Moral Law: RCIA Introduction

I was charged this week to give the opening statement, as it were, to the Church’s moral teaching in the RCIA class I’m part of. Here’s the outline I used – considering the intended audience, what do you think?

Visible and Invisible

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

Nicene Creed

The moral law is one of God’s invisible creations. Like all of His creations, the moral law is created from God’s love and desire that we be happy.

Love and Mercy

In all things, we are called first to love one another and be merciful.

A Great Crowd of Witnesses

The moral law is not something given to us by a guy with a funny hat in Rome. It is attested to by millions and millions of saints, great and small, known and unknown, who give witness to its truth and beauty by their lives.

“Chronological Snobbery”

We are not 500 or 1,000 or 2,000 years smarter than the people that lived 500, 1,000 or 2,000 years ago. The moral law does not change. Be careful of arguments that assume we are more advanced and therefore have grown beyond the limited morality of the past.

Conscience vs Conformity

It is easy to believe your response to moral challenges come from your conscience, when it far more likely that they come from a desire to fit in, or merely are attitudes and beliefs you’ve absorbed from those around you without thinking. Beware of going with the moral flow of our times.

Humility and Obedience

Humility and obedience are today so unpopular that it’s unlikely you will hear much talk about them at all. Yet, without humility there is no place for Jesus in our lives. Conscious, humble, loving obedience to proper authority, such as the Church’s authority to teach us about morality is one important way we die to ourselves to live in Christ.

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

6 thoughts on “Moral Law: RCIA Introduction”

  1. This is very good considering the audience. The only suggestion I might have is working in the natural law somehow, that God made us to operate a certain way and we need to respect his design in our conduct? I realize that could be controversial (though it shouldn’t be) and tricky to explain in layman’s terms if someone challenged you on it.

    1. That is a good point – under the last heading, I did mention, briefly, how the Church has always believed that the non-revealed parts of the moral law is knowable to anyone who is willing to put in the time, but that, as a practical concern, we all need guidance and authority. But I didn’t go into Natural Law per se – good idea.

  2. It’s hard for me to imagine that the discursions into “chronological snobbery”, “obedience and humility”, and “conscience and conformity” would be a good way to start. I’d start with something more along the lines of just what morality is, what the moral law is, and how we know it.

    I won’t go into too much of my own autobiography, but when I was trying to learn more about the Catholic Faith, it seemed like an awful lot of people just wanted to refute whatever they thought at Protestant, or a “modern person”, or a scientist would think, and these conversations were seldom helpful to me. There are more pitfalls involved in that than I can easily enumerate in a combox. I’ve joked before that I would have come to the Church more quickly if I had told everyone that I was a Buddhist auto mechanic.

    There is a real challenge here in teaching! Orienting your teaching as “Catholic Moral Thought contra X Bad Way of Thinking” can be off-putting and doesn’t lead to a straightforward presentation of Catholic Moral Thought on its own terms. But there are, in fact, common misconceptions out there, and not to address the reasons that people might be dismissive of Catholic moral thought can lead to the students dismissing it and thinking that there isn’t a response to their challenge. It’s challenging. This is a problem in science teaching, too, but I think it’s easier to deal with in my line than yours because people are not so emotionally invested in their misconceptions about Newtonian mechanics.

    So it depends on your audience, and you know them better than I would. They won’t necessarily be like me, or have my hangups. If you think that something in your presentation is going to arouse a certain kind of negative reaction and that this will be ameliorated by including those sections in the opening presentation, then leave them in by all means. But at least, I’d try to lay out why you included these sections and be more precise about what you are saying in each case. I read your blog, so I know that you think a lot about this stuff and have some sense of your mental furniture, but without that background it would be a little bit puzzling. Maybe the format of an FAQ would be better, I don’t know.

    1. Good points, thanks for the feedback. One thing I left out: this was intended as a 10 – 15 minute introduction, followed by an hour of question and answers. We did the class last night. Specific moral issues were discussed this week and next, so I didn’t have to address them – the team, including the Religious Ed director and the pastor, took questions from everyone present. So, I think your major concern, if I understand it, was not part of my goal here, but part of the larger goal of the team. This little outline was really just an introduction. Does that make sense?

      I was in fact thinking both in general and of the particular people I was to address, so within the limitations of my talent and understanding , the points were chosen and arranged with this crowd in mind.

      The first 3 sections are an attempt to say what, at a high level, the moral law is: a creation of God given to us out of love and for our happiness. It is never at odds with true love and mercy. It is attested to by the lives of many millions of Catholic saints over 2,000 years. The Church teaches and defends it, but does not create it or change it. I thought this was explaining the Church’s moral teachings on her own terms, so that particular teachings would have some context.

      The next three sections were meant to address the three most common problems people have in accepting the Church’s moral authority: it’s outdated, it goes against my conscience, and frankly that no guy in a pointy hat is the boss of me! Humility and obedience are not good things, just signs of lack of self-respect. Not that many people are very clear on this, but it’s lurking – and it came out as soon as the questions started!

      I will rethink and revise this before next year – probably soon, while the experience and your comments are still fresh. Thanks again.

      1. Yes, I think if those are points for discussion after the more basic introduction and you have time for the discussion, it can be a very productive part of the lesson.

  3. “Chronological snobbery” reminds me of how terribly relieved I was to learn that I didn’t have to give up my love of C.S. Lewis in order to swim the Tiber. (Silly, but true.)

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