From The Paradise of the Desert Fathers:
The old men used to say, "there is nothing worse than passing judgment."
They said of abba Macarius that he became, as it is written, a god upon earth, because just as God protects the world, so abba Macarius would cover the faults that he saw as though he did not see them, and those which he heard as though he did not hear them.
Abba Pastor said, "Judge not him who is guilty of fornication, if you are chaste, or you will break the law like him. For He who said 'Do not commit fornication' said also 'Do not judge.' "
A brother asked abba Poemen, "If I see my brother sin, is it right to say nothing about it?" The old man replied, "Whenever we cover our brother's sin, God will cover ours; whenever we tell people about our brother's guilt, God will do the same about ours."
A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, "Come, for everyone is waiting for you." So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug and filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said, "What is this, father?" The old man said to them, "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another." When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.
A brother sinned and the priest ordered him to go out of the church; abba Bessarion got up and went out with him, saying, "I, too, am a sinner."
When I first read the Desert Fathers, I kept running up against this teaching. At first, I kept my reservations about it. Milquetoast, I thought. A spade ought to be called a spade. In the course of time, I have begun - and only just begun - to realize that this teaching is, perhaps, central to what it means to me to be Christian. Because a refusal to judge springs out of a heart of love. And a refusal to judge springs out of the recognition of one's own sinfulness before God, one's recognition of one's own forgiveness. And my sin is great. My need for God leaves me breathless before Him, without legs, casts me upon his greater grace and love.
I know less each passing day. I have learned that I don't love well. I would grind my teeth in darkness and utter solitude - that is what is in my heart, and it draws at me constantly. And that is hell. When I first heard the Fatima prayer within the Rosary, I was unsettled by its talk of hell: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, bring all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy." I'm not big on hellfire or, for that matter, brimstone. But as I submitted myself to the practice of the Church, I began to realize something about me and about this prayer. When I pray O My Jesus, I am asking Jesus to rescue me not from some eternal damnation that will come one day if I embrace death rather than life, but I am asking him to rescue me from the hell within my heart, that is there each moment of every day, that threatens to engulf me. That is the recognition that I'm coming to understand: Heaven and hell are within my heart.
Neither science nor bad theology makes me doubt God. The thing that makes me doubt God, when I doubt Him, is those who claim Him. Those who would tear down everything and everyone that they might be taller. I read, I listen. I hear such terrible judgments pronounced. I see personhood overrun by ideology and pride. Where is love? There is God. So I must slap my hand over my mouth - because I am that man, that woman, who curses God in my neighbor and who engenders doubt within my own heart and countless others.
People are people. More than that, we are persons. We have such hidden hurts that are run over roughshod by those who ought to, should, must, need to know and behave better. But then, they have their own hurts, their own pain. Love is a better balm than judgment. "Beloved," says the Evangelist, "let us love one another."