‘Who am I to judge?’ vs. Judge not lest ye be judged

Not long after Pope Francis made the remark “Who am I to judge?”  many in the media and in the unformed and uninformed Catholic world assumed he had single-handedly changed Church teaching on sexual morality.  Since then, anything associated with firm doctrine has been tied with being judgmental, lacking mercy, and so on.

For me, right doctrine, believing the Truth as revealed in Jesus Christ, God incarnate and passed on faithfully from the first eyewitness accounts from generation to generation and interpreted within Holy Tradition–which has to do with handing down the truth properly—is of crucial importance.  It is our job to conform our minds, our thinking to the Truth and right doctrine helps us to take thoughts captive to Christ and gives us the faith seeking understanding, to paraphrase St. Anselm.

The Pope needs to be the preserver and defender of this deposit of faith, and under its authority and by extension the authority of Christ.  The Holy Spirit spoke in preceding generations and He is not going to contradict Himself now, though He may give us new insights on how everything ties together.  So I pray for him every day that he will yield to the Holy Spirit and the charism of the Successor of Peter, especially when his personal opinions or casual remarks seem contradictory.

What does this have to do with Jesus’ command to judge not lest ye be judged?  First of all, we have to let Revelation and Tradition judge us, not the other way around.  And just as Catholics must resist being their own pope, we must also resist playing God and taking over the role reserved for Him in judging.

But that does not mean throwing all truth out the window and never seeing the difference between right and wrong and extending a kind of lenient mercy over everyone and every behavior.

If I am judging, I am usurping God’s role.  And I am probably getting a little frisson of pleasure from feeling morally superior, or contemptuous or resentful or hot with anger, or offended.   Long ago I have come to see that’s the booby prize, that little bit of dark pleasure that leads me to enjoy venting, blowing off steam through complaining about what I’m seeing and getting kind of high off it.  But the high of being appalled, of being annoyed, of being outraged, while pleasurable for the moment, separates me from God and the joy of being in His Presence.  I start to see my prayer life becoming perfunctory and dry.  The sin may not seem that serious to me at the time, but the separation, the spiritual dying sets in slowly.  No. I want to live. I want to be alive in Christ.

So now I’m making a big effort to quit venting.  To quit judging by my own light and to quit being offended.  But what happens?  Well, maybe I’m a little more boring on blogs and social media, but when I stop accepting the bait of those little highs, I being to see everything in a new light.   I hope then to set aside my judging so that the Holy Spirit will give me His light to discern.  And when He gives me insight—I pray I will not be tempted to respond with ewwwww!  and start venting again, but to see that I’m being called into intercession or to making reparations not to climbing on the throne that belongs to Christ as Judge.

Right doctrine is always a guide towards right relationship with God.  It must not be used as fuel for making personal judgments, for self-righteousness, for permitting oneself some “righteous anger” or “laughing to scorn” which I can so easily fall into.

It is a difficult and confusing time in the Catholic Church right now.  I see so much anger and indignation on so many blogs and everyone has their reasons and their justification so it seems.   Some of the reasons can be quite compelling, even an temptation for me!  I see it, I see it.  I see why it would make someone angry, even incandescent with rage because sacred teachings are being attacked or twisted.  I see so much factionalism, so much treating the Church as a political entity rather than a family.  So many who would like to hive off those family members who are difficult or do not see things the same way.  All of us need deeper conversion, to find the oneness and unity Jesus prayed for before His crucifixion.  The Lord has been working with me to take my partisan sharp elbows down. To stop being factional, partisan or divisive.

It’s like this.  Anger undercuts the witness.  The taking offense may attract others who also take offense and provides mutual support—you see what I see?!!!!!  Yes!!!!! Isn’t it awful?!!!!!  And I confess, I go there.  Way too much.  And I wish to stop.

Even when one is wholly justified in feeling betrayed, angry, outraged—we are commanded by the Lord to forgive, to leave judgment to God, to apply the doctrine to ourselves to remove the plank in our own eye and then, only then will we be some good to the Kingdom.

