Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


“We must call evil evil, and sin sin” – St. Francis de Sales

May 15th, 2012, Promulgated by benanderson

St. Frances de Sales has been mentioned recently in our combox and it just so happens that I recently finished his masterpiece “Introduction to the Devout Life”. (various formats here. txt version here.) This book is absolutely life changing and once again I praise God that I am Catholic and have access to such great resources. People talk about the dire times in which we live, but I’d counter that by saying that the resources, the tools, the graces which are available to us today makes Christ’s yoke unbelievably light. As I was reading this book, I highlighted various quotes in the kindle app which saved them for later reference. The particular passage below is a especially fitting passage for Cleansing Fire and anyone who feels inclined to partake of the fight for orthodoxy in the Diocese of Rochester. Read each word carefully. Contemplate it. Read it again. Contemplate again and pray.

But while extremely sensitive as to the slightest approach to slander, you must also guard against an extreme into which some people fall, who, in their desire to speak evil of no one, actually uphold and speak well of vice. If you have to do with one who is unquestionably a slanderer, do not excuse him under the expressions of frank and free-spoken; do not call one who is notoriously vain, liberal and elegant; do not call dangerous levities mere simplicity; do not screen disobedience under the name of zeal, or arrogance of frankness, or evil intimacy of friendship. No, my child, we must never, in our wish to shun slander, foster or flatter vice in others; but we must call evil evil, and sin sin, and so doing we shall serve God’s Glory, always bearing in mind the following rules.

If you would be justified in condemning a neighbour’s sin, you must be sure that it is needful either for his good or that of others to do so.  For instance, if light, unseemly conduct is spoken of before young people in a way calculated to injure their purity, and you pass it over, or excuse it, they may be led to think lightly of evil, and to imitate it; and therefore you are bound to condemn all such things freely and at once, unless it is obvious that by reserving your charitable work of reprehension to a future time, you can do it more profitably.

Furthermore, on such occasions it is well to be sure that you are the most proper person among those present to express your opinion, and that your silence would seem in any way to condone the sin. If you are one of the least important persons present, it is probably not your place to censure; but supposing it to be your duty, be most carefully just in what you say,–let there not be a word too much or too little.  For instance, you censure the intimacy of certain people, as dangerous and indiscreet. Well, but you must hold the scales with the most exact justice, and not exaggerate in the smallest item. If there be only a slight appearance of evil, say no more than that; if it be a question of some trifling imprudence, do not make it out to be more; if there be really neither imprudence nor positive appearance of evil, but only such as affords a pretext for malicious slander, either say simply so much, or, better still, say nothing at all. When you speak of your neighbour, look upon your tongue as a sharp razor in the surgeon’s hand, about to cut nerves and tendons; it should be used so carefully, as to insure that no particle more or less than the truth be said. And finally, when you are called upon to blame sin, always strive as far as possible to spare the sinner.

Public, notorious sinners may be spoken of freely, provided always even then that a spirit of charity and compassion prevail, and that you do not speak of them with arrogance or presumption, or as though you took pleasure in the fall of others. To do this is the sure sign of a mean ungenerous mind. And, of course, you must speak freely in condemnation of the professed enemies of God and His Church, heretics and schismatics,–it is true charity to point out the wolf wheresoever he creeps in among the flock. Most people permit themselves absolute latitude in criticising and censuring rulers, and in calumniating nationalities, according to their own opinions and likings. But do you avoid this fault; it is displeasing to God, and is liable to lead you into disputes and quarrels. When you hear evil of any one, cast any doubt you fairly can upon the accusation; or if that is impossible, make any available excuse for the culprit; and where even that may not be, be yet pitiful and compassionate, and remind those with whom you are speaking that such as stand upright do so solely through God’s Grace. Do your best kindly to check the scandal-bearer, and if you know anything favourable to the person criticised, take pains to mention it.


6 Responses to ““We must call evil evil, and sin sin” – St. Francis de Sales”

  1. avatar Thinkling says:

    Indeed, Caritas in Veritate.

    I wonder if that encyclical referenced that work at all…

  2. avatar Thinkling says:

    Apparently not, only three or four non Vatican citations.

    Nonetheless thanks for the passage Ben. This should definitely be on my reading list.

  3. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Thanks, Ben. This is one of my favorites too. Right up there with Imitation of Christ. It is interesting how different parts grab us at different times, which is why re-reading a few years later can bring a whole new dimension. When I finish reading I do brief thoughts/comments/reminders like you did above. What grabbed me about Devout Life is how the section on friends is in direct contrast to Facebook and having 976 friends! Friendship an inch deep and a mile wide.

    While making the point that we owe Christian love to all people, St. Francis de Sales notes that we choose those whom we would call friend. And they choose us. Francis writes: “Love everyone with a deep love based on charity, … but form friendships only with those who can share virtuous things with you. The higher the virtues you share and exchange with others, the more perfect your friendship will be….people in the world need [friendships] to assist one another in the many dangerous places they must pass through….Sacred friendship uses plain sincere language and praises nothing but God’s grace, the only foundation on which such friendship rests.”

    And with these words, he then explains how severing other kinds of friendship can actually be an offering we make for the sake of our own friendship with God. Words that still make sense, even in the 21st century. Today I think we use the word ‘friend’ too casually, sometimes encompassing those whom we know and with whom we don’t particularly have any problems, to cite an extreme, or whose personalities we like, or who make us feel good. This is the age of networking for business, and of being thrown together with others for the sake of the children, or the neighborhood or even in the church community. Reading Devout Life was a good reminder of why God gives us the gift of friends.

  4. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Thanks for that, Diane. I also made a note of that section… specifically the severing of friendships. It goes completely against the wisdom offered by the spirit of the age that offending someone is the most grave sin there is. We would do well to apply this same logic to a church/parish body. Our mentality is all too often, “keeping people in the pews is what counts”, “at least they are here”, “visible communion at all costs” often referring to people who have no desire to work for the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ, but rather work to tear down the Church he has established. At some point our pastors need to say, “no, you are not welcome be an active part of this community unless you confess our faith in its entirety”.

  5. avatar flowerchild says:

    it’s a small thing but…

    …makes Christ’s YOLK unbelievably light…

    I think it should be ‘yoke’ (a frame across one’s shoulders used to carry a load), not ‘yolk’ (the rounded inner part of an egg).

  6. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Thanks, flowerchild. Yolk on my face!

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