By Robin Gomes
If you want to destroy institutions or people, you start by speaking ill of them. This is the “slanderous communication” that Pope Francis exhorted Christians to watch out against in his homily at Mass Monday morning in the chapel of the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta residence.
Slander makes martyrs of innocents
The Pope was reflecting on the episode in the First Book of Kings, where Jezebel, the cruel wife of King Ahab of Samaria, used slander and falsehood to have Naboth killed in order to take possession of his vineyard which her husband greatly coveted.
The Pope described Naboth as a “martyr of fidelity to the inheritance" that he had received from his forefathers: "an inheritance of the heart".
He said the story of Naboth is repeated in the story of Jesus, Saint Stephen and all the martyrs who were falsely condemned with slander. The episode also reflects the ways of “many heads of state or government". One begins with a lie and, "after having destroyed both a person and a situation with slander", one judges and condemns them.
Dictatorship of evil communication
Pope Francis pointed out that even today this method of slanderous communication is used in many countries. Media and communication law is brushed aside with the entire communication system handed to a company or a group that weakens democratic life with slander and falsehood. The judges then condemn these weakened institutions and destroyed people. That’s how dictatorship works, the Pope said.
The Pope said all dictatorships began by adulterating communication by putting it in the hands of an unscrupulous person or government.
The seduction of scandals
This also happens in daily life, the Pope pointed out, saying one begins to destroy a person by starting with communication – speaking ill of others, slandering and spreading scandals, which he said have great seductive power.
Good news doesn’t seduce, it passes by, but a scandal draws attention. This is how a person, institution and country ends up in ruins.
The Pope said many persons and nations have been destroyed by evil and slanderous dictatorships, such as in the last century. He particularly pointed to the example of the persecution of Jews, who because of a slanderous communication did not deserve to live and thus ended up at Auschwitz.
Calling it a horror, the Pope said it happens even today in small societies, in persons and in many countries.
The Pope said James the Apostle speaks precisely of the "destructive capacity of evil communication". The Holy Father thus exhorted Christians to re-read the episode of Naboth and think of the many people and countries destroyed by dictatorships of 'white gloves'.