What plague could be worse than the Covid-19 pandemic the world has experienced in 2020?
Pope Francis suggests a possibility: gossip.
His suggestion came during his September 6, 2020, Angelus to the faithful gathered (within social distancing limits) in St. Peter’s Square. And he grounded his remarks in the day’s Gospel message (Mt 18:15-20) in which Jesus addresses the challenging topic of fraternal correction.
The Holy Father explained that correction is necessary to promote unity in the Church while respecting individual conscience. To this end, the Lord proposed a particular way to correct.
“To correct a brother who has made a mistake, Jesus suggests a pedagogy of rehabilitation,” Pope Francis said. “And Jesus’ pedagogy is always a pedagogy of rehabilitation, of salvation.
“And this pedagogy of rehabilitation is articulated in three passages. In the first place, he says: ‘point out the fault when the two of you are alone’ (v. 15), that is, do not air his sin in public. It is about going to your brother with discretion, not to judge him but to help him realize what he has done. How many times have we had this experience: someone comes and tells us: ‘But listen, you were mistaken about this. You should change a little in this regard’. Perhaps in the beginning we get angry, but then we say ‘thank you’, because it is a gesture of brotherhood, of communion, of help, of rehabilitation.”
Of course, the Pope pointed out, the correction doesn’t always go according to plan. Despite good intentions, it can be a fearful experience. And the person being corrected may react badly. As a result, sometimes gossip arises in the place of fraternal correction.
“This teaching of Jesus helps us a great deal, because – let us consider an example – when we see a mistake, a fault, a slip, in that brother or sister, usually the first thing we do is to go and recount it to others, to gossip.,” Francis continued. “And gossip closes the heart to the community, closes off the unity of the Church.
“The great gossiper is the devil, who always goes about telling bad things about others because he is the liar who seeks to separate the Church to distance brothers and sisters and not create community. Please, brothers and sisters, let us make an effort not to gossip. Chatter is a plague more awful than Covid! Let us make an effort: no gossip.”