Sunday, December 30, 2012

To Judge Or Not To Judge

I have been involved in Catholic blogging for a very short time, only about a year.  For the first several months I was pretty much blogging to myself.  Even my own wonderful DH didn't bother reading much of what I wrote. Although I will never be much more than a tiny minnow in the ocean of blogging, I have gotten a few readers here and there, and some favorable and not so favorable feedback.

One thing that concerns me in the Catholic blogosphere is the cult of personality that seems to surround certain people, leaving an unwritten rule that these are people we must never criticize.  I expect this in the world at large.  We have an innate need for heroes, and if we are not guided by our Creator, we will find something or someone else to fill that role, be it Abraham Lincoln or Lady Gaga.

But I really didn't expect to see hero worship in the Catholic blogosphere.  I have discovered that the followers of certain people will defend their heroes no matter what, and if you are not as supportive as they are, they will go after you.  We make our heroes bigger than life and attribute virtues to them that they may or may not deserve.  The scariest part is we completely turn off our critical thinking.

One example from a couple of years ago is Father John Corapi, who was a hero to many people before his spectacular fall from grace.  His own Order brought very serious charges against him, and instead of just sitting back and let the truth come out, his followers immediately starting jumping on the messenger and claiming that Father Corapi was set up.  I know people to this day who tell me Father Corapi was framed.  There is even a Facebook page called "Father John Corapi Is Innocent" which was started in March 2011 and is still active.   And that is just one of several Facebook pages that support Father Corapi.  Here are a few postings from that Facebook page:

I really believe he is truly innocent and a very good person . Please we need you so badly. May God bless you always .
Like ·  · Thursday at 12:29pm via mobile


Nobody ever did more to communicate the Catholic faith in terms you could understand and realize the one true path to Jesus. I pray for you Father.


I know you are a holy priest, no one can change my mind on that. I will pray for you. K Willets 
Like ·  · November 16 at 6:29pm

I miss your sermons Father John Corapi. I am praying for you. You are the real deal. I love you with the sincere love of Christ.
Like ·  · September 27 at 5:44pm


Father Corapi I support you and I am praying God sustains your strength in bearing this unjust persecution. I know that you will overcome, but I also know that it is not easy. However, God prepared you, you are no ordinary soldier, you are a Marine. Sempre Fidelis! They gave Christ hell on earth didn't they. Father take comfort, eternity will be very long and you have your crowns in glory.
Like ·  · September 27 at 5:42pm

Those who are still defending Father Corapi are not doing him any favors.  I know that in their hearts they truly believe he is innocent.  But the only way they can believe this is if they totally disregard reality and engage in hero worship.  If they really cared about John Corapi, they would lovingly but firmly let him know that what he did was wrong.  When your child runs out in the middle of the street, you let him know without hesitation that he is putting himself in extreme danger.  This is even more true when someone has put him or herself in mortal spiritual danger.  When Holy Mother Church disciplines or even excommunicates someone, it is an act of love and compassion.  She is not saying, "you're nothing but a dirty rotten sinner and deserve to go to hell."  She is actually doing just the opposite.  She is exhorting the person to repent and turn from their sin and receive the love and forgiveness of our Lord.  She is quite literally trying to pull that person from hell.

Father Corapi is just one example.  Yesterday I was talking with a couple of good, devout Catholics who defended the apparitions in Bayside, Queens, New York called "Our Lady of the Roses", which has been officially condemned by the local bishop.  The people I was talking to insisted on believing what they wanted to believe, telling me, "Well, the Vatican hasn't condemned it."  You can find several websites devoted to this false apparition, despite the fact that it has been disallowed by the local bishop.

I think it is important to be cognizant of the fact that we are all participants in a spiritual war.  And the stakes in this war could not be higher:  the eternal salvation of souls.  We also have a very devious and cunning enemy who has been engaged in the battle against our souls since the first man was created, and he knows us better than we know ourselves.  We must never under estimate this enemy, and we must never over estimate ourselves or others. As I Cor. 10:12 says, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall."  Just as a soldier in the midst of war must be constantly aware and vigilant of what is happening around him, so we as soldiers in this great spiritual war for our souls must always be vigilant.  None of us are exempt from falling.

Credit:  coleenhammond.com
As Christians, we must constantly ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and our Blessed Mother, and never for an instant turn off our critical thinking.  First and foremost, we must apply this to ourselves. One of the most important things we do each day is an examination of conscience.  This is when we stand spiritually naked in front of a mirror and closely examine our faults, being brutally honest with ourselves as to where we have failed in imitating our Lord, and admitting when we have put our own will and pride before obedience to our Creator.  To be a Christian means to never make excuses, but to always be willing to face the truth about ourselves, no matter how unpleasant it is.  If we don't do it now, we will be doing it in the cleansing fires of Purgatory, or if we choose to live in complete delusion about ourselves, we may not even make it to Purgatory.

We also need to be discerning about others.  This does not mean judging one another.  To judge is to attribute motives and to judge the value of another's soul.  When our Lord told us not to judge, he told us not to condemn, not to make personal attacks on the worth of another individual.  How many of us would have stood at the foot of the Cross and condemned the thief hanging next to our Lord, not knowing that he was fully repentant and completely forgiven.  We have a right and even a duty to say that the actions he took which led to his crucifixion were wrong, but we would be completely out of line to say he was personally condemned by God.  Only the Creator has the right to make this pronouncement.  Even the Church does not do this.  It is vital, however, that we be discerning of people's actions and words.

