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 Rash Judgement - According to St. John of the Cross 
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New post Rash Judgement - According to St. John of the Cross
The Secret of Sanctity of St. John of the Cross, by Fr. Lucas of St. Joseph, O.C.D., Bruce, Milwaukee, 1962, pp. 41-46. (Fr. Lucas was martyred by the Communists in Spain in 1936.)


Chapter 7

RASH JUDGMENT

St. John [of the Cross] repeats the admonition relative to judgment of one’s neighbor in the first of his Four Maxims to a Religious. As he says: “Those who fail in charity toward their neighbor fail likewise to profit by any other works of virtue they may perform, and they continually go from bad to worse.”

It is sad to think that after many years in religious life one has lost not only the merit of his virtuous actions but has actually fallen into the dangerous state of sin. Let us consider in logical order the evils which may result from a neglect of this important admonition. There is, first of all, a tendency to judge one’s neighbor unfavorably, and this is termed “rash judgment.” This is equally serious, whether interior or exterior. St. John says that this consists in mental criticism and murmuring resulting in rash statements against one’s neighbor. This is corroborated in the celebrated passage of St. James: “If any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, this man’s religion is vain.”

In every order, religious, social, or moral, there are certain truths which are fundamental because everyone agrees to them. In secondary truths and the appreciation of details and concrete acts, each one sees them according to his own dispositions. Thus in the actions of our neighbor we see only the external action and know little or nothing of the motives which prompted him to do this act. In order to judge correctly whether a person is worthy of praise or blame, knowledge is a principal requisite. Usually we are ignorant of the true principle of morality guiding the actions of others, therefore it is inevitable that when we judge according to our own light we are often guilty of error.

In every rank of life there are narrow-minded individuals whose horizon is limited to the private and public life of their neighbor. This is not only deplorable but it is a genuine spiritual infirmity.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the tendency to judge one’s neighbor proceeds from two causes: “…either the person is evil- minded and unconsciously judges others by his own evil dispositions or he harbors such envy, hatred, or contempt for his neighbor that he experiences a secret delight in thinking evil of him and readily believes any misconception of his neighbor’s actions.” This teaching of St. Thomas should teach us to restrain our judgment of our neighbor, because suspicious and unfavorable judgments are a revelation of the infirmities of our own souls. When we are caught by a keen observer in a merciless judgment against our neighbor we should blush at the portrayal of a quality in ourselves which even natural pride would prompt us to conceal. It was St. Bonaventure who said, “When you perceive anything reprehensible in your neighbor, turn your eyes on yourself; before you cast any judgment, examine yourself well, and condemn in yourself that which you would have condemned in him.”

If such motives of human respect are insufficient to keep us from rash judgment, then the uneasiness of our conscience should. Concerning the moral aspect of this question St. Thomas states; “Those, who, because of slight indications doubt the goodness of their neighbor, sin venially. If he holds malice against his neighbor and because of this accuses him of wrong, then he is guilty of mortal sin, because of his contempt of his neighbor.”

St. Paul is even more severe when he says, “thou art inexcusable O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest. For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.” To the Corinthians he adds, “Therefore judge not … until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.” The same exhortation is found in St. Luke: “Condemn not and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you shall be forgiven. … For with the same measure that you shall mete, it shall be measured out to you.” Such words are indicative of the fact that on the day of final judgment the same standards will be applied to us personally as we have applied to our fellow men. No matter how incredible it may seem, we know that God, who is all mercy and infinite virtue, judges far more leniently than we oftentimes judge our neighbor. God, knowing and understanding human defects and weaknesses, is ever ready to make all kinds of allowances; thus it is not surprising to read in the Book of Wisdom: “Thou being Master of power, judgest with tranquillity; and with great favor disposeth us … but thou hast taught thy people by such works that they must be just and humane. …”

Only when man possesses a deep self-knowledge and a broader knowledge of men will he find himself mild in his judgment of others. Yet this is the goal we must strive for, first in our thoughts, since charitable thoughts transform material actions into acts of supernatural value, and this only when we are completely imbued with the spirit of divine love and mercy.

Since God has reserved the right of judgment to Himself, man has no right whatsoever to anticipate the judgment of God and pass sentence on his fellow man, for in so doing he is but condemning himself, Regardless of the actions of our fellow men we must always view them in the spirit of charity and in the realization that “judgment is the Lord’s, not man’s.”

