How to answer "man-rules" issue of Catholic church

How do you answer Protestants’ objections to the catholic church’s man-made rules? For example, the church precepts are man-made… you HAVE to go to church every Sunday and Holy Day, you HAVE to marry in a catholic church, etc? I know there are good reasons behind the rules but how do you answer when it is said to be legalistic because it is forced, not voluntary?

To the Sunday and Holy day obligations, I might suggest that Israel might have, at times, found “keeping the Sabbath” and festivals inconvenient as well. God graciously gives us 168 hours every week; is it to much to ask to dedicate even 1 hour to worship. But more to the point, I would suggest that, in our politically charged word, legalism is a term best left to the courtrooms. We should focus on:

a: loving obedience (can’t wait to get to Mass)
b: servile obedience (all right, I’m goin’)
c: disobedience (I’m more interested in myself than God)

Since the words disciple and discipline have to same roots, we must accept that to be a follower of Christ, in other words a Christian, some discipline must be required us. And thank God for giving us the Church to establish those disciplines that will guide us along the straight path, giving us a solid foundation on which to build to be fruitful members of the Body of Christ.

Of course, we could make our own rules and be obedient to those. The problem is the book of Judges talks about “each man doing what seemed right in his own eyes” a couple times. Without any form of divine guidance, things didn’t work out so well for Israel. Paul tells us later “these things were written for our correction”. Being obedient to only what seems right to us isn’t obedience at all, it’s pride.

God became man at the incarnation. Man made, of course.:thumbsup:

If you obey the Ten Commandments and believe that Jesus is the Son of God, all else becomes easy.

I know that some protestant faiths see confession to a priest as one of these “man made rules”. However, I’d argue exactly the opposite.

For example, in confession say, Jesus breathed on them and said to receive the Holy Spirit, that what sins they forgave would be forgiven. He gave the apostles the power to forgive sin. Now, some ask why Catholics go to priests for confession. It’s because in scripture, Christ gave the disciples, and nobody else, the ability to forgive sins. Why would he have given them this had his intention been all along to just confess directly to God?

Further, Christ singled out Peter, and Peter alone, and asked him 3 times to shepherd the Church Christ called Simon, Peter, “Rock” and said on this rock he’d establish his Church. Christ said he had all authority in heaven and earth. In turn, he said to Peter that he would have the keys to the kingdom, what he held bound on earth would be bound in heaven, what he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven.

Now, with the 12, they had what we could think of as offices. When Judas killed himself, the others made sure to replace him with someone else. The same thing happened with Peter so that in the absence of Christ, the Church had leadership.

Peter, and the apostles, established the hierarchal structure it has. They were given DIVINE authority to do what they did.

Peter, his descendents, and the apostles were given authority to establish the rules they needed for the continuation of the Church in a global world.

To get a driver’s license, there are a whole bunch of man made rules, not to mention engineers who go to school in order to make roads, and engineers who make cars, and business men and mechanics to fix cars, and insurance people, and so on. No one ever complains because there’s too much to learn, it’s too hard, etc, because we see that mistakes happen and there’s a crash, people get hurt. It’s pretty evident why we agree to drive on the right side of the road and stop at red lights.

We may not understand why the Church teaches what it does, but it is founded on Jesus Christ. We can trust that ‘all those rules’ are put in place for our good, so that everyone gets to their destination, which is heaven and eternal life. Mistakes will happen, there will be car crashes. There’s ambulance people, there’s police, there’s the emergency room with doctors and nurses. If you really want to understand all the ins and outs, you can. There’s 2000 years that we are standing on, so you won’t figure it all out in a day. :thumbsup:

I think in the Protestant tradition, it’s not taught that God desires to cooperate with human will. God can do anything, so why have middlemen? To suggest that we need to go through middlemen, it somehow diminishes the power of God, which is not the case.

Protestants desire a “God and me” type of relationship, but we are all created in God’s image and we are all part of His family, if we choose Him. He chose some for one purpose, others for another. He chose Apostles to carry out His will and form the Church, and He sent the Holy Spirit from the Father to be the infallible Guide. Not obeying these Church rules is being disobedient to Christ Who is the “heart and brain” of the Church.

If Protestants can accept that God works with and through humans, not because He has to but because He chose to, then some of this misconception will go away I think. (This might also allow them to see why the veneration of Blessed Virgin Mary is not a detraction of God’s power and worship — it is acknowledging God’s choice to use a human to become Incarnate. Who are we to dishonor His will?)

More often than not, when we try to interpret the motives of the opposition we fail. So, rather than discuss what others teach, let us go to the Word of God. ‘‘For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;’’ 1 Tim 2:5 (KJV)

Hmmmm… just one mediator? Okay. Thus I would pray, ‘‘Heavenly Father, (petition here). In the name of our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.’’ Jesus would hear it and pass it on to the Father, possibly with a comment, ‘‘Father, he is one of ours.’’ I see no need for a third party to interject themselves into the conversation.