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13 Responses to ‘Who am I to judge?’ vs. Judge not lest ye be judged

  1. Donna Kelsch says:

    I read this Blog periodically, depending on my available time, and the topic.I totally agree with your position ( granted I read it quickly ). I have always found it amazing that some people have regular time to spend on blogs, and I wonder ( except for you Debora – as it seems to be your job) do they not work, volunteer at their church, preform one or more Works of Mercy regularly? How do they have time for blogs, especially if they have a family? Most of us regular Catholics do not bother with blogs…maybe websites like the Vatican or EWTN or FORMED. We don’t get excited over what is happening at the Vatican or the USCCB because we know that anything that comes out of it that would affect us will be discussed with us by our Bishop and Pastor at the point it is ready to be implemented. Why lose sleep or get distracted from doing the work of a Christian over theology or dogma, or ritual? I am not a theologian or a priest. I am a simple Catholic Christian helping in my parish, taking on service responsibilities that my pastor assigns me, trying to attend Mass 4-5 times a week…trying to be that person that Christ asks of all of us. Individual opinions ( which we all have ) are unimportant ( except for those who have time and interest in debating them – to what end I’m not sure ) as in the final analysis what comes out of Rome will be what is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I have Faith in Christ and His Church…and His official representatives ( warts and all )…and it is enough.

    • Foolishness says:

      Bill Tighe tried to respond to this with the following comment (WordPress must have “eaten” it)

      I attempted to place a comment here:


      but it appears to have vanished:

      “what comes out of Rome will be what is inspired by the Holy Spirit”

      This is absolute rubbish, unless you are referring to the very rare ex cathedra definitions by popes (or by ecumenical councils when promulgated and approved by popes). Otherwise, this is to make of the pope a kind of oracle, when one implies that every papal decision is “inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, responded to the question of whether papal elections are inspired or guided by the Holy Spirit with a ringing “No,” explaining that there have been too many immoral popes, or popes who failed to defend the faith or temporized about it (e.gg., Liberius and Honorius) or who even (in the case of John XXII) taught heresy (and was made to recant it on his death bed before being given the last rites) for that to be the case.

      Comments such as that by Donna Kelsch are almost as bad, and perhaps more “unhelpful,” than those spouting outright heresy or nonsense. It amounts (if I understand it correctly) to “papolatry” of the worse sort, unjustified by the Vatican I definitions or by anything else in Catholic Tradition, encouraging as it does a passive supine acquiescence in whatever emanates from “Rome” as “inspired by the Holy Spirit,” and it plays right into the hands of that (to quote Cardinal Newman) “insolent faction” (in this case of modernists) who want to use it to overturn the whole moral tradition of the Church on divorce-and-remarriage and, in particular, the constant bedrock teaching that those in a state of unrepentant mortal sin are not to be admitted to the sacraments without repentance and amendment of life.

      Best wishes,


      • Rev22:17 says:


        You wrote: Bill Tighe tried to respond to this with the following comment (WordPress must have “eaten” it)

        Perhaps that was the work of the Holy Spirit, as Professor Tighe’s remarks contain a few nuances of imprecision.

        From the professor’s comments: This is absolute rubbish, unless you are referring to the very rare ex cathedra definitions by popes (or by ecumenical councils when promulgated and approved by popes).

        In fact, the guarantee of infallibility extends only to spiritual and moral doctrine taught by the magisterium of the Church. This rests, fundamentally, in an assembly of the entire magisterium assembled, called an ecumenical council, when it promulgates a doctrinal decree. Thus, every decree of an ecumenical council pertaining to spiritual or moral doctrine is intrinsically infallible in its own right.

        The concept of a pope promulgating a document ex cathedra (literally, “from the chair”) is a relatively novel innovation in the life of the church. The first such document was the decree Ineffabilis Deus on the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Pope Pius X in 1854 — six years after the bishops of the United States voted to entrust the country to the patronage of the blessed mother under this title. The document caused a such stir in the Catholic world, creating so much uncertainty as to its significance, that the First Vatican Council promulgated the apostolic constitution Pastor aeternus to resolve the issue. The last paragraph of this document substantially declares that the umbrella of infallibility that rests upon the magisterium extends also to a decree pertaining to doctrinal matters that the pope promulgates in his official capacity as the head of the magisterium — that is, from the chair (ex cathedra). The whole concept here is that such a document emanates from the whole of the magisterium rather than from the person of the pope.