It is true that we nearly always judge without premeditation or malice. Our judgments are usually based on personal antagonism, ignorance, and perhaps a clash of personalities; yet it is not expedient that we rely on such excuses for judging our neighbor. Ignorance may lessen our guilt but at the same time it is equally true that we are bound to regulate our charity and justice toward our neighbor in accordance with God’s law of charity. This regulation must begin in the interior since it is our thoughts which govern our speech and our actions. Charitable thoughts will beget charitable words; likewise envious and uncharitable thoughts dispose us to hideous sins against charity and justice.

Everyone is aware from personal experience that rash judgment is moral poisoning. Once the imagination is given free reign then we find evil in others. The insidious poison which we have administered to ourselves increases with each uncharitable thought. We soon find it difficult to be amiable and indulgent toward our fellow religious and as the poison spreads we become more and more intolerant of any weakness, until even the smallest fault becomes magnified to alarming proportions. We can no longer remain master of our speech when we have arrived at this stage because it is always true, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

The evils resulting from lack of interior silence and uncharitable speech are without number and God alone knows the damage caused both in the cloister and out of it once this evil has been indulged in. If a rock is dislodged from the top of the mountain, we cannot measure the destruction it will cause until it finally comes to rest in the valley below. This is an apt picture of the slanderous tongue which is a weight from the heart. As it breaks from the sanctuary in which it has been nurtured it hurtles into an abyss which becomes fathomless, leaving bitterness and disaster in its wake. Such words may be filled with resentment and anger, envy and jealousy, but they are always weighted with selfishness, mirroring the narrow soul from which they emerged. They are as arrows shot from one heart to another, communicating to each new victim poison and bitterness. Innocent and pure aspirations become dissipated; souls which have lived in happiness are filled with discontent; but those who have harbored mutual distrust are filled with malice and hatred. What, then, shall stop these icy waves of uncharitableness launched forth by a cold and restless heart in a moment of imprudent confidence? God alone knows, as He alone reads the depths of a human heart.

It is not our intention to study the sins of the tongue in their various forms since volumes are written on this subject. We need only to say that all the evil aspects related to rash judgment are applicable to slander and faultfinding, which evils cover a vaster field than the subject treated here. Rash judgment is self-toxic, whereas slander and faultfinding serve to poison all whom it contacts. Thus a single slanderous word, imprudently uttered, can be more destructive than a drop of poison assimilated by the system, destroying the vital principles of an organic being. Such words cool charity, destroy the most prudent sensibility, and poison the finest sentiments. Each one can study for himself the disastrous effects of backbiting, especially when he hears a person whom he had hitherto esteemed being the subject of such insidious slander. As a result he finds himself becoming suspicious and distrustful, even of his friend, carefully watching for evidences of the evil report. Distrust magnifies the defects of those under observation making it very difficult for us to be outwardly charitable toward them. These sins of the tongue are the worst of all enemies against charity since they ruin peace and confidence. Therefore the Holy Ghost warns us: “A wicked word shall change the heart, making what is good, evil — what is life, death — and the tongue is the ruler of them.”

Another danger which threatens those occupied in observing the defects of their neighbors is the consequence of these actions. In speaking about this St. John cites the example of Lot’s wife being changed into a pillar of salt, claiming that the wretched souls occupied with other people’s actions likewise acquire saline qualities themselves. Just as salt becomes hard, so too, the soul which indulges in meddling in another’s affairs, becomes hardened and unkind toward those around him. His haughtiness and intolerance serve to build a wall of separation between the offender and the offended, causing numerous unreasonable and illogical judgments to be passed. Salt is likewise a sign of barrenness; life cannot develop near rocks of salt. Neither can a soul engaged in uncharitableness do otherwise than render barren all that they may contact. Their skill in revealing another’s weakness and their hard and merciless criticisms cause generous hearts to feel completely depressed and insecure in their company. Near them there is only barrenness, there is no joy; there is no life.

It is impossible for simplicity and confidence to exist where restless and uncharitable souls are continually observing others for the sole pleasure of malicious criticism. Such a spirit is bound to breed discontent and an attitude of reserve which soon degenerates into jealousy and suspicion. Eventually the charm of religious life, which is love and mutual confidence, is destroyed and a rigid formalism replaces the original spirit of peace. Nothing remains but the letter of the law, that letter, which, according to St. Paul “…kills, instead of quickening.”

