What’s in your dogma? On what belief do all your other beliefs rest? What’s that one belief from which all other beliefs and motives derive?

I heard about two weeks ago a man say in conversation that he’s a Catholic but he doesn’t believe in all the rules or “dogma” of the Church. (He even threw up the air quotes when he said the term.) He said he doesn’t believe God is into rules. (I didn’t ask him to explain the Ten Commandments as I wasn’t part of the conversation.)

But I know that many people think that way. That’s what’s behind all the “I’m spiritual but not religious” thing. That means you don’t believe there are any rules. That simplistic view, I fear, views rules as impediments to happiness. And they can work themselves into some kind of righteous indignation that somehow all the rules of Christianity interfere with real love which they, freed from rules, are now capable.

But the rules of Catholicism are not incomprehensible. They are the well thought out conclusions of thousands of years of study by the brightest and holiest among us guided by the Holy Spirit. Their thinking is available in the documents of the Church. And moreover, these rules were established for our happiness. These rules are the best thinking on love; real love.

Case in point. The rules against abortion are not a “You shall not!” they are a request to be open to life. The Church is asking all of us to say the great “yes” just as Mary did over 2,000 years ago.

Just as the Church’s “rule” that men should be faithful to their wives shouldn’t be seen as “No!” to millions of women. It is more properly viewed as a “Yes” to your wife.

The Church’s rules on contraception are not meant to make sex less fun. The Church is not prudish about sex. Evidence of that is that many Catholics have lots of babies. The Church seeks to elevate sex into lovemaking which puts the other before the self. Because only when we free ourselves from our selfish desires are we capable of love. Truly love.

Just look at what our culture has done to sex. Our culture argues openly for the meaningless of sex. It’s good because it feels good. That’s it. But that worldview views humans as animals who simply act on a primal instinct. And what does that bring us? People treating each other as animals. As less than human.

And somehow that’s supposed to bring us happiness?

It is the Church’s dogma which protects humans from that worldview. But I think that ironically for most people today “dogma” is a dirty word. I wonder without the Church’s teaching, what is their dogma? What lies at the bedrock of all their decision making?

I wonder if in the end it isn’t immediate personal happiness that lies at the bedrock of those who resist “dogma?” Which would be ironic because the Church’s dogma is made for our eternal happiness. And chasing our own selfish desires leaves people in our culture today looking inward which leads them only further into themselves, like a snake devouring its own tail, forming a perfect circle which doesn’t allow anyone outside to enter.