By Byron Macías
There is a tendency among Catholics (and Christians in general) to think of our faith and religion in terms of obligations: “We have the obligation to fast before Mass.” “We are obliged to go to confession at least once a year.” Etc. One could argue that obligation is good for the sake of the souls. After all, for instance, if parents don’t oblige their kids to go to school (when they don’t want to go), they may jeopardize their grades and may have to repeat the year. However, if things we do, say and above all, believe in are operating from a principle of obligation, chances are that we will miss out the entire richness of what is means to be a child of God.
Thus, it is good to keep in mind that we have rights, too! In section II of Canon Law called “The People of God,” we can find some of the rights of all the Christian faithful. For instance, Canon 212 states that the faithful “are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.” Furthermore, the faithful “have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Canon 213 talks about the right to receive the “word of God and the sacraments.” Canon 214 is about the “right to worship God according to the prescripts of their own rite,” dealing thus with inculturation. Canon 215 is about the right to create groups of people for charity, piety or vocation; a good example could be the Knights of Columbus. The rights continue through canons 216 up to number 221, which stresses the faithful’s privilege to “vindicate and defend the rights which they possess in the Church[.]”
We do have obligations but we have rights too! Once I heard that in baptism we receive as a gift that which belongs to Jesus as a right. We are God’s people; we have dignity; we are somebody. Therefore, we have a voice. There is an old song by Air Supply which says “We have the right, you know.”
We Latinos, for example, tend to divinize the clergy and would never question them even if we think or know that they may be wrong sometimes; we usually stay on the obligations side. Part of this originates in our Eurocentric evangelization imposed during la conquista. But, how about a rethinking? How about aggiornamento? How about seeing things from the perspective of a more complete truth. Perhaps this way we will benefit more from the entire richness of what is means to be a child of God.