It is certain that while we live among men we shall have to bear with their weaknesses and they, in turn, will have to bear with ours; but we must try to live oblivious of the faults which are ever present in human nature. It is with this in mind that St. John of the Cross admonishes us to refrain from interfering in the affairs of our neighbor, to detach ourselves from created objects, and to regulate our affections toward our fellow men.

Never should the faults of our neighbor be discussed with our fellow men, unless with one who has the authority to correct the situation, and then only in the spirit of the greatest charity. This is insisted on by St. John of the Cross when he says: “Never under the pretext of zeal, or of charity, reveal what we know about our neighbor save to the person who has a right to hear of this, and then with great charity, and at the proper time.

The habit of practicing the virtue contrary to the fault you have noticed in others produces more effective results than mere words. A prudent and holy superior applied this remedy to an agitated religious who denounced a violation of the rule in another. “I am grateful to you, my dear son, for this zeal for the glory of God and the observance of the rule. Since you are aware of the offense that such a violation has given to God, I willingly grant you permission to fast today in expiation for the fault which has been committed.”

If those who are afflicted with undue curiosity about their neighbor’s welfare would thus assiduously make reparation for the faults they observe in others, then they would be less inclined to notice the trivial actions of those around them. Doing this would further the plans of Divine Providence to make religious houses the delightful garden where the tree of love would be preserved in its full luxuriance. It is here that Christ meant the great commandment to grow and bear much fruit: “Love one another as I have loved you….”

St. John of the Cross shows us clearly that to be just to God and to fulfill His command of mutual love and understanding we must be merciful to men in thought and deed. Our fraternal charity is then but the fulfillment of our filial piety toward God. Not only in fact, but in reality, Christ has identified Himself with each one of our neighbors so intimately that charity toward our neighbor is but a means of serving Christ Himself. Thus, whether we are living in the cloister or in the world, as long as our hearts remain a garden of delight for Christ through the spirit and practice of charity then “…we are the good odor of Christ unto God, …to others the odor of life unto life….”


Sat Nov 24, 2007 11:20 am
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What an excellent extract!

The only sad thing is that there has only been about 70 or so views, which means few people have read it. Controversy is obviously much more appealing.


AMW


Thu Nov 29, 2007 7:28 am
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Maybe they know that they will feel sick with guilt and fear as I did while reading it, and they decided to spare themselves.


Thu Nov 29, 2007 7:37 am

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AMWills wrote:
What an excellent extract!

The only sad thing is that there has only been about 70 or so views, which means few people have read it. Controversy is obviously much more appealing.


AMW


I would say that this type of post gets read once and has fewer replies...and the more "controversial" posts get read many, many times by the same person and has many replies. That may better explain the lower number of reads...although I agree the tendency is to go to the controversy.


Thu Nov 29, 2007 2:03 pm
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Of course, you are right, Robert. Perhaps if the above was read by more people, and more than once, there might be fewer hits on the controversial threads :)

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Thu Nov 29, 2007 8:18 pm
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Of course, the real issue is: when we see the truth, what will we do?

Will we admit that we are imperfect, sinful, and in great need of God's mercy, or will we turn from the truth in disgust, and try to make excuses for ourselves?
Unfortunately, most men will NOT embrace the truth unconditionally -- that is, even when it condemns themselves.

May the grace of God allow us all to embrace the truth, even when it hurts.

It takes the truth to get to Heaven.

God bless,

Matthew

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Thu Nov 29, 2007 9:54 pm
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AMWills wrote:
Of course, you are right, Robert. Perhaps if the above was read by more people, and more than once, there might be fewer hits on the controversial threads :)

AMW


The point I was trying to make is that if one reads and follows the extract...one would be less likely to assign a negative reason as to why there were only 70 reads. As for reading it multiple times...it may show up as only one “read” because the fellow who read it the first time copied and pasted it into a document that he can print at home and read more carefully. :)


Fri Nov 30, 2007 1:53 pm
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Good point!

And in the same vein, if one reads and follows the extract... one would be less likely to assign that a lack of reading and following the extract was the cause of another assigning a negative reason as to why there were only 70 reads... :)

AMW


Fri Nov 30, 2007 8:46 pm
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AMWills wrote:
Good point!

