this world.

But now I have written to you, not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or a server of idols, or a railer (maledicus), or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one, not so much as to eat.

Furthermore, the example of St Michael, disputing with Satan, was holy in his speech, even when confronted with the most heinous of adversaries, St Michael's intellect did not speak evil:

Quote from: Jude 1:8-10
In like manner these men also defile the flesh, and despise dominion, and blaspheme majesty. When Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses, he durst not bring against him the judgment of railing speech, but said: The Lord command thee.  But these men blaspheme whatever things they know not: and what things soever they naturally know, like dumb beasts, in these they are corrupted.

Angels communicate intellectually, and this demonstrates the importance of understanding the nature of evil speech. It is not sounds necessarily.

One of the great provocations of this sin is responding to another sin in kind, and this should be not be, as St Peter writes:

Quote from: 1 Peter 3:8-12
And in fine, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, being lovers of the brotherhood, merciful, modest, humble: Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing: for unto this are you called, that you may inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.

Let him decline from evil, and do good: let him seek after peace and pursue it: Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their prayers: but the countenance of the Lord upon them that do evil things.

He also counts railers among murders and thieves:

Quote from: 1 Peter 4:14-16
If you be reproached for the name of Christ, you shall be blessed: for that which is of the honour, glory, and power of God, and that which is his Spirit, resteth upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a railer, or a coveter of other men's things.

But if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

All this is quite clear:

  • Speech, that is, the act of communicating our thoughts in anyway to another, is an area of grave moral concern.
  • Railing speech is particularly noteworthy and prominently condemned repeatedly in scripture.
  • It is a sin against Justice, a form of injury to man in some way
  • It is more in the domain of intellectual beings, for beasts cannot do it, but demons can, and we can sin both ways (see: The Worst Sins)

What are the practical lessons? The first is that we must appreciate how dangerous this particular sin is and how difficult it is to control, as scripture states: "But the tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison.".

The biggest excuse the faithful make for this sin is to cite forceful language in scripture (Our Lord rebuking those who are most obstinate and in error and who should know better) or particular letters or words of great saints.

This is a grave mistake, for while forceful language can be appropriate, the fact is that we are almost never in a position to use it as we see God Himself use it to those over whom He has complete authority and understanding. The examples of the saints are not always perfect, and rhetorical conventions do change over time. The words between equals communicating with a common understanding is not justification for descending into railing speech.

And finally, the angels themselves do not do it when dealing directly with the evils of Satan.

Railers do not share in the Kingdom of Heaven and it is an insidious sin that is very easy to do and very difficult to avoid, so much so that we would do well to avoid those who commit it whenever possible.

And the excuses for it often border on blasphemous, using scripture and Our Lords words to justify evil-speech.

What good is to not slander, lie, or blaspheme if we commit this sin? Our ability to communicate is an area of very important moral consideration, as it is prone to great evils of many different sins, including abusive language, lying, immodesty, and blasphemy among many other sins.

But it is the speech among ourselves that can do the most harm most of the time.

And those who make excuses for it, support it, and defend it are sharing in the sins of others by doing so and we would do well not to make excuses for sin and pray we are protected against this grave sin:

Quote from: Psalm 140:1-5
I have cried to thee, O Lord, hear me: hearken to my voice, when I cry to thee. Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight; the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth: and a door round about my lips. Incline not my heart to evil words; to make excuses in sins. With men that work iniquity: and I will not communicate with the choicest of them. The just shall correct me in mercy, and shall reprove me: but let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head. For my prayer also shall still be against the things with which they are well pleased:


This is beautiful; thank you for posting it. Very edifying.
I am sorry for the times I have publicly criticized others on this forum, especially traditional Catholic religious, and any other scandalous posts and pray that no one reads or believes these false and ignorant statements.


 :pray1: :pray1: :pray1:

Super topic.  Christ have mercy on us sinners.