Choose a topic from Vol 4:

Religion - Yes or No

Necessity of Religion
Reality of Religious Experience
Religion and life
Religious statistics
Nature of religion
Necessity of worship
Neglect of religion
Religion and history
Conversion of mankind

The Christian Church

Nature of the Church
Necessity of the Church
Visible organisation
Hierarchical constitution
Papal supremacy
Perpetuity of the Church

"This Shall Be the Sign"

Notes of identification
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Apostolic succession
"Roman" but not "Roman Catholic"

Dogmatic Authority of the Church

Authority in religion
Catholic Church infallible
The Pope infallible
Papal definitions
Dogmatic spirit of the Catholic Church
"Religion of the spirit"
Individual freedom
Re-stating Christianity
Athanasian Creed
Meaning of faith
Faith and reason
Faith and science
Religion and education
Religion and morals
Catholic countries backward
Universities and religion
Natural Moral Law
Christian principles of morality
Catholicism versus the world

The Power-Complex Illusion

Legislative power of the Catholic Church
Coercive power of the Catholic Church
Catholic Church and political ambitions
Divided allegiance of Catholics
Rome and totalitarianism
Aim of the Catholic Church in America
Catholic Action
Political freedom of Catholics
Catholic infiltration of civic life
Catholicism anti-democatic
Rival totalitarianisms, Rome and Moscow
Catholic attitude to Protestants
Spanish Inquisition
Church and State
Federal Union or "One World State"

Life-Or-Death Social Problems

Social reform necessary
Socialism
Trade unions
Communism
Protestant Churches and Communism
Capitalism
Social apathy of Churches
Catholic social teaching
Marriage
Family life
Primary purpose of marriage
Religion and marriage
Form of marriage
Mixed marriages
Birth control
"Catholic birth control"
Divorce and re-marriage
Catholics and civil divorce
Nullity decrees
Therapeutic abortion
Euthansia or mercy-killing
War

Those Exclusive Claims

Divided Christendom
Do divisions matter?
The "Only True Church" claims
Cause of sectarian bigotry
Reunion Movement
Catholic non-cooperation

Religious Liberty

Religious freedom
Catholic intolerance
Protestants and the principles of religious liberty
Rome and the "Four Freedoms"
Heresy and heretics
Religious rights of Protestants
Religious persecution
Anti-semitism
"Rome's historical record"
Protestant missionaries in Spain
In Italy
In South America
Conditions in Colombia

Are Only Catholics Saved

"Outside the Catholic Church no salvation"
Beliefs of Catholics
Salvation of Pagans
Salvation of Protestants
Why become a Catholic?
Duty of inquiry
Salvation of apostate Catholics
Test at the Last Judgment
Obstacles to conversion
Truth of Catholicism

Meaning of faith

380. Acceptance of your dogmas, you repeatedly say, can only be by an act of faith; but can you explain what that act of faith is, or analyze it, or dissect it?

One can certainly explain what an act of faith it, its proper motive, and its object. One can analyze all that contributes towards its production, such as the part played by a man's intelligence, or by his will, or by divine grace in the making of an act of faith.

381. How would you define faith?

Faith in the Christian sense of the word is a supernatural gift of God with the help of which a man intelligently and willingly believes all that he knows God to have revealed because God must know the truth and could not reveal as true that which is false.

382. Is it reasonable to accept without hesitation another man's word for what happened twenty centuries ago?

Quite, if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the man who tells you is rightly informed and truthful. It is quite reasonable for university students to accept the word of their professor when he tells them that twenty-four centuries ago Aristotle studied philosophy under Plato and in turn became the teacher of Alexander the Great. Later on they can verify the professor's statement if they like by the study of documentary sources for themselves. But they behave quite reasonably in taking his word for it in the meantime.

383. For the facts about Christ we are referred to the Bible as an historical source.

The Bible is quite a reliable historical source.

384. You forget that the Bible has been retranscribed and retranslated time and again during twenty centuries.

That is beside the point. The point is whether or not the Bible has been correctly transcribed and translated. A critical, thoroughly scientific and comparative study of all ancient manuscripts proves that substantial accuracy has been preserved. You could have no more reason for rejecting the word 6f experts in this matter than you could for rejecting the word of experts in physical science for the existence of cosmic rays.

