In charity and truth, please judge me



For the sake of unity, I wish we disagreed more. In charity and truth, please judge me.

I certainly do not wish for more division; there is plenty of that. Rather, I wish that, in conversation, we would be more willing to voice our disagreements; to nuance our friends’ statements and suggest an alternative when the conversation declines in virtue and tends toward slander, complaint, or empty, meaningless chatter. I know that I am guilty of letting my disagreement go unspoken, and I pray that, this summer, the Lord grants me the grace to grow in integrity with gentle and firm words.

Our reticence toward friendly admonishment and charitable correction is most evident in the common phrase, “No judgment.” I think many people remain mute when they disagree with others because of the rally cry for this relativistic culture that so clings to its “freedom” and “independence” – “Don’t judge me.” To be perfectly honest, I despise these condemnations of judgment, and a few readings from this past semester solidified this sentiment.

St. Bonaventure, a Master General of the Franciscan order in the Middle Ages, wrote in his “Mind’s Road to God” that judgment and the deliberative power of our minds enable us to truly love, to choose one thing over the other due to its proximity to the Highest Good. Indeed, he wrote, “our deliberative faculty in judging reaches upward to divine laws if it solves its problems completely,” and we know that the law of the Lord is love – love that expends itself as Christ does on the Cross (III.4). Our ability to discriminate in such a way, to judge which actions and words will lead us to holiness and then choose those, is a significant instrument in our salvation. Why would we throw away such a valuable tool? The wonderful St. Catherine of Siena would describe this tool as a sword.

Sigrid Undset, a recent biographer of St. Catherine of Siena, paraphrases the saint’s letter of encouragement to Pope Urban VI: “The light of eternal truth will arm us with the two-edged sword, the sword of love and hate – hatred for vice and love of virtue, for this virtue is the bond which attaches us to God and love of our neighbour” (p.258). Let us hone each other and sharpen one another’s swords. When we disagree with something, we should first examine ourselves to be sure that our disagreement is solely founded on the goal of loving God. We should be oriented toward increasing in virtue and glorifying Him with our lives. If this is the case, then we should voice our disagreement more often than not. Harboring discord in our hearts is only harmful, and if we cede our deliberative power of mind and refuse to judge at all, then we have already ceded the pursuit of the Highest Good for the comfort of unholy indifference. But saints never stop running after Christ. Saints are not satisfied to let their comrades trample on the Truth, even if only in passing or casual remarks – because if the servant cannot be trusted with small tasks, small tokens, or small talk, how can he ever be trusted with significant matters (Mt 25:23)?

The judgment I refer to here is not the Last Judgment or rash judgment (CCC 2477), but our ability to differentiate between good and evil words and deeds; to determine whether or not something leads to the Lord. Christ commands us, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged,” so that we can avoid rash judgment and instead judge in truth and love (Mt 7:1). He says in the same passage, “remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5). Of course we must begin with step one! But to be fellow saints, we cannot forget step two.