        The professor also wrote: … the constant bedrock teaching that those in a state of unrepentant mortal sin are not to be admitted to the sacraments without repentance and amendment of life.

        This may seem like splitting hairs, but the bedrock teaching actually is that those who are in a state of unrepented mortal sin are not to receive the sacraments. It is not the responsibility of the minister of the sacraments to deny the sacraments to those who come forward.

        Of course, pastors of souls have a duty to ascertain the real circumstances of those who appear to be in this situation and come forward for the sacraments anyway and to provide appropriate counsel and direction after the relevant facts are known. Catholic doctrine of sin, however, always distinguishes between objective truth and subjective reality: an oft-repeated act may be intrinsically evil (objective truth), yet not constitute mortal sin (subjective reality) due to a lack of knowledge or lack of willful consent on the part of the actor. Of course, the pastor must then counsel the individual to awareness of the nature of the act and changes of circumstances under which the act occurs.


      • Donna Kelsch says:

        Bill, me thinks you protest too much. You have misinterpreted my comments. I am aware of “bad Popes”, sins committed at the highest level, etc..I know the history of the Church. Am I going to wallow in all the bad things that happened over the centuries or embrace the great universal good members of the Church have done on either an individual level or an institutional level. No other institution in the history of the world has, and continues to, serve the poor, the helpless, educates, heals, etc.. The Church IS composed of sinners ( you too )…some more so, some less. It makes mistakes. I speak primarily of a personal relationship with Christ in which the Church and her priests are my guides, as are the dogmas. I am amused that you ASSUME that I am a “modernist”- that I would just jump into the bandwagon of “anything goes”. No, I would not and I do not. But charity rules the day. Let the theologians, and intellectuals battle it out Am I a theologian ? No. )…In the meantime I live my traditional Catholic life, trying to do good and trying NOT TO JUDGE OTHERS, including you , as that is definitely NOT Christian. Check your scriptures. What I was trying to get across is simple…in the end good will win out and Christ will come in glory. Keep your eye on the prize.


      • Donna Kelsch says:

        I replied to this. Did you not get it? Did it also get lost? I’m more concerned at the moment with what’s happening in Paris. If I don’t see it posted I’ll send another tomorrow.

  2. Donna Kelsch says:

    Well, Bill.. it appears.my post went right over your head. You’re missing the big picture for the weeds. I’m not talking about a PARTICULAR Pope, Bishop, Synod, policy, or Dogma. I’m speaking of the Universal Church and of Christ’s promise that the “Gates of Hell ” will not prevail against it. Therefore whatever well intended ( or not ) mistake made in direction or policy…in the end the Holy Spirit will protect the Deposit of Faith from error. My job, as a Catholic Christian, is to do my best to be faithful to the Church and her official representatives, and to the best of my ability, fulfill the two greatest Commandments – Love God above all else, and love your neighbor as yourself. The important thing…and the thing we will be judged on, is not what we say…but what we attempt to do to fulfill those two commandments to the best of our ability.

    As an aside,( and saying this in Charity ) knowing some Ordinate folks…there seem to be two types…those that fully embrace the Church THEY ASKED TO BE ADMITTED TO, and those that converted but keep trying to change it to their liking as though they were still protestant. Something to consider. If I were an Ordinate member, and had these concerns, I would contact my Bishop to get clarification on those things disturbing me. If I didn’t like the answer…I would suck it up and deal with it, as that would be expected of me. By the way…I am not extreme in anything…neither right nor left. I’m just a faithful Catholic in love with Christ and His Church and doing my best. The original comment was really more in regards to my PERSONAL relational with Christ, which no one can judge except, to some degree, my Spiritual Director and my Pastor/Confessor. So I take no offense at your barb of “heretic”…found it amusing. Life is meant to be lived, prayed over, but not pondered over forever.


  3. William Tighe says:

    “This rests, fundamentally, in an assembly of the entire magisterium assembled, called an ecumenical council, when it promulgates a doctrinal decree. Thus, every decree of an ecumenical council pertaining to spiritual or moral doctrine is intrinsically infallible in its own right.”

