Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, A.D. 2000
Judgment and Fraternal Correction

"If a person is caught doing something wrong ... instruct such a one in a spirit of meekness...."[2]


Please note that, effective August 6th, AD 2006
our Sunday Masses will be at 10:00 AM (only).

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    The Epistle today brings to mind something that is misunderstood by many Christian people;  the difference between “judgment,” and “fraternal correction.”  Somewhat out of context we her our Lord say:  “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and Paul, who wrote this morning's epistle, saying:  “Where you judge another, you condemn yourself.”[3]  Saint James asks the question, “Who are you to judge your neighbor?”[4]

    But elsewhere, we hear our same Lord say:  “If your brother offends you, rebuke him, between you and him alone.  If he hears you, you will have gained your brother.  If he will not hear you, take one or two more witnesses....”[5]  “If your brother sins against you, reprove him, and if he does penance forgive him.”[6]  And the very same Saint James tells us: “He who causes a sinner to be converted from an error in his ways, shall save his soul from death, and cover a multitude of sins.”  And Saint Paul, who we heard in the Epistle, adds: “Them that sin reprove before all, that the rest may also have fear.”[7]

    There is no contradiction here, because there is a significant difference between judgment and fraternal correction:

    Fraternal correction ignores the issue of guilt.  It addresses actions that are wrong, without making any sort of judgment about the wrong doer's moral character or guilt.  The police officer who stops two young boys from fighting, and tells them that fighting is a bad thing, is not making a judgment about their character—probably, he doesn't even know them.  He is simply making a statement of fact about something that they don't know or have forgotten in the heat of the moment.  Even if the police officer were to arrest them for fighting, he is not making a judgment about their legal guilt, for that will be left up to a judge or jury.

    Sometimes there is an obligation to correct another, as when bad behavior threatens to break up a family or a parish or a community.  The man who beats his wife, steals from the poor-box, or speeds through red-lights needs to be told to stop.  Telling him to stop is not meddling in his affairs, is not judging him, and is not necessarily a statement about his moral guilt.  It is simply an attempt to remedy a situation that needs to be remedied.  Certainly, we have an obligation to correct our children or others who legitimately depend upon us for guidance.

    Judgment is an act of assessing guilt.  If I tell the man next door that he is going to Hell for his political opinions or the nasty way he speaks to his children, I have overstepped my bounds.  Even if I had been doing something that merited fraternal correction, it is not my position to make a judgment about his subjective guilt.  All I can say is that his action is bad -- not that he is a bad person, or that he will be punished with some punishment.

    Our Lord, of course, is particularly critical about those who judge the guilt of others, while paying no attention to their own culpabilities:  “You see a speck in your brother's eye, but fail to see a beam in your own.”[8]  (“You fail to see a  2x4 sticking out of your own eye!”)

    Yet, there are times when those in authority must render judgment and even punishment.  The priest in the Confessional, for example.  “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them.  Whose sins you retain, they are retained.”[9]   Or the civil judge or jury that is charged with maintaining order and peace in a society.  Remember that our Lord implicitly recognized the authority even of Pontius Pilate, when He told him “You would have no power at all over Me if it were not given to you from above.”[10]  Saint Paul wrote much the same to the Romans:  “Let everyone be subject to the higher authorities, for there exists no authority except from God.... he who resists the authority resists the ordinance of God.... if you do evil, be afraid, for not without reason does the Governor carry the sword.”[11]

    There is then a significant difference between fraternal correction and judgment.  Often enough we are called upon to correct others, and such correction may indeed save their immortal souls.  Those in one form of authority or another may even be called upon to judge those subject to them.  In all cases, such things must be done with the spirit described today by Saint Paul, "not desirous of vain glory, or provoking, or envying one another ... but in meekness, considering our own weaknesses ... doing good to all men, but especially to those that are of the household of the Faith.[12]


[2]   Epistle:  Galatians v: 25-26; vi:1-10.

[3]   Matthew vii: 1;  Romans ii: 1.

[4]   James iv: 13.

[5]   Matthew xviii: 15, 16.

[6]   Luke xvii: 3.

[7]   1 Timothy v: 20.

[8]   Matthew vii: 3.

[9]   John xx: 19-31 (Gospel of Low Sunday).

[10]   John xix: 11.

[11]   Romans xiii: 1, 2, 4.

[12]   Cf. Epistle ( Galatians, ibid.).


Dei via est íntegra
Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
Authentic  Catholic Mass, Doctrine, and Moral Teaching -- Don't do without them -- 
Don't accept one without the others!