We live in times in which there is a widespread notion that to correct sinners is to “judge” them. Never mind that it is sin that we judge, not the sinner. Never mind that in accusing us of judging, the worldly-minded are themselves doing the very judging they condemn. Never mind any of that; the point of the charge is to seek to shame us into silence. And despite the fact that Scripture consistently directs us to correct the sinner, many Catholics have bought into the notion that correcting the sinner is “judging” him. In this, the devil, who orchestrates the “correcting is judging” campaign, rejoices; for if he can keep us from correcting one another, sin can and does flourish.
Today’s gospel is an important reminder and instruction on why and how we should correct the sinner and be open to correction ourselves. Let’s look at in four steps.
I. PRESCRIPTION – The text says, Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him.” I placed “against you” in parentheses because many ancient manuscripts do not contain this phrase, while others do. While some may want to limit this gospel to commanding correction only when someone sins “against you,” none of the other texts we will review contain this restriction and so the phrase seems superfluous. For the purpose of this reflection, I will favor those manuscripts that do not include the phrase “against you.”
Now, therefore, observe the brief but clear advice that when we see someone in sin, we ought to talk with him or her about it. Many prefer, probably due to sloth, to say, “It’s none of my business what other people do.” But Jesus clearly teaches otherwise.
In teaching this way, Jesus is obviously speaking to the general situation. Some distinctions are helpful and admissible in specific situations. For example, one is generally more obliged to correct people in grave matters than in less serious ones. One is more compelled to correct those who are younger than those who are older. One is more obligated to correct subordinates, less so superiors. Parents are strongly duty-bound to correct their children, but children are seldom obligated to correct their parents. And so on. But the general rule remains: all other things being equal, there is an obligation to engage in Christian correction. Jesus says, “If your brother sins, talk to him about it.”
There are many other scriptures that also advise and even oblige us to correct the sinner. Some of the texts also speak to the way in which we should correct.
James 5:19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Gal 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any sin, you who are spiritual should recall him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom.
1 Thess 5:14 And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
Lev 19:17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.
Ez 3:17 Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.
Hence, we have an obligation in charity to correct someone who has gone over into sin. In correcting we ought to be gentle but clear. Further, we ought to correct with humility and not fall into the temptation of acting “superior” and such. Our goal is to limit sin’s effects and to apply necessary medicine to the problem of sin.
We will see more “correction texts” in a moment. But for now, let the first point be repeated: if your brother sins, talk with him about it.
II. PURPOSE – If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. Here, let us just briefly note that the point of this correction is to win a brother or sister back to the Lord. The point is not to win an argument or to show superiority. The point is to contend with Satan, by God’s grace, and win the person, who is in Satan’s grasp, back for God.
III. PROCESS – The Lord next sets forth a process for fraternal correction. It would seem that the process here is generally for more serious matters and that all these steps might not be necessary for lesser ones. For addressing the general situation in which a brother or sister is in a state of more serious and unrepentant sin, the following process is set forth:
1. Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. – This first stage is often omitted in our fallen, gossip-prone, human condition. If one is in sin, it is too frequently the case that we will talk to everyone except the actual sinner. This is usually not helpful and in fact merely compounds the sin. The sinner goes uncorrected and sin multiplies through gossip. Satan gets a high return on his investment, often netting dozens of sinners for the price of one.
Jesus is clear: speak to the sinner himself, FIRST. There may be situations in which we need to seek advice from someone we trust about how best to approach the sinner. And sometimes we may need to check a few facts first. But in the end, such lateral discussions ought to be few and only with trusted individuals. The Lord is clear: step one is to go first to the sinner himself.
2. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” – This sort of option may seem rare today in our large cosmopolitan settings, but such things do occur in the right circumstances. Often these sorts of team efforts are called “interventions” and they are frequently done in the cases of addicts who are resisting treatment. Sometimes, too, it is used when a certain family member is engaging in hurtful practices such as severe anger, or the refusal to forgive, or causing division within the family. Such interventions are usually conducted by several family members that the person trusts and they often receive training of some sort before doing so. Depending on the gravity of the matter, these interventions are both necessary and counseled by the Lord as part of a method to end destructive and sinful behaviors.
3. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church. – Here, too, note the presupposition that the Church is experienced in a personal way and that the individual is somehow connected to a body of believers who matter to him in some way. The presumption is that these are people he knows (pastors, parish leaders, etc.). This is not always the case in modern parishes, which can be large and impersonal and where many can attend yet stay only on the fringes. Rather than simply dismissing this step of Jesus’ as unrealistic in most cases today, we ought to see it as setting forth an ideal of what parishes ought to be. I hope to work with this vision in a post later this week.
Nevertheless, for those who have some relationship to the Church, this step needs to be considered in cases of grave sin. As a pastor, I have sometimes been asked to speak to a family member in serious sin. Presuming other measures have been taken, I often do speak to him or her to warn about such things as fornication, shacking up, abortion, drug use, anger issues, disrespect for parents, and so forth.
But to be honest, unless the individual has more than a superficial membership in the parish, such talks are of limited effectiveness. Further, “Church” here should not be seen merely as meaning clergy. Sometimes there are others in the Church who ought to be engaged, leaders of organizations to which the person belongs, older men and women (to speak to younger ones), and so forth. I have often engaged a team to speak, especially to younger people.
4. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. – And here we come to a matter of some controversy: that of excommunication. Treating someone as tax collector or Gentile is a Jewish way of saying, “Have nothing more to do with such a one; let him be expelled from the community.”
Some today object to the use of excommunication and often suggest, with some superiority, that “Jesus would never do such a thing.” Yet Jesus himself is teaching us here to do this very thing. As we shall again remark, excommunication is not a punishment to be inflicted upon someone simply to be rid of him or her, but rather as a medicine to bring forth repentance. As we can see, too, excommunication only comes at the end of a long process and is not something that the Church rushes to do. But it IS taught here and elsewhere in Scripture. Consider some of the following examples:
2 Thess 3:6 We instruct you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who walks in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us.
2 Thess 3:14 If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
1 Cor 5:1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1 Cor 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
1 Cor 5:11 But rather I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber — not even to eat with such a one. Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
So a fairly strong and clear biblical mandate exists from both Jesus and St. Paul that excommunication may at times have to be used. It would seem from the texts we have surveyed that the purpose of excommunication is two-fold: to protect the community from the influence of serious sinners, and to be a medicine to urge the wayward Christian unto saving repentance.
And if any doubt the seriousness of excommunication or think nothing of the Church’s solemn declaration of it, note that Jesus indicates that he will in fact recognize the Church’s authoritative declaration. For He says, Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Thus, let no one make light of the Church’s solemn declaration in such matters.
In our times there is increasing demand for bishops to use this measure more often, especially for those who openly support and help fund abortion. It seems clear from the Scriptures we have surveyed that such a measure can, and at times should, be used at the end of a process like Jesus describes. If one is directly involved in abortion, either by having one, performing one, paying for one directly, or directly assisting someone to have one, he or she is automatically (self) excommunicated.
What of “Catholic” politicians and jurists who advance the availability of abortion and vote funding for it? Most (but not all) bishops have made a prudential decision not to make use of this measure for “Catholic” politicians who support abortion or same sex “marriage,” etc. Most of them say they have concerns that the matter would be perceived as a partisan political act rather than a moral shepherding of these wayward souls. And since it would be misread and falsely portrayed by the media, they consider it unwise in these circumstances to excommunicate.
Bare minimum – It is not my role as a priest to critique bishops on whether or not they choose to excommunicate. There are prudential judgments bishops must make. But at a bare minimum I would surely hope that every Catholic (politician or not) who even comes close to procuring an abortion or advancing its availability, has been privately instructed and warned by his pastor (or bishop in prominent cases) that if he does not change, and dies unrepentant, he will almost certainly go to Hell. Likewise those of any prominence who help advance other serious moral evils should be strongly admonished by pastors to return to the truth.