385. One cannot have more than either general opinion or one's own private opinion that the Bible contains the truth.

Whether what is written in the Bible is true is a totally different problem from that concerning the accuracy of our copies of the original writings. But take the question as to whether what the Bible contains is infallibly true because* the writers were inspired by God Himself in what they wrote. Is it true that we have only general or private opinion for that? It is certainly not so in the case of a Catholic. For the Catholic has the authoritative and infallible teaching of the Catholic Church as his guarantee to that effect. To refute that teaching one would have to refute the credentials of the Catholic Church as a divine institution for the guidance of mankind in such matters connected with religion.

386. Your definition of faith sounds very strange to me. In fact I was astounded to hear you declare on one occasion that the faith of a Christian does not mean assurance of salvation.

It is a delusion for anyone, however good he may be, to imagine that he cannot possibly lose his soul. Holy Scripture tells us: "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved." Matt., X, 22. No one can be absolutely sure that he will persevere in good dispositions; and faith does not mean such an assurance. Christian faith means belief in the Christian religion and in all that it implies. Faith is not merely a personal mood of confidence in one's future salvation. It is essential to have right ideas as to the nature of faith.

387. Whatever faith may be, is it not founded on sentiment rather than on reason?

No. No one is asked to have faith in the Catholic religion as a divinely revealed religion without reasonable grounds for such a conviction. And those reasonable grounds consist in external objective facts which can be apprehended by a person quite devoid of sentiment.

388. More converts to your religion are made through sentiment and emotion than through reason.

No converts have ever been made either through sentiment or through reason. All owe their conversion to the grace of God, which enlightens the mind and inspires the will of man. The gift of faith, however, presupposes certain dispositions in the one who receives it; and in their approach to the faith motives will vary according to the different psychological temperaments of the people concerned. In all people both sentiment and reason play a part here; in some, sentiment predominating without excluding reason; in others, reason predominating without excluding sentiment. But the act of faith itself will be the willing intellectual acceptance of the teachings of the Catholic Church, under the influence of the grace of God.

389. Mr. H. L. Mencken says that faith "may be defined as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable; or, psychoanalytically, as a wish neurosis".

Mr. Mencken's description is so little in accordance with the facts that if a man went to any Catholic priest and asked to be received into the Catholic Church, declaring that he thought he had the faith because he had attained to "an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable," that priest would positively reject his application. Far from being illogical, faith demands a sound and reasonable foundation. Far from being wishful thinking, it involves the acceptance of much we would have hosts of natural reasons for wishing to reject. And men who could not in the slightest degree be termed neurotics have accepted and professed the Catholic Faith. A definition which does not fit the facts is worthless.

390. "There is thus," he declares, "a flavor of the pathological in it."

He begins by describing faith, not as it is in reality, but inaccurately to suit the conclusions he wants to draw from it. Then he merrily goes ahead. But anyone can do that kind of thing. Let Mr. Mencken justify his definition before proceeding to base conclusions upon it.

391. "Faith," he continues, "goes beyond the normal intellectual processes and passes into the murky domain of transcendental metaphysics".

Faith goes beyond no normal human processes. If I phone the Railway I Information Office to ask when a certain train departs, it is a normal intellectual process for me to argue that the official who supplies the information would not have the position unless he was able to supply the required knowledge and was accustomed to telling the truth. I therefore quite reasonably take his word for it that the train will depart at the time he says. I The same intellectual process is employed when we have faith in what | God has revealed. In reality Mr. Mencken is concerned, not with the intellectual process, but with the object of religious faith—the doctrines that we believe. Because they are mysterious and supernatural, not wholly understood and beyond the range of normal sense-experience, Mr. Mencken speaks of them as belonging to the "murky domain of transcendental metaphysics." But you don't refute what other people believe merely by a I contemptuous description of it.

392. "A man full of faith," he tells us, "is simply one who has lost the capacity for clear and realistic thought."

To write a sentence like that is to make oneself ridiculous. That men like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Kepler, Newton, Pasteur, Gladstone, Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Newman, and a host of philosophers, historians I and scientists who were men of deep faith were incapable of clear and i realistic thought is absurd on the face of it.

393. "Such a man," he writes, "is not a mere ass; he is actually ill. Worse, he is incurable, for disappointment being essentially an objective phenomenon, cannot permanently affect his subjective infirmity."

