"Who am I to judge?"
I've heard that a lot lately, from my recent lunch companion who didn't even blink at the waiter with the pierced nipple (yes, we could see it through his uniform) all the way up to Pope Francis, who makes it a point of speaking off the cuff on airplanes, balconies and from the other end of a telephone.
In between those two extremes are the rank and file Americans who think that tolerance means not expressing an opinion about moral standards, or lack thereof.
In this "don't bully" society, etiquette trumps authenticity.
But when I really thought about it, with the image of Iron Nipple still fresh in my brain, I came to the conclusion that we not only have the right to judge. We have an obligation to do it.
If we don't, it means that we're just feigning acceptance for everything that passes through our lives, thereby removing any sense of good or bad from the human equation.
Even worse, it could signify that we really do accept everything, which is another way of saying that we stand for nothing.
As anyone who has ever read a few of my columns must have figured out by now, live and let live simply doesn't work for me, which I suppose makes Christine a bad Christian. In fact, I've always felt more drawn to the Hebrew Bible than to its sequel, because I think judging makes a lot of sense and who needs that extra eye anyway?
But that doesn't work in this uber-evolved society where, apparently, we're not even supposed to criticize Planned Parenthood for donating the "by-product" of abortions dead babies to medical research facilities with names like "The Mengele Institute" (OK, maybe I made the name up. But a "medical facility" by any other name would smell as foul.)
In order to be considered intelligent and credible, we're supposed to consider all lifestyles and choices to be equally valid, to the point that we begin to wonder why we believe what we believe, and do what we do. After all, since "Jesus would do whatever feels good," who are we to make another person feel unwanted or offended by our value set, right?
Who are we, after all, to judge?
Which brings me to something that happened at my alma mater last month. On June 22, Waldron Mercy Academy, a Catholic elementary school in Philadelphia, declined to renew the contract of its religious studies director, Margie Winters. By all accounts, Winters was a good teacher, although the hagiographic terms in which she's been described are a bit over the top. Even if Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with an original copy of the tablets and announced "I'm your substitute for theology this week," it's hard to imagine anyone getting really excited about a religion instructor.
Unless, of course, she's a married lesbian, teaching religion at a private Catholic school.
In that case, she is a superstar. Actually a saint. Make that a martyr when her contract is not renewed.
It is a rather convoluted chronology, but it appears that Winters was approached by a parent who wanted her to include the "Theology of the Body" in her class. That course of study is based on a series of lectures by Pope John Paul II in which he talks about the complementarity of the male and female bodies, and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. It's not surprising that someone engaged in a one woman/one woman dynamic wouldn't exactly be thrilled. So she said no.
The parent, in turn, notified some higher-ups, and it all ended up on the evening news.
I know, this is exactly the type of earth shattering event that warrants full-on coverage in the media. "Catholic school touts Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve as appropriate role models!"
Stop the presses. And stay tuned for the Diane Sawyer interview.
Because really, that horrible group of religious zealots needs to be exposed. Who are they to judge?
I'll tell you who they, and we, are. We are graduates of a school that is run by the single greatest order of nuns in the world, sisters who spread their compassion and courage throughout the hemispheres.
We are Catholics who have chosen to mix our academic training with our spiritual formation in one seamless process.
We might disagree on the legalization of same sex unions, but will circle the sectarian wagons to protect this church's ability to stand stalwart behind traditional unions.
We were troubled by Justice Anthony Kennedy's very anemic and half-hearted statements protecting religious liberty and conscience in the Obergefell decision, something lawyers call irrelevant dicta.
We don't appreciate non-Catholics, lapsed Catholics, disgruntled Catholics and uninformed Catholics telling us we need to get with the program and be force-fed their secular vision of tolerance when that conflicts directly with fundamental church doctrine.
We think that agitprop prayer vigils should be saved for cases of real persecution, like Christians being murdered in Nigeria and jailed in Iran.
We see the writing in the wall, threatening words that could have come from a Godfather screenplay, telling us we'll lose our tax credits if we don't render all unto Caesar.
We know that the law protects our right to hire and fire those who advance religious objectives under the "ministerial exception" to anti-discrimination policies.
We are not going to back down because some parents and pundits try to make us ashamed of our faith.
That's who we are. That's who I am.
Feel free to judge us all you want.
Christine M. Flowers
Philadelphia Daily News