• Pope Francis: You cannot reprimand a person without Love and Charity


    CHRISTIANS should ever keep in mind the message Pope Francis gave in his homily at morning Mass in Santa Marta on Friday, which was the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary.

    Superiors at offices or factories, household bosses of houseboys and housemaids, parents of “incorrigible children” and teachers of “bad” students ought to take this message of the Holy Father to heart: “You cannot reprimand a person without Love and Charity.”

    Remember that doing anything in hate, out of spite, is wrong—sinful.

    But even in simply scolding somebody because he or she did wrong, if your heart is not motivated by Love—which means Love for God and as a result of which you Love fellow human beings, including this one who deserves a scolding—you must not carry it out.

    You can only reprimand someone when you have Love of God and therefore Love of that person in your heart and mind. Otherwise, don’t say anything.

    This is the Zenit news report on this:

    VATICAN CITY, September 12, 2014 (Zenit.org) – True fraternal reprimand is painful because it is done with love, in truth and humility. Moreover it is unchristian to take pleasure when reprimanding someone. This was the focus of Pope Francis homily Friday during Mass in Santa Marta, on the day when the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Holy Name of Mary.

    The Pope was reflecting on the Gospel passage where Jesus warns against noticing the splinter in our brother’s eye but failing to see the wooden beam in our own. This inspired him to return to the subject of fraternal reprimand. First, he said, the erring brother should be reprimanded with charity.

    “You cannot reprimand a person without love and charity. [Just like] you cannot perform surgery without anesthesia: you cannot, because the patient will die from the pain. And charity is like an anesthetic that helps you to receive treatment and accept reprimand. Take him to one side and talk to him, with gentleness, with love.”

    Secondly,—he continued—we must speak the truth: “Do not say something that is not true. How often in our community are things said about another person that are not true: they are slander. Or if they are true, they destroy the person’s reputation.”

    “Gossip—the Pope repeated – hurt; gossips are a slap in the face of a person’s reputation, they are an attack on the heart of a person.”

    “Sure”—he observed— “when they tell you the truth is not nice to hear, but if it is spoken with charity and love, it is easier to accept.” Therefore, “we must speak of other people’s defects” with charity.

    Thirdly, we must reprimand with humility: “If you really need to reprimand a little flaw, stop and remember that you have many more and far bigger!”

    “Fraternal reprimand is an act that heals the Body of the Church. There’s a tear, there, in the fabric of the Church that we must mend. And like mothers and grandmothers, who mend so gently, so delicately, we must do likewise when we want to reprimand our brother. If you’re not able to do this with love, charity, truth and humility, you will offend, you will destroy the heart of that person, you will add to gossip, that hurts, and you will become a blind hypocrite, just as Jesus says. Hypocrite, first take the wooden beam out of your own eye. …’. Hypocrite! Recognize that you are the more sinful than the other, but you, as a brother must help to reprimand the other.”

    “A sign that perhaps can help us in this”—said the Pope—is when we feel “a certain delight” when “we see something wrong” and consider it our job to deliver a reprimand: you have to be “careful because that is not coming from the Lord.”

    “The Cross, the difficulty of doing a good thing is ever present in the Lord; the love that leads us, the meekness is always of the Lord. Do not judge. We Christians tend to behave like doctors: stand on the sidelines of the game between sin and grace as if we were angels . . . No! Paul says:’ for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified ‘. And a Christian who, in the community, does not do things—even fraternal reprimand—in love, in truth and humility, is disqualified! He has failed to become a mature Christian. May the Lord help us in this fraternal service, which is as beautiful as it is painful, to help our brothers and sisters to be better and help us to always do it with love, in truth and humility.” (End of Zenit report).

    * * *

    “Fraternal correction” is what a well-formed Christian does to help another Christian correct a wrong that prevents him (or her) from succeeding in becoming Godly, Christlike, Marylike, therefore holy.

    But a good Christian may also do “fraternal correction” to help another person improve in his job (so he doesn’t get fired) or simply improve by getting rid of a bad habit that makes him less likable to others or less efficient.

    St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, said this about fraternal correction in The Forge. This reminder is addressed to people who are seriously struggling to be holy (Christlike): “Don’t neglect the practice of fraternal correction, which is a clear sign of the supernatural virtue of charity. You may find it hard, for it’s easier to be inhibited. It’s easier to behave that way, but it’s not supernatural. And you will have to render an account to God for such omissions.” (The Forge, 146).

