The Difficulty of Judging the Thoughts of Others

April 22, 2018

1000.jpg

There have been some distressing instances recently of Spanish judges accusing people, not of actual past acts, but of presumed intentions to commit or incite certain acts deemed by the court to be criminal. From the bench, they claimed to see crimes in the future of people who were clearly completely innocent but whom they imprisoned preventatively.

Jean-Marie Vianney (1786–1859), a priest so much beloved in France that his body is still on display behind glass, earned his renown by his creativity in judging, or non-judging, others. An example of this came when a widow was disconsolate over the recent death of her husband, who had committed suicide by jumping off a bridge—her assumption being that he died unrepentant of the sin of killing himself and thus fitted himself for hell. Monsieur le Curé, far more imaginative than the despairing woman, consoled her with: “Remember, Madame, that there is a little distance between the bridge and the water.” Thus, they had no right to draw limits on what his state of mind may have been before he died. This applies to many situations in which we don’t have windows into the minds of others.

It’s no wonder that the 230 inhabitants of the little town of Ars, where Vianney served the people, became renowned for their thoughtful consideration of human responsibility, which included suspension of judgment against neighbors when it could be justified. This had such a startling effect in the decades after the French Revolution that, by 1855, the number of people coming to consult the Curé d’Ars had reached 20,000 a year.

There is plenty of evil around us, but it’s good not to assume it until we’re forced to.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s