In his daily Mass on Friday Pope Francis spoke about fraternal correction, explaining that it heals and builds up the body of Christ, but only when done out of love. “Gossip hurts; gossip is a slap in the face of a person’s reputation, it is an attack on the heart of a person,” the Pope told those present in the Santa Marta residence on Sept. 12. “Sure, when they tell you the truth it’s not nice to hear, but if it is spoken with charity and love, it is easier to accept,” he said, so “we must speak of other people’s defects” with charity. Referring to the day’s Gospel from Luke chapter six, the pontiff focused his reflections on Jesus’ instruction to take the wooden beam from our own eyes before trying to take the splinter from our brother’s eye. With this scene, the Pope returned to a theme of fraternal correction, which he has spoken of frequently in his short pontificate. The first thing we realize when reading this passage, he said, is that we should never correct a brother or sister without charity. “You cannot reprimand a person without love and charity. (Just like) you cannot perform surgery without anesthesia: you cannot, because the patient will die from the pain.” Charity, he noted, “is like an anesthetic that helps you to receive treatment and accept reprimand. Take him to one side and talk to him, with gentleness, with love.” A second important point is that we must always speak the truth, the Bishop of Rome continued: “Do not say something that is not true. How often in our community are things said about another person that are not true: they are slander. Or if they are true, they destroy the person’s reputation.” Although hearing the truth about oneself and telling the truth to another are never easy, it becomes less difficult when charity is involved, he said. The Roman Pontiff also said humility is an essential part of making a correction.
“If you really need to reprimand a little flaw, stop and remember that you have many more and far bigger!” “Fraternal reprimand is an act that heals the Body of the Church. There's a tear, there, in the fabric of the Church that we must mend. And like mothers and grandmothers, who mend so gently, so delicately, we must do likewise when we want to reprimand our brother.” However, if we are unable to say the truth with charity, then “you will offend, you will destroy the heart of that person, you will add to gossip, that hurts, and you will become a blind hypocrite, just as Jesus says.” Pope Francis said one helpful sign in checking our motivations is when we feel “a certain delight” when we see a fault, and we see it as our duty to make the correction. We must be careful, he said, “because that is not coming from the Lord.” “We Christians tend to behave like doctors: stand on the sidelines of the game between sin and grace as if we were angels,” the Pope continued. “No! Paul says: ‘for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.’ And a Christian who, in the community, does not do things — even fraternal reprimand — In love, in truth and humility, is disqualified! He has failed to become a mature Christian.” Pope Francis then prayed for the Lord to help us “in this fraternal service, which is as beautiful as it is painful, to help our brothers and sisters to be better and help us to always do it with love, in truth and humility.”