Here Comes da Judge

A post a few days back in which I tore into a ridiculous article on Huggington Post by a “Catholic” who doesn’t go to Mass, supports abortion and thinks same sex unions and Planned Parenthood has raised a few hackles in the combox.

The commenters say I shouldn’t have judged the poor girl who wrote the article and that I am out of line for deciding “who is a Catholic and who isn’t.” The comments express  the usual passive aggressive whine from liberals…”I have deep concerns and “I am very saddened that you should adopt such a tone…”

So it’s come to this: a Catholic priest points out that a Catholic is out of line to support abortion, same sex marriage and not go to Mass, and he’s blamed for this?

Can a Catholic priest judge? How far does the “judge not that you be not judged” command go? What about Pope Francis’ now famous pull quote, “Who am I to judge?” It’s not that difficult to think through. We don’t presume to judge anyone’s final spiritual condition. I can’t say if anybody is definitely in hell or heaven. Why? Because I simply don’t know. I don’t have all the facts. Neither can I judge a person’s spiritual condition before God right here and right now. Why? Because I simply don’t know. I don’t have all the facts. So therefore we do not judge the person–either their spiritual state now or whether a dead person is in heaven or hell.

However, I can judge whether a belief or behavior is consistent with the Catholic faith or not. A man says he’s left his wife and had an affair with another woman? I can judge that one. That’s called adultery. It’s a mortal sin. He’s out of communion with God and the church. He needs to go to confession and give up that mistress and return to his wife. It’s simple even if it’s not easy.

A young woman says she is Catholic and she is pro-abortion, supports Planned Parenthood, supports same sex marriage and doesn’t go to confession or Mass? Then it’s not difficult. I don’t judge her eternal destiny or the status of her soul at this point in time, but I can sure point out that for a person who calls themselves a Catholic and supports abortion, same sex marriage and neglects going to Mass is a bad Catholic. I can also point out–indeed it is my duty to point out–that she is in a state of mortal sin, needs to go to confession and live by the teaching of the Catholic Church, and just like the man who is an adulterer I must also warn her that if she continues, in full knowledge and informed consent to rebel against the teachings of the church, and by her public voice to encourage others to do so, then she is headed down the wrong road. She’s followed the broad path that leads to hell.

Anybody who doesn’t see this simple truth that this is part of a priest’s job is either seriously self deluded or intentionally antagonistic to the Catholic faith.

Is this harsh? No more harsh than a doctor telling a patient they have cancer and need chemo therapy. If a doctor does that he is a good doctor, not a bad doctor. Do we expect a doctor, knowing that cancer will kill a person, and diagnosing cancer to say to the person, “There, there, I don’t want to judge you. You carry on living your life just as you please, and have a nice day”? No. We expect him to give the bad news even if it causes upset, fear, confusion and anger.

At the same time, we acknowledge that many cases of pastoral care are complicated, that individuals make moral decisions that are often complex and nuanced. We also welcome all with the forgiveness, love and compassion of the Father waiting for the return of the prodigal. To make a call on clear and unambiguous sin is not mutually exclusive of compassion, acceptance and welcome. Indeed warmth of welcome without clarity about the human condition is nothing more than sentimentality.

It is sugar coated poison.


  • AnneG

    Exactly, absolutely, spot on. That is a great homily, wish I heard it in my parish. Btw, isn’t one of the corporal works of mercy burying the dead? Isn’t that what sending somebody to the Episcopal Church is? Edit that out if you want.

  • JohnE_o

    Surely you mean the Huffington Post?

  • Charles Mac Kay

    Delighted to see Mortal Sin used in the context. Anyone who comes away with that drivel and calls themselves a Catholic is an idiot and deserves all thats coming to them. There are rules and you stick with them

  • vox borealis

    What about Pope Francis’ now famous pull quote, “Who am I to judge?” It’s not that difficult to think through.

    No, it’s not that difficult to think through. Nevertheless, Pope Francis *did* provide these sorts with this pull quote, and now the rest of us have to jump through an extra hoop to engage the likes of Cara McDonough and their combox posse.

    That’s the reality: the pope has made our job harder. Now, I am not saying he is a heretic, etc. But at the same time, making the suggestion that his statement was perhaps a little careless does not make one a “reactionary ” or sedevacantist or a “hater” or whatever.

