What does the Church Say About ... ?

Our life in Jesus Christ is not one that is burdened by a system of rules and legal regulations. Speaking to this, St. Paul wrote to one of the first Christian parishes, in Galatia, explaining the life of freedom in Christ as achieving spiritual adulthood—we no longer need the codex of laws given in the Old Testament, which he compares to a child’s caretaker—therefore we live a life of freedom in the Gospel. St. Paul continues by pointing out to the Christians in Galatia that this life of freedom can be lived in such a way that they will draw closer to God—the source of life, or it can be lived in such a way that they will separate their own selves from God and embrace death.

It is in this spirit that the Church has spoken on moral issues—the Church does not so much prescribe a list of what we can and cannot do, as much as describe a way of life that is naturally spiritually healthy, versus a way of life that is naturally spiritually unhealthy. When the Church speaks on matters of morality, it is not as a police officer enforcing laws. Rather, it is as a physician helping his patient to eat a healthy diet, get exercise, and avoid unhealthy habits that will lead the patient into poor health or even early death. The patient who refuses to follow his physician’s advice will not experience legal consequences; rather, he will face the real, natural consequences of an unhealthy life. He does not go to jail; rather, his health deteriorates, he feels sluggish or in pain, he may lose his natural capacities, and he may even die prematurely. This extended metaphor shows why the Church speaks up about moral issues: it wants the total health and wellbeing of each Christian, and out of love will both encourage those things that will be healthy and fulfilling—even when the patient, the Christian, does not feel like doing these things—and the Church will also warn against those things that are unhealthy and destructive—even when it may be hard for the patient, the Christian, to hear such a prognosis. 

The following two sections, Care for Others and Care for Self must be read in this light of health and well-being if the Church’s approach to its moral teaching is to be understood properly.

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