I’ve been seeing these kinds of statements lately, regarding evangelism and Christian charity–‘it is important to focus on what binds us, and not on what divides us.’ ‘I live my life just loving God and not adhering rigidly to some doctrine.’ ‘If you focus only on doctrine instead of charity, then you will only be a rules follower, and be unable to win people over to the truth.’
Somehow the ideas of doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church, have been characterized as distasteful. It kind of reminds me of how the word ‘intercourse’ was profaned. Originally the word meant communication, exchanging of information and ideas between parties. In the Old Testament, the word for physical intercourse between husband and wife is translated ‘to know’. Adam knew his wife, and she conceived. The concept is that intimate knowing brings forth life. In the general sense, intercourse ties people together in a constructive exchange of dialogue.
Back to doctrine. Specifically, Catholic Doctrine. The definition of doctrine includes a collection of teaching/beliefs which is authorized by a religion. Inherent in that definition is the concept that these are trustworthy. They have been studied and tested by the promoters, and are worthy of following by the individuals.
So how is it that ‘doctrine’ is so often perceived as a negative? Could it be that our human nature, marred by original sin and concupiscence; that nature, opposed to being controlled by any authority, rejects the notion of any doctrine which inhibits its fleshly desires? In our culture, the value of the individual takes precedence over society–individual rights are revered. Laws are often enacted which coddles the person at the expense of society at large. Abortion, euthanasia, free speech–theses are but a few examples of ‘rights’ which often pits an individual against a greater morality.
The irony in all of this is seen when the so-called ‘rigid’ doctrines of the Catholic Church are examined. All are designed to bring mankind to a state of sanctifying grace with God, and a state of unity and charity with each other. Consider the Sacraments–Baptism results in regeneration and remission of original sin; Penance restores that state of grace by absolution of sins committed after Baptism; Matrimony seals the marital relationship in union with the Body of Christ, and grants graces to that bond which results in new life; Holy Orders give us the Eucharist; Confirmation gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit; the Eucharist gives us eternal life as Christ Himself becomes our food and drink; and finally, Extreme Unction, which cleanses the soul just prior to its journey back to Almighty God. Within each of these Sacraments are the means by which we please God, make reparation for sins, and maintain the health and unity of the Body of Christ. By them we obtain salvation.
The Sacraments are the heart and soul of the doctrine of our Faith. Holy Mother Church is our fortress. She gives us the way to walk through life in a way that will save us and those around us.
So–what is so awful about doctrine?