CC too legalistic


Help— I need good replies please. I have some Protestants friends who have issues with the CC because they say its “too legalistic”; meaning that the CC teaches that children must be baptized at an early age, one **must **make First Communion, must be confirmed, must go to confessions, etc, etc. Not questioning infant baptism nor anything else just the **legalities **of the CC that certain things “must be done”. They believe that doing those things must come from our hearts and that the CC places too many rules that MUST be done. My first thought was that Jesus instituted these things and who are we to tell Jesus how things must be done. Can somebody give me better answers, maybe with biblical references since they believe in the bible only.



My answer probably won’t be complete, but maybe it will help a little. :o

My first response to someone who accuses the Church of being “too legalistic” is to point them to the Code of Canon Law. All in all, it is about as long as the shortest Harry Potter book (just over 300 pages). The Church has been around for 2000 years and all its laws fit into one little paperback. Even tiny villiages that have been around for 50 years have law books that dwarf the size of the Church’s law book. If the Catholic Church really was so legalistic, wouldn’t you expect their primary book of laws to be bigger?

Second, was God being “too legalistic” when He gave Israel the Ten Commandments? Not only that, also read through Leviticus and Deuteronomy. It was more than just those ten commandments. God was pretty specific in telling the Israelites exactly what to do. The Catholic Church’s laws look somewhat lax in comparison.

Finally, it isn’t simply about what must be done. The ten Commandments aren’t just some divine “Donnie don’t do” list. They are guidelines on how to live a happy life. So too, the Church’s urging for us to receive the sacraments are not just some arbitrary hoops that the pope wants us to jump through to get grace out of some divine pez dispenser. The Church is following the will of Christ Himself on how people can best get to heaven and live happy, full lives.

We follow the laws of the Church, particularly regarding the sacraments, because we know they were instituted by Jesus Himself for our benefit. How could we not do what Jesus wants us to do? Perhaps some receive the sacraments solely out of a sense of obligation and fear of hell, but the true motivation ought to be out of love for our Lord and the Church He instituted.


Joe’s reply was great. I’d like to add however, that it simply amazes me that some in society can’t stand living within guidelines and “rules.” So many people feel that they should be allowed to do whatever they want when they want with whomever they want as often as they want. Moreover, when they go looking at Churches to join, they seem to bring that mentality right a long with them. :shrug:

Incidentally, we baptize our children at an early age because we love them. Not because it’s “in the rulebook.” Perhaps your friends don’t understand the concept of love? God bless and good luck trying to help them.


That’s kinda funny coming from n-Cs isn’t it? If “must be done” is the indictment, then ask them what they say “must be done” to come into the Kingdom of God. Then ask them where they get that from at which point they’ll very likely reel off some textbook formula “plan/way of salvation”, which will not include the passages shown in this post on my Catholic blog. How Is A Catholic Saved?

It is important to point out that the first two passages I cite are apostolic sources of the Gospel that they preached and exemplify the Gospel that the Catholic Church preaches today.

You might also have a look at
Who REALLY Preaches “A Different Gospel”?


Well if one understands why the Catholic Church encourages infants to be Baptized, one would stand in line to have them Baptized! If one truly understands what Holy Communion is they would want their children to receive the Eucharist as early as possible and never miss an opportunity to receive Holy Communion themselves. When one understands what the Sacraments are and what Confirmation does for them they would want their children to be Confirmed. If they understood how horrible sin is they would stand in line for Confessions as soon as they realize they committed a sin.

It that so many never bother to understand why the Church teaches what she does, they would understand that it is not the Church telling Jesus what to do, but Jesus giving us all the help possible through His Church to attain Eternal salvation.


Thank you guys… very good answers.

God Bless.


This excerpt is from Christopher West’s Book, Theology of the body for beginners, pg 40.

now this might be pertaining to secual morality but in general this argument can be used with anything the Chruch teaches

"Most people look at Christian morality-especially sexual morality-as an oppressive list of rules to follow. How far this misunderstanding is from the living morality proclaimed by Christ! The Gospel doesn’t give us more rules to follow. The Gospel is meant to change our hearts so that we no longer need the rules(see Cathichsm 1968) To the degree that we experience this change of heart, we experience freedom from the law (Rom 7, Gal 5), not freedom to break the law; freedom to fulfill it. Here’s an example of what freedom from the law looks like: Do you have any desire to murder your best friend? This may seem like an odd question, but it actually demonstrates the point. Assuming you do not, then you don’t need that commandment. Thou shall not murder thy best friend. Why? Because you have no desire to break it. To this extent you are free from the law. In other words, you don’t experience this law as an imposition because your heart conforms to it. Before original sin, the human heart conformed to Gods heart. That is what Christ came back for to show us how to conform our will to His will, and the Church is there to help.

When we allow Christ into our hearts we no longer need the law because we no longer desire to break them. What law do you still need? What teachings of the Church still feel like a burden or imposition to you? Perhaps the problem isn’t the law or the Church, but with your “hardness of heart” don’t throw away the law, surrender your disordered desires to Christ and let him transform them.”

regarding baptism and so on I would just say that it is not a burden because we desire to do what christ wants us to do baptism…our heats comform to his


Odell, Thank you very much for words of wisdom.