    Like I wrote, sarcastically, in the comments on the initial post, that “who am I to judge” line is the gift that keeps on giving.

  • Augustine

    Please, explain to me a doubt I have. You said: “I don’t judge her eternal destiny or the status of her soul… that she is in a state of mortal sin.” If she overtly admits being in a state of mortal sin, isn’t the status of her soul dead to grace?

    Alas, no, it is not harsh, it is charitable.

  • Kevin

    Excellent analogy with the doctor

  • Dave Zelenka

    This hits very close to home. I am presently in the state of “grave mortal Sin.” But due to my circumstance, Jesus has made it clear to me (personal revelation) that I am with him and that I need not worry. He has made it clear that I should work out my salvation in fear and trembling, but that I am in fellowship with him. In order to be out of “grave mortal sin,” I would need to perform an act that would sever my marriage and family relationship. I’m not willing to do that and Jesus understands. No, I’m not a remarried/divorced Catholic. I love the Church. I go to Mass every week. I go to confession, but am not allowed to be absolved and I’m not allowed to communion (though ironically, one priest did absolve me, even though I explained to him my issue). I do not take communion, but since I celebrate it with others, I eat the crumbs that fall from table like the pagan woman in scripture. I love Jesus very much and know in the deepest place in my heart that I am a part of his vine and have been since my baptism. I try to follow the Church’s teaching each and every day. And I fail. I say the Jesus Prayer all the time, unless I’m wrapped up in my own head and my own world.

    Being “out of communion” and “excommunicated” is very different that being not a part of the Catholic Church. As I understand it, the Church even requires those who have been excommunicated to go to mass. They are still a part of the Church. Jesus knows whether they are part of his vine. Excommunication is judiciary it does not represent a spiritual reality.

    I have come to understand that we are all in a state of “grave mortal sin” whether we know it or not. Each and every day, we turn away from the Father–which is essentially a grave mortal sin. We all do this. We do it when we turn away from our neighbor. We do it when we push the fallen world away from the Church. We do it when we make it so difficult for others to enter.

    Have you looked at the list of mortal sins recently? We are sinners. We call out to God, “Abba, Father, have mercy on me a sinner!”

    The woman’s article demonstrates the fallen state of our society in and out of the Church. But we sinners must be sought after and brought home.

    We must understand the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. When we talk to people, we talk to the wheat, the child of God within. We never talk to the tares. It is Jesus who deals with the tares. We water and nurture the wheat. We never give even a sidelong glance at the tares. When we do our tares begin to flourish.

    • Nathan718

      If you are really in a state of mortal sin, and of course I’d have no way of knowing that, you would not be “with Jesus.” The definition of being in a state of mortal sin IS being separated from Jesus. It is impossible to be separated from Jesus and be “with Jesus.” I think you might have a confusion of the meaning of mortal sin. The “mortal” part means deadly, as in a mortal wound. Mortal sin doesn’t kill the body, rather it kills the soul (by separating it from Christ). If someone were to die with a dead soul, that is in a state of mortal sin (a state of separation from Christ), they would remain spiritually dead (separated from Christ) forever. That state is commonly called Hell. Certainly, we all are sinners, but we are not all constantly in a state of mortal sin.

      • Dave Zelenka

        Exactly. A priest has explained to me that I’m in a state of mortal sin as defined by the Catholic Church. And I do understand the distinction of mortal and venial. I know that I am a sinner. And I know that every time I sin, I look away from God and it is a deadly act. I certainly do not want to water down the meaning. Paul told us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, while at the same time we must know that Jesus will save us sinners, even me.

        As you know, it’s a mortal sin to miss Sunday mass. How many people go ahead and miss mass for one reason or another and then just say to themselves, “I’ll be okay. I’ll just do penance”? That’s worse than missing it and not believing that it’s a sin. We all sin in a deadly way: We have lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. We all experience these sins at varying degrees more often than we admit, because we hide our eyes from seeing it. Our subconscious justifies ourselves through false-ignorance. We even allow ourselves to briefly indulge in these deadly sins at times. Again, we say, “I’ll be okay. I’ll just do penance.” Repentance is about truly being sorry. Truly sorry. How often have you truly been sorry. So sorry, that you broke down weeping, convulsing with tears, knowing the impact of your sin. If we were truly sorry, we would know the impact and we would be weeping uncontrollably, until our Savior reached down and held us in our arms and told us, “I forgive you. I love you. I have covered all your sins. Now be at peace, go now and sin no more.”

