Yes, Catholics Can Judge
Last week, I read a news story in which one Fr. Raymond Gravel, a Catholic priest in Quebec, Canada, justifies his support of abortion rights by declaring that Catholics cannot judge.
It is almost excruciatingly sad that I, a Catholic layperson with no formal theological training or experience – who has, in fact, been a member of the Catholic Church for less than a decade – can so easily see the error in the statement of this longtime Catholic priest.
No, Fr. Gravel, you are incorrect. Catholics can judge.
In fact, we are called to judge.
What we, as Catholics, are called to do is to judge behavior and actions. What we, as Catholics, cannot do is judge the state of another’s soul.
When I read your statements regarding your open and inexorable support for evils such as homosexual behavior and abortion, I am called to judge your behavior according to the standards of the Church, as instructed by St. Paul:
“Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Drive out the wicked person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:12-13)
"Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!" (1 Cor. 6:2-3).
According to Catholic teaching, which you, as a Catholic priest, have vowed to defend and uphold, I can judge your acts:
Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil. (CCC 1749)
and then correct you with love:
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." (CCC 2477-2478)
When I look at your actions, Fr. Gravel, I see that you “joined 18 other priests in writing an open letter disagreeing with the Catholic Church's position on same-sex marriage” and “…defended the awarding of the Order of Canada to Henry Morgentaler, the doctor who pushed for legalized abortion in Canada and owner of five private abortion clinics across Canada.”
Therefore, I can judge that you are acting against the teachings of the Catholic Church and are in grave and serious error. I can judge that your soul is in a very precarious state as long as you remain unrepentant and obstinate in your beliefs.
What I cannot do is condemn you to Hell. I do not presume to judge your eternal destination; thanks be to God, that job is way above my pay grade. That judgment remains with God alone, as only He will know the exact state of your heart, mind, and soul at the time of your death. Eventually, you will stand in His presence, under His judgment, and account for every single one of your beliefs and actions that went against His teachings and those of His Church.
Finally, Fr. Gravel, I can judge that you are sorely in need of prayers for the conversion of your heart, and I willingly offer them.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.