A group of Catholic bishops got together in Vatican City recently to consider the future direction of their group. After the meeting the majority issued a statement about the things they consider to be important that was quickly endorsed by the Pope as a series of good ideas. The minority, which in this case makes up the theologically conservative bishops, had no say in the matter. What are the new directions for the group that the Pope considers to be just swell? Here is a part of the story from the Associated Press:
"Catholic bishops called Saturday for a more welcoming church for cohabitating couples, gays and Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried, endorsing Pope Francis' call for a more merciful and less judgmental church....they emphasized the role of discernment and individual conscience in dealing with difficult family situations....Pope Francis said the synod had 'laid bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the church's teachings an good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge...'" As I considered the Pope's endorsement of the bishop's statement it occurred to me that he has no concept of what justice, judgement, judgmentalism or mercy are. Allow me to enlighten him here today.
This Pope is doing the same thing all religious leaders are doing these days when they want to be popular. It does not matter if you are Catholic or Protestant, in order to be popular with the masses it is crucial to ignore the Law of God and replace it with the majority will of the people. Since the majority of the people now regularly practice fornication and call it a good thing, fornication needs to be removed from the list of sins previously taught as sinful. Since the majority of the people now believe homosexuality is a good thing, homosexual behavior must also be removed from the list of sinful behaviors. Since the majority of all people have now been divorced and remarried, the church's prohibition of such things needs to be set aside. I don't care about the Catholic teaching on divorce and remarriage. That teaching has been shot through with gross hypocrisy for centuries. But I am interested in how the Pope believes that teaching fornication and homosexuality as sinful constitutes the act of being judgmental.
Francis is fundamentally confused about the difference between judgmentalism and rendering judgments. The Bible makes a clear distinction between the two behaviors but the Pope is not the world's greatest biblical scholar. It comes as no surprise that he does not know what he is talking about when it comes to rendering judgments. When it comes time to talk about judging, everyone, including God-hating pagans, immediately thinks of the words of Jesus when He said, "Judge not lest you be judged." When Jesus issued that statement He did so to condemn the practice of judgmentalism. Judgementalism is judging others by an unbiblical standard. This sort of practice goes on all the time. Who does not spend most of his day making comments about how the behavior of other people is stupid and something that he would never do? I would never drive a Ford. I would never let my car get that dirty. I would never let my kid play football. I would never dye my hair purple. I would never get a tattoo that says "Mom" on my left ankle. I would never eat that sort of food. I think you get the point. All of those judgments are made upon the basis of how I view the world and have nothing to do with moral truth or biblical law. If the Pope was echoing the words of Jesus in condemning such behavior I would not be writing this blog post today.
When the Pope declares that his organization needs to be "less judgmental" and then proceeds to give examples of transgressions of biblical law, we have a situation where he is endorsing the theological heresy of antinomianism, not appealing to the church to avoid gossip-filled personal judgments about others. Those who claim to stand in the place of God before men need to be very careful to only say the things God has authorized them to say. The Pope makes that claim. God says that fornication is a sin. The Pope says that his organization needs to overlook that sin, in the name of mercy, and acknowledge the "commitment" two people who have shacked up have made to each other. God says that homosexuality is a sin. The Pope says he is not going to talk about it because it makes him sound judgmental. In the name of mercy he simply ignores God's requirement to judge those who violate His most holy and perfect moral law.
The Pope juxtaposes mercy and judgementalism. Since he uses judgementalism in place of rendering biblical judgments I believe it is fair to say that he also juxtaposes mercy with biblical judgements about sin. Now that is a very interesting position to take. Mercy, by definition, is the decision to not apply a proper punishment to a prior sin. In order for mercy to be exercised it is necessarily the case that a prior judicial decision about a sinful action must take place. In the case of the Pope, for him to exercise mercy towards a fornicating couple he must first render the biblically correct decision that they are living in sin and God is angry with them. Only after that decision and judgment has been made is it logically or theologically possible to pronounce a merciful suspension of that sentence. To declare that he is behaving with mercy towards someone he has not previously judged is logically and theologically impossible.
The logically and theologically impossible does not concern this Pope, the bishops or most people who call themselves Christians these days. Teaching the Law of God and commanding obedience to it are not the best way to get new members, grow a mega-church, get a huge salary and be able to retire early with a gigantic pension. Bishops and preachers have figured this out and that explains why the Law of God had to go. That is also why, at the day of final judgement, many bishops and preachers will stand before God only to hear Him say, "Depart from Me, for I never knew you."