    Not so, for what, then, does one do with the decree “Sacrosancta” (1415) of the Council of Constance? An ecumenical council may emit any definition (or canons) which it pleases, but if the pope does not accept them, then they have no binding force. I may adduce as well purported “ecumenical councils” such as the Ephesian “latrocinium” of 449 or the multitude of councils summoned in the 350s by the Emperor Constantius to get rid of the Nicene “homoousios,” or the iconoclastic Council of Hieria in 754. Ultimately, it was the rejection of such councils and their decisions by Rome which is why they are not accounted “ecumenical,” since they were summoned by the emperor in the same way that the first seven “ecumenical councils” (as the church reckons and accepts them) were summoned; indeed, Rome rejected the ecumenical status (as well as the canons) of the Council of Constantinople of 381 (although accepting its Creed) – and on very good grounds, since that council was merely a local assembly of bishops from the regions of Constantinople and Antioch convoked by Theodosius I – until in 534 it did a volte-face and accepted it as “ecumenical.”

    Your theory shipwrecks on the historical facts.

    As to Donna Kelsch’s effusions, the best response is simply “Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur” – although it is amusing to see, on the one hand, among her “scare caps” NOT TO JUDGE OTHERS and, on the other, her baseless (and judgmental) canard against “some Ordinate folks” whom she is unwilling or unable to identify. Another instance of “Quod gratis asseritur …”

    • Donna Kelsch says:

      Sorry if you took offense at me not naming “ordinate folks”. I usually don’t call people out as it is not very Christian. I can’t name them as I know them only though the people on this blog, and a few ( nice people it seemed ) that I met at a small O. parish about an hour from here. Oh, and at a Conference once in Canada…but what can you tell at a conference when everyone is on their best behavior ? Seriously, the Church is the Body of Christ and is suppose to be accepting of people…including those who believe something different. The Church hates the sin, but loves the sinner. Good thing for us, eh!

      There’s a TV show I see occasionally that called “Love it or List it”. When it comes to the Church ( the one true Church instituted by Christ ) the following slogan comes to mind. “Love it or leave it.” Sorry…that’s too harsh…wouldn’t want you to leave…just chill a little and leave some space for the Spirit instead of over thinking things. In the meantime I’ll keep praying for you all. ( Now that I think of it, the work “pray” has been woefully lacking in your comments.)


      • Foolishness says:

        Donna, most of the frequent commentators on this blog are not members of the Ordinariate.

      • William Tighe says:

        “In the meantime I’ll keep praying for you all. ( Now that I think of it, the work “pray” has been woefully lacking in your comments.)”

        This should go down in the record books as the quintessential passive-aggressive response.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Professor Tighe,

      You wrote: Not so, for what, then, does one do with the decree “Sacrosancta” (1415) of the Council of Constance?

      Since this decree appeared in the bound volume of documents promulgated exclusively by each of the previous ecumenical councils, which the Vatican issued to each participant in the Second Vatican Council as part of the preparation for the council itself, it seems pretty clear that the magisterium has determined that it is a decree of an ecumenical council. That fact renders it doctrinally infallible, no matter how inconvenient that reality might seem.

      More interesting in this context is the decree Haec sancta synodus by which the Council of Constance decreed that the reigning pope, as an individual member of the church, is therefore personally subject to the authority of an ecumenical council. Once the First Vatican Council promulgated the decree Pastor aeternus defining the dogma popularly called “papal infallibility,” this spurred speculation that there would never be another ecumenical council on the thinking no pope would ever convene a body to which he would personally become subject once he convened it.

      Of course, Pope St. John XXIII — whose dissertation was on ecumenical councils in the church — had different ideas. As they say, the rest is history.

      Ecclesial laws and acts normally don’t take effect until their promulgation. The statement that the pope must promulgate a decree of an ecumenical council has two possible interpretations. The first is that the decree does not take effect unless he does so (which is, of course true) — but the second is that promulgation of a decree enacted by an ecumenical council is a duty of his office and that he has no decision in the matter. Haec sancta synodus clearly weighs heavily in favor of the latter meaning.


  4. Donna Kelsch says:

    Thank you Deborah…I didn’t know that. Very helpful. What are they…a mix of religions?…mostly Anglicans? Probably Christian of some sort. That would help me to put things in context. No offense intended to those outside the Church. Mea Cupla. By the way, how would one find that out?


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