        Except for the Pharisee or the saintliest of Saints, it is impossible to not be mortally sinful–as defined by the Catholic Church. The lines at the Sacrament of Reconciliation are ridiculously short.

        And the reason is because we are sinners and only Jesus can fulfill the Law. We can’t. That’s why we sinners cry out daily/hourly, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner!”

        All the parables explain this. All his teachings explain this. He calls out to his beloved Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” We are sinners of the deadliest sort. But He loves us. Oh, how he loves us. Thank God, for our precious Jesus! Praise and glory and honor be his, forever and forever.

        • FW Ken

          Mortal sin requires three elements: the sin must itself be a serious matter. Then, you must be acting freely, not under compulsion, which implies you made a free choice. Finally, you have know is a serious sin. You don’t just slip into mortal sin.

          It is well to remember that in the early Church, penance often lasted for years. I’ve read that prevents were sometimes formed into an “order” to support their spiritual healing. I sometimes wonder if that wouldn’t be a good option today.

    • Jon Fermin

      if private revelation is not consistent with scripture or the teachings of the church, one ought be careful. even in the lives of the saints it is not unheard of that satan would take on the image of Christ to deceive.

      sometimes these deceptions can be VERY subtle.

      not knowing the circumstances of your sin (this is not an invitation to disclose them), I cannot speak with specificity towards your situation but generally speaking, if a private revelation is informing you that it is ok for you to remain in mortal sin, this is highly suspicious and unlike Christ who called for us to completely cut ourselves off from sin even to the point where doing so causes us discomfort. even if Jesus were to speak in hyperbole when he says we are to cut off our own hands and be prepared that our own families should hate us in our goals to abandon sin, this hyperbole is speaking of the severity and gravity of mortal sin and the no-holds-barred effort of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” I speak to you as a man who is frequently in mortal sin, all the more so I am grateful for frequent confession and absolution. if we are to take seriously the authority Christ granted the church to bind and loose and teach doctrine, we should be prepared to endure whatever it takes to get out of mortal sin. Jesus told the adulteress, when he forgave her not to go and continue her sinful relationship even after he forgave her, he says go and sin no more.

      I would urge you with all charity and in no uncertain terms to re-evaluate the authenticity of your private revelation in light of what the scriptures and the church say.

  • Virgil T. Morant

    Good post.

    It also reminds me of this more than slightly hilarious video, one that finds a friend (a strange bedfellow, I guess) in a Lutheran pastor who is no ardent admirer of the Roman Catholic Church, and yet can agree on this much:

  • johnnyc

    Father here is an essay just released by Archbishop Muller (CDF). It is a long essay about the Communion for divorced/remarried issue but suffice to say that the libs won’t like it…..–del-matrimonio-e-il-di.html&title=The%20Power%20of%20Grace&locale=en

    But here is a quote from the text that I think you will appreciate (and again, the libs won’t) and that I believe supports what you are trying to teach…..

    “An objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing
    the image of God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive.
    The mystery of God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and
    his justice. ”

  • Dan C

    Conservatives have their own tender consciences have been offended amidst the discussions of Pope Francis, (referencing now all those who all of a sudden decided that moral criticism is just due to sexual matters and cannot bear to hear they are much like the “elder children” of the Prodigal Son parable). Fearful of agressive liberals, the comments of such liberals are often unprinted leaving an impression of a heterodox, wimpy, uncritical liberal mass. We are not all like that, but some bloggers, like First Things snd this blog, can’t bear sharp liberal judgement.

    • tofubamboo

      Fr. Longenecker does bear sharp liberal judgement. I think here he is just pointing out that the HuffPo writer is not really Catholic. Look at what she supports. Some may call her a liberal Catholic; but in truth she is not a practicing Catholic, neither liberal nor conservative. She is really in a state of mortal sin. That is all that is written above.

