On Judging Others

[Originally published in the 1940s.]

Slogans are what often pass as Protestant substitutes for dogma. Nor is the disease of sloganizing confined exclusively to Protestants. Many Catholics, foolishly supposing association with heresy to be harmless, have been infected by it and are constantly reducing the true dogma of the Church, as well as extracts from Holy Scripture, to the force of mere slogans. One of the favorite quotations of these liberal Catholics is, “Judge not,” probably the most maligned of all Scriptural quotations. Judge not, they say, that Protestants are insincere or that anyone outside the Church is bad-willed, and don’t even suggest that a person might go to hell.

But how many of the people who use this quotation so glibly have read it in context? Probably very few. Otherwise it is hard to see how they could make such a diabolically perverse interpretation. The text is from the last part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. VII, 1). Just a few verses farther on Our Lord tells us not to cast our pearls before swine. How are we to obey this commandment unless we judge which men are swine? And again in the same chapter Our Lord says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” How are we to beware of these false prophets unless we first judge them to be so? Next Our Lord says, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Would he give us the means for judging if He wanted us not to judge? There are many paradoxes in the Bible, but no contradictions.

Obviously, then, the interpretation given, “Judge not,” by the liberal Catholics is wrong, as they themselves well know, for in practice they realize the impossibility of going through life without making judgments. For instance, they seem to have no qualms about judging us for judging.

But what does the text mean? It is concerned with spreading the faith. It means that we should not refrain from presenting the faith to someone because we judge him to be unable to accept it or because we judge him not to need it. If we judge others as not needing the faith we shall be judged as not having it ourselves, and shall thus be condemned: “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged.” The next passage is an amplification of this: “And why seest thou the mote which is in thy brother’s eye, and seest thou not the beam which is in thy own eye?” When we assume that others are unable to take the faith it is apt to be because our own faith is weak, and we are attributing to them the faults which really lie in us.

Thus Our Lord anticipates any excuses we may offer for not spreading the faith, such as, “Oh, but he really is a good man and I’m sure he’ll get into heaven without being a Catholic,” or, “I know he wouldn’t become a Catholic even if I told him he should, so I won’t bother.” Our Lord will not allow us to manufacture our own weakness and cowardice into an excuse for not presenting the faith to all whom we meet. We cannot hide our light under a bushel; we cannot bury our talent in a field. Our very salvation depends upon our zeal in spreading the faith. Our Lord says, “For he that shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when he shall come in his majesty, and that of his Father, and of the holy angels.”

Nor can we be excused by saying, “Yes, I know that we must spread the faith, but I try to show others that they should be Catholics by good example rather than by admonition.” This is only another manifestation of cowardice. It is, furthermore, unspeakable pride. It is offering one’s own life as the challenge rather than the faith in its pure doctrine. We should not try to convince non-Catholics that we as individuals lead blameless lives, but rather that the Church has the truth. And we hope that they may become better Catholics than we are.

But what of the man to whom the faith has been presented and who has clearly shown himself to be bad-willed? Such men we must judge to be evil and must have nothing more to do with them. These are the swine whom we are told not to cast our pearls before. St. Paul says, “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.”

If we are to preserve our faith we must know our enemies. The greatest enemy of the Catholic Church today is not Communism, as many suppose. It is heresy — Protestantism. Protestantism permitted and sustains Communism. To attack the Communists involves no danger, because they are unpopular with almost everyone in this country. But it requires courage to attack the real enemy, Protestantism. Still it must be done if we are to save our own souls and the souls of those Protestants of good-will who would come into the Church if a sufficiently strong challenge were presented and a sharp line drawn between the Church and its enemies.

And let us not be afraid of calling the Protestants names. Nothing is so useful in removing surface cordiality. In this day of weakened faith name-calling is considered impolite. Very well, let it be so. Politeness is not one of the cardinal virtues. Our Lord and His apostles called heretics children of malediction, slaves of corruption, scoffers, lying teachers, deceitful workmen transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, raging waves of the sea foaming out their own confusion, the dog returned to his vomit, the sow wallowing in the mire.

We who have the love of Our Lord and Our Lady and who want good-willed Protestants to share in that love must make clear our challenge. Let us abandon our fears of offending, while we work for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Let us make the enemies of Our Lord and Our Lady our enemies.