Q. 1. I need some advise. If I see a member of our Church who is behaving improperly in public, as a Catholic, do I have an obligation to tell him that what he is doing is wrong? Or should I mind my own business? From what I have observed during the last decade, whenever someone corrects a person who is doing wrong, that person is accused of being judgmental. What do I do?
A. 1. I agree with you that nowadays, many have embraced an attitude of "laissez faire," meaning "let it be." God is all loving, all merciful and all forgiving. So no one should judge others. They should leave it to God to do the judging. In other words, you are being told to mind your own business.
These persons use this approach for one of two reasons. They may be hypocrites who behave the same way and do not want to be judged. Or, they are ignorant of the teachings of the Catholic Church on the matter of sinning. Either way, these individuals are participating in the sin of others. Allow me to explain.
A person can sin many ways, based on the following conditions of sinning:
1. If the person sincerely seeks repentance;
2. The last time one received the Sacrament of Confession;
3. The nature of the sin;
4. How many times it was committed;
5. If the person had full knowledge of the severity of the sin;
6. If the person voluntarily consented to the sin;
7. If the person assisted others to sin;
8. If the person advised someone to sin;
9. If the person commanded someone to sin;
10. If the person provoked someone to sin;
11. If the person consented to someone's sin;
12. If the person showed someone how to sin;
13. If the person praised someone for his sin;
14. If the person concealed, remained silent or did nothing to prevent someone's sin;
15. If the person took part in or enjoyed the result of someone's sin;
16. If the person defended someone's sin.
Those who politely tell you to mind your business, they are sinning by consenting to someone's sin (#11), by remaining silent (# 14), by doing nothing to prevent someone's sin (# 14) and by defending someone's sin (#16). Because of the aforementioned, God will judge them for the sins of others as if they had committed the sins.
Q. 2. How does one know if he/she is correcting someone versus being judgmental?
A. 2. There are two types of judgments.
First of all, there is the correcting of a person for the good of that person or for the good of the Church, especially in matters of morality. Those who judge others for the good of that person or for the good of the Church, they are on the right track.
Secondly, there is the type of person who has an ongoing inclination of criticizing another person's conduct, such being motivated by pride, a sense of being better than others. Such a person judges anyone and everyone for any and all reasons. They do not like the way you dress, the way you decorate your house, the car you drive, the friends you socialize with, etc... These are the ones that should be told to stop being judgmental, "WITH JUST CAUSE."
Q. 3. Does the Holy Bible provide any guideline as to when a person should or should not judge others?
A. 3. Jesus said, "If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector." [Mt. 18:15-17]
The above is not an act of being judgmental; it is an act of love to save one's soul.
See also 1 Cor. 5:1-13, especially the following three verses: "But I now write to you not to associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber, not even to eat with such a person. For why should I be judging outsiders? Is it not your business to judge those within? God will judge those outside. 'Purge the evil person from your midst.' [1 Cor. 11-13]"
As a Catholic, you have an obligation to correct (not judge) other Catholics who are your brothers and sisters in Christ. As for those who are not Catholic, God will judge those outside the Church. For you to try and correct an outsider, your correction may not be welcomed since outsiders are not Catholics and, most likely, they will not accept your Catholic morals.
The motive of one's action determines if that person is correcting someone out of love or if he or she is simply being judgmental. The observer should never try to identify the motive of a person who is (correcting or judging) someone. Rather, the observer should be striving to determine if the (correction or judgment) was justified. If it was justified, then it was not a judgment.
On the matter of judging others, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"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." (C.C.C. # 2478)