I was reading the comments on KLC's post - she's wondering where to get married, what kind of church, etc. - and a few of the comments reminded me of something that my mom said yesterday at our regular whole-family Sunday dinner: a lot of people like to say that they're Catholic, but not actually live according to the guidelines of the Church.
Catholics have a lot of rules - more than Protestants - and there's no sense in pretending otherwise. It is a precept of the Church that Catholics attend Mass on Sunday, EVERY SUNDAY. If a Catholic knowingly misses Mass on Sunday without good reason (tiredness and good football do not qualify), it's a mortal sin. The life of God in the person's soul is smothered and he/she is removed from the state of grace.
If a Catholic uses contraception, it is a mortal sin. Abortion is a mortal sin. If the person dies outside the state of grace (with grave sin and no confession), he/she goes to hell forever. That's Catholic doctrine.
And here's one to try on for size: there are certain requirements for a Catholic marriage. The marriage must be open to new life (no contraception), the parents must intend to raise their children in the Faith, and both husband and wife must recognize that the marriage bond is permanent, no matter how they feel about it ten years down the road. If these conditions are not met, the marriage is not valid. Anyone who recommends breezing through marriage classes secretly reserving the right to "change your mind" is recommending invalidating a Catholic marriage.
KLC, I'm not addressing this to you in the least. If you're not Catholic, obviously the particular rules of the Church don't apply to you.
Also, this is not my opinion. These aren't necessarily the rules that I think are best. These are the rules that the Catholic Church has established.
I can understand that some people might disagree with some of them. But if that's the case, don't bother to call yourself a Catholic. Why bother? If you believe something else, go believe it, but don't mislead about your beliefs.
When you say you're Catholic, it means something. It means something very specific. It means you accept the authority of the Pope in Rome and the authority of the bishops in your country.
For better or worse, the Catholic Church has never been relativistic, and the moral code doesn't change from country to country or parish to parish. Some rules are just rules, even if you can find a loose enough priest to say he can bend them (God knows not all priests are perfect, or even close).
So a clarification here of things that some people who profess to be Catholic also inexplicably condone.
Pre-Marital Sex = mortal sin.
Contraception = mortal sin.
Missing Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation = mortal sin.
Abortion = mortal sin and automatic excommunication from the Church.
Supporting abortion as a politician = mortal sin.
Voting for a pro-choice political candidate because he/she is pro-choice = mortal sin.
Receiving the Eucharist while in the state of mortal sin = mortal sin.
Hell = real.
Ok, that's it. Thanks guys.