It is simply too serious a situation to leave a sinner of this magnitude uninstructed, unrebuked, or in any way unclear as to the gravity of the matter. The sinner should be instructed—yes, warned vividly—to repent at once and to refrain from Holy Communion until confession can be celebrated following true repentance.
IV. POWER – Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father
The Lord is showing here how our unity will bring strength. But how can we have unity in the Church when there is not agreement on basic moral principles and behavior. Thus fraternal correction not only helps the sinner, it helps the Church by helping to preserve our unity in the truth of the Gospel. Surely central to the truth that unites us is the moral law of Christ and his Church. Thus fraternal correction increases our unity and makes us and our prayer stronger.
Sadly today it is evident that our unity and the power of our prayer as a Church is greatly diminished by the disunity among us and the way in which many go on too long never being corrected in and by the Church. We are not a force for change since we are divided on the very truth that is supposed to unite us. Much of our division is further rooted in our failure to teach with clarity and correct the sinner.
Much work and pray is necessary today to unlock the power here of which the Lord speaks.
45 Replies to “The Call to Fraternal Correction – A Homily for the 23rd Sunday of the Year”
Good day Msgr. Charles,
I just like to know what is your reaction to people who judged you because of your faith and belief that Pope Francis is the successor of St. Peter. Because I have friends on fb who are Traditionalist and they keep on judging me as heretic because I believe in Pope Francis.
How are you going to correct them? I am not an apologetic and I do not debate but I stood on my point that: I don’t care whatever your belief is, as for me, Pope Francis is accepted by the whole world as the man who is sitting on the Chair of St. Peter as his successor. You do not have the right to judged me because I have a covenant with God as His handmaid, I do what is tasked of me to do. And after a long exchange of words they finally stopped persecuting me of my belief.
What I usually tell them is that if they are truly Orthodox, if they truly practiced the teachings of the Church, they would never address the Pope in such a horribly disrespectful matter. It is calumny and it requires confession. If they disagree with the Pope, it should always be done respectfully and it should require their prayers for him. If they have any negative wishes for them in their hearts, then they need to engage in some prayerful self-examination. I also tell them that there is no debating this. Comply or be silent. In their heart of hearts, they know better than this, so don’t debate the. Say that Jesus and His Church have spoken on how the successors to Peter are to be treated. If they don’t like it, then they can join Mel Gibson’s “Church.” But if they choose to stay, then go to confession and cease this scandalous behavior.
Ah, yes. Comply or be silent. But where does this leave Dante who placed Boniface VIII in Hell? (Google dear old Boniface if you want to know of what that particular successor of Peter was guilty — excessive claims of papal power not the least of it. )
Of course, one should be respectful of a man in high office. But “lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” It does little for the reputation of the Church to maintain that popes are beyond criticism. And does real harm to popes (and bishops) if they believe that they are beyond legitimate and respectful criticism — or that all criticism of them is illegitimate.
some traditionalist or the SSPX do not approve of Saint Francis because they are a break away of the Church. Be careful they are not Catholic and they are deceiving lots of Catholics
Beware, Mary, when you state that other groups are not Catholic. For in as much as it is not within our jurisdiction to judge Pope Francis, it is not in our jurisdiction to judge say – the SSPX – who does in no way declare that Pope Francis is not the pope.
Even if a man is elected Pope and is acknowledged as such doesn’t mean that he is immune from causing scandal. Quite the opposite. So just because you accept Pope Francis as lawfully holding the office of Vicar of Christ doesn’t mean that you think him immune to error or imprudence. And there have been bad Popes in the past.
Thank you, Father. It would be hard to find a more gentle, charitable reminder about this unpopular work of mercy.
I was just wondering if we are obliged to correct those who openly announce that they are non practicing Catholics, or those who do not go to church at all? For example, if a relative of mine was baptized Catholic, but hasn’t practiced in years, and openly states that they don’t believe what the Church teaches. If they are living in Adultery are we still obliged to correct them? Thanks for any advice you can give.