Mr. Mencken began by saying that faith is "an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable." Now he argues that, when the improbable does not happen, the disappointment cannot cure the believer. Why not? Because faith is an illogical and even pathological internal condition, independent of outside influences. He is trying to prove his point from the false definition he invented for himself! I'm afraid it is Mr. Mencken who is not merely an ass, but suffering from an incurable mental illness.

394. He adds that the man of faith usually says in substance: "Let us trust God, who has always fooled us in the past."

The man of faith does not say that in substance or in any other way. Mr. Mencken himself thinks trust in God is foolish. He therefore thinks that Christians must be foolish to trust in God, and takes it for granted that they always find their trust misplaced. But of what avail is the opinion of one who does not trust in God against the unanimous testimony of millions through the centuries who have trusted in God and have actually I experienced God's protection and blessing in extraordinary ways? Mr. Mencken may reply that that is their "incurable persuasion." But the retort to that is evident. Such is Mr. Mencken's incurable opinion. And it is worth only the evidence he can produce for it. He produces none. He thinks it because he thinks it. And he offers it to those who have faith in Mr. Mencken-a faith which he is welcome to describe as an illogical belief in the improbable; or, psychoanalytically, as a wishful neurotic affliction.

395. It is difficult for me to understand how a person with a keen and analytical mind can accept a religion as a divine revelation when there is not a tittle of real evidence to prove its authenticity.

You admit that men with keen analytical minds do so. Does not the possibility strike you that they may be aware of evidence of which you are not aware? May not your verdict that there is not a tittle of real evidence available be due, not to knowledge, but to lack of knowledge? If one has carefully studied all that has been advanced in favor of divine revelation and has definitely refuted it all, then and then only is he entitled to say that he personally has a reasoned conviction that there is not a tittle of real evidence for it.

396. The Bible, which is said to contain a divine revelation, is accepted according to a person's credulity.

That is not true. The Bible has a twofold aspect. Apart from the question as to whether what it contains has been divinely revealed, one can simply ask whether it is an historically genuine and authentic account of things said and done by certain persons. Its reliability from that point of view is beyond reasonable dispute. No credulity is required for that admission. But whilst one might admit that, as an historical fact, Christ really lived, and said and did the things recorded of Him in the Bible, it is another matter to admit the claim He made to be God in human form. Acceptance of that claim does require an act of faith. But faith must not be confused with credulity. Credulity is a disposition to believe without sufficient grounds for confidence, whilst faith is a well-founded conviction. The Bible we accept as historically accurate, not by credulity, but on the evidence. The message of the Bible as the revelation of God we accept, not by credulity, but by faith.

397. All your dogmas seem to me to be related to faith and not to any intellectual concept.

Faith is the acceptance by one's intellect of those concepts which God has revealed to be true. It supposes an intelligent grasp of the reasons justifying the fact of divine revelation, and an intelligent belief in those truths that have been revealed. Your own very statement is related to an unreasoning unbelief, not to any intellectual concept.

398. All religious people are alike. In the end they fall back on their infallible faith and say: "J feel it here," with their hands on their stomachs!

It is true that, where revealed doctrines are concerned, Christians rely upon their supreme and intelligent conviction of the truth of their religion. But they do not profess to believe in it in or with their stomachs. To have to fall back on such a sarcastic caricature of faith betrays the insincerity of one trying not to believe in a Christianity he cannot entirely dismiss from his thoughts, and which he uncomfortably feels may be true after all.

399. Is it not amazing that the people of olden times had miracles performed regularly to convince them of the existence of God and of the claims of Christ whilst we are left without such assistance towards such faith?

People of olden times did not have miracles performed regularly in order to convince them, though miracles were more common then. But it is not amazing that they should be more frequent in the initial stages of the Church. One spends more care on a seedling, watering and fertilizing it till it safely takes root, than one does on a solidly established tree. St. Augustine, in the fourth century, said that Christianity Was rapidly and solidly established either with the help of miracles or without the help of miracles. If with the help of miracles, it was obviously from God. If without the help of miracles, then that in itself would be as great a miracle as any that could be wrought on its behalf. As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church herself, with her extraordinary persistence and development, whilst ever retaining her unity, through all the centuries till our own times, would be more than enough to warrant belief in the existence of God and in the divinity of her Founder, Jesus Christ.

