On July 29, 2013, the new Pope, Francis, made a surprising declaration. When asked by reporters about his position on gay priests, he candidly responded, “Who am I to judge?” If I had the opportunity to answer his question with equal candor, I think my response would go something like this: “Who are you to judge? You are the Pope, the leader of the global Catholic Church! That is who you are. Yours is the Church infamously and near constantly rocked by scandals involving priests engaged in homosexual acts with male children. Do you really need to check in with God on this one? If you are not prepared to ‘judge,’ then I think your insurance company is prepared to do it for you.” Well, he did invite candor.
Too many people, including those in the Church, often confuse discernment (or exercising judgment) with condemning judgment. Discernment is not condemnation. Discernment in this case is applying wisdom to appointment. For another example, would you put a recently convicted thief in charge of the church treasury? If not, are you judging? Of course not. You are just exercising sound wisdom. Judging is when you condemn someone as a thief. And, judging a homosexual is when you condemn them as a homosexual.
Jesus Himself displays the difference between these two definitions of “judgment.” Yes, Jesus did say in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” But, in John 7:24 Jesus also said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” One time He says don’t judge and then He invites us to judge. Which is it? The truth is it is both. You see, in the first passage Jesus is speaking of the condemning type of judgment. And, in the second passage He is speaking of the discerning type of judgment. Christians should never condemn other human beings. But, Christians must use discernment in applying wisdom to appointments. In fact, that is what practically every other person in the world does with or without religion. And, surely the leader of the Catholic Church should not only also be prepared to do so, but he should be forced to do so, and for good reason. How do you think the parents of all of the child victims of homosexual molestation by priests feel about the Pope’s quote?
After all, if discernment about homosexual priests is “judging” then so is discernment about adulterous priests or adulterous pastors. What about polygamous priests or pastors? What about priests who clearly defy God Himself? I could go on and on but Paul addressed this most clearly in I Corinthians 5. The Church is no place to practice political correctness. In fact, I would argue political correctness doesn’t belong anywhere. The Church is God’s Church not man’s church, and not even the Pope’s church. God sets the rules about the governance of His church. And, He expects us to read His word, and exercise sound judgment. Our sound judgment should include a proper respect of His word as final. And, at very least, sound judgment requires that we employ discernment. In fact, discernment is what I am attempting to apply in this post. And, if for some reason you find me guilty of something less than proper discernment, remember, “Who are you to judge?”