I think these would qualify as the “baptized pagans” Pope John Paul II spoke about, similar to non-believers. They need evangelizing first, are part of the New Evangelization. Correction won’t work if they don’t believe in the first place, so they need real understanding and conversion, in which case they’ll likely self-correct. I’ve seen this happen time and again.
How would you help an unbeliever get understanding and conversion, Aimee ?
As an aside too.
I wish the good arch bishop had spoken like this about those who abused – clerics that is. I have suffered the consequences of this and will for the rest of my life to some degree.I have learned a lot – not least to forgive the man. But the ‘Church’ as in hierarchy needs to learn too. More than it thinks it has.
No, I am not bitter in any way and not left the Faith. If I’d given up on faith I may well be dead now. ‘Charity begins at home’, my father always taught us.
I am being charitable here. Physicians heal thy selves. I don’t mean that as it might seem. It just seems so utterly hypocritical to speak like this while they kept so quiet about innocents being destroyed.
I’d like to correct the bishop in charity. If you know of even one survivor of abuse – do what Francis does – lift the phone and ask how he or she is doing. Ask Jesus in that person. Has never happened to me despite the waffle about reaching out to victims. I don’t need it now but would have helped and I believe would help others. Might even bring one or two back to the Church. Mary kept me hanging in there – not the clerics.
It would be a really good start and a real act of mercy and charity. Lift that phone and ask.
God bless all.
Mater Dei – ora pro nobis.
I pray for all priests too. In all sincerity of heart. Abuse blinds to beauty – the true beauty of our Faith, of Christ – of God. Letting the Jesus in you meet the Jesus in that person can help restore sight.
Was a time I could have seen you all in hell. But the Lord works in mysterious ways and grace more mysteriously still.
I would suggest an act of real charity – lifting a phone and asking someone. You might just save a life – of a brother/sister – son/daughter.
No, not all were abusers. Of course not. But we are all called to true charity.
That’s all I have to say on this one.
Thank you for this interesting teaching, Monsignor.
It is interesting to compare the current Catechism’s teaching on the Works of Mercy to earlier teachings of the Church on the subject. Here is the Baltimore Catechism #2 for those preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation:
See below how the Catechism of the Catholic Church (promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II) in paragraph 2447, soft-pedals this and totally eliminates from the list “admonish the sinner”, and it says nothing about how these are things which we must do to satisfy God’s temporal justice (which the saved would otherwise have to satisfy by time spent in the purification and preparation for Heaven called Purgatory):
My question is this: is the elimination of “admonish the sinner” from the most recent Catechism to be taken as a signal that the duty has been lifted, or is it still part of the teaching of the Church?
You will also note that giving drink to the thirsty is also not listed as one of the corporal works of mercy.
However, if you look at the Compendium of the Catechism (see here, you will see the standard list for both:
I also noticed that “admonish the sinner” is not in the list in the CCC, and thought it strange. But it appears twice elsewhere as fraternal correction: 1829 “The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction.” And 1435 “Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction …” So it is in the catechism, even if not in the obvious place, and without any description of how to actually go about it.
There have only been two Catechisms of the Church in over 2000 years.
One was the “Catechism of the Council of Trent” (aka Roman Catechism) of 1566AD, and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (aka CCC) of 1997AD.
The Baltimore was a local/regional children’s catechism which has been revised more than once; the last time may have been 1941.)
Local or regional catechisms must conform to the CCC – which contains the teaching of the Church.
One must adhere to the CCC in entirety (CCC pg 11). Perhaps you missed the 3 paragraphs on “fraternal correction” one of which is:
CCC: ” 1829 The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy;
CHARITY DEMANDS beneficence and FRATERNAL CORRECTION;
it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.” (Caps are mine.)
If one Loves his neighbor as commanded by Jesus, he will correct him of sins so that the neighbor can also get to Heaven (not Hell).