400. According to a report in the "Sydney Daily Telegraph Bishop Fulton Sheen, in his convert classes, used to "prove God is a fact with much the same kind of demonstration as when proving elementary problems of geometry on a schoolroom blackboard That was not an appeal to faith.

If we ask people to believe in what God has revealed to be true, we presuppose their conviction that there is a God. To arrive at that conviction one does not need faith. One can arrive at that conviction by reason only, for God's existence is capable of logical demonstration by a process of reasoning from effects to their cause. If a prospective convert is already firmly convinced that there is a God, it is not strictly necessary to take him through the philosophical proofs of the fact. But Bishop Fulton Sheen thought it good that those attending his classes should be made to advert fully to the reasonable grounds upon which the conviction is based.

401. He also said that faith depends upon reason.

He did not mean that reason alone can account for an act of divine faith. Such faith has as its motive, not any merely human arguments, but the authority of God who has revealed a given doctrine to be true. At the same time, human reason has rights which cannot be ignored. It justly demands that before we make an act of such faith, we have rational certainty that there is a God; that He has given a revelation; and that the particular doctrine we are asked to believe on God's word is part of that revelation. In other words, reason provides the rational foundation for a faith by which, under the influence of divine grace, we will to believe most firmly whatever God has revealed, however mysterious it may be, precisely because God has revealed it.

402. Bishop Sheen declared that "people who try to get religion without using their brains usually end up believing that some crack-pot is God because he says so."

It is true that if people ignore the demands of reason and go only by imagination and feelings they are likely to fall into the most extravagant forms of error. The Mormons, the Seventh Day Adventists, Mrs. Eddy's Christian Scientists, the Witnesses of Jehovah, "Father Divine" who actually claims to be God, and many other peculiar sects, can find disciples from amongst those who are prepared to divorce religion from reason and intelligence. The Catholic Church has always condemned such an irrational attitude. A Catholic is never asked to treat his reason within its own legitimate field of operation with anything but the utmost respect.

403. You say that reason, though presupposed, cannot produce faith, which ever remains the gift of God. Can we not say that faith is an innate tendency or instinct which those who have it cannot help having?

No. Usually innate tendencies are those instincts which are natural to man. But the New Testament clearly shows that faith in Christ is not an innate natural tendency. "No man can come to me," Christ Himself said, "unless it be given him by My Father." Jn., VI, 66. Moreover, those who have received that gift of faith can definitely lose it. They are in no way compelled to retain it, whether they will to do so or not. Faith ever remains, under the influence of divine grace, the deliberate choice of an intelligent man's will. As man's will is free he can at any time reverse his choice and deliberately choose not to believe.

404. Why did Christ try to prevent His listeners from receiving the gift of faith? In Mark IV, 11-12, He says that He gave His teaching in parables "that seeing they may not see; and hearing they may not hear and understand, lest at any time they should be converted and their sins should be forgiven them".

Christ was there quoting words from Isaias the prophet which demand an interpretation in keeping with the Hebrew mentality. He was, in reality, stating a fact and giving a warning, not declaring His intention. Many of the Jews, hearing His parables and suspecting the deeper meaning in them, did not want to know that meaning more clearly, nor were they prepared to pay any attention to it. And our Lord practically said of them: "One would think they were blind and deaf, and had no desire to understand and be converted and have their sins forgiven." Not His parables, therefore, but their own obstinacy and hardness of heart were the obstacles to their conversion. To say that He intended to keep anyone from repentance and conversion would be quite out of harmony with His character and with His mission as Redeemer. All His parables were intended to throw light on His teaching, not to obscure it; and to lead all who heard them to faith in the truth and to their salvation.

405. If faith is the gift of God, one must pray for it. But how can one pray before he has faith?

One does not need faith before he begins to pray. It is enough to be endowed with reason. Reason tells us that there is a God. Reason tells us that we owe our existence to God, and that we are subject to both mental and physical limitations. Reason therefore tells us to ask the God who made us to preserve us from dangers that could arise from our very limitations, and to grant us all the assistance we need. There's no question of a vicious circle. It's a spiral staircase. You don't go round and round; you go round and up. You can begin with the entirely reasonable prayer: "O God, who made me, enlighten me as to what I should do, and give me the strength to do it." If a person said only that prayer with genuine humility and perseveringly, God would give him the graces necessary to attain the faith in the full sense of the word.