And in the same vein, if one reads and follows the extract... one would be less likely to assign that a lack of reading and following the extract was the cause of another assigning a negative reason as to why there were only 70 reads... :)

AMW


Well, then I just misunderstood what you meant to say. I thought you were making a very clear statement. Surely you do not think that one can never see what is clear because of charity...maybe I am mistaken here...please forgive me if that is the case.

And yes, we all need to put it into practice. I do not agree, however, that all the other threads are "off-limits" or should be "of little or no interest" to a truly charitable person. I do not see what you refer to as "a controversial topic" is some kind accident scene filled will gawkers and ambulance chasers...I think they are topics both important and interesting to many Catholics who seek to understand better the situation in which we find ourselves.


Sat Dec 01, 2007 5:48 pm
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Or maybe someone re-reads the original post and feels encouraged to be merciful toward others, knowing that God will judge us accordingly.


Sat Dec 01, 2007 6:50 pm
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Robert Bastaja wrote:
I thought you were making a very clear statement.


I'm sure that AMWills is pulling your leg, Robert. :)

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Sat Dec 01, 2007 11:07 pm
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As always Jesus Christ gave us the example when he was dying
upon the cross he forgave those who did it to him. He showed us
that forgiveness is important and maybe we should spend more
time doing forgiving rather than judging. After all Jesus Christ
is the judge and look at his example.


Sat Dec 01, 2007 11:14 pm
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John Lane wrote:
Robert Bastaja wrote:
I thought you were making a very clear statement.


I'm sure that AMWills is pulling your leg, Robert. :)


Yes, of course he is...I think. I guess there are just some times when my leg prefers not to be pulled. :)


Sat Dec 01, 2007 11:51 pm
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Robert Bastaja wrote:
Well, then I just misunderstood what you meant to say. I thought you were making a very clear statement. Surely you do not think that one can never see what is clear because of charity...maybe I am mistaken here...please forgive me if that is the case.


Well, it obviously wasn't too clear!

Instead of putting "bump" to arouse some interest, I simply made an observation based on statistics. Controversial threads have many more views and replies than spiritual ones, such as the above. This is something that I, and others, have noted and discussed before. You then provided some reasons as to why this might be the case, with which I agreed, but nevertheless not to the extent that I think it disproves the point that people prefer controversy.

I termed this lack of interest as "sad", because, in my view, if more spiritual topics, such as the "rash judgement" extract above, were read closely and reflected upon by more people, it could perhaps reduce or at least temper some replies on the controversial threads, where a judgement of one's neighbour is sometimes provoked. This was simply a generalisation and I had no one in particular in mind.

I am not opposed to controversial threads and am quite surprised you gleaned that from my statement. I have never mentioned them to be "off limits" or of "little or no interest", and do not think of them as such. I was certainly pulling your leg at one point, because I thought you had to be pulling mine! I am sorry if I annoyed you. That too, was not my intention!

Anyway, Robert, we are now up to over 300 hits, which shows you what a bit of controversy can do for spiritual topics :)

AMW


Sun Dec 02, 2007 11:36 am
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From Spirago-Clark's catechism, pp. 402-404.

3. Furthermore, we ought to refrain from everything that may wound our neighbor’s honor. Thus suspicion, detraction, slander, and abuse are forbidden, also listening with pleasure when our neighbor is spoken against.

Suspicion implies malice of heart; detraction, slander (both of which are directed against the absent) and abuse (which is directed against one who is present), are sins of the tongue; listening with gratification when another is evilly spoken of, is a sin, if it is in the evil speaking that we take pleasure.