Also see our responsibility regarding the sins of others: CCC #1868.
In addition see: CCC: ” 907 In accord with the knowledge, competence, and preeminence which they possess, [lay people] have the right and even at times a DUTY to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church,
and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful,
with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.” (Caps are mine.)
You will also find this under Code of Canon Law – under “OBLIGATIONS and RIGHTS of All the Christian Faithful” – #212 -3.
It is in scripture, of course it is part of Church teaching. You don’t read the catechism in isolation. You read in in mind of scripture and the Magisterium , as with EVERYTHING in the catechism – just like St. John Paul II taught.
It is interesting that this seems to be all about correcting a “brother.” But what about those outside the Church, those who are not our “brothers”? How do we reach out to those who do not believe as we do?
I like what Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium:
“Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. This means that we are to be God’s leaven in the midst of humanity. It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way. The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.”
The biblical theology is that we are not to judge outsiders. It is those inside we are to judge, which means with respect to their actions (because we can’t judge their hearts), and attempt to correct them appropriately when necessary. With respect to nonbelievers (which would include fallen-away Catholics who never had a real conversion or understanding to begin with), you can’t expect someone who doesn’t share our faith to live the way we live. But we are to share with them, with respect to, as Pope Paul VI put it, their own “spiritual tempo and pace.” You can’t rush conversion – but you should always, charitably and patiently, hold out to them the possibility of conversion and salvation.
I am a firm believer in trying to offer a simple question that they can find God’s answer to. If we offer them the right simple question, it may help them get their feet on the sure ground of faith and this is the first step in the path of faith. We all have to have basics we believe as the foundation for our “mature” faith. Many people today do not have their feet of faith planted on anything and therefore they have no place to step off from. I suggest that everyone think, pray, search for simple questions, with verifiable facts if possible, and pass these on to those in need so they can seek God’s answer in the privacy of their home, their heart, not having to convince you of anything. In this way, we are trying, as it should be, to open the door of their soul so the Holy Spirit can enter. I have a list of questions that need work on my blog at eternalvisionfarmer.blogspot.com I welcome constructive ideas for different questions or improvements in mine.
This is somewhat tangential to your column today but I thought, in light of recent events, the wise words of Cardinal George would be worth passing along to your readers.
I would love to hear a story or two on how someone effectively and successfully “talked” someone back to fellowship with the Church or the Lord. I don’t mean to be negative, but I’ve never had success at asking someone to forgo their “bad” behavior and be reconciled. The RECONCILING or making REPARATION is the stickler.
St Joseph pray for all wayward sons.
I have, and with several people, but not by focusing on bad behavior. It was by focusing on sharing the beauty of our faith, a little at a time over a long period of time, in a way that is intelligible and compelling, without judgment or pressure. Actually I’ve been developing a whole project incorporating this kind of approach, which is very much based on the teachings of our recent Popes, among other sources. There’s much work to do and it’s a slow process, but a couple of courses are available online, just Google my full name or the Catholic Gospel Project if you want to look.
Thank you, Aimee! I have bookmarked your blog http://aimeemcooper.com/
I like your writing…. God bless!
Anne, another tip we’ve found works very well in the field in today’s world is to keep it personal, talk about yourself and how you love your faith, how the sacraments effect you, etc, rather than making assertions about “The Church says ____ and therefore it is true, and you are wrong.” The reason why is postmoderns don’t respect authoritative assertions, but they do respect personal experience. Personal experience itself is a type of authority in the postmodern view, so they respect it. We Catholics aren’t used to talking personally like that about our faith, so you might spend some time praying and thinking about how to go about it, and be willing to experiment a little. And if you make a mistake and offend someone, apologize – a little humility goes a long way!
After my husband and myself being completely away from the Church for more than 25 years, we came back via the remote control – happening upon encore versions of Mother Angelica on EWTN, and also Mother’s talking about the CCC.