  • linda daily

    Concerns are not about your teaching but your horrible, self-righteous attitude and way of expressing yourself, which does more harm than good. For someone who has church shopped for so long, you should understand that we are all a work in progress. God draws us in his own time and we are meant to bring people to him, not repel them because they offend our delicate sensibilities. Your words are not Christ’s call to the lost, rather the blather of an insecure man.

    • MarylandBill

      Ms. McDonogh isn’t proclaiming herself to be a work in progress though. She doesn’t seem to have questions about Catholic positions, she seems to outright reject them. Also, I didn’t see Father comparing himself to her (which would be the foundation of self-righteousness), rather he was calling her out on her own inconsistent positions.

      Its simple really, other than Jesus and Mary, all of us are sinners; even the greatest of saints. Yet, we are called to fraternally correct our brothers and sisters when we see them sin. That doesn’t make us self righteous, it makes us simply sinners doing our best. And sometimes fraternal correction needs to be forceful and blunt.

    • Darren Szwajkowski

      Dear Linda,
      Instead of criticizing Fr. Longenecker’s article, I would like to know how you would handle the situation. I think it would go in the matter of the following for year 2012:
      Taken in a similar manner from the St. Austin Review which you can read here:
      1945 vs. 2012
      1945: This girl says she supports abortion(murder), same sex marriage(adultery in the sense of perversion) and neglects going to Mass (not honoring the sabbath). Her parents and priest (which is what Fr. L says) tell her that if she continues this way of thinking that she is in mortal danger of ending up being forever separated from the love of God which is hell. The girl realizes that eternal damnation is not a good thing, lives a holy life, becomes a saint, has a feast day for her and leads many other souls to God.
      2012: This girl says she supports abortion(murder), same sex marriage(adultery in the sense of perversion) and neglects going to Mass (not honoring the sabbath). Her family supports her choice and her parish priest says nothing. She ends up pregnant several times, has several abortions (killing the future president of the united states or the next Chopin or Mozart or Pope St. Francis II). She ends up doing drugs and is not only lost to the world but ends up hating her life and mad at God.
      By the way, people were repelled by God when he said, you must eat my flesh. Did He offend their delicate sensibilities? You bet He did. I was sensitive myself. I am glad that I read a book by a certain Fr. L that told the Truth and hit me like a ton of bricks. Thank you Fr. for not being delicate.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    I have to say, I’m a big fan of the apologist, Greg Koukl, who’s a Presbyterian or something, but was once a close colleague of Frank Beckwith in his pre-Catholic days, and they wrote a brilliant book together (which I hope you don’t mind me plugging), Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.
    His excellent (and entertaining) Vertias lecture on Relativism (with the same title) is here:

    He is brilliant on the accusation of ‘judge not’. He simply let’s people rant about him judging, then calmly asks them why they are judging him…

    He then goes to explain that judgment is normative, and required, if one believes there is such a thing as truth. So, to use ‘judge not’, is actually a Relativist’s Ruse, claiming that all truth is relative – for everyone – except the Relativist making the claim! It’s nonsense, it self-destructs, or ‘commits suicide’, as he puts it.

  • jacobum

    Fr L. There is a direct correlation between speaking/preaching the truth and being “unpopular”. It goes double for bishops, priest, religious and all clergy. The laity is no less responsible to do likewise also. Something about “they will hate you because of me” rings a bell. What is missing today is “Truth” in all levels of society and the Church. If you are doing your job preaching truth people are going to be upset with you. If they are not? Pretty good indication you might be playing to the crowd rather than to Christ. God Bless and let the truth rip. It is the charitable thing to do. Anything less is cowardice. Pleasant, direct and truthful upsets people.

  • Slocum Moe

    I probably wouldn’t accept you as my priest. You probably wouldn’t accept me as a Catholic. I believe that if what the Church teaches is true we are all Catholic, whether we know it or not or want to be or not and that we are all on God’s path no matter how far we have strayed.

    If a person thinks enough of the validity of the sacraments that they wish to partake they should not be denied. It may offer comfort to those in torment, a very Christian act. Just what I think. Not you. Maybe not anybody else. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it. For now. A Christian life allows for change, doesn’t it?

    I don’t say you aren’t a Catholic or others either. I do not say you are not a priest, just not my priest. It’s a long path and no one can say what waits at the end for any of us.

    I wish you good fortune on your path to God.