The difficult issue of how and when to correct a brother if they are in the wrong is brought up in today’s Gospel. As a priest, I often get asked the question about how to go about this delicate work. Saint Augustine gives some of the best advice which you will find below. St. Thomas Aquinas takes Augustine’s whole teaching on fraternal correction with essentially no modifications.
Jesus tells us to remove the plank from our own eye first as a reminder that if you are not coming from a painfully lower place of humility, you have no business even beginning the process of correcting others. Can we remove the plank? Yes, but in doing so we realize that the eye previously blinded by the presence of the plank has suffered permanent damage. When we remove the plank from our eye, we can indeed see more clearly – however, since our eye is damaged, we will never see well enough to be certain of what we see. Therefore, not only must we first humble ourselves, before correcting another, but we must then recognize that even the problems we think we see in others could be due to a permanent problem in our own perception. When your eye is bad, it isn’t a good idea to do surgery: if you can’t see well, you shouldn’t try yourself to remove a speck that you think you see. It is better left to someone who can see the speck clearly, or the person themselves.