We read the CCC to see if we could/wanted to adhere to the teachings of the Church.
This is how we came back.
We have given Catholic Bibles and copies of the CCC to each of our children and grandchildren aver age 14, and others close to us.
When giving a CCC to a non-Catholic, we merely state – if you want to know the truth about the Catholic Church, here is the official reference book. (No one has ever turned it down.)
The rest is prayer, and talking about specific topics as they arise.
For quotes from Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis regarding the CCC, on the net go to:
“What Catholics REALLY Believe SOURCE”
These quotes will also come in handy.
Thank you for sharing, Anne. God bless you and your husband’s evangelization.
Thank you Msgr, great teaching. The paragraph on pro-abortion politicians makes me think also of the danger of scandal, not only that some might decide that the Church doesn’t really think abortion is so bad, but also that some turn away from the Church thinking that Her bishops don’t believe the faith. And if a bishop should become the cheerleader for those who promote sin, which God forbid, even worse.
This is truth in charity. By George I’ve got it! The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.
In a Pew study on abortion 54% of Catholics stated abortion should be legal in all/most cases. Thirty one percent of white Evangelical Protestants think so. Shame on us. Perhaps if our bishops would openly excommunicate Catholic politicians who support and vote to keep abortion legal, a message would be sent to all Catholics who support abortion that the fate of their eternal souls are in grave danger. I recognize that such actions by the bishops would unleash a barrage of hysterical shouts the Church remains in the dark middle ages, etc. Nevertheless, the Church has gone through worse than this in her 2000 history and has survived, but those communities who have left the Catholic Church for “greener pastures” (Anglican, Methodist, etc.) have diminished to the extent that they are barely visible today.
Thanks, for the teaching. I have a friend which is shaking up for years. How can I tell her it is not a good way. She is praying a little, has some New-Age beliefs, she is, visiting churches sometimes… I gave her some books but she said she has a few time to read it.
I really don’t know what to do as in my area, most family are shacking up or believing in New Age “stuff”,
Thank you and God bless you!
Admonishing the sinner….This is a long-forgotten act of mercy, even among many Catholic clergy. The secular culture has its own commandment, “Thou shall not judge” in order to abide by the cultural idol of rights and freedoms (freedom as defined by a sinful culture, not according to God’s definition). The culture twists this Biblical tenet to use against Christians who openly proclaim truth that is contrary to cultural norms. This has effectively silenced most Christians and has enabled sin to flourish and snowball, and ultimately corrupt our youth. One of the Scriptures quoted above is today’s Sunday reading….Ezekiel 33: 7-9….Clearly we are called to warn sinners to turn from iniquity, and if we do not, we will be held accountable for their sin as well. Warning people of sinful behavior is not judgement, it is to remind them that they are on the path that leads to their own destruction. This is not judgement, this is mercy out of concern for their eternal happiness. If we were to condemn them for what they do without loving respect for their innate dignity and the gift of time the Lord allows them to change and turn to Him, then this would be judgement. As an excuse for silence about sin, people often quote the scripture where a woman caught in adultery is going to be stoned. They will say that Jesus said “Let those without sin cast the first stone.” And then He basically tells the woman that there is no one left to condemn her. Usually the last part of that passage is forgotten….where Jesus says to the woman, “Go, AND SIN NO MORE.” He offers His loving mercy, yet He does tell her that she needs to turn from her sin.
I was in mass on Saturday for First Saturday devotion. I had on a pair of shorts and I know I shouldn’t have worn shorts to church. Anyway, a Polish lady behind me leaned over the pew and in a thick accent told me in so many words that I shouldn’t be wearing shorts and that it was bad. My first reaction was anger but I told her that she was right. Throughout the mass she kept whispering like she was praying out loud even when the priest was reading the Gospel and this was distracting to all around. I said nothing. What I got out of this is that it is OK to correct someone, however, if you yourself are going to point out someone’s fault yet you yourself are faulty then the correction may be worthless. It’s like the old throwing stones teaching. This is why Catholics especially must seek to transcend the evils of this world and live a good life so that our corrections will not be deemed hypocritical.