Good points. Our genuine protestant brothers and sisters could probably agree to much of this.

I am also a convert. Evangelical Free was my upbringing. Much of my conversion was based on believing authoritative Teaching comes from leadership. We are not following leaders in themselves when we aknowledge God’s Teaching. We are finding God’s authority through his appointed men. You have recognized something significant regarding cooperation with God’s will.

It’s like marriage…its not necessarily God’s will who we choose to marry. He created us to marry, and we have this desire, naturally. But when we find a partner, we are asking for His blessing on that relationship. So many people stress if God wants them to marry that person! It is not what God wants, but what we want. He wants us to love! He wants us to put Him first in everything!!!

So it is with our relationship to the Church. Paul tells us Christ is the head of the Church. And a husband is the head of his wife. We are all feminine in our relationship to God. Did Christ have structure in His ministry? Did the first communities recorded in the Scriptures appoint their own leaders?

If Jesus told the Jewish people to do whatever they command, for they sit on the chair of Moses (which to my knowledge, is not recorded in written Law), then how much more are we instructed to follow the officers of His New Covenant? When christians question where this New Testament office of authority is…they are in denial.

I dont deny this office, but try to see the hidden Manna in it.

From the prologue of the CCC:

“The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.”


I learned a long time ago that even though I have an excellent grasp of my faith, courtesy of a Jesuit primary and secondary education (pre-V II), I am not very good at debating or arguing.
Thus, I have learned not to engage in religious discussions, especially with Southern Baptists, Evangelical Christians, and the like. Nothing I can say would ever convince any of these people that I was even a Christian, or, horror upon horror, that they could be wrong.
Growing up in the Deep South has firmly impressed this upon my psyche.
The best thing a Catholic can do in such social situations is to tell these people that you do not ever discuss religion.
In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to the door, I simply say “I am a Catholic” and shut the door on them. This may seem un-charitable, but they are used to this response.
In all such cases, you are most effective as a proselytizer by leading a good Catholic life and setting a good example.

This is one of the typical results of taking a verse, without relating it to those before and after it, and speculating on what does it tell us. It is always dangerous for salvation of souls to present individual verses of the Bible as pieces of writings independent from the rest. It is closely comparable to what is known as ‘quoting out of context’ in the secular world.

Good point, we never want to take things out of context. Are you referring to the verses preceeding 1 Tim 2:5, where Paul exhorts us to offer supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanks for all men? Where he said that praying for others was good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour/?
(V5 tells us about our one mediator, Jesus Christ.)
Or are you referring to the verses 9 thru 15 where women are urged to dress and behave modestly?

That would be a good acknowledgement.

This is a participation in His mediation! It is NOT outside of His one and only mediation of God and man. We are ambassadors and ministers of God, through Jesus, who is the one true vine.

2 Cor. 5:18
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…”

You could also make your case for Jesus being the first and only individual mediator to God in the surrounding context of this Scripture. This, Catholics will not argue in the least! We will join you in your love for this very important doctrine of the faith. Christ came as The One, yet we who follow Him, are all in Him…having the authority and power of prayer which He gives us. So we are all members or parts of His body on earth. Each member does not contain the full ministry of Jesus who is her head. We recognize His authority through appointed leaders, who have been confirmed so through the sacrament of Holy Orders, similar to recognizing a man and woman as one flesh, who have been confirmed so through the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. And how has God joined them together? Is it not through a minister of this Holy Order, who acts on behalf of the hands of Jesus?



It has been several day since you posted your remarks. Please dont take my silence as a signal that I agree with you or a surrender of my position. Ive been trying to digest your remarks and confess it has been difficult.

Scripture is plain and it says there is ONE mediator between me and God and that mediator is Jesus Christ. If you, or anyone, wants to falsely interject himself in between me and Christ he is not doing anyone any good.

I’m a Protestant, and I’m even confused by what you’re saying.

Are you claiming that Catholics deny that there is one mediator between man and God, being Jesus Christ?

Mediator. You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means. Did not Christ send out the 12 and the 72 to do His work? Did not Christ send forth Mary Magdalene to the 12 and later the 12 to the world to baptize the entire world? Did not Christ later send the rest of the Apostles such as Paul and Barnabas? Did not the 12 appoint a successor to Judas and appointed the 7 as well? Did not Paul appoint Timothy and Titus as Bishops? Did not Peter act when Ananias and Sapphira sinned against the Holy Spirit? Do you accept that none of these, including those not appointed directly by Jesus such as the 7 or the bishops appointed by Paul, are mediators? Do you not accept that the mediator was Jesus who worked through them? If so, why can you not accept that the Church and her priests continue to act in that role, not as mediators but as one of the many voices of Jesus?

