Drawing the line between being concerned and being judgmental

Seeing people show up to Mass late and/or leaving early…seeing hardly anyone go to confession when it is offered…seeing the pews not much fuller on Holy Days of Obligation than any other daily Mass…seeing people disregard Church teachings on things like contraception and cohabitation, then going up and receiving communion without feeling the need to go to confession (and doing so irreverently)…this stuff bothers me. It concerns me because I am concerned for their souls, and because it’s scandalous and sets a bad example for others. But at some level, it’s me being judgmental of others, and I know that. I am a sinner just like they are.

It isn’t my pastor’s fault - the sacraments are certainly available, daily Mass is available, Adoration is available. It’s just heartbreaking to see people who seemingly are lax in their faith, and I am not really sure where that invisible line is between not being concerned enough about others properly glorifying our Lord properly and working to keep themselves out of Hell, and being overbearing, unrealistic, and judgmental, and thus sinning against my brethren and against God in the process.

What are your thoughts?

I agree. I’ll be watching this thread. Sometimes I don’t know when I’m being concerned or “judgmental,” especially since that word is thrown around so often these days.

I wws speaking to some at my parish the other day who likes to challenge me as to what my motivations are, which is a good thing because sometimes our motivations aren’t actually what we think they are or tell ourselves that they are.

An example: me receiving communion on the tongue while kneeling. Very few people receive on the tongue at my parish, and I know of only one other person who receives while kneeling. He asked me “do you do that because you feel it is more reverent to do so…or do you do it out of vanity or pride?”

I do it because if our Lord walked into the room, I would most certainly lay prostrate at His feet, never mind kneel, and since Jesus’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity are present in the Eucharist, there’s absolutely no reason why I should treat it any differently. I also believe that touching the Sacred Species is a privilege best left to those who have received Holy Orders. It’s certainly not because I am trying to impress anyone. In fact, I am a bit concerned that the opposite may be true - people probably look at me saying “who does this guy think he is? Does he think he is better than us or something?”

At the same time…am I guilty of thinking like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14 at times? Most definitely to some degree, although I would never claim to be righteous and not a sinner, because that would be quite the lie. It just bothers me when I see people not put in the effort. I fall frequently, but I really do try not to.

I’m just conflicted.

To me it’s about the difference between judging those people and having compassionate concern for them. When our minds go to, “They are going to Hell!” or “Don’t they realize how wrong they are?”, we are judging them. We haven’t considered that we can’t see what’s in their hearts and minds. When we think, “I pray that they will grow in faith.” or “I am grateful that I am able to be here at this service to remember those who cannot be.” then we are acknowledging our concern, but not presuming why those absent parishioners aren’t in the pews. If they really are falling down in their faith your prayer will help. If they are just having transportation troubles, or their child is ill, or their water pipe in the kitchen just burst, your prayers will help still.


I sometimes feel that way and find myself sometimes slightly over emphasizing things during Mass (bowing during Creed, slight blown when the name of Jesus is mentioned, etc). But not because I think I’m better than anyone, but because I know that sometimes it only takes one to show courage before others follow.

I would venture that there are many would like to do somethings differently, but are afraid due to perceived peer pressure. Whether it be taking communion on tongue, kneeling, etc.

The point is as long as you understand that you are doing it because it helps you worship God. When someone asks why you kneel when receiving, you could say something like “it’s the same reason why some people pray with their eyes closed vs staring at a Cross/picture/statue/nature… whatever helps to focus my worship of God.”

I hope this helps (I know I’m rambling).

God Bless.

It is very difficult. We can see what we judge to be irreverence, disrespect and hypocrisy and become annoyed and angry. Alternatively we can pray to see these souls as God sees them - funny delicate little children getting it wrong and being oblivious to the consequences or effects on others. I won’t go into details of my shame, when I realised I had stepped into a pit of wrong judgement and was up to my spiritual neck in the muck (why don’t I see these pits, so I can walk round them?). I still struggle between the easy judgement (a bit of the holier than thou comes in) and the harder path of working on seeing souls in need of prayers to progress forwards on their journey of faith.

I would suggest keep praying and trusting in God. It sounds easy and maybe feeble, but I believe it is the harder, stronger and most effective action. I find it helpful to include myself because I don’t see all of my faults and weaknesses. If things get tough, bring out the Rosary.

These are just my thoughts and I hope they help a little.

May God bless you.

Humility and charity may be two of the things that separates genuine concern, over that of being purely judgmental. Caring for someones well being, especially their soul without putting your self interest and pride first is difficult to do when human emotion naturally makes you do otherwise. God loves the humble, hates the prideful.

Well…regarding doing something in hopes that others will follow, that plays a part as well. Not just among those currently attending Mass, either, or even just among those who are Catholics at all. Between the stereotype among some Evangelicals and others that Catholics aren’t well-versed in scripture and are lax, polls which suggest many Catholics disagree on Church teachings about things like abortion, contraception, and homosexual relations, as well as the Real Presence (this in particular is heartbreaking, and I pray it isn’t true), and secular media not doing us any favors, it’s important for all of us to invest ourselves in upholding the teachings of the Church, and to lead by example.

If you don’t practice what you preach by doing the right thing, others will see no reason to take their faith seriously. If you aren’t willing to make sacrifices for your faith, you won’t be encouraging anyone else to do so. I would never criticize any individual person for what they do or fail to do, because I do not know what is in their heart. As a whole, though, if, say, Mass attendance is significantly less on Ascension Thursday (which is not moved to Sunday in my diocese), hardly anyone is coming to confession when it’s offered on Saturday, and virtually 100% of people are going up to receive on Sunday…it’s extremely likely that at least some of those people know they are supposed to attend Mass on a Holy Day, chose not to do so, and went up to receive our Lord anyway. That’s concerning for a number of reasons (although, like I said, I cannot and will not presume that any individual person has done this.)

