Who Are we to Judge?

papaf2It is curious how highly the secular media seems to approve of Pope Francis. Its praise breeds apprehension in some Catholics who tend to be wary of what the world applauds, and rightly so. Pope Francis was again made much of this week for a few candid words about homosexuals. The buzz was based on an interpretation that the Pontiff’s words expressed the beginnings of the long-awaited shift in the Church’s archaic position on homosexuality—which, of course, they did not. They did, however, express the Church’s position on something that could afford to be stated more often and as clearly: that Catholics are, in fact, accepting of homosexuals—just not in the way that the LGTB world wants them to be.

Answering questions from reporters on board his flight from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis was asked about the rumored homosexual lobby among high-ranking Curia within the Vatican. The Pope replied that though a “gay lobby” as a pressure group remains a concern, he does not judge people who are homosexual. “If someone is gay and accepts the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Pope Francis said in his typical, straightforward fashion. “They should not be marginalized. The tendency is not the problem… they are our brothers.”

The problematic tendency of the media is to pounce on a reactionary statement like this and turn it into something radical. Many are suggesting that the Pope is “evolving” with the Church in the perception of the gay community, and moving towards a new acceptance of homosexuality. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Pope merely reiterated the Church’s old acceptance of homosexuals. What the world would pass off as unorthodox is the most orthodox thing in the world. The Pope’s statement about his reticence to judge gay people was not the Seinfeld “Not-that-there’s-anything-wrong-with-that” moment the media would have it be—which reflects the difference between the Catholic acceptance of homosexuals and the earthly acceptance of homosexuals.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (CCC, 2358) Though the catechism also affirms that homosexual acts are acts of “grave depravity” and are “intrinsically disordered,” it does not deny the trials that homosexual people undergo who refrain from giving in to their biological or psychological inclination, and the love we all owe them free of uncharitable judgment. After all, who are we to judge?

Neither was Pope Francis’ comment a pietistic “love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin” cliché. There are nuances to being Catholic that go beyond this general principle because Catholics are not called to despise sin detached from people. Faced with popular perversion, Catholics must consciously resist the muddled secular strategy of loving the sinner and the sin. This difficult balance will, unfortunately, always be branded as “intolerance.” Embracing the sinner without the sin, however, is not a hypocritical sugarcoating for homophobic bigotry. It is an act of love that desires perfection for another. The real transgression against charity is to embrace the sinner together with an unlovable appetite in the name of unconditional love. Loving acceptance of the lies called same-sex “relations” and “marriage” is not an act of love—it is only part of the lie. As Hamlet pleaded with words of love to his mother concerning her unnatural marriage, “do not spread the compost on the weeds to make them ranker.” America needs to learn that there is nothing hateful or judgmental in rejecting falsehood.

Though challenging, the culture must be approached as it is. With the overturning of DOMA, the inevitable has arrived—the only surprising thing about it is how unsurprising it is. How should Catholics show in a loving way that Christ offers something better? Certainly not by casting the first stone. Catholics know that homosexual acts are wrong, and they may either deal with this knowledge correctly or incorrectly—they may either become Christ-like or critical. Francis may well be calling Catholics to encounter this very real cultural problem with the smile of God and to promote the solution with His love; which is the opportunity to teach what we believe, becoming instruments of God’s grace for all people. This statement with others concerning divorced Catholics, reveal the Pope’s pastoral desire to return lost sheep to the fold. We should follow our shepherd’s lead.

In his June 26th statement applauding the Supreme Court’s denial of the truth that marriage is a legal union between one man and one woman, President Barack Obama said that the Court had righted a wrong. “We are a people who declared that we are all created equal—and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” The President’s words are reflective of a confusion that has culminated from this deviancy and deception in the pursuit of happiness. We do believe and declare that all men are created equal, but not the same—equality does not mean equivalence. That much we may judge. Furthermore, we do believe and declare as human beings, Americans, and Catholics that all men should love each other equally, following the natural law of our Creator who created us man and woman to be fruitful and multiply. In this lies truth and happiness. To deviate from truth is to deviate from happiness. That much, too, Catholics may judge—without passing judgment.

“The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts,” Obama concluded, “when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.” There is a Law that is higher than the law of the land from whence fundamental truths proceed. “Equality” falsely equated with “sameness” will not make the world free. That power is reserved for truth. The President was correct on one point—a point that, I believe, the Pope would second. “The love we commit to one another must be equal.”

Who are we to judge?

These are times to tread softly—and perhaps to leave the big stick at home. There is a fine line between condemning a lifestyle and condemning the person who lives it. The victory for Catholic America lies in doing the former without the latter. The only way to right this wrong Obama called a “victory” is to love our neighbors equally and honestly. True, Americans need to call a spade a spade—and a marriage a marriage—but once we stop denouncing what is wrong, we can start making it right. Love is the way, in accordance with the law written on our hearts. As Boethius says in his Consolation of Philosophy, “O happy race of men, if love, which rules Heaven, rule your minds.”