406. You have said that if one gets the Catholic faith he is absolutely certain of the truth of your Catholic dogmas. But where there is perfect certainty there is no room for faith.

That is not true. You fail to allow for the difference between the motive of one's faith, and the object of it or the thing believed. It is true that if I fully understand the nature of a thing and have a clear perception of irrefutable proof of it, there is no room for faith. I do not merely believe the thing to be true; I know it by my own perception of the reasons for it. But take something I do not know in that way, but which I hold to be true on the authority of .someone else. The object of my faith, the thing I believe, may be quite beyond my powers of understanding. Yet I may be perfectly certain that it is true. Here the degrees of certainty will be dependent upon the reliability of the authority upon which I rely.

407. It seems to me that it is of the essence of faith that it is in some measure a gamble.

That cannot apply to faith in the Catholic religion which has the authority of God as its guarantee. If I put my faith merely in what other human beings tell me, but of which I have no direct evidence myself, then however reasonable the grounds I may have for trusting them, my acceptance of what they say, I am relying on no more than my faith in them. This act of faith, merely natural and human, is in some measure a gamble, for human beings are not infallible and there is always the possibility that they are mistaken. In believing them I can but hope they are right; and I therefore gamble on the possibility of their being right rather than wrong. But divine and supernatural faith in what I know to have been revealed by God is not a gamble in any sense of the word. For God is infallible and quite incapable of error. Acceptance of His teachings, therefore, gives such absolute certainty that in no sense can it be called a gamble. No Catholic, so long as he retains the Catholic Faith, thinks of his religion as merely possibly or merely probably right. He has absolute certainty that it is right.

408. You have maintained, when speaking of the unity of your Church that all Catholics throughout the world have the same faith; that all believe the same things.

That is true.

409. Do you mean to tell us that all Catholics know all the defined dogmas of the Catholic religion and believe them?

They either believe them or have ceased to be Catholics; but I do not say that they know them all. In fact I am quite sure that most of them do not. I have spent much of my time explaining to various Catholics, to their great surprise, that certain doctrines are defined dogmas of their religion. But in order that all Catholics should have the same faith everywhere it is not necessary that they should know all the defined doctrines of the Catholic Church. Again and again, throughout her twenty centuries of history, the Catholic Church has had to condemn particular errors of various individuals, defining the right doctrines opposed to them. Multitudes of Catholics have never heard either of the errors or of the contrary definitions. To know of them all, every Catholic would have to know the whole history of theology, which would demand almost a lifetime of study!

410. In that case, how can the ordinary Catholic have faith in all defined doctrines?

He has implicit faith in them. We must not confuse the knowledge of every detail of the faith with the act of faith itself. Everyone who has the Catholic Faith believes that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded and guaranteed by Christ. He therefore says: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church and in all that she holds and teaches." Such a general act of faith includes faith in all defined doctrines whether one has heard of them or not.

411. That's very mystifying to me. If a Catholic does not know all the defined dogmas of his religion what practical guidance do they afford him?

Not all are necessary for his practical guidance here and now. If, in a bygone age, the Church defined the right doctrine against some error that has never been heard of since, the definition served its practical purpose then and can be left in abeyance until the old error reasserts itself, if ever it does. Meantime, the fundamental or basic things which every Catholic must not only believe but know explicitly for his practical guidance are contained in the Catholic catechism and are taught to all Catholics, whether born of Catholic parents or converted in later life to the Church. Defined doctrines over and above those contained in the catechism the Catholic is prepared to believe once he finds out that the Church teaches those also as part of God's revelation.

412. Owing to ignorance, a Catholic might believe the wrong thing unknowingly. What then becomes of his faith?

His faith is unaffected. By his general act of faith in the Church he is prepared to believe all that she holds and teaches. If unwittingly he did hold a wrong opinion, the moment he discovered that it was opposed to the express teaching of the Church he would renounce at once as certainly erroneous the opinion he had mistakenly thought to be permissible. All along his faith was in the Catholic Church and in all that she teaches as part of divine revelation—a faith in which all Catholics throughout the world are united. For if one ceases to have this faith he ceases to be a Catholic.