Msgr. Pope keep up the good work in trying to bring light to this world.
Truly “Amen” Msgr. Pope – I wrote the same thing in my homily today. Or should I say, the Spirit guided us both. What I find truly despicable is this topic with regard to divorce. A Church should be willing to come to a husband or wife who is abandoning spouse and children, and say “enough is enough – you can’t cross this line. What do we need to do to help stop this from happening?” But it is as if people think it is not any of their business, which is absurd. The abandoned spouse often wishes someone would come to her aid – it should be her Church. Furthermore, divorce damages and ruptures communities. Some protestants still follow these directions of Jesus – I really respect them for intervening. We’re supposed to be helping each other get to heaven and if you don’t intervene, it is as if you are saying “I don’t care if you go to hell.” Completely unacceptable behavior.
Is it judging to say that: Homosexuality is defined by sex? That it cannot be defined by marriage. It cannot be defined by children. And it cannot be defined by love. Homosexuality is defined at the moment two folks of the same sex engage in a perverted sexual act. Were sex not involved the relationship could not be homo-sexual. If homosexuality is defined by sex, and heterosexuality is defined by God, why then can we not use this argument in defense of heterosexuality, and too use this simple equation to show those struggling with sex addiction (and the like) that homosexuality is purely physical and cannot possibly “lead to” (so to speak) Love? Is this not a most merciful way to help lead the straying away from their sin and toward Jesus Christ?
You say some Bishops refuse to discipline pro-baby-killing politicians because it may be misunderstood by the news media!!!!!!!!!
Do we deal with the mass murder of children based on what the news media will think or say about us?
This has a LOT more to do with being comfortable than saving the souls of these misguided pro-abortion politicians or saving the lives of babies….it’s all about remaining in the good graces of the media and keeping our comfortable positions in society.
An outstanding article, and a beacon of light in these confusing times.
Could you provide some guidance on the line between admonishment and judgment? We are also taught:
3 And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye?
4 Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
It seems easy to cross the line between admonishment and judgment or hypocrisy. It seems to me the difference is how we approach it, and what us in our hearts.
Dear Msgr. Pope, I want you to know that I am thankful for you and all priests who so fervently strive to lead God’s people to the Truth. Oh that we had more with the wisdom and courage to teach it! I am sure we would be living in a different culture than we find ourselves in now. Thank you. May God bless you.
God is so timely isn’t he? I love it! I love the way He instructs us, His Wisdom being so Perfect! Oh Teacher let us bend an ear that we may hear and be saved. This also is from last Sunday’s first reading, Jeremiah knew too: Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
If one is excommunicated, by what means can they be recommunicated (?) to the church should they repent? Is it as simple as a good confession, or must they undergo some sort of formal process? Until today, I was under the impression excommunication was more of a permanent thing (I’m glad it’s not).
The single exception to this of course would be any attempt to correct the “prudential judgments” of any of our bishops. Exhibit A: the pulled post on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
We are all sinners from the lowest pagan to the highest of clergy. In the Army we had a cadence that we would respond ‘…you got to deal with it.” Thank you for continuing to teach us Msgr. and your passion for the truth.
Can you help me understand how you interpret the verse If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector as leading to excommunication? I understand their need to be a severe consequence when someone remains obstinate, but Jesus welcomed and even dined with tax collectors and Gentiles. It seems that he did not completely break off all communion with them, but to the contrary reached out to them. I’m trying to reconcile this and hope you can help me.
Peace and joy cannot be known by an offender of the eighth commandment.
I am just inquiring about something that crossed my mind. is it possible for the name of the St. Patrick’s day parade in New York next year be changed?
Some of the content proposed for the parade is contrary to the catholic faith, and it occurred to me regarding St. Patrick’s name, if it could be preserved in some way as it is contrary to what he stood for.
Just a thought?..
Yours in Christ,
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