…The classic example I like to use is the piano. Anybody can play the piano. Not everyone has an idea of how to do it well, but everyone can go up and bang at it and have it make noise. Some people can even sit down, and given enough time, hammer out exactly how to make music on it completely on their own. Some can take it a step further and formulate the entire musical theories on their own. But is all that necessary? The work has been done. You don’t need to “discover” how to play the piano or to devise your own musical notation system. You can be taught musical theory. You can learn how to move across the keys from people who have been doing it for years, and were themselves taught. You can learn from the masters — and from there, you can look at those keys, think about those theories, those notes, those chords, those scales, and write new music using that brain you didn’t check at the door.
That’s Orthodox Piano Playing. Now, do you think it’s better to sit down, without a teacher, without a book, without anything to guide you, having no knowledge of musical notation or form, and attempt to become a virtuoso? Or doesn’t it take study and time and effort and instruction?
Catholicism is a guide for how to be a saint. Not a nice guy. Not an ok person. A saint. It makes ethical and supernatural claims about the world and human life, and these are supposed to be the guideposts which lead you on the road. When the Church says abortion or contraception is wrong, this isn’t arbitrary; it follows from what we’ve learned from God about how and why human life exists and what it means, about human rights, about sacrificial love, about the Cross. Is this checking your brain at the door to accept that, or is it aligning yourself with a teacher and listening to what it has to say?
Catholicism isn’t an all-encompassing List of No’s. It doesn’t care about whether or not you read Harry Potter. It has very little to say about Twilight. But it does say that governments that oppress their people are unjust, and that the freedom of conscience is the foundation of man’s dignity. It says any political system that attempts to take the place of God in man’s hearts is a violence against him, an abuse, a rape of the natural order, and they says “It’s up to you to see how you’ll live your ideals.”
Catholicism is about how man and God interact, how grace and reason meet. It’s you and your noggin meeting God and then, with the tools the Church provides — teaching on the Scriptures, the reception of the Sacraments, it’s powerful and varied intellectual life — you, and your free conscience, cut a route through the morass of the world….