Which comes first, the doctrine or the heart?

We know the “other” question very well: what came first, the chicken or the egg? There must be a cause and effect. Some claim simple conclusions, others believe it evokes deeper thought such as how life and the universe began. Wikipedia refers to ancient philosophers who found it thought provoking:

Aristotle (384–322 BC) was puzzled by the idea that there could be a first bird or egg and concluded that both the bird and egg must have always existed.

Macrobius (early 5th century), a Roman philosopher, found the problem to be interesting: “You jest about what you suppose to be a triviality, in asking whether the hen came first from an egg or the egg from a hen, but the point should be regarded as one of importance, one worthy of discussion, and careful discussion at that.”

As so it is one “of careful discussion”! That is, our seeking to discover in this “Pope Francis culture” which comes first or which has more importance, “doctrine” or the “heart” when proclaiming Jesus Christ to the world? Recent commentaries and blogs show that this topic is quite controversial and popular. There are some simplistic answers, it is obvious we need to reach out with love, isn’t that response to “WWJD”?

With the woman caught in adultery placed on the ground before Him, Jesus did not give a recitation of commandment number seven. But, then, we hear Pope Francis say “who am I to judge?” in referring to homosexuals. Are we not to renounce the evil in the world?

For some, Pope Francis is not clear enough in proclaiming what is wrong, not clarifying the law; he is a bit lenient on the sinner, too merciful with blatant sin. Place any of those sins on the scale and yours on the other end, isn’t it obvious which one weighs the most? Or is it? Maybe the hand of Jesus is lifting up the scale. But, isn’t He lifting both sides of it? Where does doctrine begin, morality, the commandments and where does love begin? Shouldn’t Christian love always be reaching out and touching someone?

“Often we are too dry, indifferent and detached and rather than transmitting brotherhood, we communicate bad temper, coldness and selfishness. And with bad temper, coldness and selfishness the Church cannot grow; the Church grows only by the love that comes from the Holy Spirit.” (General Audience of Pope Francis, Nov. 6, 2013)

Back to the chicken and the egg and the sometimes reliable Wikipedia: “Causality is the relation between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first.” The consequence of love is a response, action. Anyone who has loved knows that they have to do something about that experience of love; one cannot remain the same after love has been truly known or it is not love. Recently I heard of a woman returning to the sacrament of reconciliation after 15 years just because she was moved by the tenderness in the way Pope Francis spoke. That sure is some effect. Perhaps doctrine is being proclaimed louder than ever. And as for the species of the chicken and the egg…I guess one can’t last too long without the other. A little like our doctrine.



About Jill Preisack

Jill Preisack was born in St. Louis, Missouri and received a Bachelor of Science degree at Truman State University (formerly called Northeast Missouri State University). While working in business and mortgage services, she discovered her calling to the consecrated life in Regnum Christi. Jill has been consecrated for 20 years and since then she has completed a Master’s degree from the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family in Rome and a bachelor’s degree in Education from Anahuac University in Mexico. She is currently finishing her degree in Pastoral Work and Religious Studies. Over the years, Jill has worked extensively with girls and young women, giving spiritual guidance, directing retreats, camps, conventions, missions and outreach activities. She arrives to Chicago from Atlanta where she worked in campus ministry at Holy Spirit Preparatory School for the past eight years, overseeing the faith and sacramental formation for students, teachers and parents. She is currently working at Mater Ecclesiae College in Greenville, RI
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