I remember it like it was yesterday, it was February, 2009 and I was just sitting on the couch minding my own business when Emily says “I want to bring our marriage into the Catholic Church”. My first thought – Where the he__ did that come from? ”OK, OK, compose yourself,” I thought, “You’re ready for this, be calm”. ”Why would you want to do that?” was my first question. ”I don’t know, it’s just something I feel like doing,” she answered, “and I already made an appointment at St. Pat’s for us to go and meet with someone to talk about how to do it”. OK, now she’s playing dirty, so I’m going to have to play my trump card – “Do you know that being a Catholic means that you can’t use any form of birth control”. Her answer “No one really follows those rules.” Game, set, match. This is not something I will ever have to take seriously. Despite being born a Catholic, Emily has no idea what the Church really teaches. All I have to do is prove how the Church is wrong and I can put all of this to bed. Piece of cake.
It takes a few months, until about the time that Emily starts going to RCIA, before I start my research into proving the Church wrong. I have quite a few points to attack, but I’m going to start with the easiest – contraception. I choose this one for a couple reasons. One, I know that the world is a better place without all of these unwanted children that contraception prevents, and two, it’s personal. Emily and I are not “ready” for children, and we are not “open to life”, if you know what I mean. Prove to Emily that she is going to have to follow this rule in order to be a faithful Catholic, and it’s over. After I show her what a sinner her Church considers her to be for doing what is morally right (stopping the unwanted pregnancy), I’ll have her running from her pew. First, however, I have to figure out why the Church teaches what she does. Big mistake.
I begin my journey by first realizing that in order to understand what the Church teaches on pretty much any subject, I had to start with the premise of what the Church believes itself to be at its core. In other words, its identity. Which I took to be:
- The Church believes that there is a perfect, all powerful and all knowing God who is responsible for creating the universe and everything in it. That God has a special relationship with the human race, which was created in His image and likeness.
- Through our own failings we have damaged that relationship from the very beginning, and we continue to do so. In order to “right the ship”, God humbled himself and became man, walked among us, performed miracles, preached, taught, suffered, died and rose from the dead.
- After rising, He handed on his ministry to the twelve apostles, who handed it on to others, and them to others, and so on. All the way to our current bishops and Pope. This is the Catholic Church today, founded by Jesus.
- This Church is incapable of teaching in error when it comes to faith and morals.
At this point in the story, I’m not really sure if I believe number one, two or three, but that’s irrelevant. The last one is the key to my argument. If I can show that the church is wrong on just one thing, then the whole thing is wrong. So, armed with that, I begin my journey.
The first thing that I realize is that in this perfect world, which is desired by God, there would be no sex outside of the marital union. God created us in His likeness and image, and as a result He does not want us using each other as our own personal play things. The sexual act was created with a two fold purpose, one is to bring two people together as one – to join them, if you will. The fruit of this act, quite possibly, is the creation of a new person. Two join together to create a new person. This is the idea of marriage – the two shall join together to become one. Marriage, in this perfect world, is a dying of self. You no longer exist on your own. You join with the other and the two of you become one. There is no more “me” and “you”, just us. This is what mariage was created for. Now I had to ask myself – if every marriage was this type of union, would the world be a better or worse place? I think the answer is obvious. Now, it follows that if God is perfect, and we were created in His likeness and image, wouldn’t this be His desire? It has to be, simply because anything less that this completely self giving union would be worse. In other words, further from perfect, further from God.
So now, we have a world with no sex outside of marriage, and that marriage is the perfect self denying union of two people. My argument is already starting to fall apart, and I just started. But I’m not giving up that easy, more to come in the next post.