Friday, December 2, 2011

The Catholic Church Has Rules and Regs!

One of the things I appreciate most about the Catholic Church is that we have authoritative statements of the Truth, of the beliefs and teachings of the Church, and of the rules and regulations that guide the human, earthly operation of the Church.
There’s the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which tells us what we need to know and believe in order to be good Catholics. One of the main reasons I came into the Church, I suppose, is that I tried to prove the CCC wrong. (The MAIN reason I came into the Church was because of the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, though.)
There’s the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, which tells us how the Mass should be celebrated. It was hidden from me for a while; I have often told of how, in my RCIA year, I became a religion teacher at a Catholic high school, and was in charge of the monthly Mass held at the school. Since I was not even Catholic yet, and knew very little about the liturgy, I protested that I wasn’t a good choice for this particular aspect of the job. Wasn’t there a book or some guidelines I could study? “Don’t worry,” I was told. “The kids know how to do it. They’ll show you everything you need to know.” Uh huh.
There are tons of “documents” – papal encyclicals, motu proprios, instructions, and other papers that may or may not have official names. In particular though, I found the papal encyclicals important because of the authority of the Holy Father in regulating the life of the Church.
And there’s Canon Law, which Dr. Edward Peters tells us, is “the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the western world, is the internal legal system of the Catholic Church. It affects virtually every aspect of the faith life of some one billion Catholic Christians throughout the world.”
So, we have lots of rules and regs, which really irritates some people, but which is actually a huge blessing. Having an authority to turn to enables us to avoid squabbling over things like what we can or cannot sing at Mass, whether we’re required to believe abortion is always a grave sin, and how often we are required to go to confession or receive Holy Communion. If we didn’t have the Church’s authority to lead us, then we would be reduced to a divided community of Catholics, some of whom would be saying, “But the Church says…”, while others would be saying, “I have the right to believe what I believe.”
Oh…wait. That last sentence…um…I think we pretty much have been reduced to that these days. Now, how can that be?! What about those rules and regs?!
Stay tuned for more thoughts on this subject.

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