Wednesday, June 12, 2002


It may well seem funny, coming from me, but I want to say a word about why it’s important to follow the teachings of the Church. (It will seem especially funny to the handful of readers who know me well.) I have with this blog occasionally questioned in a very direct way some doctrine, and if I haven’t actually reached the level of heresy (I don’t think I have) I certainly have staked out some ground well to the left of center.

But don’t take my word for it, when I have.

Let me repeat that: don’t take my word for it.

The doctrines of our Church are important, carefully thought out, and deserving of great weight in your moral thinking. They cannot and should not be dismissed lightly or out of hand. They certainly should never be dismissed because they are inconvenient, or conflict with some political ideology. They should only be set aside gently and carefully after much deliberation and, finally, because in your moral heart you truly find them to be wrong. And even then, you must be careful.

After all, you may disagree with teachings on sexuality (to take a common example), but it is hard to see how following them can lead you into sin. It is very easy to see how dismissing them might. If you are gay or unmarried but behave chastely, for instance, there is no sin there that I can see. But if you decide Rome is wrong in principle, it becomes very much easier to travel a path that does lead to sin, even if you are in fact right. And if you decide that the teaching is wrong not on the merits, but because it interferes with your “self-actualization” you are likely to wind up in sin without having to take very many steps at all.

The potential harm of my being wrong almost always outweighs the potential harm of the Magisterium being wrong. If I argue that extramarital sexual activity is not always sinful and am wrong, the consequences can be unfathomable for someone who says, “Well, if that’s what JB the Kairos Guy thinks, that’s good enough for me.” If someone decides to follow the Church teaching and it is wrong, well, then the worst that happened is he or she wound up being more chaste than was strictly necessary, in the end a purely worldly problem.

In my case, anything I am willing to argue about on this site is something I have spent much time studying and praying over and trying to understand in the context of the Church. When I disagree on an aspect of sexuality, I do so not because the Church isn’t “keeping up with the times” but because I think the Church has not been consistent with sexual matters compared to other areas of moral theology. I have done my homework, and am prepared to discuss it with others. In the end, I may be wrong, but as I understand moral theology it is not sinful to be wrong; it is sinful to know one is wrong and not care. I am also eager to be shown my error if it exists, that I may more quickly wind up on the right path.

But if you haven’t done your homework (and I’m like Cliff Notes in this regard: no credit given), then you haven’t fulfilled the most basic obligation of moral behavior. You haven’t sought to inform your conscience of the basic rules of right and wrong, and so have no sound basis for disagreeing with the Magisterium on anything at all.

To be Catholic, or even to be Christian, at least truly to be so, one must start by acknowledging the existence of Truth and of truths that exist outside of time and place, that always and everywhere apply. It is all too easy to forget that in the present climate of the world. If you want to deny the truth of a teaching, you had better be prepared to appeal to a higher one.


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