A post a few days back in which I tore into a ridiculous article on Huggington Post by a “Catholic” who doesn’t go to Mass, supports abortion and thinks same sex unions and Planned Parenthood has raised a few hackles in the combox.
The commenters say I shouldn’t have judged the poor girl who wrote the article and that I am out of line for deciding “who is a Catholic and who isn’t.” The comments express the usual passive aggressive whine from liberals…”I have deep concerns and “I am very saddened that you should adopt such a tone…”
So it’s come to this: a Catholic priest points out that a Catholic is out of line to support abortion, same sex marriage and not go to Mass, and he’s blamed for this?
Can a Catholic priest judge? How far does the “judge not that you be not judged” command go? What about Pope Francis’ now famous pull quote, “Who am I to judge?” It’s not that difficult to think through. We don’t presume to judge anyone’s final spiritual condition. I can’t say if anybody is definitely in hell or heaven. Why? Because I simply don’t know. I don’t have all the facts. Neither can I judge a person’s spiritual condition before God right here and right now. Why? Because I simply don’t know. I don’t have all the facts. So therefore we do not judge the person–either their spiritual state now or whether a dead person is in heaven or hell.
However, I can judge whether a belief or behavior is consistent with the Catholic faith or not. A man says he’s left his wife and had an affair with another woman? I can judge that one. That’s called adultery. It’s a mortal sin. He’s out of communion with God and the church. He needs to go to confession and give up that mistress and return to his wife. It’s simple even if it’s not easy.
A young woman says she is Catholic and she is pro-abortion, supports Planned Parenthood, supports same sex marriage and doesn’t go to confession or Mass? Then it’s not difficult. I don’t judge her eternal destiny or the status of her soul at this point in time, but I can sure point out that for a person who calls themselves a Catholic and supports abortion, same sex marriage and neglects going to Mass is a bad Catholic. I can also point out–indeed it is my duty to point out–that she is in a state of mortal sin, needs to go to confession and live by the teaching of the Catholic Church, and just like the man who is an adulterer I must also warn her that if she continues, in full knowledge and informed consent to rebel against the teachings of the church, and by her public voice to encourage others to do so, then she is headed down the wrong road. She’s followed the broad path that leads to hell.
Anybody who doesn’t see this simple truth that this is part of a priest’s job is either seriously self deluded or intentionally antagonistic to the Catholic faith.
Is this harsh? No more harsh than a doctor telling a patient they have cancer and need chemo therapy. If a doctor does that he is a good doctor, not a bad doctor. Do we expect a doctor, knowing that cancer will kill a person, and diagnosing cancer to say to the person, “There, there, I don’t want to judge you. You carry on living your life just as you please, and have a nice day”? No. We expect him to give the bad news even if it causes upset, fear, confusion and anger.
At the same time, we acknowledge that many cases of pastoral care are complicated, that individuals make moral decisions that are often complex and nuanced. We also welcome all with the forgiveness, love and compassion of the Father waiting for the return of the prodigal. To make a call on clear and unambiguous sin is not mutually exclusive of compassion, acceptance and welcome. Indeed warmth of welcome without clarity about the human condition is nothing more than sentimentality.
It is sugar coated poison.