Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2479
In his now infamous rant, Corey Stewart said, “I just am having a hard time understanding how Ed Gillespie can call himself a conservative, how he can call himself a Catholic, how he can call himself, frankly, a good man.”
As I have outlined here and here, Stewart’s claims about Ed’s position on the right to life are outright falsehoods. They represent a complete derangement of the factual record. Stewart’s campaign ought to be ashamed.
That’s enough of the political marker on this. I want to focus for a moment on Gillespie’s faith defend him against the calumny perpetrated against him by Stewart.
Gillespie is a devoted, lifelong Catholic and true son of the Catholic Church. Talk to anyone who knows Ed and they will testify to the quality of his character, his devotion as a husband and father, and his commitment to Christian values in public life.
How deep is this conviction? Gillespie served on the Board of Trustees of the Catholic University of America (my alma mater) before resigning from that position to run for Senate in 2014. CUA is the only institution of higher education founded by the Catholic bishops of the United States — it is an honor to serve, and the work that Gillespie helped to do at Catholic University truly helped turn the institution around.
Not once has Gillespie bragged about that work. Not once has Gillespie asked for recognition. Not once did he put it on a list of credentials and wear that service on his sleeve. Ed did it because that’s what Catholics believe charity ought to be — a sacrifice.
In 2012 after the Catholic bishops became overwhelmingly concerned about the threat to religious freedom in the United States, Gillespie founded Conscience Cause — a group focused on fighting for religious liberty and highlighting the Obama Administration’s overreach when it came to Obamacare.
On life, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) endorsed Gillespie during his 2014 U.S. Senate run, citing not just his stellar pro-life position but his “record of strong pro-life leadership,” calling him a “friend and ally” of the pro-life movement.
Ed and his wife Cathy have been parishioners at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria for decades. All three of their children went to parochial schools.
This is why it really bothers me that Stewart would go out of his way to attack Gillespie on the standing of his Catholic Faith.
Catholics aren’t supposed to advertise their service. I’m certain that Stewart has done all he can for his parish (either All Saints or Sacred Heart — not certain what his home parish might be). Yet there are those who know what Gillespie has sacrificed for the Catholic Church, both in reputation and in comfort.
Perhaps if Stewart has sacrificed alongside Gillespie, Stewart would be less apt to calumniate Gillespie in the public square? Perhaps that is too presumptuous… but it does illustrate one very simple fact — attacking the personal faith of others in the public square based on political advantage is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Pope Francis offered some remarkable reflections on the sin of calumny in the beginning of his pontificate, as follows — and they are worth reading in toto:
“(C)alumny… is of course a sin… but it is something more. Calumny aims to destroy the work of God, and calumny comes from a very evil thing: it is born of hatred. And hate is the work of Satan. Calumny destroys the work of God in people, in their souls. Calumny uses lies to get ahead. And let us be in no doubt, eh?: Where there is calumny, there is Satan himself. ”
— Pope Francis (2013)
That is not something most folks understand… and for those without a Catholic background, perhaps it is even more difficult to understand what a serious sin it is to misrepresent someone else on the basis of their Catholic Faith — someone made in the image and likeness of Christ — really is.
Calumny destroys the work of God in people, in their souls…
Gillespie isn’t going to brag about his faith (nor should he), nor is he going to defend himself against the slanders and calumny of a politically-geared attack. More than likely, Stewart isn’t going to apologize…
…but years from now, when he reflects on this as the moment that tanked his gubernatorial hopes and he asks God “why?” before the Blessed Sacrament? Stewart is going to realize in prayer that what he did here was wrong.
The enemy of the “lie” will forever be the truth — solid, cold, unafraid, and present. Thankfully, the mercy of the Church and the sacraments are extended for instances just such as these.
Stewart knew better. Gillespie deserved better.
Just in case you are interested, the painting above is Botticelli’s Calumny of Appelles, which is an interpretation of a Greek work recorded by Lucan in a work appropriately titled, On Calumny. In it, Lucan writes: “There are two women in attendance to Slander, one is Fraud and the other Conspiracy. They are followed by a woman dressed in deep mourning, with black clothes all in tatters—she is Repentance. At all events, she is turning back with tears in her eyes and casting a stealthy glance, full of shame, at Truth, who is slowly approaching.”
Truth as the enemy of the lie. Slander and calumny are tricky things, indeed.