Don’t Judge Another Without Walking in the Other’s Moccasins

By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

On January 8, 2018, Pope Francis, in his annual address to international diplomats working in the Vatican, said, in part:

The Lord Jesus himself, by healing the leper, restoring sight to the blind man, speaking with the publican, saving the life of the woman caught in adultery and demanding that the injured wayfarer be cared for, makes us understand that every human being, independent of his or her physical, spiritual or social condition, is worthy of respect and consideration. From a Christian perspective, there is a significant relation between the Gospel message and the recognition of human rights in the spirit of those who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I was particularly attracted by the link of Catholic social thought to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:

  1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Sadly to say, how are these rights threatened by the proposed Wisconsin Works for Everyone reform plan? Amongst other things, the plan seeks to force Wisconsin FoodShare recipients to increase their number of weekly hours worked from 20 to 30 and requires a drug test for FoodShare recipients. People’s schedules can be complex; maybe some adults cannot or should not be “punched in” 30 hours a week. For example, I don’t see the plan accounting for the possibility of a parent’s time to transport a child to school, or a middle-aged son’s time to transport a loved one for weekly errands and appointments. Furthermore, the plan may hamper a child’s nutritional growth on account of a parent’s work schedule or drug use.

A human service provider recently asked me what message I would like to communicate to the public about homelessness (and poverty) in our local community. After a slight pause, I replied, “Don’t judge another without walking a mile in his or her moccasins.”

Just two days after hearing a state government official retort, We also propose putting asset limits on public assistance so people with giant mansions and fancy cars don’t get welfare checks while hard-working taxpayers have to pay the bills. … You see, public assistance should be more like a trampoline and not a hammock,” might we commit ourselves to a relationship of encounter with a person or persons before passing judgement?

DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro’s own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of St. Norbert Abbey or of any other Norbertine.