In the Baltimore Catechism, detraction is listed as a sin against the Eighth Commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." Detraction does not mean lying about one's neighbor, it means revealing a truth ruinous to the reputation that the listener has no right to hear -- i.e., if a woman has had an abortion years ago, one cannot, in good conscience, broadcast that to the public without committing a grave sin.
The problem with Washington is that detraction is what modern campaigns are all about: digging up dirt on one's opponent, and feeding it to a cooperative press.
Yet if Hastert and those two newspapers declined to destroy Foley for one indiscreet e-mail, did they not do the better thing?
Would it not have caused a storm of outrage against the GOP and speaker if, after one e-mail, they had outed and ruined Foley? Would not the GOP have been fairly charged with a cruel act of homophobia over a single "over-friendly" e-mail?
There are other questions. As it was a Democrat front group, CREW, that sent the instant messages to the FBI in July, were not Democrats aware Foley was prowling the page dorm, and did they not remain silent, preferring to await the politically propitious moment to release the IMs?
Is the Democratic concern for the "children" genuine, or did they leave the pages vulnerable until they could drop their stink bomb on Foley and the House Republicans, five weeks before the election?
As of today, this is a Republican scandal. A GOP congressman was responsible for the sordid messages to pages. The House GOP leadership failed to investigate rigorously. And some GOP staff and members may have lied and may have covered up. Any Republican who is proven to have done so should be removed from any position of power.
But to have the party of gay rights, many of whose leaders have marched in gay pride parades alongside the pedophiles of NAMBLA, acting "shocked, shocked" at GOP torpor in outing and ousting its flaming gay member is, to put it mildly, unconvincing.