1. Suspicion consists in supposing evil of one’s neighbor without reasonable grounds.

The Pharisee in the Temple took for granted that the publican was a sinner and how greatly he was mistaken (Luke xviii.)! Job’s three friends thought he must needs be ungodly merely because he was afflicted by God. Simon the Pharisee thought the Magdalen, when he saw her at Our Lord’s feet, was still a sinner, but he deceived himself; she was then a penitent (Luke vii. 39 seq.). When St. Paul. shipwrecked on the island of Malta, lighted a fire, a viper, coming out of the sticks, fastened on his hand; in consequence of this the inhabitants of the island instantly judged him to be a murderer, pursued by divine vengeance (Acts xxviii.). A goldsmith had an apprentice who bore a very good character. One day he found two precious stones concealed in a hole in the wall close to the boy’s head. He directly accused him of theft, chastised him soundly, and drove him out of the house. Soon after he again discovered two stones in exactly the same place. He watched, and found they were put there by a magpie which he had in the house, and deeply regretted his rash judgment, when it was too late to repair his fault. If he had detected the boy in dishonesty, he would not have done wrong in suspecting him. People judge of others by themselves; for the affections are apt to mislead the understanding. He who is not evil himself does not lightly think evil of others, whereas a bad man readily concludes his neighbor to be as bad as himself. Molten metal takes the shape of the mould into which it is poured; so every man’s judgment of what he sees and hears takes its shape from his own feelings. The most wholesome aliments disagree with the man whose digestion is out of order; thus a corrupted mind always takes an evil view of things, while a good man puts the best construction on everything. “I would far rather err,” says St. Anselm, “by thinking good of a bad man than by thinking evil of a good man.” “Charity thinketh no evil” (1 Cor. xiii. 5). The just man, in whom dwells the spirit of love, even when he sees an action which is unquestionably reprehensible, does not allow his thoughts to dwell on it; he leaves the judgment of it to God. This is what St. Joseph did, in regard to his spouse, the Blessed Virgin (Matt. i. 19). “Let none of you imagine evil in your heart against his friend “ (Zach. viii. 17). Trust others, if you would have others trust you. Trust engenders confidence, and mistrust the want of it.

2. Detraction consists in disclosing the fault committed by another without necessity.

This sin, the lessening of our neighbor’s reputation, is an act of injustice towards him. For if he is really guilty of some secret sin, still he has not lost the good opinion of others, and of this we rob him if we publish his misdeeds. We are not justified in robbing a man of the esteem he enjoys, even though he has no right to it, any more than in taking from him money which he has gained unjustly. Nor must we speak evil of the dead. Let nothing but what is good be said of the departed. Some people, like hyenas, who tear from their graves and devour dead bodies, deface the memory of the dead by their malicious words and bring to light faults long since forgotten. Like insects which alight, not on the sound part of the apple, but on the decayed portion, detractors do not enlarge on the virtues of the deceased, but they pitilessly dwell upon their faults. They may be compared to dogs who prefer carrion to fresh meat, for they pass over the good which they cannot help seeing in their neighbor, and care to keep alive the remembrance of his failings. The sin of detraction is one most frequently met with. “Rarely,” says St. Jerome, “do we find anyone who is not ready to blame his neighbor’s conduct.” This comes from pride, for many people imagine they exalt themselves in proportion as they decry others. Detraction is a hateful sin. It is an ugly and shameless thing to do, if one goes to a stranger’s house and spies into every corner; but how much more so to scrutinize and criticize our neighbor’s course of life!

Mud should be covered over, not stirred up, for no one can touch it without defiling himself. “O fool! “ exclaims St. Alphonsus. “Thou dost declaim against the sin of another, and meanwhile, by evil speaking, dost commit a far greater sin than that thou blamest in thy neighbor.” Besides the detractor in disclosing the faults of another, discloses his own, for he shows that he has no charity. However, to speak of another man’s sin is not wrong, unless one has the intention of lowering him in the eyes of others; it is not detraction to tell some one else of it in order to prevent a repetition of the sin. One may also blame the fault of another, if this may be useful to a third person; but it must be done from a sense of duty, and the sin rather than the sinner is to be condemned. The crime of any malefactor who has been brought to justice may he freely spoken of, as it is already made public. Tale-telling is a form of detraction; it consists in repeating to another what a third person has said of him. Tale-telling ruins the peace of families, and is a fruitful source of feuds. It is worse than ordinary detraction because it not only destroys the reputation of one’s neighbor, but puts an end to friendly relations and brotherly love. Therefore God says: “The whisperer and double-tongued are accursed” (Ecclus. xxviii. 15).

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Sat Dec 08, 2007 11:39 pm
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New post Re: Rash Judgement - According to St. John of the Cross
With today's relativism, it's considered "charitable" to "interpret" heresy favorably…

John 7:24: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge just judgment." (Viz., judge by the fruits.)

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Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:22 pm
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New post Re: Rash Judgement - According to St. John of the Cross
Alan, yes, but also keep in mind what St. Ignatius says in the Exercises:

Quote:
[E]very good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor's proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how he means it; and if he means it badly, let him correct him with charity. If that is not enough, let him seek all the suitable means to bring him to mean it well, and save himself.

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Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:05 am
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