On Judging Others – Wrongly, and Rightly

Brad Miner | July 1, 2024

Jesus said (Matthew 7:1): “Judge not lest ye be judged.” And many people since, including many Christians catechized by modern culture, have translated this to mean that the whole law and the prophets – indeed, the whole teaching of Christianity, is that Christians should simply refrain from assessing what others are and do. Especially, it seems, if what they are and do contradicts Christianity. It’s devilish madness, of course. And even as a matter of sheer logic, so obviously impossible and self-contradictory, that it’s hard to believe such nonsense has become so widely accepted as the very essence of what it means to be Christian.

And yet it has. And has been reinforced – intentionally or not – even within the Church. It’s become tiresome to have to point out how even the current pope and others close to him feed these confusions. But let us gird up our loins and, once again, try to make sense about this crucial matter.

The root of the recent problem began, of course, with the pope’s infamous remark – “Who am I to judge?” – on a plane back from Brazil early in his pontificate. A reporter asked about Battista Ricca, a prelate with a notoriously homosexual past in Uruguay, whom Francis had just appointed as director of the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guest house where the pope has chosen to live. (Francis’s remark actually wasn’t a judgment about homosexuality in general. It was – properly – conditional: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”)

The smart-aleck response to “Who am I to judge?,” however, has been given for all time: “Who do you need to be?” And anyway, the reporter hadn’t asked what Francis thought about homosexuality. If you’re the pope, you’re the one who has to decide who is suitable, and not, for many sensitive positions serving God’s faithful people in the Church – like the place where you and many of your colleagues will be living. You’re not, at the moment, being asked about someone’s eternal destiny. So why pivot to a current cliché?

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