Judge Not? Really?


The priest who gave a Mission talk at our church talked about the whole issue of “judgment.” It was helpful to me as I read the online discussions among Catholics about Fr. Guarnizo from Washington, DC. He’s the one who withheld communion from a Buddhist lesbian activist. The woman introduced herself and her lover to the priest before Mass, making their status clear. The priest explained to the entire congregation the conditions for reception of communion at a funeral Mass and apparently he had something of a conversation with this woman as well while they were in the sacristy. But the woman still felt she “deserved” to receive the Eucharist. When the priest quietly refused it, she went to a different line and received communion anyway. Then she went to the press to make life difficult for this priest.

Many of these kinds of situations remind me of family life. God gives us families as a microcosm of society so we can learn to make judgment calls like this priest was forced to make.

I remember a situation that happened to me. I was living in sin with a boyfriend, and I brought him home to meet Mom. Should she have said, “Well it’s not my job to judge. The Bible says ‘judge not, lest you be judged.’ So I’ll just give you one bedroom since that’s what you choose.” Would that have been the right the thing to do?

Well my mom didn’t think so. She said, “You may be living together, but not in my house.  I won’t have that here. Here are two bedrooms. I expect you to sleep in your respective bedrooms alone.”  She couldn’t change my lifestyle outside of her house. About that she was praying hard. But she certainly had a moral obligation to hold me accountable while in her house.

We can’t condemn the souls of others. The state of their relationship with God is none of our business. That’s what the Bible passage means. But that is totally different from telling a child, “Don’t do that. And what you just did was wrong.” We as Catholic Moms are morally obligated to tell our children they are living in a state of sin if they move in with a partner.

We should be gentle. We should accompany any correction with lots of prayer. God will move the soul to conversion. But we are called to be a light to the world, a voice for Truth.

As a priest, Father had a moral obligation to point out to this woman that she couldn’t receive communion since she was introducing him to her active lifestyle without contrition. Had she not announced this to him, he says he would “assume good faith when a Catholic presents himself (herself) for communion; like most priests I am not at all eager to withhold communion.” But given that she announced her lifestyle and was not a member of the parish, Father was acting as any priest should. And as any “parent” should.

Too many of us say, “Well my friend is going in for an abortion, but I don’t want to judge her. So I’m not going to say anything.” Certainly if we hear about this after the fact, we can’t say, “You’re a sinner.” But we could say, “If you need someone to talk to about having made that decision, I’m happy to talk. I can also refer you to someone for counseling.”

We don’t judge the state of her soul, but we do point out the immoral. To not act, when we have the opportunity, when a door is opened for conversation—that is sinful.

Sadly, we live in wishy-washy times. According to the world, there is only “my truth and your truth.” I remember hearing that in school. It was what I believed back when I was living with that fellow I brought home to Mom. I wanted to define “right and wrong” for myself.

But my mother did the Right thing. Her ultimatum, “If you want one bed, you can’t sleep here,” made me embarrassed. But it was the challenge I needed to hear. And her constant prayers were what turned my life around.

We have an obligation to speak on behalf of God’s law within our circles of influence. And that will make a difference. Let’s pray for Fr. Guarnizo and all those involved in that situation. Father has been removed from priestly duties in response to his action. From the information available, that seems very wrong. So we will pray for our whole Church that our bishops and Cardinals will stand up against the pressures of the world that would re-define family.

Let us pray…and speak out.

This is a link to Fr. Guarnizo’s explanation of what happened: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/father-marcel-guarnizo-i-did-only-thing-faithful-catholic-priest-could-do

Copyright 2012 Judith Costello


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  1. Judith does an excellent job of pointing out the true facts behind father’s ordeal. I truly enjoyed how she related it to everyday family situations … a unique perspective we all can appreciate!! It is a refreshing style of writing that can cut through all the canonical disputes and get to the true gist of the controversy in terms anyone can readily comprehend.

  2. Very good presentation of a complex and vexing situation. I agree entirely with your aspect, and your mother’s. When the time came for my adult child, I wish that I would have said the same thing. Thanks for putting me on to your blog.

  3. Thank you, I am in a similar situation with a friend of mine which outed herself as lesbian a few years ago and now is living in a relationship – the problem is how to be clear and loving at the same time – she is so easily offended, even though she asked for my opinion once… Prayer really is very much needed – in every encounter, even if the topic is not adressed.
    Occasionally, I wondered wether it would have been better not to have said anything. Thank you for reminding me of the importance to keep at it.

  4. David M Paggi on

    “Judgment” per se had absolutely nothing to do with the matter. If the First Amendment means anything at all, it means that any church may define who may participate in its ceremonies and to what degree. No one has a right to force a body of adherents of any kind to accept her participation in their practices on her terms.

    One of my favorite authors is Judith Martin, who for many years wrote a very droll column as “Miss Manners.” What we have here is a failure on the part of the woman to practice basic etiquette and courtesy. Since the priest celebrating the Mass gave an explanation of the applicable guidelines, she may not claim ignorance, even though she likely did not fully understand the basis of the rule.

    Anyone who presents for Holy Communion is challenged, “The Body [Blood] of Christ”, to which the one receiving responds by saying “Amen” – “so be it.” This assent means that not only does the communicant recognize the Body and Blood of Christ; it also asserts that he or she is in full communion with the Catholic Church, which embraces assent for everything Holy Mother Church proposes for our belief as well as being free from any known mortal sin.

    Prima facie, a Buddhist cannot possibly meet this condition, even without being a practicing lesbian, which is also a reasonable ground for refusing Holy Communion. Therefore when this individual responded “amen,” she could not possibly be giving genuine assent; she does not recognize the Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity before her simply because she does not recognize Christ for Who He is at all. See 1 Cor. 11:27 for the grievous peril such action entails.

    Refusing Holy Communion to such a person is an act of charity, not judgment, lest she commit sacrilege herself while scandalizing other congregants.

    Since they actually took the trouble to speak to the celebrant in the sacristy before Mass, it seems likely that all this was anticipated in advance, so the woman in question actually received the Body of Christ surreptitiously with the intent of denouncing the Church for merely following its ancient practice.

    One could hardly conceive of more grossly disrespectful behavior, even before compounding the error by attempting to hold the faithful priest up to public ridicule. While such perfidy is extremely annoying, we must imitate Christ, St. Stephen, and many other saints and pray, “Forgive her, Father, she knows not what she does.

    There but for the grace of God go I; that I can present the above exposition is much more a gift of grace than any merit of mine, so in no way do we judge the soul of this lady; rather we should hold her up in prayer that she may respond to the Holy Spirit, “Who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” 1 Tim. 2:4.

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