The “legalisms” of the church would be something we **want **to do from our hearts and not a must. I want to go to mass on Sundays. I want to go and receive Our Lord’s Body and Blood. I want to fast and abstain. I want to be close to Jesus through His Church. All these “legalisms” will not be things that I must do but things that I **want **to do. Yup… my friends look at things from the wrong angle.

God Bless…


An Eastern Catholic once said to me (regarding protestant view of legalistic CC), “Have they ever read the OT? They act like God doesn’t care what we do. So long as we “Love Jesus” it’s all good, right? WRONG! Just because we have a new covenant and a Church to guide our way doesn’t mean obedience is out the window. God DEMANDS obedience throughout the OT. Refusal has lead to deluges, being eaten by whales, exile, and being held captive for many years by enemies. He doesn’t take our obedience lightly.”

God is a good (perfect, in fact) Father. His children need rules and guidelines.


I think many people catholic and noncatholic think this with Good reason and are not placing any malice with it.

The Catholic church actually has lawyers for understanding church laws. If it was a simple law there would be no reason to have lawyers. It is not one small book, it iss 2000 years of history and every law in the current book has to be understood within the context of the law before it, are they added to were they subtracted from. Does it still hold or not if unsaid. Its not always clear and you have a lawyer argue for it or against it.

Look at some of the threads in this very forum,. Such as the huge soup during fasting days. This is a church that makes a proclamation on a soup containing beef broth or not and then a couple years later in church history they didnt specifcally say anything about that. Now there are two very good and educated men fighting if the rule has been withdrawn or is it still in play, and because it is so complex and they both have supporting documents, you have no idea who is right, or wrong. This all keeping in mind if you break this law you are in danger of a mortal sin.

Now, do I think the church is legalistic no, and yes, because it is composed of people, and some of those people need it to be legalistic.


Well, seeing as how the moment I step out of the Church for somewhere else I have to figure out which is true of the five or six views of what baptism is and what it does (ranging from vitally important to not important at all), calling the Church too legalistic seems a bit rich.


Well we must in fact I know that I have to Im empty if I dont Im not complete but its not a burdon because im free from the law:D


Psalm 119

119:77 Let thy mercy come to me, that I may live;
for thy law is my delight.

119:97 Oh, how I love thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.

We take pleasure in delighting our Lord. The sacraments were instituted by Christ, they are outward visible signs of inward grace. We take delight in the grace of our God, we take delight in doing the things Christ asked us to do. We do these things in the spirit of thanksgiving and giving praise, not out of compulsion.


I am glad to hear it! However, you could have fooled me after the RCIA classes I sat in on. Looks as if you’re in a good parish [is that the term]?


I’m blessed to be a member of a wonderful parish, I thank God for leading me there! Our RCIA is taught by a very holy priest, a man I thank God for, who has a wonderful way of gently presenting the faith without dumbing it down. We are blessed with a very large group of catechumens this year as well.


If they’ve read the OT I bet they also think God is too legalistic.

What “legalistic” means to these people is that an outside authority (the Church) is making (or at least, passing along) the rules, rather than they and their bibles. So it all comes down to the nature of that outside authority.


Protestant churches have every bit as many rules as Catholics do. The difference among some Protestants is that they believe that God will make the new Christian want to follow all the rules.

Don’t want to attend Wednesday service? I’ve been told that a ‘true’ Christian wants to be at church every time the door opens.

Enjoy an occasional beer? A ‘true’ Christian would understand immediately upon salvation that alcohol is wrong.

The list goes on and changes according to the type of Protestant Church one belongs to.

These types of Protestant churches(not all think this way) get around saying that works have any bearing on salvation by proclaiming that a ‘true’ Christian will know and want to obey whatever their church decides is necessary.

I’d much rather belong to a Church that tells me the rules up front and doesn’t expect me to feel them out.

My experience is among Baptists and Pentecostals. I am not talking about all Protestants, just the ones that I have the most experience with.


This all reminds me of the basic Treehouse mentality some of us experienced as kids.

If we want to be a member of a good friends treehouse-club which had everything we could want in a treehouse, we had to abide by the rules. Otherwise, you had to go and make your own treehouse or you got kicked out…

Church related, that’s what many continue to do. Many don’t want to follow or don’t like the rules that have been laid down and so they just go make up their rules and anything goes… Get mad at another group and go set up shop somewhere else.

oh well, that’s what the rule following issues always remind me of.

carry on…


Something to think about and expand on please… from a humble protestant.

on the subject of being too legalistic, lets dig deeper with some questions.

The Pharisees were all about the Law, yet Christ called them blind. Is it possible that focusing so heavily on the law takes our eyes away from the one who is the Law?

The Bible never said that the thief on the cross beside Jesus ever upheld the law, nor whether or not he was baptised. The Bible does say he was saved. So why are the legalities so important?

Romans 14 makes it really clear that there is give and take in the way that the Law is observed, depending on the individuals faith (Strong or weak) and their personal conviction from God himself. Conviction comes through meditation of the Word and prayer. How can any of us say that we are the denomination that has the right answers?

If Catholics hat you are saved by FAITH ALONE, then why is the law so important? Shouldn’t we focus on our faith and let our faith guide us?


Please read Galatians 3:15-25

It speaks of freedom from the supervision of the Law:thumbsup:

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