I’ve been asked more than once why the Catholic Church, and the pope in particular, feels the need to tell everyone what to do all the time. The came to light recently as the election warmed up. Many bishops spoke out on what issues Catholic voters should consider and what weight to give them. I’ve heard it said more than once that “the old guy in Rome should butt out of people’s lives and let them make their own decisions.” Sound familiar?
Well, first of all, the Church doesn’t take any position on the vast majority of the decisions we make day in and day out. The pope doesn’t tell everyone what to do on everything. He won’t tell you what color of shirt to wear or what you should eat for supper tonight. The Church does take a position on some topics, but only particular ones.
The Church will tell Catholics, where to stand on issues of morality and faith. Why is that? The main reason is that Jesus they can! And not only that they can, but that they must!
In Mathew 16:18, Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom and whatever he binds will be bound in heaven. This is a simple passing of authority. Jesus is saying that while he is gone, that is after the Ascension, Peter is in charge. He can make binding (infallible) statements.
When it comes to faith and morals the Church has a right and an obligation to speak up on what is right and not. The Church has said abortion is intrinsically evil; that the act is in and of itself a grave moral sin. There is no redeeming quality to it, it cannot be excused no matter what. That’s some strong language to be sure, and it’s the Truth!
In a world ruled by relativism (what’s bad to me may be good to you) it’s essential that we have an objective, Holy Spirit-led Church to help us tell what is right and what is wrong. That’s why the Church makes statements about faith and morals, to keep us on the right path and out of sin; not to micro-manage our lives.