Gossip Poisons Small Rural Communities

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”  Exodus Chapter 20 – Verse 16.

Some nights ago the remnants of ‘Storm Doris’ hit the town of Thurles and the county of Tipperary. ‘Doris’ herself had indeed indicated her intentions earlier in the evening, by sending a series of scouts riding across the town and Shannon region in the form of short, sudden, gale gusts, each arriving some 15 minutes apart.

Having checked out the weaknesses in our small town’s battle defences, ‘Doris’ herself would later rage her ferocity, under the cover of early morning darkness; travelling at speeds of 80 to 100 miles per hour; her intention to reek mayhem on our ageing trees, loose roof tiles, telecommunications and power structures.

When the first severe gusts arrived, disengaging his electrical supply, Fr Tom Farrer had been busy writing his sermon for this Sunday’s Mass. In view of the recent false allegations of child sexual abuse revealed through the Sergeant Maurice McCabe scandal of last week; Fr Tom had come to a decision.  In his wisdom, he had decided to radiate some hard hitting remarks on the ever present sin associated with the whispering of unconfirmed rumours; identified as plain gossip which so often poisons small rural communities.

Electrical power had not been reconnected at 8.00am the following morning, nevertheless Fr. Tom slipped the bolt on his front door to allow uninhibited access to his soon to arrive housekeeper. Having removed his newspaper from the postbox, he admitted to himself that today would bring added suffering to an area already destroyed by a lack of job opportunities.

Some 15 minutes later his house keeper, Mrs Beatrice Clancy, arrived and in view of the absence of electricity; she began to set a fire in the old cast-iron grate. As Fr Tom watched her move Mrs Clancy began to extol the still sparse local info on last nights mini hurricane. “Oh” she rattled on, “and by the way I was in the Bingo last night and do you know what I heard about young Peter Ryan your Sacristan?”

“Hang on there now” Fr. Tom replied, “Before you tell me that story I’d like you to pass a little test. I call it the ‘Double Filter Test’. Before you talk to me about young Peter Ryan let’s take a moment to filter what you’re going to say. The first filter is that of ‘Truth’. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

Mrs Clancy thought hard for a brief moment “No,” the housekeeper admitted, “Actually I just heard about it in conversation.”  “All right now,” said Fr. Tom, “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me, Mrs Clancy, about Peter Ryan, something good?”

Again Mrs Clancy took a brief moment for hard reflection, before eventually stating “No, on the contrary.”  “So,” Fr. Tom continued, “You want to tell me something about young Peter Ryan that may be bad, even though you’re not certain it’s true?”

Mrs Clancy shrugged her shoulders, a little embarrassed. “Well,” concluded Fr. Tom, “If what you want to tell me is neither ‘True’ nor ‘Good’, why repeat it to me or anyone else in the first place?”

Feeling he had made his point most effectively; Fr. Tom sat down to await the arrival of his 2 x 2 min soft boiled eggs, due to relax shortly in a saucepan of boiling water on his now warming open fire.

Of course this story also explains the fact that Fr. Tom never truly found out that young Peter Ryan had skimmed an envelope containing a €50.00 note from the priest’s collection plate, to purchase a U2 concert ticket for the Joshua Tree Tour 2017, in Croke Park Dublin next July.


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