Sunday, September 6, 2015

To "Judge Not" and Setting Good Examples for Our Families

So often today, we often hear from people (Christian and non-Christian alike) that Christ taught us not to judge others. We hear this rallying cry all over social media, in group gatherings, and even in our churches. However, there is a common thread to all this... the specific verse is taken completely out of context. Now we'll hear this notion of not judging others applied to many things; from why someone chooses to have an abortion, to immoral sexual relationships. However, the issue I want to focus on specifically is how it affects or youth and loved ones, especially in schools.

It has become increasingly obvious that we are going to see many more stories like THIS affecting our Catholic schools in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges this past summer. We also saw people making claims to "judge not" when Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco wanted to hold teachers up to the standards that the Church demands of them in relation to their personal conduct, as they are to be witnesses to the faith for the young people they teach.

The situation in the story I provided in the first link has already happened several times here in the United States; a Catholic woman or man reveals that they have married their same-sex partner. They are then fired for not upholding the Catholic values they espouse to teach, and a backlash ensues from all sides. It comes from the secular media, as well as Catholics who seem to be confused on what the faith teaches. 

The Doctors of the Church- Filippo Lippi
As far as I know, the Church has always taught that sexual relations outside of marriage are objectively, and gravely sinful. Ms. Winters, the woman in question, was a religious education teacher, making it apparent she is a Catholic Christian. The Magisterium of the Church also tells us that people of the same sex cannot be married; there is no way a marriage can be contracted between a woman and a woman or a man and a man. So when this woman became married in the eyes of the state, she at the same time went against Catholic teaching, engaging in sexual activity outside marriage. Well meaning Catholics and other Christians ask what she did wrong... according to the Church and the Catholic faith that she professes, she has committed an act of grave sin. That is, sexual activity outside of the confines of marriage. If one claims it's possible their relationship is celibate, Ms. Winters and her partner are still guilty of the sin of scandal, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church (given to us by our Holy Mother Church, through the successors of the Apostles) states does the following:

"The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.(CCC 2284)

As the Church calls either scenario a grave offense, I think this would satisfy one's request for a reason as to what this woman did wrong. In addition, this woman who was teaching the holy Faith, which explicitly teaches that sexual activity (heterosexual or homosexual) outside of marriage is a grave offense, committed another act of scandal by living in a manifestly sinful situation, with apparently no qualms, while pledging to teach and uphold Catholic values and morals to our young people.

As I mentioned before, I take exception to people's comments that are often saying "Don't judge. All are welcome." I agree with the fact that all are welcome in Christ's Church, as they should be. But should we as lovers of Christ and our brothers stay silent on the issue of sin? I am called to love my brothers and sisters; would it be an act of love to let them walk down a path that strays from Christ and his teachings? When people of this mind set say "don't judge", they are typically referring to Christ's words in Matthew 7. Usually it's agnostics and atheists that take this verse out of context, but we now see many Catholics and other non-Catholic Christians take this verse out of context as well.

The way that “judge” is used in Matthew 7, is to condemn someone on moral grounds, and then pass judgement. Only God can do this. However, we can judge actions, and determine if they are sinful. No one at these Catholic schools and dioceses that are upholding doctrine is claiming to know how God will judge this person at the end of her earthly life. As I read the rest of the passage (verses 2-5), I believe it’s very prudent not to judge someone’s actions while forgetting about one’s own sins. However, Christ Himself tells us to judge here AFTER we have removed the log from our own eye. Shouldn’t we be doing this, once our hearts are in the right place? Is it not a spiritual work of mercy to admonish the sinner? I try my best to focus on both the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and sometimes I fail, but I believe God asks us to do both, does He not?

I also take exception to the "new" interpretation of Matthew 7, because Christ himself DOES tell us to judge others actions in the Gospels: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (Jn 7: 24). Here's a thought exercise: If my brother were to tell me tomorrow that he was moving in with his girlfriend, should I say nothing since the state says he legally has the right to live in a house with anyone he so chooses, or should I reproach him in Christian love and tell him he will cause scandal to our younger siblings, as well as putting himself into a very tempting situation where fornication will be very likely to happen? It's very apparent the Church, Christ, and Scripture have spoken definitively on this issue, and have made a differentiation between the judgement of people’s souls that belongs to God alone, and the judgement of actions that all Christians are expected to make in both their own lives and in the lives of their loved ones.

Ezekiel's Vision- Raphael
By my own admission, I have failed to do this in the past, so I am trying to do so more in my life now, but I take at face value what our Lord wanted Ezekiel to say in Scripture: "If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way... that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. (Ez 3:18-19). Again, I believe Christ Himself, the Church, and Scripture have spoken definitively here.

We should do our best to center our hearts on Christ's love; this is why I follow the teaching of His Church which says:

"The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently" (CCC 2447).

It's apparent from the spiritual works of mercy that we must help our brothers and sisters get to heaven. Now at some point, a fellow Christian might interject that there is now only one law, to love your neighbor as yourself. While it's true Christ fulfilled the law when He came to this Earth, we see an oversimplification with this line of thinking.

If that law is to love one another, then true Christian love is to help our brothers and sisters walk closer to Christ, and to help them (especially our spouses, children, family,etc.) to get to heaven. We are asked to do many things by Christ and the Church that He founded. We are not "stuck on the law" as some like to accuse Catholics of being; we are following the teachings of Christ and the Magisterium of His Holy Church. We should certainly pray that we as Christians, especially Catholic Christians, are not divided us on these modern day issues; the Church needs to be strong now, and we need good examples from both our laypeople, and in our priests and bishops.

My generation needs guidance. We need to be told the truth; we need to be told the Truth from He who said He was “the Truth, the Way, and the Life”. The Catholic Church has the fullness of that Truth, and the fullness of the faith handed down from Apostolic times; all we need to do is open our ears and hearts to that Truth and let the Holy Spirit do Its work.

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