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here was an article in the Straits Times recently titled “Good intentions but devil is in the details”, which speaks of the architecture of the new Vivocity. It has wide open spaces, no narrow walkways, and stairs are few and far between, all so that people with special needs such as those who are in wheelchairs may not find it troublesome to visit the place. However, notes Tan Hui Yee, “the problem starts when one is looking for a particular shop as the store directory, which is about 2m wide, is like a table standing on a metre-high platform. And the shops listed on that directory appear in a font that is only slightly larger than the text in a newspaper.”

Architects contacted to say that the building industry in Singapore “spends too much time complying with regulations and too little thinking about why they were there in the first place.”

The moment I read that, I immediately thought about our own Catholics, who often pay too much attention to following the rules of the Catholic Church and its guidelines without thinking about why they are there. Take for instance what the Church teaches about sex. There are many Catholics who follow the Church’s teachings without questioning why they are there. And for those that do question, they are told by other Catholics (and some priests too!) not to question the Church and just obey.

That however only leads to frustration when a Catholic wants to obey the Church, but cannot see the reason for such a rule to exist. Such frustration is really unnecessary if we only take the time and effort to find out why certain rulings exist. However, the trouble is not that we don’t know what the Church says, but often we don’t know enough. Not having been told the full story and knowing all the details, we often disagree with the Church on certain matters. Certain doctrinal matters even.

Is there anything wrong with disagreeing with certain doctrinal matters? Yes, actually. It indicates that we don’t know the full story. If we do know the full story, then we cannot help but agree with the Church’s stand on matters of faith and morals, because we know that it is God who promises that the Church cannot be wrong on matters regarding faith and morals.

But yes, the Church can be wrong in other aspects, like the Church’s view on science (think Galileo), like the Church’s stand on liturgy which is always evolving and changing over the centuries. Sometimes we have certain preferences that run contrary to the Church’s. It is important to take note whether these are preferences or not. Sometimes when it is mere preference, we try to find reasons to justify why it is right or why it is wrong.

One example is that of the “old Mass”. Some people prefer to have the old Mass, whether for nostalgic reasons or otherwise. Others prefer the Mass that we have now. It is not a matter of who is right or who is wrong, simply a matter of preference. It is when we start to justify our preference with all sorts of reasons that we begin to lose sight of objectivity. This becomes clear when we see some Catholics start to speak ill of, or speak in a condescending tone, of those who celebrate the “old Mass” or those who celebrate the Mass we have today, as though one Mass is better than another in God’s eyes.

Catholics must always take care not to let the devil make us obsessed over the details. Because of this obsession, friendships, relationships, communities have all been broken up. The danger of forgetting why these were there in the first place is very real among Catholics today.

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