2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:
- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279
- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:
Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.280
2479 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.
This is also a good time to discuss the issue of obedience and and reverence for authority.
Fr. John A. Hardon gives us a good definition of obedience in the Modern Catholic Dictionary:
The moral virtue that inclines the will to comply with the will of another who has the right to command. Material obedience is merely to carry out the physical action commanded; formal obedience is to perform an action precisely because it is commanded by a legitimate superior. The extent of obedience is as wide as the authority of the person who commands. Thus obedience to God is without limit, whereas obedience to human beings is limited by higher laws that must not be transgressed, and by the competency or authority of the one who gives the orders. As a virtue, it is pleasing to God because it means the sacrifice of one's will out of love for God.
In his dictionary, Fr. Hardon also defines reverence in a context that should be considered (emphasis mine in bold):
The virtue that inclines a person to show honor and respect for persons who possess some dignity. There are four forms of reverence:
- Familial reverence toward one's parents or those who take the place of parents.
- Civil reverence towards persons holding civil authority.
- Ecclesiastical reverence toward the Pope, bishops, priests and others in the service of the Church.
- Religious reverence toward any person, place, or object related to God.
Obedience to, and reverence for ecclesiastical authority is an important consideration with respect to discernment of apparitions. The 1978 CDF Document on Apparition Discernment refers to it as "docility to ecclesiastical authority" (see A, b, 1).
When these things are seen in people involved with private revelations and apparitions being investigated, it is a sign of pure grace. Often times, the extraordinary level of virtue is not visible until decades later.
This was the case with Padre Pio who suffered with prohibition of celebrating Mass publicly and of hearing confessions for a period of years. He remained firmly obedient to legitimate authority, even when the sanctions against him seemed unfair. Such obedience and reverence for authority is what Christ exemplified when he submitted himself to the authority of Pilate, who would order him put to death. Pope John Paul II stated at Padre Pio's canonization:
Padre Pio made his journey of demanding spiritual ascesis in communion with the Church. The temporary misunderstandings he had with one or other ecclesial authority did not put a brake on his attitude of filial obedience. Padre Pio was a faithful and courageous son of the Church and in this situation he followed the shining example of the "Poverello" of Assisi
While obedience and reverence for authority on the part of alleged visionaries and their closest associates are criteria the Church uses for discernment (certainly not in isolation), we would hope that manifestations of such grace would also be exemplified in followers.