Cal Poly Pomona Catholic Newman Club

You shall not judge

By Father John Bullock
May 25th, 2007

"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged" (Matthew 7:1). This command of Christ is frequently quoted. However, it's usually directed towards Christians when issues regarding abortion, embryonic stem cells, marriage and the like are in discussion. The argument goes that if we declare certain actions to be morally wrong then we are judging others, which seems to clearly contradict what Christ says. This often goes hand in hand with a reminder to not impose one's own religious views upon others since the separation of church and state is guaranteed by the First Amendment. As a result, Christians often think they have no choice but to keep their 'religious' views to themselves.

What should we do?

God gave us our human freedom to choose the good, and ultimately to choose him. Yet in order to choose the good, we have to be able to recognize it and to distinguish it from evil. If society cannot be held to any moral standard then everything is permitted. If we can't call certain actions like murder or racism wrong, then we also can't call the preservation of life and racial equality good.

Furthermore, if something is good simply because it's legal or the cultural norm, then laws could not be deemed as immoral as long as they are legal or the norm. Yet we do recognize certain laws like slavery and apartheid as immoral. Therefore, the foundation of morality must be deeper than simply the letter of the law. What is that foundation? Man's human nature is: Man is surrounded by a spiritual and corporal structure that never allows the person to be treated as a means but always an end. Without this structure, man falls into relativism.1 As we have seen, in its final coherent consequence relativism permits all things.

Therefore, it is an obligation for the Christian to stand up for the dignity of the human person in the public square. Does this imply a judgmental attitude or an imposition of one's own religious beliefs upon others?

Christ does insist that we not judge others. How then do we respect this command while clearly calling certain things immoral? Many try to resolve this question by saying, I have my rules and you have yours and we will leave it there. Yet if we do that then chaos ensues: each following his or her own rules. We must be able to distinguish right from wrong, but we should never try to judge the interior state of another. Let's take the example of drug abuse. We must always call it wrong. Yet we can never judge the user as being evil, because he or she might not have known any better, or be addicted, etc.. We don't know their heart. Hence we cannot judge.

What about the separation of Church and state? The 1st Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This was not only the mind but the practice of the founding fathers: many of them religious men and exercising their free speech in regards to what direction the country should go. That is the democratic process, people contributing to the good of society based on their convictions, religious or otherwise: "People who support permissive abortion laws have no qualms about imposing their views on society. Often working against popular opinion, they have tried to block any effort to change permissive abortion laws since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. That's fair. That's their right. But why should the rules of engagement be different for citizens who oppose those laws? Catholics have an obligation to work for the common good and the dignity of every person. We see abortion as a matter of civil rights and human dignity, not simply as a matter of religious teaching."2

So, be careful not to judge the hearts of others, only God can. Yet be equally careful not to silence your convictions in the community dialogue which is democracy.

[1] Cfr. Veritatis Splendor, n. 48.

[2] Faith and Patriotism, Archbishop Chaput, October 22, 2004