Let us return to the scene of the curing of the blind man. Jesus Christ answered his disciples by pointing out that the blind man's misfortune is not the result of sin, but an occasion to manifest God's power. And with marvellous simplicity, he decides to give the blind man his sight.
Thereupon begins that poor man's happiness, but also his anguish. People simply will not leave him alone. First it is his "neighbours and those who had been accustomed to see him begging." The Gospel doesn't say that they even bothered to rejoice; they couldn't bring themselves to believe it, in spite of the fact that the once blind man claimed that he was the man who before couldn't see and now does. Rather than let him enjoy in peace his new-found fortune, they drag him to the Pharisees, who again inquire how this could have come about. And once again he replies: "He put clay on my eyes; and then I washed, and now I can see."
And the Pharisees seek to show that what has happened a great favour and miracle didn't happen. Some of them turn to petty, hypocritical, illogical arguments this man has cured on the Sabbath and, since working on the Sabbath is unlawful, they deny the wonder. Others start taking what today we would call a poll. They first approach the parents of the blind man: "Is this your son, who, you say, was born blind? How then does he now see?" Fearing the authorities, his parents give an answer that is technically correct: "We can tell you that this is our son, and that he was blind when he was born. We cannot tell how he is able to see now. We have no means of knowing who opened his eyes for him. Ask the man himself; he is of age. Let him tell you his own story."
Those taking the poll cannot believe, because they have chosen not to believe. "So once more they summoned the man who had been blind and said to him... This man Jesus Christ to our knowledge, is a sinner."
In a few words St John's account illustrates in a typical way an unscrupulous assault upon a basic natural right of all men, that of being treated with respect.
This way of acting is not a thing of the past. It would be no trouble at all to point out present-day cases of aggressive curiosity which pries morbidly into the private lives of others. A minimum of justice demands that, even when actual wrongdoing is suspected, an investigation of this sort be carried out with caution and moderation, lest mere possibility be converted into certainty. It is clear that an unhealthy curiosity to perform autopsies on actions that are not illicit but positively good should be ranked under the heading of perversion.
Faced with traders in suspicion who prey on the intimacy of others, we must defend the dignity of every person, his right to peace. All honest men, Christians or not, agree on the need for this defence, for a common value is at stake: the legitimate right to be oneself, to avoid ostentation, to keep within the family its joys, sorrows and difficulties. We are defending, no less, the right to do good without publicity, to help the disadvantaged out of pure love, without feeling obliged to publicise one's efforts to serve others, much less to bare the intimacy of one's soul to the indiscreet and twisted gaze of persons who know nothing and want to know nothing of disinterested generosity, except to mock it mercilessly.
But how difficult it is to be free of this meddlesome sleuthing! The means invented to prevent man from being left alone have multiplied. I am referring not only to the technical means, but also to accepted forms of argument, which are so cunning that one endangers his reputation if he but answers them. Thus, for example, a familiar way of arguing assumes that everyone acts from motives that leave something to be desired. Following this gratuitous train of thought, one is obliged to pronounce a mea culpa over his own actions, to indulge in self-criticism. And if someone does not sling a ton of mud upon himself, his critics immediately assume that, in addition to being a devious villain, he is also hypocritical and arrogant.
On other occasions, a different procedure is followed. The writer or speaker, with libellous intent, "admits" that you are an upright individual, but, he says, other people won't be willing to admit this and they might argue that you are a thief. Now how do you prove that you are not a thief? Another example: "You are always claiming that your conduct is clean, noble and upright. Would you mind examining the matter again to see if, on the contrary, it might not be dirty, twisted and ignoble?"