I do not know why Jesus chose to mediate with the world through frail human beings. Perhaps it is as Paul says that Jesus chooses the weak so that His strength can be made known. In any case a good portion of the Gospels and essentially all of the Acts of the Apostles is a celebration of this mystery: that Jesus chose to mediate through the works of weak human beings including those I mentioned above but others as well.

As Paul so eloquently reminds us, though, ‘God’s folly is greater than human wisdom.’

No one denies that Christ is our mediator in a unique and superlative sense, but the word “mediator” need not always be taken in exactly the same meaning without regard to context. For example, Christ says, “call no man father,” but this does not mean that we cannot acknowledge that our father is indeed our father. Evidently, St. Paul did not consider his statement that the man Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and men to be taken absolutely without the application of common sense. In Galatians (3:19), he also calls Moses a mediator, saying, Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. The only reason that Israel was not totally wiped out was due to his mediation and intercession. Moses prefigures Christ. However, Moses is not a mediator in the same perfect sense as Christ because Moses did not die on the cross for our sins etc.

Why do we follow “man-made” Catholic rules?

Ultimately, because the Church has come to realize that, as a family and communion of Christ, we need such rules for good discipline.

Liturgy would be much more difficult, and open to error, if the liturgical rules were not followed.

The requirement to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation–and the related obligation to keep Sundays holy to the Lord, and free of unneeded and burdensome work–are to ensure that we gain the benefit God intends. Yes, Jesus commanded us to “Do this in memory of me.” And that requires that we do it, that we gather to celebrate Mass. The human rule is to ensure that the divine command is not neglected. Nor do we come for God’s benefit–the benefit is all for us.

The requirement to celebrate Marriage in the Church, or at least with the Church’s awareness and consent is, similarly, for the good of marriage and the safeguarding of the family and the couple. Marriage is a public institution, with public consequences, because it is for the good of the children and the protection of the couple. Since, say, the state offers income tax benefits to married couples and children, the state has a need and a right to know who is or is not married–and a duty to keep track of marriages. The family of God has a similar right and duty to know who of her children are married, so that we know who has the responsibility to raise and form their children in the faith.

Jesus is the one mediator but just as we are all one as believers in Christ Jesus, Part of one family united as brothers and sisters or Christ, Jesus takes us further and mysteriously unites us to himself. In other words, protestants fail to comprehend the power, breadth, and depth of Jesus’ mediation. Recall he himself boldly claimed that he has all power on heaven and earth given to him by his Father. Thus, Jesus can and does answer our requests when others ask God for us on our behalf. Just as Jesus healed the crippled man when his friends lowered him on a mat through a roof so too can we on earth ask Jesus to help our friends and family. Further, Mary asked Jesus to help the wedding couple in Cana, and he answered her request on behalf of the couple. This power Jesus has extends to those in heaven, which are even more alive than we are on earth. This is how our prayers (requests for help not worship) to saints and angels can then reach Jesus. Jesus did not always heal when the sick person asked. Sometimes he healed a person when others asked on behalf of the sick person. Further, the bible tells us to ask our requests of the saints in Revelation 5. The saints are lovingly aware of our situation on earth and are more than loving and happy to beseech God on our behalf. To suggest that saints would ignore our requests for help would suggest that they are not loving enough to care about us on earth. This is not possible as in heaven there is no sin and all there are holy and pure. Why? They are mysteriously united to God.

Well, what would NOT be an example of a “man-made rule”?

Obey the 10 Commandments and heed the prophets? That requires accepting the rule made by the early Church that what we later called the Old Testament would be considered as inspired, for Christians.

Follow the gospels? OK, but which gospels, there were at least a dozen? Unless you want to wade through a few hundred nominated NT books, you better stick to the Catholic Church’s rule that these 27, alone, are considered the New Testament; and that the NT too, is inspired. The Church didn’t inspire it, but the Church communicated God’s will that these books were inspired, which is how you and I found out about the New Testament.

If you limit yourself to just the (man-made rule of) 4 gospels, then you are a rule-follower.
But if you reject the Catholic Church’s rule-making authority, the NT would be to you just ancient books, on a level with Vergil or Cicero. The Church’s decision to exclude most nominated books from the Bible was controversial in that time; the Church still excludes books from the Bible now. Some Christians that reject “man-made rules” are now rejecting the Catholic canon rule, and adding books, such as gospels. The rule-makers in the Catholic Magisterium are opposing adding or subtracting from the 27.

Are there any rules that Christians follow that are not communicated through the Catholic Church?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit