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Judging Others

July 28, 2022 3 min read
A candle

As the culture shifts and major battles surrounding weighty topics emerge, the Christian must remember their particular weapons and defenses. Some core Gospel values that are necessary to keep clean in the mud of discourse seem to have been forgotten by many. Giving the “benefit of the doubt” is a catchy way of reminding the conscience of the bedrock moral principle that it is sinful to judge someone’s motivation.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2477—2478) rash judgment, detraction, and calumny are sins under the 8th commandment:

(2477) "Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty: of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor; of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them; of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them."

(2478) "To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way: Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. and if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved."

The guiding impulse in disagreement is observing the traditional Aristotelian/Thomistic principle that all are aiming for a perceived good and understanding the other perspective is both practically and morally required. The Christian may not judge the heart, and the Gospel command to love enemies is weighty and is a result of the divine command of Christ the teacher. The examination of conscience for a Christian always begins with himself or herself.

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