Jesus Christ liberated us from sin, but also from law. This is Paul’s explicit teaching. Christ liberated us from the law. Not just the law of Moses, but from any law. “For freedom Christ has made us free. Stand firm therefore and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery!” (Galatians 5,1). Thomas Aquinas explains this: the law of Christ is no written code but the Holy Spirit in us. See note 1 below. If the law of Christ were a written law, it too would kill, Aquinas explains, reminding us of Paul’s words: “the letter kills, the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3,6). “The letter here denotes any writing that is external even that of the moral precepts such as are contained in the Gospel. Wherefore the letter even of the Gospel would kill unless there were the inward presence of the healing grace of faith”. Written laws for Christians are only like signposts that point out danger. See note 2 below.
However, the reality is that present-day Catholics live again under a tyranny of law and guilt. Church Laws impose out-of-date laws that limit people’s rights. They also prescribe a moral code of conduct that puts everyone under a cloud of guilt: for teenagers: ‘masturbation is a mortal sin‘; for couples: ‘contraceptives may never be used‘; for homosexuals: ‘sexual intimacy is intrisically evil‘. Certainly laws can be useful, but not laws as these which Church authorities expect to be obeyed regardless of circumstance or meaning. Instead, a Christian should remain ‘free’ even if there is a law to guide him or her. See note 3 below.
We are also living in a climate of fear. Bishops don’t dare to contradict instructions emanating from Rome. Priests are afraid of their bishops. Theologians in seminaries or Catholic colleges do not dare to speak out for fear of retaliation from their bishop or from Rome. When John wrote: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4,18), he may have overlooked the possibility of Christians needing to fear their spiritual leaders . . . Where is our liberation in Christ?
THE LAW OF LOVE . . .
“In responding to the decrees of the Vatican Council and to subsequent documents, what many seem to have attempted is to keep a spirit of law and preach a spirit of greater freedom. People whose practices were determined by law from outside had no reference point when they were offered general guidelines of freedom of conscience in making decisions about matters for which previously they were given detailed directions. For others, if the law was not there or was indefinite, the obligation did not exist. Jesus meant his followers to be wiser, deeper and more loving than this . . . He told his followers that the fruit produced by the tree will depend on the nature of the tree.
“It is precisely through this mentality of fear that the greatest loss is sustained. In the words of Jesus: ‘No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth onto an old cloak, because the patch pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine runs out and the skins are lost. No; they put new wine into fresh skins and both are preserved’ (Mt. 9:16-17). Reading this, I cannot help thinking of the people of the Church being torn between conflicting authorities, communities splitting apart and parents wondering what their children were being taught in Catholic schools, children not responding to what was previously held to be most important, and parents and pastors lamenting their departure from the worshipping community. RC Bishop John Heaps. Read more here.
My own image of Christ has changed from the gentle Jesus in my novitiate days, to the angry Christ when I first participated in worker’s struggles, and to Jesus as the fully liberated and liberating human being when I became more deeply involved in social struggles . . .
A liberational, hope-filled, love-inspired, and praxis-oriented christology is what holds meaning for me. In the person and praxis of Jesus are found the grounds of our liberation from all oppression and discrimination: whether political or economic, religious or cultural, or based on gender, race or ethnicity…Sr Mary John Mananzan — Read an explanation here!
“For centuries the church has taught that every sexual sin is a mortal sin. The teaching may not be proclaimed as loudly today as much as before, but it was proclaimed by many popes, it has never been retracted and it has affected countless people . . . The teaching fostered a belief in an incredibly angry God, for this God would condemn a person to an eternity in hell for a single unrepented moment of deliberate pleasure arising from sexual desire. I simply do not believe in such a God. Indeed, I positively reject such a God.”
RC Bishop Geoffrey Robinson — Read more!
NOTE 1. “That which is preponderant (in the Law of Christ) is the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is given through faith in Christ. Consequently, the New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who believe in Christ.” Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. I-II, q . 106, a1, c.
NOTE 2. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. I-II, q . 106, a 2, c . This whole new meaning of ‘law’ for Christians is well explained by Stanislas Lyonnet in “St. Paul: Liberty and Law”.
NOTE 3. “A person who acts of his/her own accord, acts freely, but one who is impelled by another is not free. Whoever avoids evil, not because it is evil, but because a precept of the Lord forbids it, is not free . On the other hand, he who avoids evil because it is evil, is free. Now it is precisely this the Holy Spirit accomplishes, by inwardly equipping the soul with an inner dynamism. The result is that a person refrains from evil out of love, as though the divine law were commanding him/her, and thus he or she is free, not because the person is not subject to the divine law, but because his/her inner dynamism makes him /her do what the divine law requires.” Thomas Aquinas, In 2 Cor. cap.3,lect.3.