Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Guidelines for Fraternal Correction, pt 1

I learned about the concept of fraternal correction for the first time in the seminary. The concept is simple. When one has a complaint or problem with another, and neither has authority over the other, the one with the complaint shares it with the other in an attempt to correct him or the situation as a whole.

In another post I will babble on about how to do a fraternal correction. The spiritual director gave us guidelines for the how. For now, I will discuss briefly the why and when. These come from my own observation. Take them for what they are worth.

Fraternal correction is important in the life of a community because it prevents a grievance from festering. By providing a healthy outlet for problems, it reduces the temptation to the divisive and diabolic sin of gossip. Make no mistake about it: gossip destroys the life of a community and comes straight from hell. The Greek word for gossip, or slander, is diabolos. There is a good test for whether "sharing" is "healthy venting to a third party," "seeking outside advice," or whether it is actually vicious gossip. The test is to consider our willingness or eagerness to relate the events only to persons who know nothing of the situation or the individuals involved, and to leave out all identifying characteristics. If we are just itching to say someone's name, we are almost certainly about to engage in malignant gossip. Don't. Now, back on track.

Fraternal correction encourages proactivity and ownership on the part of the members of the community, rather than passively waiting around for someone else, someone in authority to solve every interpersonal tension. Fraternal correction should be a skill in the repertoire of every grown man and woman.

When should we fraternally correct? I mean, if we all run around venting all of our grievances all the time, without ever being judicious and careful in doing so, we will almost certainly tear everyone around us down, and ourselves too, and end up friendless. Sensing this possibility, I came up with these criteria for a correction. All three criteria being met fully, I proceed with my intended correction.

#1. I must like the person whom I am considering correcting. Love isn't good enough a criterion because we Christians are supposed to love everyone, and boy, do we. Lol. We fool ourselves too easily on this point. But if I actually like the person and feel warmth and affection toward him, then I can be confident that my motives are pure enough, that I am doing it at least partly for his own good and not my own weird, selfish motivations.

#2. My complaint must be graver than my ability to endure. If it is a petty thing that I can deal with on my own, then I do. The expression, "suck it up," comes to mind. If what the person is doing is an objective wrong against me and is making hard for me to avoid doing wrong to him, then I should bring it to him in correction. If my brother is doing something that will lead him or others to real harm, then I should bring it to him. If my brother chews with his mouth open and it disgusts me, but doesn't actually harm me or immediately lead me to sin against him seriously, then I should chill out a bit. At this point, I need to be careful there is nothing I can do to let go of the problem: work through my own issues, reprioritize my values (close friendship over mere table manners, etc).

#3. I should be reasonably confident that he will heed my concern. We listen most to peers whom we know to care about us and to like us. The more serious the matter, the more personal or painful, the more confident we must be that the person confronting us is doing so out of love. There are extremes, though. I cannot wait until I am absolutely sure that someone will listen to me, when I am concerned that he is suicidal, or that someone under his care is in harm's way. At times we must discharge our conscience and let the chips fall where they may. The more grave the concern, the less confident I need to be and the more willing I should be to go out on a limb.

These three criteria are those I came up with. It would be great to receive feedback and correction from a brother or sister on the matter. In part two I will outline the procedure for correction that the spiritual director laid out before us at the seminary.

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