Skip to main content

Spiritual Informed Consent

A couple of days ago I wrote about how the bishops have not done a good job protecting our Catholic brand. They have allowed too many people to wave the Catholic banner as they offer false and damaging teaching. We are a thinking Church. Every Catholic must follow his informed conscience. In addition to knowing what the Church teaches and why it teaches what it does, an informed conscience must know the repercussions of a given choice or action.

As a physician, I am very familiar with the concept of informed consent. Patients cannot make intelligent information about their health care unless they have all the information about the benefits and risks of their medical options. It is my job to give my patients this information.  I think it would be helpful to use this approach as part of catechesis. Consider it spiritual informed consent.

The goal of medical care is optimal health. The ultimate goal for spiritual health is Eternal Life. Christ died for us that we might live. The gift of Salvation is ours if we choose to accept it. But we do have to accept it. How do we accept it? By doing the will of the Father. Therefore, we reject this great gift when we choose not to do God's will. Every time we sin, we are turning our back on Eternal Life.

Now just as diseases vary in their severity and curability, so too our sins vary. Some are more lethal to our souls than others. The sin of missing Mass, sexual sins, the sin of abortion, murder, and others are so significant that we call them mortal sins. They completely separate us from God. Even these mortal sins can be forgiven. Nothing is too big for God's mercy. But we have to approach God and ask for this forgiveness. We must be truly repentant. And if we have not confessed and received absolution for one of these mortal sins, we should not present ourselves to receive the Eucharist.

So here is where spiritual informed consent comes in. Catholics need to know what constitutes a mortal sin. Having taught seventh grade religious education for many years, I learned that many Catholic families had no idea that missing Mass for reasons like  soccer games, vacation, or visiting relatives is a serious sin that needs to be confessed. Catholics need to be told that defying Church teachings has consequences. If you know that the Church forbids the use of contraception and you do it anyway, you have put yourself out of Communion with the Church. It is no different than if you defy Church teachings on marriage and get a civil divorce and remarry without a decree of nullity. There seems to be no problem telling divorced Catholics who remarry not to receive Communion. Priests should tell Catholics using contraception the same thing. If these Catholics choose to persist in using contraception, then at least they do so knowing full well the consequences. It is not right to let them go their merry way without giving them all the ramifications of their choices.

This information needs to be given by priests from the pulpit. In addition, every marriage prep class needs to offer the full Catholic teaching on marriage and the reasons for this teaching. But it also needs to include the serious effects of ignoring this teaching. Similarly, every Baptismal preparation class, First Communion class, and Confirmation class should offer sound teaching that includes the spiritual injuries that occur when this teaching is rejected.

God gave us the gift of free will. We can choose to follow Him or to go our own way. In order to make an intelligent choice, we need to have the whole truth about the consequences of our actions. We need spiritual informed consent.


Popular posts from this blog

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith.…

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so …

United Breaks Guitars

This guy is really talented and what a creative way to get your message across. I think he captured the "indifferent employee" perfectly. They don't just work for airlines. I think I ran into them at Walmart on Friday!