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Holy Spirit Interactive Youth: Bible Geek: Why does the Catholic Church have so many rules?

Why does the Catholic Church have so many rules?

Why does the Catholic Church have so many rules? Why is everything that is fun, wrong? The Church I go to doesn't tell anyone they're wrong or bad, but whenever i go to Catholic Church i walk out feeling guilty. Jesus died for our sins! Why don't the Pope and Bishops and priests understand that? I want to live how Jesus wants me to, so who do I listen to? You seem like a good guy, can you explain it to me?

Wow, I love the authenticity of your questions. It sounds like you are really hungry for truth and searching for it. You should be proud of yourself. Many Christians, regardless of denomination, never get to this level of self-awareness. God is moving in your heart, believe that.

Now, you’ve asked a lot of questions here. I can’t really do justice to all of them, but let me see if I can offer a little direction a few of them.

We’ll break down your questions/statements one at a time, okay? I’ll put your questions in italics to make it easier…

Why does the Catholic Church have so many rules?

The real question should be, “Why do people sin so much?” The people in the time of Moses probably thought “ten” were too many commandments (rules), too. People only complain about rules (or the number of rules) when it makes their sin more difficult to do without guilt or shame. The Israelites didn’t like God’s commandments back then, we don’t like God’s commandments today. Not much has changed in 3000 years (except technology and fashion).

The reality is that “the Church” is not a group of old guys with big hats sitting in Rome, wringing their hands and cackling, saying things like “how can we make peoples’ lives more miserable?” Far from it. The Church is the bride of Christ, led by the Holy Spirit. In that way, the Church is perfect. The Church is also entrusted to imperfect beings, not just the Pope and the Bishops, but you and me. We are all the church; we are all sinners. But God preserves His Church (Mt.16:18, Acts 15:28, Mt 18:17-18, Mt. 28:18-20, Mt. 7:24).

That being said, it’s important to understand why Christ formed His Church, as the guardian of truth (Jn 16:13, 1 Tim 3:15, Jn 18:37). The truths that the Catholic Church teaches and protects come from God, not from a group of people. Those truths are unpacked, fully, in the Church’s teachings. The purpose of “truth” or “rules” is to help us live holy lives, selfless lives that will keep us right with God, teach us how to love properly and demonstrate to our brothers and sisters in faith, how to love God. The purpose is for our salvation (1 Peter 1:9).

Why is everything that is fun, wrong?

This is a common misunderstanding, and a dangerous statement. Think about it. If what you’re referring to is premarital sex or drug use, drunkenness or profanity, cruelty or selfishness, all those “fun things” that the Church says are wrong…what kind of Church and what kind of God would be pleased by such things?

Using other people is wrong. Using anything that alters your reality or limits your ability to make good or responsible decisions is wrong. Because something “feels good” doesn’t mean it’s right. Because we have a desire to do something (sin), doesn’t mean that we should. That’s not living freedom. Giving in to our desires, constantly gratifying our flesh, enslaves us to our flesh it does not free us.

I’ll admit. I used to say the same thing as you did here. I used to believe that I couldn’t “have fun” and live a holy life at the same time. What I found out was that my life was boring because I was boring. I was so self-concious and so worried about what others would think of me, it suffocated me – my joy, my sense of humor, my true “dorkiness” and quirkiness that God put within me. I also realized that my friends were terrible. They were even more paralyzed by other’s opinions. They didn’t know how to have fun without drugs or alcohol. They were afraid of a healthy relationship and they sought out broken ones where they could dominate the opposite sex or use them. The opposite of love is not hate, it is lust, it is selfishness, and that is the truth.

Once I changed my attitude, my perspective and my friends I quickly began having more fun than I had ever had before. My life became more joyful. My faith got stronger. And my life has never been the same…it’s gotten better everyday. True fun isn’t wrong, manufactured fun (selfish and short-lived) is wrong.

The church I go to doesn't tell anyone they're wrong or bad…

And I am sure that church is full.

I could write pages about the above statement, but I really don’t want to digress. I also don’t want to slam any church or leave you feeling like I don’t respect where you go. I’ll say this: write out that sentence above on a clean sheet of paper and spend some quiet time reflecting on the words. Journal about them. Keep them close to you as you read Christ’s words in the Gospels, words of love that correct sinners, challenging people to change. See what God puts on your heart about that statement.

…but whenever i go to Catholic Church i walk out feeling guilty.

I’m sorry that you have felt that way, sincerely I am. Catholic guilt is a commonly used phrase. The problem is that it’s not theologically accurate. Guilt doesn’t come from God. By extension, guilt does not come from people acting in and lending their voice(s) to God.

If you’ve felt guilt in a Catholic Church the first question you should ask is not, “Why is that person (or church) making me feel guilty” but, rather, “What have I done, what sins have I committed that I know in my heart to be wrong (by virtue of my conscience)?” Most likely, it’s not the Church or the priest (speaking on behalf of the Church) that is making you feel guilty; the guilt is coming from within you and from that tension between your flesh and your soul, the Church is just speaking truth and with that truth, the dark recesses of the soul are illuminated. Truth illuminates sin and darkness. Guilt is a byproduct of our fallen nature; it comes from within. If there were no sin, would there be any guilt?

Jesus died for our sins!

Yes, He did. His sacrifice on the cross was perfect and everlasting. That being said, salvation is a free gift, but that gift can go unopened. I don’t have the space here but if you’d like to read more about this…check out more on the topic of salvation and whether or not “you are saved”.

Why don't the Pope and Bishops and priests understand that?

The Pope and Bishops absolutely understand that Jesus died for our sins. The Pope and the entire Magisterial body of Cardinals and Bishops wear a crucifix for a reason, to remind us not only of the resurrection but of the sacrificial death on the cross. They understand the premise that many modern Christians have lost sight of - without sacrifice there is no love.

Making such a generalized, broad stroke statement that dismisses not only the respect deserved by our shepherds in faith but that blindly dismisses their education is short-sighted and completely without basis. The Pope and most Bishops have far more theological training and study than most pastors. They also have 2000 years of tradition on their side, rooted in a Church that gave us the Bible, itself. The real question is not why don’t the Pope and bishops and priest understand Jesus’ sacrifice, but, rather, “Why do so many people long for a Christianity that does not require significant sacrifice?”

If you’d like more information, from a Scriptural and historical perspective, feel free to read more about the Pope.

I want to live how Jesus wants me to, so who do I listen to?

You listen to the Holy Spirit, always. God speaks through the Spirit. Jesus speaks through the Spirit. The Spirit speaks all the time, in a variety of ways. If you knew that your Church was absolute truth, if that spoke to your soul, you wouldn’t have asked this question. Seek truth, not comfort.

Spend time in the Catholic Church when no one else is around and when Mass is not going on. Jesus is there in the Eucharist, whether you understand it or not, whether you believe it or not. Spend time in silence. Open your mind. Open your heart. You will know it to be true.

Read Scripture, frequently. Learn more about how and why the Church put the Scriptures together. Learn about the early Church before the Bible existed in its present form, or before the Gospels were written down. In addition, read The Catechism of the Catholic Church and open your heart. You’ll find that there is truth greater than your own opinions and understandings. The Spirit is always present to you, to guide you to truth. Let Him.

You seem like a good guy, can you explain it to me?

God loves me and thinks I’m a good guy. My wife thinks I’m a good guy, too. So with your affirmation, that makes three!

In all seriousness, I hope this helped!

God loves you. Love Him enough to continue to ask these kind of questions, they will lead you to all truth (Jn 18:36-37), if you are willing to do the work – ask the tough question and embrace the tough answer.

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