Saturday, June 23, 2007

To Judge or not to judge....Not!

Over at bearing blog there was a challenging post by Erin which I noted from Northland Catholic. I think it worth quoting in full, along with a few comments of my own.

I often find myself caught in the crossfire between the differing factions of the Church. It's not so much that they attack me but that they attack others and my response is "Sheesh. If that's where caritas takes you I don't wanna go there."
To clarify, it's not the facts of the case or the truth of the Church that are at issue. It's a matter of methodology. I just can't see anyone, especially our Holy Fathers in Rome and in Heaven, going out of their way to mow down verbally someone for whom Christ died, like Judge Dredd. Instead, the truth is spoken lovingly and then everyone lives with the consequences. It's really about authentic witness to Christ.

In that vein, I really appreciated Erin's post.

Here it is:


Cathy_of_Alex wrote a post about the false advertising of very public dissent within the Church: people might join up thinking we've got over all our hangups, then discover to their dismay that we still have a moral code and no, it hasn't changed a whole lot. She used same-sex attraction as her example, which drew a comment from "winnipeg catholic:"

I still disagree. ...Bottom line is I have lesbian coworkers who are nice people and I will not condemn them in my mind, in my heart, or by my actions. And neither will I condemn their relationship. Not until the Holy Spirit makes me feel that it is truly wrong. Christ says, 'Judgement is Mine'. And I will not judge in any way.

Adoro goes on to explain the difference between a person and a behavior, and the meaning of the term "judgment," and all that is correct, theologically speaking, but I can't help having a different reaction to the I-know-nice-people-who-you-say-are-sinners-and-I-refuse-to-judge-them thing:
Who asked you to judge them? Or even their behavior? How do you know that your Christian "calling," with respect to the real live people of whom you speak, is not simply to mind your own business?

Here is where the orthodox say "But we have to judge sinful behavior as sinful!" We do have to answer direct questions without lies -- if we are questioned. But what is "winnipeg catholic" imagining that Catholicism demands her to do with respect to her lesbian co-workers? March down the hall to the next cubicle and toss off, "You know, homosexual behavior is wrong and you should stop"? Refuse to speak to them? Leave anonymous tracts on the desk?

We're always surrounded by sinners. Most of us rationalize daily at least one besetting sin. The message "what you're doing is wrong" could fit anyone we meet, so why limit the discussion to shacking-up co-workers? (Habitual speeders. Tax-cheaters. Stingy tippers. The chronically impatient.) But most of the time it is not our specific job to be the messenger. It's our job to be ready "to give a reason for our hope," to avoid committing sins, to live openly as Christians, in love with the truth and not ashamed of it, to deal with people according to our relationships: In the case of "co-workers," that means -- working with them. It seems unlikely that our co-workers' sexual relationships should impact the workplace at all. Thinking about what other people ought to be doing distracts us from considering what we ought to be doing.
I said we have to be ready, though. That's because sometimes their lives intersect with our own decisions about our own behaviors, and those behaviors are going to be noticed.

The brother who's been living with his girlfriend for years asks if you can help them move into a new apartment. Is it okay to help or does that support their behavior? Do you get to just make an excuse when you say no, or must you be up front about why?

You've already accepted the invitation to your non-Catholic cousin's apparently-secular wedding. Just before the ceremony you discover that the officiant is one of those renegade ex-Catholic rent-a-priests. Will you serve the truth better by attending or by quietly leaving? And do you still get to go to the reception?

One morning at the coffeepot the co-worker suddenly says to you, "Hey, you're Catholic, aren't you? Do you really believe that stuff they say about gays?"
These are points when you must act, and it's for these moments that you must be ready.

I think that's part of what is meant by the whole context of the warning against judging, which is from the Sermon on the Mount (
Mt 7):
"Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces."

The last sentence isn't usually included in this pericope, but I think it should be, because it (like the previous sentence) clearly commands a kind of judgment. We must judge -- who is our brother? What is a "splinter" that must be removed from his eye? What is "holy," which of our actions might be casting a "pearl?" Who are these "dogs" and "swine," apparently substantially different from the "brother," as we are called to minister to one and not to the other?

To me this means that we should worry about others' behavior mainly when it comes time for us to actually be in a position of teaching or helping them. A lot of the time we aren't in that position and need to be concerned with our own lives. We need to eliminate the sins that cloud our sight so that we can watch and see when we must carefully judge how to behave -- when we've been directly asked, or when we're being seen (rightly or wrongly) as the representative of all things Catholic, or when we're in a position of trust and authority and our words and actions will carry real weight. For example, if our co-workers don't trust us or respect us because we haven't behaved with integrity, then we need to change that. Not because we shouldn't try to help remove those splinters but precisely because we should.

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