Judging Like Bridey?

Fr. Dwight Longenecker



What’s the favorite Bible verse of the liberal?

“Judge not that ye be not judged.”

There are a couple of problems when people start bashing you with this verse. Here’s the first–usually what they mean is, “I want to do whatever I want to do and you have no right to tell me that it’s wrong.”

They miss the obvious hypocrisy that they are judging you for being judgmental, but we’ll let that slide…

The liberal whine about people being judgmental has beneath it a sandy foundation of relativism–that there is no right and wrong, and what the relativist can’t really understand is that it is possible to judge actions and beliefs without judging the person who holds them.

If a person says, “I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead.” I can judge their beliefs. They are not actually a Christian. They are a heretic. That’s just an objective call. The same is true of moral actions. “I’m living with my boyfriend” says a young girl. When you object she cries, “You’re being judgemental!!”

That’s right. Like I’m judging the heretic’s beliefs, I’m judging your actions. They are immoral according to the teaching of the Catholic Church.

What I’m not doing is judging you. That is, I’m not judging the state of your mortal soul. I don’t know if you’re damned or not. To say you’re going to hell would be to make a judgement. That’s for God to do.

Catholics should be the most objective about this because we have clear teaching both doctrinally and morally. We should be able to say quite honestly and openly that someone is “living in sin” if they are or that someone is “a heretic” if they are. It doesn’t mean we have to be mean to that person or shun them or be constantly disapproving.

We might have to distance ourselves if we have the consciences of young children to protect, but we are tolerant. We let them make their own decisions. We don’t impose a way of life on them. We don’t rant and holler and blow and have steam coming out our ears. We make the objective call and leave the rest to God.

I’m not an admirer of Bridey–the prig of a brother in Brideshead Revisited, but we can at least admire his objectivity. He understood mortal sin. He understood the objectivity of Catholic theology and moral teaching. What he lacked, however, was mercy.

Mercy is the quality that allows us to judge an action or a belief and yet still embrace and love the person who has made the mistake. The point of today’s gospel is that everyone deserves that mercy. There is usually more than meets the eye. There may be circumstances and intentions that mitigate the guilt. There may be ignorance and inability that inhibits grace. There may be good reasons for the person’s error or sin.

Everyone deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt, and if we don’t grant others mercy…

…we will be denied that mercy ourselves.