Monday, January 13, 2020

Yes, I am judgmental. All of us are called to be judges, but not judges of the heart.

These days, it will be very very difficult to find anyone who doesn’t know anyone who is of the LGBT persuasion.  As far as I know, all my priest friends know of and often encounter these brothers and sisters in their ministry, or have been approached by parents who themselves have one or more children who have same-sex attraction (SSA) issues.  While in the past (and here I am referring to the early part of those who are of my generation) this issue was hardly discussed or even openly talked about, it just took about thirty years for that to shift in a very seismic way, with the whole pink and rainbow movement.  Where in the past you would be a rarity if you knew someone who had SSA, these days, it is just the opposite – if you don’t know anyone who is, you are more of an oddity.  

I was recently challenged in a very direct way by someone whom I knew in my youth, to write something in my blog about this issue, and I was also asked to make it clear what my thoughts are.  I was told that I was being judgmental in my stance toward those who consider themselves to be living a LGBT lifestyle.  

I took this to prayer, to see if this comment was true and legitimate.  The truth, I have come to see, is that yes, I am judgmental.  But that in itself is not wrong.  Let me clarify.

All of us are called to judge.  I had this awareness all along, but it became much clearer after I was graced to come across, in a very timely way, a book entitled “Who am I to judge?”. It is written by Edward Sri, who wrote this book as a response to moral relativism, which is humanity’s current plague. In a very erudite way, Edward Sri has made it very clear that while we are called to judge all actions, whether it is ours or those of others, we are certainly not called to judge the hearts and minds of others.  That is God’s divine purview.  We have absolutely no right to judge peoples’ hearts and their intentions.  

Why we need to judge actions
But where actions are concerned, there is great need to do this.  And we do this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we call out a judgment on acts because we need to be clear where actions are harmful either to others or to ourselves.  This judgment doesn’t make us superior to others, but it enables us to make a stand on where right is, and where wrong is, and more importantly, why they are either right or wrong.  Not calling out a judgment on actions that impact and affect the way we relate to one another is living in a passive way, and not allow these to give a moral texture to our own lives.  Secondly, this kind of passive living will lead us to be ambivalent about actions and choices, rather than to be clear and steadfast in our choices and outlook in life. 

It is because I am clear about this, both as a person and as a priest of the Catholic Church, that I am also clear about stating what is right and what is wrong in the ways that people of the LGBT persuasion are living this out in life.  

I am certainly not a “they-can-do-whatever-they-want-to” sort of priest.  And I am certain that Pope Francis wasn’t one either when he was quoted as having said “who am I to judge?”.  He made this clear in his book “The name of God is mercy”, where he explained the context in which he said it.  Confessors in the confession do not judge a person’s heart.  By bringing up the sin, the penitent himself does, and this is absolved by the confessor priest.  

We make judgments all the time
The truth is that we judge all the time.  The result is the choices that we make in life.  Why did I drink orange juice instead of apple juice where there was a choice before me this morning?  I made a judgment that orange juice was better for me, for whatever reasons.  Why did I take route A to the office this morning instead of route B?  It was a judgment made, even if it was somewhat arbitrary.  Why did I eat a burger instead of an egg sandwich for lunch? These are judgments.  Yet, I have never heard any penitent coming to confess these “judgments”. 

We need to make the ‘big ticket’ judgments
If we make such judgments on small things, we are called to similarly make judgments on the real big things in life, and on the issue of the our moral and sexual life, these will include how and whether it is moral for one to act out one’s sexuality.  We need to be clear that our sexuality is a gift from God, and so is our free will. Because we are moral beings, the laws and limits to how we act out our sexuality applies equally to all, whether one is heterosexual, homosexual or otherwise.  That we are called to live chaste, moral and righteous lives applies to all, whether one is single or married.  In short, no one gets a pass.

But it is when one begins to think and believe that there are some people in the world for whom these laws and norms do not apply and therefore should be given some exemption, that things begin to go awry.  There have been so many times that Catholics who have SSA come to me with tears in their eyes, lamenting that it is so unfair that heterosexuals can have intimacy so freely and casually whilst they are called to chaste living.  Having sex freely?  I’m afraid this ‘license’ to be freely intimate with any degree of casualness isn’t given to anybody!  Not to the single, not even to the married (case in point, marital rape) and by logical extension, not to anyone, LGBT or not.  Chastity is the norm for everybody, but this is very poorly understood, and even poorly received and lived out.  

