OPT. MEMORIAL OF
THE FIRST MARTYRS OF THE HOLY ROMAN CHURCH
“WHO are you to judge?”
Sounds virtuous, doesn’t it? But when these words are used to deflect from taking a moral stand, to wash one’s hands of responsibility for others, to remain uncommitted in the face of injustice… then it is cowardice. Moral relativism is cowardice. And today, we are awash in cowards—and the consequences are no small thing. Pope Benedict calls it…
…the most terrifying sign of the times… there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a “better than” and a “worse than”. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, December 20th, 2010
It is terrifying because, in such a climate, it is the stronger part of society who then become the ones to determine what is good, what is wrong, who is valuable, and who is not—based on their own shifting criterion. They no longer adhere to moral absolutes or the natural law. Rather, they determine what is “good” according to arbitrary standards and assign it as a “right,” and then impose it on the weaker part. And thus begins…
…a dictatorship of relativism that recognizes nothing as definite, and which leaves as the ultimate measure only one’s ego and desires. Having a clear faith, according to the credo of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. Yet, relativism, that is, letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching’, appears the sole attitude acceptable to today’s standards. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI) pre-conclave Homily, April 18th, 2005
As such, while rejecting religious and parental authority under the claim that we should not “judge” anyone and be “tolerant” of all, they go on to create their own moral system that is hardly just or tolerant. And thus…
…an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow… In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Light of the World, A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 52-53
As I wrote in Courage… to the End, in the face of this new tyranny, we can be tempted to withdraw and hide… to become lukewarm and cowardly. So, we must provide an answer to this question “Who are you to judge?”
JESUS ON JUDGING
When Jesus says, “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned,” what does He mean?Luke 6:37 We can only understand these words in the full context of His life and teaching as opposed to isolating a single sentence. For He also said, “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” Luke 12:57 And again, “Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly.” John 7:24 How are we to judge justly? The answer lies in the commission that He gave the Church:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Clearly, Jesus is telling us not to judge the heart (appearance) of others, but at the same time, He is giving the Church the divine authority to call mankind into God’s Will, expressed in the moral commandments and the natural law.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. (2 Tim 4:1-2)
It is schizophrenic, then, to hear Christians who have fallen into the trap of moral relativism say, “Who am I to judge?” when Jesus has explicitly commanded us to call all to repentance and to live by His Word.
Love, in fact, impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all men the truth which saves. But we must distinguish between the error (which must always be rejected) and the person in error, who never loses his dignity as a person even though he flounders amid false or inadequate religious ideas. God alone is the judge and the searcher of hearts; he forbids us to pass judgment on the inner guilt of others. —Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 28
When a police officer pulls someone over for speeding, he is not making a judgment of the person in the car. He is making an objective judgment of the person’s actions: they were speeding. It’s not until he goes to the driver’s window that he discovers that the woman behind the wheel is pregnant and in labour and in a hurry… or that she’s drunk, or simply being careless. Only then does he write up a ticket—or not.
So too, as citizens and Christians, we have the right and duty to say that this or that action is objectively good or evil so that civil order and justice prevail in the society of the family or town square. Just as the policeman points his radar at a vehicle and concludes that it is objectively breaking the law, so too, we can and must look at certain actions and say that they are objectively immoral, when that is the case, for the common good. But it is only when one peers into the “window of the heart” that a certain judgment of one’s culpability can be made… something, really, only God can do—or that person can reveal.
Although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1033
But the Church’s objective role is no less diminished.
To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2246
The idea of “separation of Church and State” meaning that the Church has no say in the public square, is a tragic falsehood. No, the Church’s role is not to build roads, run the military, or legislate, but to guide and enlighten political bodies and individuals with the Divine Revelation and authority entrusted to her, and to do so in imitation of her Lord.
Indeed, if police stopped enforcing traffic laws so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings, the streets would become dangerous. Likewise, if the Church does not raise her voice with the truth, then the souls of many will be in peril. But she must also speak in imitation of her Lord, approaching each soul with the same reverence and delicacy that Our Lord showed, particularly to grave sinners. He loved them because He recognized that, anyone who sinned, was a slave to sin Jn 8:34; that they were lost to some degree,Matt 15:24, LK 15:4 and in need of healing.Mk 2:17 Is this not all of us?
But this never lessened the truth nor erased one letter of the law.
[The offense] remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1793
DO NOT BE SILENCED!
Who are you to judge? As a Christian and as a citizen, you have ever right and duty to judge objective good or evil.
Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly. (John 7:24)
But in this growing dictatorship of relativism, you will meet hardship. You will be persecuted. But here is where you have to remind yourself that this world is not your home. That we are strangers and sojourners on our way to the Homeland. That we are called to be prophets wherever we are, speaking the “now word” to a generation that needs to hear the Gospel again—whether they know it or not. Never before has the need for true prophets ever been so crucial…
Those who challenge this new paganism are faced with a difficult option. Either they conform to this philosophy or they are faced with the prospect of martyrdom. —Servant of God Fr. John Hardon (1914-2000), How to Be a Loyal Catholic Today? By Being Loyal to the Bishop of Rome; http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/intro/loyalty.htm
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:11-12)
But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
On Pope Francis’ comment: Who Am I to Judge?
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