    It’s a serious sin of omission for which we will all be asked to account: Why did you not make fraternal correction on that friend and help make him a better person? A better doer of his duties to God and country?


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    1. Dear Mr. Bas,
      Reading your article, I can’t help but compare our culture with that of the US. The conclusion I derived from it is that Filipino society is so complex because our motives and actions are shape by the Christian faith. Being a Christian informs a person on how to treat the others. By complex, I mean, a person’s duty is first to God and not to human responsibilities. The first thing that comes to mind when faced with a situation is what would Jesus do? For many, the answer is easy. Do the most loving and charitable act. This is the gist I got from your article. No such thing as tough love. To us that is an oxymoron. Here in the US, those who do not toe the line so to speak, are punished. They are hang out to dry. You learn by your mistake but not at the other person’s expense. In most cases, one strike you are out. That is why one mega company not too long ago fired more than ten thousand of its employees on Christmas eve because their allegiance is not to God.

      The reason behind is simple, namely people are motivated by reward and punishment. Behaviors are modified if people know that there are stiff consequences for mistakes and you will be rewarded greatly if you do good. Accountability is the name of the game. In every situation you are expected to do the right thing. Everyone knows that nobody is perfect but people in authority here expect you to be one especially if it affects their bottom line..

      I’ve worked here in the US for more than twenty years and I have my share of behavior modification in its punitive form. Behavior modification in its negative form is a bitter pill to shallow. If it is applied to you, you better have enough emotional strength because it would linger deep in your consciousness for a very long time. But if it happened to the guy, the punishment fits the crime. However behavior modification in its punitive form works. A little bit of accountability and charity should be employed because it’s part of being an adult.

      • Reply to Mr. Danilo Reyes

        Dear Mr. Reyes,
        I basically agree with you about the complexity of Filipino society. But I must ask you to reconsider your statement that to a Christian “a person’s duty is first to God and not to human responsibilities.” That is not the true Christian doctrine–of the Catholics, the Orthodox and the mainstream Protestants. The Christian doctrine is that Love of God can only be lived by loving fellow human beings as He does. Therefore to a Christian there is no conflict between loving God above all and loving fellow humans.
        That makes it NOT an oxymoron to practice “tough love” — meaning imposing discipline. But always, to a Christian, any action must be done with Love–otherwise it will not yield good results in both the purely temporal, earthly sense and in the divine sense of making both the doer and the object of the action holy (and therefore becoming like Christ and worthy of entering Heaven).

        I think the big defect of our Christian fellow Filipinos is the shallowness of their idea of being Christian. It’s wonderful that most of them have great faith and do acts of piety. But their Christianity seems to stop there. Christianity teaches order, first of all. That is why in the Ten Commandments the first is Love God above all. Then parents. And then the others. The Lord Jesus Christ was always preaching orderliness–and self-giving. Love and self-sacrifice can never be done properly without order.
        A good Christian who makes a decision to ask what would Jesus do when faced with a situation would be making an error if he thinks that the answer is that Jesus would indulge the wrong and disorderly way of another person. That is not Jesus’ way. That is not being charitable–and that is why in Christianity there is the issue of “fraternal correction.” Unfortunately, as you yourself said, “for many the answer is easy–do the most loving and charitable act.” But indulging the easygoing, spoiled, undisciplined, thoughtless, uncaring ways of children, relatives, friends and office mates is not the “most loving and charitable act.” Jesus frowns on that. He would reprimand those who are wrong. For the most loving and charitable act is to correct the wrongdoer–but with love and cheerfulness.
        Thanks for your response to my article. Thanks for reading The Manila Times.
        I hope readers who read your comment and this reply of mine to you learn to become better Christians.

    2. If fraternal correction is practice in all forms of media, a religious revival will flourish that precedes in a strong economic upturn and dramatic human development, like the hidden story of South Korea and the underground home churches in China. This could be the silver bullet against corruption the Filipinos had been waiting for.

    3. Hmmmm….. so do you think this would be the main explanation for why PersiNoy keeps reprimanding Pilipinas Supremo Korte?

      • Fraternal correction is not cynical, it is loving and truthful, it does not aim to score a laugh, or give a one- line retort. It is given for the benefit of the other, not for oneself.