Truth and Justice cannot be sacrificed for Reputation

Richard Salbato

In 1894 a French army officer, Alfred Dryfus, was wrongfully convicted of treason. When the Commanders of the army realized he was innocent, they decided to hide the fact in order to protect the reputation of the army. They believed it was better to sacrifice one man than to harm the reputation of the army.

In France at the time was a very well known and loved author named Emile Zola. He received the information that Dryfus was innocent and that the Commanders knew it. In order to support truth and justice for Dryfus he knew he would be put on trial for slandering the army and the government.

Zola published in all the papers of France an article called “I Accuse” where he accused the high brass of the army of covering up a crime in order to protect their reputation. The corrupt system of justice found Zola guilty of slander and sentenced him to prison. Zola escaped to England and continued to publish his accusations. In time those who he accused either confessed or committed suicide. The French system of justice, which had favored the affluent, was totally changed where truth and justice ruled.

The same problem happened to John, the Baptist who slandered Herod, to Christ who slandered the Pharisees, and continues down the ages.  Thomas More publicly slandered his best friend, the King of England, and lost his head over it.

My open accusations against those who have abortions slanders those people. My public stand on the sin of homosexuality slanders those who support it. I call Obama the worst president in history and that is slander.

When is slander a sin?

This brings up the question. When is slander a sin or not a sin? When, like the examples above, are we required to slander someone, or our silence becomes a sin.

The answer to this is easy to say but hard to see. We are always required to reprimand (point out) the sins of others and they are required to point out ours. However, this is private and face to face. Even this can be slander if it is not true or even if justice is not the motive.

If, however, these sins (theirs or ours) harm others and continue to do so, we are commanded to expose this publicly. It is easy to see the examples above but sometimes it is not so easy. There are very few sins in the world that do not affect other people.

The father who walks away from his family believes he is only affecting his life but we all know the effects it has on the family he left. The student who does not want to learn thinks this only affects his life, but when he becomes a burden in the rest of society it affects everyone. When the glutton ends up in the hospital society pays the bill.

When a man does a simple thing like smoking weed, he thinks he harms no one. But that simple thing has killed more people in the drug war between Mexico and America over the past three years than all the American’s killed in our two wars over ten years. A parent who does not correct children produces all the crimes in America, the killer, the thief, the rapist, the dealer, and all the rest. The parent who neglects the children produces those who do not know how to love.

One simple way to know slander is the civil law of libel. It is not libel if it is the truth. On the otherhand for the Catholic it can still be a sin even if the truth, if it does not harm anyone. For me it is hard to find any sin that doe not harm others.

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For your interest, this is the life of Emile Zola

I have never read his other books so I don’t know if I agree with them or not.

In 1898 Zola intervened in the Dreyfus Affair—that of a Jewish French army officer whose wrongful conviction for treason in 1894 sparked a 12-year controversy that deeply divided French society. At an early stage in the proceedings Zola had decided rightly that Alfred Dreyfus was innocent. On Jan. 13, 1898, in the newspaper L’Aurore, Zola published a fierce denunciation of the French general staff in an open letter beginning with the words “J’accuse” (“I accuse”). He charged various high-ranking military officers and, indeed, the War Office itself of concealing the truth in the wrongful conviction of Dreyfus for espionage. Zola was prosecuted for libel and found guilty. In July 1899, when his appeal appeared certain to fail, he fled to England. He returned to France the following June when he learned that the Dreyfus case was to be reopened with a possible reversal of the original verdict. Zola’s intervention in the controversy helped to undermine anti-Semitism and rabid militarism in France.

Zola’s final series of novels, Les Trois Villes (1894–98; The Three Cities) and Les Quatre Évangiles (1899–1903; The Four Gospels) are generally conceded to be far less forceful than his earlier work. However, the titles of the novels in the latter series reveal the values that underlay his entire life and work: Fécondité (1899; Fecundity), Travail (1901; Work), Vérité (1903; Truth), and Justice (which, ironically, remained incomplete).

Zola died unexpectedly in September 1902, the victim of coal gas asphyxiation resulting from a blocked chimney flue. Officially, the event was determined to be a tragic accident, but there were—and still are—those who believe that fanatical anti-Dreyfusards arranged to have the chimney blocked.

At the time of his death, Zola was recognized not only as one of the greatest novelists in Europe but also as a man of action—a defender of truth and justice, a champion of the poor and the persecuted. At his funeral he was eulogized by Anatole France as having been not just a great man, but “a moment in the human conscience,” and crowds of mourners, prominent and poor alike, lined the streets to salute the passing casket. In 1908 Zola’s remains were transferred to the Panthéon and placed alongside those of Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Victor Hugo, other French authors whose works and deeds, like those of Zola, had changed the course of French history.