Sunday, 28 December 2014

Who Am I To Judge...?

This weekend, in the Archdiocese of Southwark, we had a Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Smith instead of a sermon. I have to admit that I groaned when I discovered this, as his letters are long-winded, badly-constructed and rather tedious; his last letter was particularly dire.

As it was read out, I started to feel rather guilty. The letter was still too long, but I noted with pleasure that the family unit was clearly and unequivocally described according to Catholic teaching, stating that children are undoubtably brought up most successfully within the stable union of a man and a woman in marriage. I was sure that this must have taken some courage to write, as it is bound to attract flak from the more liberal wing of the Catholic press, when they get to hear of it. Archbishop Smith then went on to explain that the Church's views are seen by many as illiberal, restrictive, authoritarian, irrelevant and arrogant.

Up until that point, I was feeling rather encouraged by his words, and berating myself for my previously critical attitude. Alas, the second part of the final paragraph undid all that...
"In particular we need to give a new start to those families which have been broken and grievously wounded through separation or divorce. For these especially we must all have the greatest love, respect, gentleness and compassion. These are our brothers and sisters, deeply wounded and suffering. Let no one judge them. Welcome them within the community of the Church..."
I'm no theologian, but nowhere in the Catechism do I recall reading that the families which have experienced separation or divorce are to be shunned. And I am also unaware of any Church demands that those who are separated or divorced are excluded from the Sacraments. The people who are excluded from the reception of the Sacraments are those individuals who have married civilly after a divorce, or are living together in a state of sin.

Since such people do not usually walk around with "adulterer" tattooed on their foreheads, I am not aware of any judging which might go on just because they do not approach the Communion rail. Curiously enough, it is within more traditionally-inclined circles that a failure to present oneself for Communion would attract least judgmental attention, as there are many times when a person might refrain from receiving: the stricter observance of the Communion fast being an example.

And anyway, as for "not judging" - really? Are we supposed to look on indulgently while a man who has heartlessly ditched his wife and family proceeds to "shack up" with a bimbo half his age? Or to smile encouragingly if a woman decides to abandon her spouse and go off to "find herself"? Of course we should judge - at least the actions! It is possibly the lack of society's negative judgement of such behaviour which has allowed it to increase.

So please, do not tell me I should not judge. Right judgement is, after all, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit...


Православный физик said...

Of course it'd require people to *gasp* read their catechism, which for many people collects dust.

Martha said...

Or to smile encouragingly if a woman decides to abandon her spouse and go off to "find herself"?

Imagine the dilemma for her parents.
God still loves her. We must love her. She knows what we think because we did our best to encourage her to stay with her spouse before she actually left. We can't approve, but we can't be constantly berating her. We would not see her at all if we did that. We have to accept that the law of our country allows her to do this, that she has been surrounded at college and in work by our pagan culture, that God gives us all free will. We also know that the decision has been very painful for her as well in many ways, and that the quality of the way we brought her up must be involved.
All we can do, and it is everything, is to pray constantly, both for her, and for her devastated spouse, and to offer up our own broken hearts.

Mulier Fortis said...

Judging her actions as wrong, and stating so unequivocally, doesn't mean constantly berating someone, nor does it mean that we stop loving them.

Think about how judgemental society gets when someone starts smoking... but we are not allowed to comment on behaviour that leads to the breakup of families?

By the way, I would just like to stress that I wasn't thinking of any particular cases in my post...

Gregkanga said...

The problem precisely with the 'spirit' of Vatican II bishops and priests is their poor judgment, their lack thereof and their refusal to do so when they have been entrusted by the Lord to do so in their ministry as priest, prophet and teacher. How does he operate in the confessional when sitting in the judgment seat? Imagine a leader of a group or father of a household who does not want to exercise judgement? What kind of leadership is this? Why accept a leadership position in the Church when you refuse to do so. It is right here, that the Church's evangelizing mission fails to have any effect on society, it's culture and the salvation of souls.

jaykay said...

Is it just me or does anyone else get the feeling that certain Churchmen, of both high and low estate, for some time now have been setting (or pushing) an agenda, by constantly putting forth this type of strawman scenario, whereby people of this ilk are said to be constantly "judged", "demeaned", "branded" etc. etc.? Those whom they feel to be their allies in the media (but who are of course using them for all they're worth) have certainly jumped aboard this shoddily fabricated bandwagon. Just last week the disgusting Irish Times chose to run a guest article by some gay activist or other bemoaning the supposed "lack of welcome" gays feel at Christmas and their general "exclusion" blahdy-blah; it went on to hope that 2015 would be the year they would be finally "welcomed home" by nice Saint...ooops, sorry...Pope Francis. Needless to remark this dumb n' dumber remark became the headline, with a twee photoshopped (or maybe not) backshot of two young men holding hands in front of an altar. As if anyone these days among the very few who remain committed enough to the Church would even dare to criticise them anyway!