413. So a man has to put aside what his own reason tells him, should it conflict with the teaching authority of his Church! That is to deny the supremacy of reason and to make God Himself a deceiver of mankind.

God is not responsible for every error that has been proclaimed by men in the name of reason! You are confusing reason as a power of intelligence with reasoning as the use of that power. Such confusion can lead to the most absurd conclusions. Reason is the highest natural power man possesses. Rightly used it leads to a knowledge of the truth in its own natural order. If it did not, then God would be responsible for having given us a power calculated of its very nature to lead us astray. But we have no guarantee against its misuse even in the merely natural order. Reason is not being rightly used when people ignore the rules for its right use— the ordinary rules of logic. And lapses in logic are quite a common occurrence. But there is something else to be remembered. Although reason is the highest natural faculty we possess, its supremacy as a guide to the knowledge of all truth is not absolute. There is an order of supernatural truth known to God and not discoverable by unaided human reason at all. If God reveals some of this truth which is beyond anything this created universe contains for us, then we have to take His word for it by an act of faith in Him. And since truths of this kind are beyond anything that reason can tell us, the supremacy of reason no longer holds where they are concerned. Reason realizes that God could not reveal anything untrue; but it finds the truth He does reveal beyond its capacity. In humble submission to God man's intelligence and will must then accept an order of truth beyond the sphere of natural reason. So St. Paul speaks of the Christian religion as "bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ." II Cor., X, 5. A reason which is brought into captivity and has to accept on the authority of Christ teachings it is incapable of discovering for itself, and even the significance of which it can no more than partially comprehend, can no longer proclaim its absolute supremacy.

414. You speak of the obedience of the intelligence and will. But belief is not a wilful act.

No man who knows anything of human psychology would agree with you. Every day people will to believe good of others whom they like, and to believe evil of others whom they dislike, without bothering about proof. Belief, therefore, can be a wilful act. Ever so many of even our merely natural convictions are due to the will to believe them. And a religious belief, merely because it is religious, cannot claim to be exempt from the influence of the will.

415. No threats or violence can make a man change his religious beliefs.

Neither threats nor violence can make a man change his religious beliefs against his own will. But threats and violence can induce a change of will in a believer and persuade him to renounce former beliefs in favor of other doctrines. Throughout history many have died as martyrs for the Christian religion because they had the determined will to remain loyal to it. On the other hand many have abandoned belief in the Christian religion because they no longer had the will to believe in it.

416. Only truth can make a man change his religious ideas, if those ideas be false.

That also is inaccurate. The late Judge Rutherford poured out a flood of booklets containing a hotch-potch of nonsense which was anything but the truth. Yet by employing every device to enkindle the will of ignorant people to accept quite uncritically the religious system he taught, he succeeded in changing the religious beliefs of thousands of Protestants, turning them into Witnesses of Jehovah.

417. Of course if your Catholic dogmas were certainly revealed by God, then they would be proved beyond doubt and one would just have to accept them.

Though Catholic dogmas certainly express the truth revealed by God, they are still not proved beyond doubt in the sense you have in mind. God has revealed many a mysterious truth without deigning to prove it to our satisfaction, demanding that we simply accept it on His authority. For example, God has told us that on the last day all men will rise from the dead. No human being can prove that that resurrection will take place in actual fact. Without any proof as the scientist understands proof, we believe it because God has said it. And in the absence of scientific proof a man can doubt it if he chooses to do so. If he accepts it, it is because he has the will to submit with docility to whatever God has revealed, however mysterious it may be.

418. If a man can choose to believe Catholic dogmas if he likes, where does the grace of God come in?

When I say that Catholic Faith requires the will to accept it, I do not mean that the will alone is enough.

