Fraternal correction is defined as the admonishing of one’s neighbor with the purpose of reforming him, or, if possible, preventing his sinful indulgence in the first place. The very idea of this makes America 2015 ™ cringe, because even to most Christians, those who are responsible for fraternally correcting each other, the concept of evaluating the behavior of another person is absolutely taboo if not wholly laughable.
How did we get here? Tons of hypocritical fraternal correction? Maybe, but I doubt it. Because even if you are a moral zero, the truth is still the truth. It doesn’t care whose mouth it comes from. I should still recognize it as the truth. The ten commandments recited by any mouth are the same words, and I need to heed them regardless of the identity of the messenger at the moment.
Warnings of the wages of sin in today’s first world are seen as disrespectful, antiquated, invasive, rude, uncool, judgmental, self-righteous and self-congratulatory. They are almost never viewed, by the majority, as what they are intended to be: borne of love, or what they are commanded by God to be: a spiritual work of mercy.
I’m fairly certain that fraternal correction gets a bad rap because no one wants to stop sinning, not because of a long history of fraternal correction gone awry. The West praises and extols the open minded, open mouthed, enlightened, and progressive. Consent is the singular litmus test for the inherent good of a human act. The only sin is to call something a sin.
In this climate, the ultimate deference you can tribute to someone is to respect their choice regardless of how destructive the consequences, respect their lifestyle no matter how counter to the Gospel it screams.
The thing is, we do have to honor the conscience of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we do have an obligation to stop tinkering in the lives of the unchurched if they tell us to bugger off. But atheist Penn Jillette once observed that he had no patience for non-preaching Christians, because they were essentially watching him stand in the way of a speeding train, that is, if they really believed what they claimed to. So faced with these two poles, what does a well-intentioned Catholic do?
Maybe the answer is for each of us to make a statement about how we would receive fraternal correction, rather than writing and discussing how we would give it.
So here’s mine: I don’t want to trade in Jesus for earthly popularity. I don’t want to trade in the Saints for street cred. I don’t want the mind of the Church replaced with the mind of the prevailing social trends. I don’t want to look to Eckhart Tolle or Oprah Winfrey or the Dalai Lama or Joel Osteen. I don’t want to evolve — I’m fine with the 2000 year old unchanged and unchanging teachings of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. I don’t want to keep pace with the world. Have you seen the world?
So if you ever see my boat veering off the Tiber, or if I ever indicate to you whether by word or by action that I am any less committed to Christ, His one holy and apostolic Church, the pope and the bishops, Mary the Blessed Mother, the angels and saints, and the deposit of faith protected by The Church, don’t mind your own business. Mind my business.
Fraternally correct me. Take me out to the woodshed. Warn me of the oncoming train. Push me out of the way, even if you break my arm or my pride in the process. Even if you break our friendship in the process. I beseech you and I demand it of you as it is your duty as a fellow Christian to protect me.
Admonish me. Rebuke me. Come to me with the Bible in one hand and the Catechism in the other. Save me.
I may not say these words in the moment, so I am saying them now. Correct me, my brother or sister, because the stakes are no less than my eternal soul.
If you feel similarly to me, please share this statement with me and with others.