Same thing with confession in general. The number of people that come to confession on Saturdays compared with the number of people at our parish is infinitesimal. It’s miniscule. Granted, it’s available by appointment anytime. I just wish more people would make more frequent use of the sacrament, because it’s really important - not just in forgiving past sins, but receiving the grace necessary to keep from sinning in the future (I don’t know about any of you, but I really don’t like confessing the same sin over and over). I am definitely not in a place to tell people they need to go to confession more often (or even that they SHOULD). I can only control what I can control, and pray for the intentions of those who are struggling with some aspects of their faith.

EDIT: In many cases, the people might just not understand just how serious sin is, particularly sins that THEY don’t regard as being that bad. Everyone (well, pretty much everyone) know that things like murder and stealing are very bad. But, people might think “I won’t go to hell if I masturbate/use artificial contraception/eat meat on Fridays during Lent/skip Ascension Thursday Mass and don’t repent”, because those things are all very much considered acceptable in our society as a whole.

“God loves the humble, hates the prideful.”

I wouldn’t say that God hates the prideful. He loves the prideful and wants them to stop being prideful.

My suggestion to you is to sit near the front of the church and then a lot of these things won’t bother you because you won’t see them. Also spend more time judging yourself and less judging others. You are responsible only for your own soul and that of your young children.
BTW- As a non Catholic I agree with some of the posters about kneeling to receive. I know the Bishops of the US have deemed receiving in a parade is the norm, but to me it looks somewhat disrespectful since you believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are present in your church.

While this is technically true, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned for the souls of others. Otherwise, why would we ever evangelize?

Also, the same cannot be said for everyone. A Religious Ed teacher bears some responsibility for their students. Priests (and, to a lesser extent, deacons) are responsible for the souls of the people in their parish (and anyone else who approaches them). Bishops are responsible for every Catholic in their diocese. Pope Francis is responsible for over a billion souls. And that’s just talking about direct responsibility.

We have a duty to evangelize. We must try to guide people toward the truth in our actions and in our words. Think of all the martyrs. Were they being prideful because they were concerned with the souls of others? It just has to be done with tact. No one wants to be told to change their behavior OR ELSE. Being concerned with your own soul and being concerned with the souls of others is far from mutually exclusive.

I think it is one thing to see and be concerned about a lack of piety and practice in other Catholics, but you are going to have to step back and let it go. You can’t control what others do or don’t do in the practice of their faith. Lack of people coming to confession fall more with priests than laity. If priests don’t promote and talk about the need for confession, I think is why you see a lack of it. Going to confession is hard, it is humbling, it is embarrasing so most take the easy route. Likewise, since Protestants do not practice confession, it again is another influence. Likewise, you can’t get upset when others don’t come to Holy Days of obligation because the only people those who don’t come hurt is themselves, not you or me. Focus on if you are doing enough, not if others are doing enough. We are all on a spiritual journey, some are further down the road than others. When you notice that others maybe are not there, focus on praying for them instead of getting annoyed. When you spend time praying for others, the attutude of compassion will rise up instead of judgement.

I don’t know WHY these things are happening, like I said, so it’s not really something I could address even if I wanted to.

Honestly, a lot of it could be pressure from society. The West has been aggressively secularized in the last 200 years or so. Being seen as too pious can be detrimental to a person’s reputation in some circles. Our culture can be greedy and materialistic, it can be overbearing, it promotes casual sex and partying and violence and death…and the Church remains firm on its teachings despite society falling away from them. Because of this, there can be pressure on people to conform to the “norms of society” rather than the teachings of the Church. If a couple decide to remain abstinent before marriage and choose not to cohabitate before marriage, people are SHOCKED. People want to fit in socially.

I don’t actually hold people in contempt for it. The TREND just disturbs me. I wouldn’t say it “annoys” me, it just…upsets me a bit, the same way the trend of more and more young people being atheist disturbs me. If someone is an atheist, I don’t judge them for it or tell them they’re going to Hell (they’ve heard it before). I just tell them how much the Church helps me and how if they want me to, that I would love to talk to them about it.

The vocations crisis…same thing. I certainly am not going to judge a person because they don’t think God is calling them to the priesthood. I just wish more people would respond to the call, and pray that they will.

As far as me worrying whether I am doing enough? I am absolutely certain that I am NOT doing enough. I always could be doing more. We all could. I hold myself to a very high standard because God deserves that and much more. I fail to meet it. I have my days. But I don’t make excuses when I don’t or try to justify it. People tell me I am scrupulous, and they are probably right to some degree, but being scrupulous keeps me on my toes.

Thanks for your advice, everyone, and may the Peace of Christ be with all of you.

FWIW, I went to confession today and confessed having done this. My confessor said that it’s good and healthy to be concerned about these things, because it shouldn’t be that way, but to be careful what my motivations are.

At some point or another, our pride tends to get in the way of our being humble. It’s, unfortunately, our fallen nature to be more like the Pharisee than the tax collector at times. We just must remain vigilant, pray for the intentions of others rather than saying “at least we aren’t like ‘those people’” to try to justify our own sinful behavior, and do what we can to help those who are falling away or have fallen away from the Church.

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