It is when one understands this universal call to all human beings, that one is then able to make the sound judgments of actions, be it one’s own actions, or the actions of another.  Living out one’s sexuality in a physical way with someone who is not one’s spouse of the opposite gender is therefore objectively and morally wrong.  And if one understands this well, then if follows that any form of intimate activity within marriage that disrespects and uses the other person for one’s own benefit, or disregards the spouse’s moods, feelings and disposition is therefore also morally and objectively wrong. Calling these out as wrong is indeed a judgment, but is is a judgment of actions.  They are not judgments of the soul or judgments of the heart.  As I said before, that is God’s department, and none of us is called to act in that capacity.  

In his book, Edward Sri gives a very concrete example of how one needs to make judgments on an action - you see a car barreling at break neck speed down a narrow road with nary a care for the safety of anyone and in its path a child is slowly walking across the street. By calling this bad driving is a judgment indeed. When you make a judgment by calling this bad and dangerous driving, you are also reminding yourself to never drive this way.  But you are not making a judgment on the mind or the heart of that driver.  He may have his reasons for doing that.  That is, as they say, between him and God.  However, his actions and the result of this actions are not between him and God.  They impact the community and the lives of others.  One isn’t wrong at all in judging the bad driving, but one needs to restrain oneself from judging the driver and his mind or his heart.  

When I make it clear this way how and why we ought to judge actions, am I ‘judgmental’, and am I being thus in a bad way?  In encouraging and teaching others to do the same, am I spreading an evil or negative way to live?  When a parent gives her children rules and teaches her children rules – be they rules in the house, or rules of daily living, does this make her a bad parent or a good parent?  A bad parent not only doesn’t teach her children the rules of life, but by being silent about right and wrong, gives her children the impression that they can do anything they want, as long as they are happy. 

Similarly, a bad priest would be one who doesn’t give clear instructions and teachings, or is just silently passive when lives are lived in a very morally illicit and even dangerous way.  My being clear about life and how one ought to live in God’s ways is my act of charity and compassion.  Being silent about it will be my tacit cooperation with evil and sin.

It’s how one understands compassion.
Perhaps the issue at hand is how one understands compassion.  Compassion isn’t true compassion when one allows evil to persist and thrive.  If my being labelled as being judgmental about LGBT issues like ‘married’ gay persons, or living out an active gay lifestyle is because I am not approving in anyway of these choices, it is because I am judging the actions

My compassion is shown when I understand that for many people, living a truly chaste life is something that is so difficult and requires much effort and self-denial, something that the human heart naturally finds offensive and repugnant.  My charity is shown when I give them good reason to continue in their struggle for holiness despite how difficult it is.  And for the LGBT community (and for anybody, in fact), this struggle is not only real, but needs to be seen in a positive light – by seeing it as a cross that they can carry with a purpose that is greater than themselves, and to offer any hardship and affliction up for souls in purgatory and for the holiness of the world.  For so many of them, I need to help them to understand that their route to sanctity and holiness is precisely in this cross of sacrifice through chaste living that they are carrying in their lives.

My compassion is also there when I try to understand how and why they may have chosen to live this way, and to give them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps it could be because they had not been morally formed well as far as the truth about life is concerned.  The loud voices that promote relativism are drowning out the soft whispers of the conscience of so many hearts, leading them to have made these choices.  When I take all that into consideration, this is where I practice true compassion.  

I am also compassionate when, despite their choices, I do my best to continue to love them and serve them and minister to them, and it is because I love them that I have to point out to them what is the morally right choice to choose in life.

And if this is going to be seen as my being judgmental in a bad way, I guess this will be my cross that I will offer up for souls as well.

1 comment:

  1. This post is so timely, as I face this challenge within our family. Nobody seems to want to address this cos "we cannot judge", so we leave the person(s) to live as he is entitled to while all of us have to just zip our mouths and look at him/them with compassion.