We are told by our Lord to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16).  I John 4:1 says:
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."  
St. Jude, the brother of Christ, warns us in his small but important book:
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
We all have our good points and bad points, and just because someone is not perfect, this does not mean they are a "minister of Satan."  If occasionally being on the wrong side of matters means we are a "false prophet", then we would all be doomed.  But we have to acknowledge that every person on this earth is fallible (with the exception of the Holy Father, of course, and his infallibility extends only to faith and morals).   And as St. Jude tells us, sometimes we need to pull someone from the fire.  And that can and often does involve being critical of their actions and words.

Pope Benedict XVI sending his first tweet
Credit:  mirror.co.uk
Our Holy Father has told us that Catholics must make use of technological resources such as blogging, and has personally given us the example now by entering the world of Twitter.  Just as missionaries in past centuries had to travel to the lands of the pagans, so we must travel to where we can meet  people, and in the 21st Century, the Internet has become one of the main places in which to evangelize.  Those of us who are engaged in Catholic blogging have been given a platform that we must use wisely and with great discretion, whether we have an audience of 1 or 2 people or millions of people.

The following is from a speech Pope Benedict XVI gave on January 23, 2009:
Those who are active in the production and dissemination of new media content, therefore, should strive to respect the dignity and worth of the human person. If the new technologies are to serve the good of individuals and of society, all users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.
Blogging puts us right out there on the front lines.  It absolutely humbles me that I am potentially reaching people in every corner of the world, and that I have a potentially bigger audience than most of the great saints had down through history.  I have dedicated my blog to the Blessed Mother, and I ask her guidance and help in every post that I do, and to keep me in line with the Will of her Son.

Since most Catholics who blog concern themselves with subjects of current interest, this will and does involve being critical of others from time to time.  What guidelines do we follow?  How do we know when we are right in criticizing others?

I think first and foremost, we need to ask ourselves why we are writing such posts.  As one person told me, when we post about popular people, it tends to spike our stats and that appeals to our vanity.  We need to be sure that this kind of vanity is never a motivating factor.  I think as bloggers we would like as many people as possible to read our blogs, but I think of Mother Teresa's statement:  "God has not called me to be successful, He has called me to be faithful."  Don't worry about building your audience, worry about being faithful to the teachings of the Church and to showing true love for others.

I think we also need to ask ourselves if we are posting criticisms of others just because we personally don't like them.  To allow our personal feelings to enter in, be they positive or negative, turns our blog into nothing more than a sounding board, and will not be edifying to anyone, not even ourselves.

As I posted at the beginning, we need to discern if are we being critical of others just because they said something negative about one of our "heroes".  I saw a lot of that in the blogosphere when it involved the Voris/Father Z cruise.  Instead of discussing the issue - is it right to do a luxury cruise in Lent - people were instead attacking each other.  It was a very sad display indeed.

We also have to realize that championing another human regardless of what he or she says or does can be very destructive to that person.   We all need critical advice from time to time.  Our Lord says he chastises every son he loves.  When we see someone occasionally going off the rails, we need to point it out, in love of course, but also in no uncertain terms.

Proverbs 27:5-6 says:
Open rebuke is better
Than love carefully concealed.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
First and foremost, we must do this with ourselves.  We must not make excuses for ourselves, but always ground ourselves in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ and be ready at all times to admit when we are wrong.  We must say as King David said in Psalm 19:13
Who can understand sins? from my secret ones cleanse me, O Lord
We live in a very wicked world that has turned its back on its Creator.  Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged the church to become involved in evangelization, more particularly in the new media of the Internet, and use these amazing tools to spread the Gospel of the glorious Good News of Christ's redeeming sacrifice, which is a bright light in a world engulfed in darkness.  The world desperately needs what we, as followers of Christ, can give them.  But we can't do it if we are attacking and devouring one another.

Galatians 5:
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 But if you bite and devour one another; take heed you be not consumed one of another.
The words of St. Paul, Romans 12:
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

7 comments:

  1. Very good. This subject of "judging" needs to be discussed more openly. It seems today that if you simply state things the Church has always Taught, you're accused of being judgemental. Ironicly the opposite is true. The person accusing you of being "judgemental" is actually judging you falsely and saying that They and not Christ, is the judge of things.

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  2. Amen to everything -- but one quibble.

    You describe the Bayside devotees you spoke to as "good and devout Catholics." However, following a condemned apparition in defiance of the bishop's orders is incompatible with being a good and devout Catholic. I know there are those who would accuse me of being "judgmental" for saying something like that, but the truth hurts. ;)

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    1. I hear you, and I don't think you're being "judgmental." I agree that devotion to Bayside does seem to be a contradiction. These people are just so faithful in every other way, so I am praying that they will see this blind spot and not allow it to trip them up.

      The truth does hurt, no getting away from that one.

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  3. Hello. This is the first time I've read your blog. Keep up the good work! As our good pastor reminds those of us on staff, his mother always said that the devil is most at work during the holiest seasons of the Church -- Christmas in particular because it it celebrated by the entire world -- believers and non-believers due to the gift giving traditions of the modern world.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind words. Have a blessed new year.

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