I originally planned to have this be much closer to the top ten list, but based on the homily I gave today and the circumstances that led me to the topic, I thought it would be good to go ahead and talk about free will today. Throughout its history, the Catholic Church has been criticized, even attacked, because it “has too many rules” or “it’s all about control“, or my personal favorite, “the Church only wants your money.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
As I said in my homily, if you look at the Book of Genesis, God created man and woman and gave them two instructions. 1. Be fruitful and multiply and 2. Don’t eat the apple. That’s it. Two things. Everything in the entire world was there for the taking. So what did Adam and Eve do? God gave them free will so they ate the apple and got thrown out of the Garden.
Given that you and I have free will, the idea that the Church controls us is ludicrous. The Church doesn’t control. She teaches. Think of her as a parent. She tells us that certain things are sinful. This isn’t stuff the popes and bishops made up. It goes all the way back to the Bible. The pope wasn’t sitting around one day and decided that abortion is a sin. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Moses passed them along to the people. The Church, you know the one established by Jesus, she has defined abortion as murder. You and I, through our baptism and confirmation, are part of the Church. Therefore, if we’re true to our word, we should with the Church’s teaching. Remember, Jesus told Peter and the other Apostles, “Whoever hears you, hears me.”
But, remember that Adam and Eve, because they had free will, were free to choose whether to eat the apple or not. They ate and the consequence was that they got tossed out of the Garden. Likewise, you and I are free to accept Church teaching or ignore it. But, if we ignore it, we will pay the consequences. What consequences? That’s where it gets more complicated. Are you going to hell if you use artificial birth control? I don’t know. Adam and Eve got evicted from the Garden for eating an apple. But the sin wasn’t eating the apple. The sin was disobeying God. Personally, I prefer to err on the side of caution, especially when it involves where I’m going to spend eternity.
But, it’s our choice. We can do whatever we want. Isn’t that cool?
Just a short commentary on Informed Conscience. Sometimes you’ll hear dissenters saying that they act according to their conscience and the the Church says that’s OK. Hold on a minute. That’s not exactly what the Church says. The Church says we must used our informed conscience. Big difference. If you haven’t taken the time to study the Bible and the Church’s teachings, you don’t have an informed conscience. If you derive your theology from your local daily newspaper or from Jay Leno, you just have a set of ideas that you’ve come up with yourself, or an uninformed conscience. By definition, an informed conscience can’t disagree with Church teaching.
Here’s the thing. If you’ve taken the time to build an informed conscience, and if you follow it, you’ll never make a mistake. You’re on the runway for the flight to heaven. When the time comes, you’ll be cleared for take off.
That’s really cool.