419. By what process does an adult convert to Catholicism arrive at what you term the gift of Faith?

By his natural reason only an intelligent adult can study the historical evidences in favor of the claim of the Catholic religion to have been revealed by God and arrive at the conclusion that there is no doubt as to the truth of that claim. It does not follow that he at once accepts the claim. He could also acquire a sound knowledge of all the basic teachings and practices of the Catholic religion. But whilst reason alone can accomplish that much it cannot do more. Whilst it affords rational justification for an act of faith, it cannot produce that act of faith. The grace of God has to take over from there, enkindling in a man the desire to believe, inspiring a sense of obligation to do so, and giving an insight into the spiritual significance of what is to be believed. For that grace a man must pray. Finally, with that grace he must have the will to correspond. To the very last a man could be reluctant to accept the Catholic Faith through personal pride, or dread of moral obligations, or from fear of awkward social consequences and various other sacrifices which becoming a Catholic might involve. If, however, such a man yields to the grace of God, then that grace enables him to make an act of faith in the Catholic religion, not because of his previous study of the reasonable grounds for it, but because he obtains a vivid supernatural apprehension of its truth in itself, an awareness produced not by the light of reason but by the interior and spiritual light of grace; and he finds enkindled in his will a determination to cling to it as the greatest good he has ever possessed.

420. I am an Anglo-Catholic, and I resent the suggestion that I do not possess the "Faith" merely because I am not a Roman Catholic.

I can only make the further suggestion, as Sheila Kaye-Smith, herself a convert from Anglo-Catholicism, put it, that you should drop the "Anglo" and the hyphen, and actually become a Catholic.

421. Just what do you mean by faith? I can never understand the inference that all non-Catholics are without faith.

You are confusing personal dispositions of faith with the objective teachings of the Christian Faith. The non-Catholic Christian may have personal dispositions of faith in as much of the Christian religion as he or she knows. But part of the Christian religion is not the^ Christian religion. It is only part of it. By "The Faith," considered objectively, I mean the whole of the Christian religion in its full integrity. And that is to be found only in the Catholic Church.

422. Does not a recognition of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; of Jesus Christ as the Son of God; of Mary as the Mother of God; and of the Sacraments and the necessity of observing the Ten Commandments - do not these make "Faith"?

They are some of the things necessary to the Faith; but they are not all that the Faith implies. Faith in the Church rf Christ is necessary— but in which of the Churches claiming to be Christian must one have that faith? Certainly not in the Anglican Church. And how many Sacraments have you in mind—two, as your Church holds, or seven, as the Catholic Faith teaches? And what of the Sacrifice of the Mass? If may be that the baptism you received was quite valid. If so, the gift or power of faith was then infused into your soul. Yet it is possible to have this power of faith whilst remaining ignorant of much that you are meant as a Christian to believe. From the viewpoint of the contents of the Christian religion every act of faith you make is inadequate so long as you exclude from it belief in the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church.

423. Is it because non-Catholics do not acknowledge the infallibility of the Pope, or any need for him, that they are accused of being without faith?

They are accused, not of being "without faith" but of being without "The Faith," meaning without the Christian Faith in its fulness and integrity. Take your own position. Anglo-Catholics believe it necessary to have an Apostolic Succession of Bishops. Congregationalists, who equally claim to be Christians, say that an Apostolic Succession of Bishops is not necessary at all. Anglo-Catholics say that Congregationalists, however good they may be personally, lack the true "Christian Faith." We Catholics merely say the same of Anglo-Catholics. Anglo-Catholics lack the "Faith" in its full sense because they reject the true doctrine of the Unity of the Church, and the doctrines of the spiritual Supremacy and Infallibility of the Pope as successor of St. Peter.

424. With beliefs so similar, what benefit would it be for an Anglo- Catholic to become a Roman Catholic?

Some beliefs of Anglo-Catholics are similar to Catholic beliefs. Others are not. For the rest, an Anglo-Catholic who actually becomes a Catholic, finds himself set free from a Church in which most of the members reject his Anglo-Catholic beliefs, and has the benefit of the valid Orders and valid Sacraments of the Catholic Church, together with the consolation of being at home in that unity and obedience Christ willed His followers to maintain. There are many other advantages, but there is no need to go through them all. The important thing is to pray to know the Holy Will of God and for the courage to fulfill it.

425. Do you hold that faith in the teachings of Christ is necessary for salvation?

In themselves those teachings have such authority that they oblige people who know them to accept them, if they wish to save their souls. It is possible that a person would lack belief in them merely because he had never had them sufficiently explained to him, and he might die without ever having realized their truth. If such a man were of goodwill, so that he would be prepared to accept them if he knew of them, then he would have the goodwill to correspond with such other graces as God would undoubtedly give him at least interiorly, and would save his soul despite his apparent lack of belief in the teachings of Christ as we know them.

