Monday, April 2, 2007

Too Many Rules?

I heard the comment recently that the Catholic Church has invented too many rules. This person was implying that she wanted a simple "love Jesus" Christianity.

Has the Church "invented" too many rules?

Or have we just "invented" too many sins?

As all Christians agree, our primary "rules" are to love God and to love our neighbors. If we did this perfectly, we wouldn't need any other rules, but our nature as creatures of the flesh mean that we keep straying and each rule of the Catholic Church is simply a way of addressing a new sin (or distraction from Christ) that we've invented.

Consider a marriage (which is appropriate considering who our bridegroom is). The one rule in a marriage is love your spouse. However, should the husband start failing in that duty, it might, over time, appear that the wife is too legalistic.

He starts sleeping in and missing work - she comes up with a rule that, if he loves her, he'll start getting up on time so the paycheck keeps coming home.

He stops giving her attention, so she comes up with the "rule" that he should say "I love you" once in a while.

He starts letting his dirty clothes lay all over - so she comes up with a "rule" that he needs to put his clothes in the hamper.

After a while, that husband might complain that his "legalistic" wife has too many rules, but in reality, he has invited too many imperfections into his love for her.

Likewise, the rules of the church are there to address the thousands of ways we keep coming up with to show less love for Christ. We don't respect the Eucharist, so the church asks for an hour fast. We start sleeping in on Sundays, so the rule is that mass is an obligation.

If we just loved Christ so perfectly that our every act was an expression of our love for him, all rules would go away. If we desire for the Church to stop inventing rules, perhaps we just need to stop inventing sin.

Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention.

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