October 28, 2022

Ken’s 12-Pack / Ken Ogorek

Things most Catholics wish they knew better: 100% Natural Ingredients: Catholic Morality?!

Ken Ogorek

10th in a yearlong catechetical series

“Don’t impose your morality on me!” Many Catholics have been conditioned to keep their faith—including the moral teachings of Jesus as shared by our Church—to themselves.

But is it really “shoving religion down a person’s throat” when we comment on what folks ought to do as well as the sorts of behaviors we all should strive to avoid? We need to clear this misperception up—naturally.

It’s only natural

Most of Judeo-Christian moral teaching is based on natural law. Natural law essentially says that you don’t have to be a particularly religious person to figure out the basic do’s and don’ts of human behavior.

God’s revealed truth—the specifically religious content of Catholic moral teaching—basically affirms what a person of common sense and good will already knows in her or his heart about how we ought to treat each other. Our hearts are wounded, though. And sketchy catechesis in the 1970s and 1980s didn’t help.

‘Let your conscience be your guide’

Religion textbooks from the late 1960s through the early 1990s often offered a meager exposition of Christian moral life. Among the lowlights of content are these deficiencies:

—The source of morality found in God’s revealed law, as taught by the Church and grounded in natural law, wasn’t adequately treated.

—The binding force of the Church’s moral teaching in certain areas was presented deficiently.

—Instruction on what’s necessary for the formation of a correct conscience was inadequately or mistakenly taught.

So, whereas the fact that no higher authority than the individual’s conscience was emphasized, a key word—”informed”—was often neglected. A conscience can either be well-formed or distorted by the voices in every human culture that run contrary to the Gospel.

I’m OK, you’re OK

A huge distortion in many cultures is what’s been called the tyranny of relativism. Relativism says, “What’s good for you is good for you, what’s good for me is good for me—even if they diametrically oppose each other.”

In the realm of mere preference (for example, the best flavor of ice cream) a relativism of sorts should rule the day. This is legitimate diversity.

Moral relativism, though—complete reliance on personal opinion in matters of principle, like who gets to live or die—should scare the heck out of you.

God loves us too much to leave us guessing about basic moral principles. So, he informs us via natural law and the teaching of his only begotten Son— articulated by his holy, Catholic Church— how we ought to distinguish between what we can do and what we should do.

Synod misperceptions

Our local preparations for the upcoming Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 2023 surfaced a troubling perception among a few participants. This misperception’s gist says, “A Christian worldview has no place in public life, for example, in the entertainment industry. We should keep our noses out of other folks’ business.”

It’s precisely the business of Jesus’ disciples, though, to serve as leaven in society, affirming the natural law that’s evident to all who sincerely seek it, tilling the soil for God’s revealed word to touch lives, change hearts and save souls.

To keep our faith private, as if including a Christian view of the human person in public discourse is an imposition, is akin to falling asleep at the wheel regarding our duty as disciples of Jesus.

So, let’s listen to the voice of our well-formed consciences, striving to influence our culture for the better, by God’s grace and mercy. After all—it’s only natural!

(Ken Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis, has lost his six-pack abs. But his 12-part series, whose theme is: Things Most Catholics Wish They Knew Better, will run through December. He can be reached at his archdiocesan e-mail address kogorek@archindy.org or by using the contact information at www.kenogorek.com.)

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