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Lynn Hummel: Who are we to judge others?

Pope Francis raised a lot of eyebrows a few weeks ago when he told reporters, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”

Surprising words coming from a pope. But maybe Francis, like Peter, the original pope, sees his job as teaching, preaching, leading and ministering to the poor rather than judging. After all, it does say somewhere (in the English version), “Do not judge others and God will not judge you; do not condemn others and God will not condemn you.”

We should keep in mind that the pope is not paid to judge. Basically, he works for room, board, transportation, health care, retirement benefits and robes. No salary.

On the other hand, judges are paid to judge. I knew one judge who hated to make decisions. He waited. He stalled. He procrastinated. He squirmed. After all, any decision he made was going to hurt somebody, disappoint somebody, maybe make somebody angry. He was a kind, soft, gentle guy — but not a decision maker. Maybe deep down inside he asked himself the question: “Who am I to judge?” But it was his job to judge and he got paid to do it. Maybe some of his pay should have been docked.

I knew another judge who had a sleep disorder. As a result, he was often dozing during trials — while witnesses were testifying, lawyers were asking questions and juries were paying attention. Sometimes lawyers would drop big books on the floor with a thump to wake the judge up. He was a decent guy and people liked him, so he never got reported and nothing changed. It is probably not written anywhere that the first duty of a judge is to stay awake, but it should be. Who was he to judge? He wasn’t. Some of his pay should have been docked.

Presidents are paid to make judgments and make decisions. President George W. Bush once clearly stated the obvious: “I’m the decider.” Yes, the buck stops at the president’s desk. Harry Truman may have been the first to say “The buck stops here,” but every president before and after Truman has known that. They all have known as well that for every decision made, no matter how thoughtful or “correct,” there will be scores of non-deciders who make it their business to automatically disagree, criticize and attack. It’s part of the blame game and it’s petty, tiresome and seldom constructive. Who are they to judge?

Umpires are paid to judge and we can tune in to ballgames everyday of the baseball season and watch them do their jobs. Every pitch is a decision. I have a friend who argues (tongue in cheek, I believe) that since the technology is available to call every ball and strike, they should be called electronically. I argue that baseball is not life or death, brain surgery or rocket science, it is entertainment, and umpires calling balls and strikes are part of the entertainment. If you want to kill baseball, eliminate umpires. Major League Baseball, starting next year, is initiating a system of electronic review of doubtful calls, including home runs (did it got over the wall and bounce back or did it hit the wall? Was the ball fair or foul? etc.) — all set in motion by limited manager appeal. That’s OK, but balls and strikes, checked swings and player obstructions can never be challenged. How about a very close call at first base? I can’t find the answer.

Any time you buy a loaf of bread at the grocery store, you pass a rack of celebrity and gossip magazines. All are filled with judgments by self-appointed judges who have nothing constructive to offer. Trash. We all need to make judgments about our own lives and the lives of our families.

Beyond that, with the lives of others, there’s a line somewhere: curiosity is normal and snooping is on the wrong side of the line. Let judgments be made by those whose duty it is to make them. Let the rest of us learn to mind our own business.

Who are we to judge?