Let Him judge Who is Love and the Ruler and Judge of all.

Sean Fitzpatrick


Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four.

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  • gespinb3549

    Sean, thanks for this brilliant analysis. Sharing it on my social media venues. Gabriel.

  • Pamela

    Ditto! I especially liked this part: “Embracing the sinner without the sin… is not a hypocritical sugarcoating for homophobic bigotry. It is an act of love that desires perfection for another.” I will no doubt be paraphrasing it in my writings on this topic. Thank you!

  • Tullius

    Oh, I see, the tendency for men to have sex with other men is not a problem,
    for they are our brothers, but the “tendency of the media to pounce on a
    reactionary statement like this and turn it into something radical” is? Are journalists
    not our brothers too?

    Actually, the Catechism says that the homosexual tendency or inclination is
    disordered, and that would lead one to infer that it is a problem. Any disordered
    tendency to sin is a problem. I understand, of course, the distinction between
    the tendency and acting upon that tendency. But the tendency leads to the acts,
    and by that I don’t mean the act of forming a lobby, but the act of having sex with
    one’s own gender. Hey, but who am I to judge?

  • Joseph Ferri

    Excellent article Mr Fitz!

  • Joseph Ferri

    It is absolutely disordered, no question about that. However, so is a mental disorder such as schizophrenia. We all have tendencies to sin, but we do not have to act on those tendencies.

  • Tullius

    No one said we did, but then tendencies, by their very nature, tend to their realization.

    What I was questioning was the prudence of saying that the tendency is not a problem. It is, as is schizophrenia. Also, I think it was unfortunate that the Holy Father followed up his statement that the tendency is not a problem by saying: “the problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby” but says nothing about the more serious problem with the homosexual tendency, which is that it leads people to homosexual acts, a serious sin. When you add the expression “who am I to judge” (which we commonly use to imply, “who am I to say this is wrong”), plus you add the statement that the Catechism says these persons must be integrated into society (which in fact it doesn’t), then I don’t think it is just the bad will of the evil secular journalists that has led people to question whether the pope was expressing a change in regards to the Church’s position or attitude towards homosexuals. Understand, I’m not saying that he is, but his words could easily lead someone to wonder.

  • jack

    This is a brilliant, insightful and eloquent piece of writing. Thank you for bringing this media moment of our Holy Father back to it’s true and simple interpretation. This will one of those articles I copy and paste to my docs to read again and again. Well done, and thank you!

  • Maria

    Well said!
    Only hope the Pope would explain it as well to the press!
    No need for sticks!

  • thetruthfan

    I believe the Pope was referring to “tendency” as “desire.” In that sense, “desires” are never sinful unless we revel and indulge in them, which in the case of sexuality transforms desire into “lust” and not just lust, but “lustful looking upon.”

    As a straight married man I may “desire” to have multiple sexual partners (women) but that desire is not sinful. I can want it for a lifetime but so long as I do not act upon it or indulge it through fantasy (making it a psychological reality in my mind) I have not sinned. Likewise and to that end I should refrain from indulging in that desire psychologically (strip clubs, pornography) as such would form my person and make me further tend to ultimately “act” upon that desire. We are to avoid both “sin” and “occasions of sin” which make us tend more to sin.

    Similarly one may desire to be a glutton, an alcoholic, a hoarder, a murderer…the desire isn’t “sinful” until it is acted upon or nurtured: only acts can count as sins.

    So being gay absolutely is not a sin. It used to be thought that it was simply a “choice” to be gay, and for now it is understood that at MOST this would be a sub-conscious or unconscious choice, and prevailing opinion from psychology is that it isn’t a “choice” at all. In any case, we cannot judge our brothers and sisters for any affliction which they have not brought upon themselves and at best that is indeterminate with homosexuality. Charity dictates that we assume otherwise, and thus we find in Church teaching.

    To your point, the term “desire” might have been more appropriate than “tendency” for the Pope, but he’s hardly off the mark and his point is well taken.

  • Tullius

    I don’t know if you will see this post, but let me respond that I never said the tendency is a sin. I said it is disordered (because it is a disposition to sin) and therefore a problem. I would also say that being a straight married man who desires to have multiple sexual partners is a problem. (Not that you are actually making the claim, of course.) If you don’t think it is a problem, try telling your wife that you have a desire to have multiple sexual partners, though you are not acting upon that desire, and see what she thinks. Or better yet, try telling her that you desire to have sex with other men and see if she thinks that is not a problem as long as you don’t act upon that desire.
    Virtue is not just a constant act of the will to resist one’s ongoing evil inclinations. It is a habitual disposition to what is good and right.

  • Laura Breidenbach

    Question then is “whom am I going to correct?” Picking and choosing which sins to correct, or not correct, coming from a teaching pulpit, would be a form of passing judgement, and sends a message that the gay community is beyond saving. The gay community should be offended by the Catholic church and feel discriminated against