Fr. Hardon on Detraction
One of the reasons I've grown rather sick of the Catholic blogosphere is because I've seen too much of the following going around, whether it be in debates over hot topics, or idle speculation on certain prominent priests' actions--and this on mainstream blogs whose Catholic hosts should know better.
Detraction is the unjust violation of the good reputation of another by revealing something true about him. [R]eputation is the object of an acquired right, and consequently to take it away or lower it becomes an act of injustice. Not only the living but also the dead have a right to good esteem.
What needs to be stressed, however, is that a person's good name is something he cherishes even though we may not think he deserves it. No matter; it is his good name, not ours. We may, if we wish, forfeit our good name provided no harm is done to others. But another person's good reputation belongs to him, and we may not do it injury by revealing, without proportionately grave reason, what we know is true about him.
Detraction is consequently a sin against justice because it deprives a man or woman of what they ordinarily value more than riches.
Closely connected with detraction and calumny are rash judgments, where we entertain an unquestioning conviction about another person's bad conduct without adequate grounds for our judgment.
Where the rash judgment begins is at the point where we go beyond the evidence available to judge the culpability of the action, attribute evil motives, and decide against the character or moral integrity of the person whose conduct we observed.
The sinfulness of rashly judging people, therefore, arises from two sources: the hasty imprudence with which a critical judgment is reached, and the loss of reputation that the person suffers in our estimation because we have judged him adversely.