Joy First; Ethics Second

Father Robert Barron, well known for his documentary "Catholicism," which I still can't quite believe was aired on PBS, has a really great essay over Real Clear Religion.

The key graphs:

When I was coming of age in the Catholic Church -- in the 70s' and 80s' of the last century -- Catholics were utterly preoccupied with law.

What I mean is that they focused relentlessly on ethical matters, especially in the area of sexuality. This was true whether one was on the right or on the left. I think of the endless disputes around the morality of birth control, divorce and re-marriage, pre-marital sex, etc. that ripped the church apart in those days. Mind you, I'm not suggesting for a moment that those issues were unimportant or that the people who staked out positions on both sides were unserious. But I am indeed suggesting that a church battling with itself over ethical law presented a deeply disedifying and unattractive face to the wider world.

That is precisely why the church of that period proved so evangelically ineffective, it was so preoccupied with defending (or changing) the church's teaching on sexual matters that it forgot how to invite people into joyful friendship with Christ Jesus. The huge number of people from my generation who have either left the church for other Christian denominations or, more likely, drifted into a bland secularism testifies to this failure.

Am I subtly implying here that sexual ethics doesn't matter? By no means!

I am arguing that moral law follows and attends upon something far more basic, namely, the happiness that comes from intimate union with God.

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