When St. Paul had to play the managerial role of a judge

Church DisciplineSo St. Paul had already been away from the community he had founded in Corinth.  Yet, despite having left leaders in that community, he still kept an eye in the spiritual performance of the people he had come to love as a father loves his children.  He received news from them and he began to send letters with proper instructions.  At times, his letters were not happy ones.  He acted as a judge dealing with wrongdoings as he saw fit.  Such was the severe admonition he gives in the case of the incestuous relationship of a member of the community:  “For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit.  As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this…  hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 5:3)  Experts agree that what this meant was that he was to be expelled from the community.  Because he cared, he acted as a judge.  The tradition of the people of the Law knew that a leader was called to be a judge.  Not in vain were those leaders like Gideon, Deborah, and Samson called Judges.

As a pastor in a parish I learned the importance of being a judge of the people of God.  People came to me with complaints.  One complained that the secretary was rude, another complained that he was mistreated by the Food Pantry volunteer.  A parent complained that the catechism teacher was unfair with her child.  These complaints were just part of the job.  I learned how important it was to be a fair judge.  Moses was known to be a fair judge.  King Salomon was also given wisdom to judge the people.  A good judge is not easily swayed by the complaint of one individual.  I would listen with interest and patience.  I would assure them that I would look into it and I would.  I would begin to investigate.  I would ask for second opinions.  I would observe first hand as much as possible.  I discovered that at times, there was foundation in the accusations.  At other times, they were not very well founded.  And I did take action.  Part of my job was to make sure we had good employees and leaders serving the people.  When I had enough evidence that the volunteer was not doing a good job, I would move that person from that ministry.  It required tact but it required decision.  I was not afraid to fire an employee when necessary.

At times I have found leaders who abdicate to their role as a judge.  Some avoid the issue altogether.  Others are easily swayed by what they hear without investigating further.  Both actions are to the detriment of the people being served.  Whether we want it or not, being a judge is part of the role of leadership.  Henry Mintzberg describes the following roles:

Interpersonal Roles:  Figurehead, Leader and Liason

Informational Roles:  Monitor, Disseminator and Spokesman

Decisional Roles:  Entrepreneur, Disturbance Handler, Resource Allocator and Negotiator

The leader is a judge when he handles disturbances, conflicts that arise among the people he or she leads.  Abdicating this role is to fail in a very important aspect of leadership.   A good judge does not make a rushed decision.  A good judge seeks to listen to both sides.  At times this requires investigation, looking further into the matter.  It also requires tact.  Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo was the motto that Claudio Acquaviva had given to his priests.  This requires balance.  It means “resolute in execution, gentle in manner”.  It requires the decisiveness of a task oriented personality and the gentleness of a people oriented personality.  This is what a good leader does.  It is just part of the job.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  How do you react when people come with complaints?  Do you feel annoyed that they are bringing problems to you?
  2. How do you go about looking for the truth when a complaint is brought to you?  Do you seek to speak with the individual being accused?  Do you give that person an opportunity to give his or her version of the account or do you just admonish him or her?
  3. How do you find the truth when both sides are giving you opposing versions of an incident?
  4. What is your style of handling conflicts?
  5. What do you think of the way St. Paul handled the incident of the incestuous man?


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