This relentless strawman propaganda reminds me of the false scenario the Nazis rigged up about the supposed repression of ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland, Poland etc. As Goebbels said: "tell a lie, tell it big and keep telling it"

Anonymous said...

The premises are false. Catholic doctrine and discipline provides properly for those in a state of mortal sin - let it be applied. Stop pretending the doctrine of the Faith does not provide the true help that sinners need. Why are so many divorced? For one, many are married in the Church that ought not to have been, as they were not properly catechised. For another, they have not been encouraged and admonished and sanctified by the Church so as to help them lead good lives, and be true to their marriage vows and have Christ at its centre. This political talk is false and dishonest, implying that the Church has been too hard on those who leave their spouse and live adulterously with another.

Savonarola said...

Anyone who has anything to do with catechetics in the Catholic Church will know that most couples wanting to be married are already living together and parents asking for their children to be baptised are often not married. Why do we do nothing about these situations, but insist that divorced people who remarry - who may only have been unlucky or made bad choices and could be making strong second marriages - be debarred from the sacraments? Could it be that they are an easy soft target while it would need courage to confront the other groups? Imagine the outcry against the Church if a couple made it known that the Church would not marry them because they are "living in sin." But who would give a second thought to a divorced/remarried person not allowed to receive communion? Sometimes I find Catholic hypocrisy quite repulsive. "Judge not that ye be not judged"!

Francis said...

Savonarola starts by making a couple of valid observations but the concluding points mix apples with oranges.

It is absolutely true that most couples asking to be married at Catholic churches are living together and equally true that many couples asking to have their babies or young children baptized are lapsed. However, in both cases there are legitimate workarounds that enable the Church to marry and baptize under certain conditions.

Provided that the couple living in sin agree to live chastely until marriage and go to confession just before the wedding day, the Church can marry them validly and licitly and the couple will contract a sacramental marriage if both parties are baptized. Also, and importantly, the Church makes no promises to the newlyweds about ongoing access to Holy Communion: from the wedding day onwards, the couple must stay in the state of grace in order to receive worthily. If they commit more mortal sins, they must refrain.

In the case of lapsed parents bringing children forward for baptism, the priest is authorised to go ahead provided that assurances are given that the children will be raised in the Catholic faith. Of course, we are dealing with babies and young kids who are not the source of the sin of apostasy, and again the Church isn't making any promises about access to Holy Communion in these circumstances.

With remarried divorcees whose previous marriage has not been annulled, the problem is more complex because marriage is an ongoing situation. You can't work around it or draw a line under it so easily. And every genital act in an unlawful remarriage is a grave sin of adultery. So to receive communion would likewise be a grave sin of sacrilege. The only way that a divorced and remarried Catholic whose previous marriage(s) have not been annulled can receive Communion without committing the sin of sacrilege would be to commit to living in a brother and sister relationship with the current spouse.

Why is it judgemental or hypocritical for the Church to withhold Communion from a person who is in an ongoing state of grave sin?

~Katherine~ said...

I've no doubt that you're more familiar with Archbishop than I, and likewise with the local situation. If I might just offer my two cents, though...?

When I was in high school, some ten years ago, I attended a very traditional church under the auspices of one of the orders who say the Tridentine Mass exclusively with the permission of Rome. At one point, a family with several older (preteen and up) children decided to adopt three very needy children, all siblings, from a truly dreadful orphanage situation. All very laudable and good. The wife and mother of the family stayed home with them, as she had done for the past couple of decades with the older children, in order to raise and homeschool them. Likewise, laudable and good.

Unfortunately, her husband decided a few months post-adoption that this was all rather stressful, and went to live with a much younger girlfriend. Needless to say, he stopped attending church at that point. His wife was left to raise about seven children on her own, three of them with serious emotional issues. Her career-related certifications had long since expired, and she hadn't held a job outside the home for about twenty years, meaning that it was virtually impossible to find a job that could support the family.

All of this was quite horrifying to me, but what was even more horrifying was the reaction of the people at the church. You would think that this would have been a good opportunity for them to rally round with any help they could offer that mother. Instead, she was openly shunned because, it was generally agreed, she must have done "something" to "make" her husband leave her, and if she'd just been a good enough wife and mother, this wouldn't have happened! (Of course, I'm sure that there must have been some issues before her husband met the, er, "newer model," but I can't imagine anything that would excuse his behavior.)

In short, she was not only abandoned by her husband, but by her church, who if anything were more supportive of her husband than of her. It was a disgusting performance all around.

I wonder if it's possible that the Archbishop was addressing some of that mentality in his letter?

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