[quote=schumamr]As I browse through the questions and answers in the forum, I am struck by the number of “Can I do this?” and “May I do that?” questions. I realize that the large number of rules and regulations may reflect the “richness” of Catholicism, but isn’t there a danger here of stifling any sensitivity towards the Spirit and the freedom we have in Christ?
Actually, although it may not appear so, the Church is remarkably quiet on a great many issues that face people in daily life. The Church sets out the parameters in such documents as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law (not to mention Scripture and sacred Tradition) and then leaves it to individuals to apply what they know about the faith to the situations they face.
Oftentimes, people want to know “What does the Church say about this?” or “Does the Church forbid me to do that?” and are disappointed that there is no “official document” allowing or proscribing certain actions, only general guidelines that they must use their best judgment to apply to the action in question. The questions-and-answers in our Ask an Apologist forum give people the documentation they need to consider and apply the principles to given situations, but the final decision is left to them. We can only aid discernment and help to inform consciences, not be anyone’s conscience.
Think of how you learned mathematics: The teacher taught you the principles of arithmetic, demonstrated some problems on the blackboard, then assigned you homework to practice the principles. Analogously, the Church lays out the principles of faith and morals; our AAA forum demonstrates how to apply those principles to some of the run-of-the-mill problems our participants face; it is now up to you to use the knowledge you gain from Church documentation and from our forum in solving the problems you and your family face in everyday life.
[quote=schumamr]Should I ever make the move to Catholicism, I would hate for my perception of God to recede from a God who created me and continually directs my footsteps to a God who stands behind a grey wall of do’s and don’ts. Even if I were to maintain a “personal relationship” with God (I know, that’s a Protestant term that is sometimes ridiculed by Catholics), I would be concerned that my children would view the Church as a mountain of rules and eventually fade into apostasy.
Some Catholics may believe that the idea of a personal relationship with God is a Protestant invention that they should spurn. Those Catholics would be in ignorance of the many saints who stressed the *necessity * of knowing God personally. One example is Therese of Lisieux, a nineteenth-century Carmelite nun whose book Story of a Soul demonstrates that this was a young woman who was passionately in love with God. Even during the dark night of her soul, when she was tempted to unbelief, she clung to God and continued to offer herself as an oblation to God’s merciful love.
The “rules and regulations” of Catholicism no more stifle an individual’s personal relationship with God than the “rules and regulations” of a car’s owner’s manual stifle a driver’s personal freedom to drive his car. In fact, just as knowing the owner’s manual can help a driver keep his car in top condition and thereby free him from worry about break-downs, so knowing “the rules of the road” in Catholicism can free a Catholic from worry about spiritual “break-downs” so that he can more fully participate in his personal relationship with God.