Starting very soon, the speed limit on Interstate 75 to Atlanta will be a straight 70 mph. No more of these 55s and 65s. The law is changing. Why? Well, if you drive up to Atlanta every week like I do, you know that nobody drives 55 anymore.
Most laws make sense when they’re written. But how about:
Michigan: Husbands can’t scowl at wives on Sundays; women can’t cut their hair without the husband’s permission.
Uganda: The father-in-law -- not the groom -- has intercourse with the bride on the night of the wedding.
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Utah: First cousins can marry -- if they’re 65 or older.
Evidently, these laws make sense to the people in Michigan, Utah and Uganda. Otherwise they’d be changed. When a law ceases to “make sense” to the people who must obey it, it’s eventually abolished. This is true in civil law, but it’s also true in religious (or canon) law.
I remember when Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Friday. If you decided on a hamburger instead of fish, you committed a “mortal sin” and were condemned to hell fire if you died before confessing to a priest. That law was changed. Today, Catholics are forbidden (again under mortal sin) to practice birth control. More than 90 percent of them break that law, so you know it also will be changed soon.
Father Allen J. McDonald, the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon, wrote last Wednesday that “divine law” cannot be changed or questioned. I would certainly agree, but who tells us what God has decreed?
Obamacare is the law of the land. It was passed in the House and in the Senate without one Republican vote and was signed by the president before most legislators could read it. Nancy Pelosi said: “We have to pass the bill so we can find out what’s in it.” We know what’s in it now, and parts of it don’t make sense. Those parts will be changed.
The point is this: We are a nation and a people of laws. Until the law is changed, we will be punished if we break it. I’ll get a ticket if I drive 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, even though everyone else is passing me, and I know this law will be changing soon. But what if I just question the law? Am I subject to abuse and punishment if I just raise objections and alternatives? It certainly seems that way with Pope Francis.
The pope has done nothing since his election but raise questions. Many Catholic traditionalists are appalled. Australian Cardinal George Pell has started counting the 37 antipopes in the history of the church and wondering out loud if Francis is No. 38. An American journalist, Ross Douthat, wrote that this pope may be preserved from error “only if the church itself resists him.”
Last month in Rome, tensions arose when Vatican officials released a mid-meeting report that contained language more welcoming to gays and people in civil heterosexual unions. This is the language Pope Francis has been using for months. Guess what? It was not included in the final Vatican report. Asking questions can get you in trouble.
But don’t let that “trouble” deter you. We are surrounded by laws in our workplace, in our clubs, in our churches, in our homes, in our cars and throughout most aspects of our daily lives. Which ones make sense and which ones don’t? Raise your hand; ask the question. You might get slapped, but it’s the only way change will ever happen.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corp. and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is www.billcummings.org.