Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.
Unjust injury of a person's good name. It consists in telling facts that harm another's reputation. In defamation, there is at least an implicit intention to harm the reputation of another, who is absent and therefore not a witness to being defamed.
Defamation may be committed in tow ways: by spreading injurious facts that are true by t not publicly known, or by saying things that are false.
Since defamation violates commutative justice, it involves the duty of making reparation for the foreseen injury inflicted. Hence the defamer must try, not only to repair the harm done to another's good name, but also to make up any foreseen temporal injury that resulted from the defamation, such as the loss of employment or of customers.
A number of reasons would release a person from the obligation of repairing the damage done to someone's good name; for example, the injury no longer exists, or reparation is physically or morally impossible to make, or the one defamed has excused the defamer, or reparation would cause the defamer far greater injury than the one inflicted, or if there is good likelihood that a calumnious defamation was not believed by those to whom it was said.