Why?

Catholics don’t ask why enough.

Seriously.

To some — for instance, those who have the run-of-the-mill dissenter in mind — this might seem to be prima facie false, given that plenty of Catholics seem to question Church teaching. But I’m not talking about questioning Church teaching in the sense of doubting it; yes, dissenters do that aplenty, but what they don’t do is ask “Why?” with sufficient depth, with the goal of truly seeking to understand what the Church teaches on topic X and why she teaches that. In the case of most dissenters I’ve encountered, their “why?” is really “Well, that’s silly, I don’t believe that,” without any substantial engagement with the Church’s teaching, without any grappling with the inner rationale of the doctrine. For the most part, dissenters don’t really ask “why?”.

But they should. And so should the rest of us.

Remember the greatest commandment: love God with your whole heart, mind and soul. Now, as our everyday experience of love indicates, you can’t love what you don’t know, and you can’t grow deeper in love without growing deeper in knowledge. We are called to grow deeper in knowledge of Church teaching not merely so that we have a greater intellectual grasp of our Catholic beliefs — although that is certainly essential — but so that we can grow in our love for God, so that we can grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Catholic doctrine isn’t mere abstract theological mental gymnastics… it matters to my life, to our life, to the life of each and every human being. There is no doubt that there is great intellectual depth to Church teaching, but we cannot forget that those teachings have a real impact — or ought to have a real impact — on our existence.

The evangelization efforts of many Catholics today are focused on demonstrating the truth and rationality of Catholic teaching, and rightly so. But we cannot stop at a demonstration of the truth of Catholicism… we need to show its relevance as well. I’m not saying — as some do — that we need to make it relevant… it already is relevant. Just as we are called, not to make doctrine true but to reveal its truth, so too are we called to reveal the relevance of Catholic teaching. There are all sorts of truths which have little or no bearing on my life: the atomic weight of iridium, for example, matters little to my day-to-day existence.

The truths of Catholicism, however, are far different. Despite the fact that Church teaching can seem abstract and overly-intellectual, the reality is that these truths do speak to our daily existence, if we allow them to.

We need to be encouraging ourselves and our fellow Catholics to ask “Why?” even more, not less. The more we know, the more we can love.

One Response to Why?

  • This relates very much to the relationship of orthodoxy to orthopraxis. You must have both.

    There is not a day that goes by that I don’t ask why. Why am I Catholic? Why does the Church teach what it does? I think we must approach the teachings of the Church as little children. We must approach the teachings with docility. The Church has much to teach us. Let us set down at the feet of the Bishops who has this authority given to them by Christ through the Apostles. Let us listen and receive what they have to teach us with an open heart and mind.

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