How does one deal with legalism, loopholes in the Church?


I am currently going through RCIA and, though I agree with all of what the Church teaches, I am a little concerned at the legalistic way that many Catholics treat Church teachings and precepts. I understand that Love is the fulfilment of the law, as Jesus taught and as St. Paul reminds us.

Do you really believe that God will care on the last day when the books of life are opened, whether somebody had an ectopic pregnancy aborted or had a tubal ligation with the foetus inside, given that both were undertaken with the intention of saving the mother’s life and life-giving potential, and with the understanding that it would kill the foetus? Do you really think that God draws a distinction between somebody who marries carelessly and then goes through a Church annulment and somebody who gets a civil divorce, comes to terms with their past failures then remarries? Will somebody who goes to Confession and prays the Divine Mercy chaplet on Divine Mercy Sunday really gain a greater indulgence thant somebody who walks into a darkened Church at some random hour of the night, convicted of sin in their heart and pours out their tears before the altar, not praying any particular prayer but just begging God’s mercy from their heart?

I don’t have a problem with all these practices and guidelines, I just don’t see that following the practices alone is enough to make you a ‘good’ Christian or Catholic, only that it will help your spiritual development. How do I deal with this kind of legalism when I encounter it or am tempted to be legalistic about my own faith?



In an ectopic pregnancy, one in which conception takes place outside of the uterus as in the Fallopian tube where the foetus CANNOT survive, the Church considers the removial of such to be the removal of a diseased organ. The tubal ligation you speak of results in the removal of a VIABLE foetus. This is not merely the splitting of hairs or an abstract academic exercise. An innocent human being is deliberately being killed. The end NEVER justifies the means—even if the mother will die. God can take innocent life. He has a right to. We don’t.

A Church annulment is the process by which a marriage is proven to be invalid so that a valid marriage has not taken place. Therefore the person is free to marry. Unless such proof can be obtained, a marriage is ordinarily presumed to be valid. One cannot be married to two people. A civil divorce had no power to dissolve a valid marriage.

Paying the Divine Mercy Chaplet is not in the least opposed to asking for God’s mercy in other ways and circumstances.

These are not examples of legalism. They are reasonable if one understands them. We all have to be careful of making false dichotomies and simplistic conclusions regarding the Church. Through the Church we meet Jesus in the only way anyone can meet Him: through humble gratitude.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P;

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