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In Roman Catholic theology, detraction is the sin of revealing another person's faults to a third person without a valid reason.[1][2] This differs from the sin of calumny and the civil wrong of defamation, which generally involve false accusations rather than unflattering truths.

As in the case of stealing, detraction is a sin which demands restitution, even though rebuilding a victim's reputation may be nearly impossible.[2] A commonly cited parable in this regard concerns a priest, often said to be Philip Neri, who gave a woman who had confessed to spreading gossip the penance of retrieving feathers that had been scattered on the wind—a task as impossible as undoing the damage she had done.[3][4]


  1. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2477–2479
  2. ^ a b Joseph Delany (1908). "Detraction". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  3. ^ Edward P. Sri (September–October 2010). "The Art of Living: The Feathers of Gossip". Lay Witness. 
  4. ^ Ferreol Girardey (1916), Charles J. Callan, ed., "Detraction Cannot Be Repaired", Illustrations for Sermons and Instructions, New York: Joseph F. Wagner, p. 353