426. What happens to a man who is an unbeliever and dies an unbeliever?

If his unbelief is his own fault, and he repudiates the Christian religion despite his having perceived its truth, dying in such dispositions, then he will lose his soul and go to hell. Christ Himself said: "He that believeth not shall be condemned." Mark, XVI, 16. The man who lacks faith through no fault of his own could not be sent to hell for that particular reason. But there may be other reasons which would take him to hell. There are many departments of life, quite apart from belief or unbelief, in which conscience makes its demands and which will have a bearing on one's judgment. But if there be no other reasons apart from a lack of belief for which he is not responsible, then ultimately such a man will attain to eternal and supernatural happiness in heaven. In the end but one of two possible eternal destinies awaits each man, heaven or hell. If he does not go to the one he necessarily goes to the other.

427. What belief did primitive man have to guide him?

He had the opportunity to exercise faith in so much of divine revela- I tion as was accessible to him. Our first parents had a direct revelation from God concerning their duties/and their destiny. They^taught their I children and the knowledge was handed on from generation to generation. I Vestiges of this primitive revelation are found to this day amongst even I pagan peoples who have never come into contact with either the Jewish I or the Christian religions. But the principles I have given you stand. I A degree of faith in truth revealed by God is required for salvation ] according to the amount of knowledge a given person has of that truth,

428. Could a Catholic abandon the Catholic Faith, and preach against I it as a Protestant in absolute sincerity.

That would be possible only if he were very ignorant of his Catholic religion or afflicted with some form of insanity. It is possible for a Catholic to leave the Catholic Church and become a Protestant without any real conviction of the truth of any form of Protestantism at all. That has happened at times. But granted sincerity, the only possible explanations would be either lack of knowledge or mental derangement at least where religion is concerned.

429. I suppose you would hold this to be true of a Catholic whose I apostasy went still farther and who became an atheist?

Not quite. For it is quite possible for a highly intelligent and sane Catholic, who knows his religion well, to lose his faith in the Catholic religion. But if such a man did so, he would abandon Christianity altogether, and not join any non-Catholic form of religion. He would know too much and be too level-headed to turn to any non-Catholic form of Christianity founded by individual men or women centuries after the time of Christ and of the Apostles. For him it would be Catholicism or nothing.

430. I have in mind my own university professor who is an ex-Catholic, and who says he is an atheist. He attacks Christianity and Catholicism in particular unmercifully. Would you account for him by saying that he is either mad or bad?

I would not say that he was mad. As I have said, it is quite possible for a Catholic who is quite intelligent and sane to lose his faith. But if not mad, would such a man be bad? As no one who has ever had the Catholic Faith and an intelligent grasp of it can lose it without guilt on his part somewhere, I would say that such a man was certainly insincere and guilty in his first deliberate infidelities when he began to drift from his Catholic beliefs, even though later he managed to delude himself into the conviction that his atheism was justified. Bui in the case of your professor - I know the man - the fact that he attacks Christianity and Catholicism in particular unmercifully, indulging in a campaign of bitter hatred, distorting facts and inventing falsehoods, betrays a malice which forfeits any right to be regarded as sincere.

431. If he is mad, how could he come to be a university professor?

He might not be mad. He could be very intelligent and sane, though religiously bad. It is not necessary, of course, entirely, to exclude the idea of madness. There are many professors, geniuses if you like, in the particular line in which they have secured university standing, who have a bee in their bonnets on matters not connected with that particular line. A fixed idea, or an obsession, can exist side by side with sanity in all other matters. And a man afflicted in such a way will seem quite normal and well-balanced until he gets on to the subject which is his particular nightmare, when his ravings betray his mental aberration. To sum this matter up, it is always possible for a Catholic to lose his faith and abandon the Catholic Church. That follows from my repeated explanations that the act of faith always remains an act of the human will in addition to other factors involved. If, however, a Catholic does lose his faith, it is not because the Catholic Church is not the true Church. It is because the lapsed person either so lacks instruction that he does not realize what he is doing, or else because he has become mentally deranged, or else because he has developed evil and rebellious dispositions of will due to the desire of gaining some worldly advantage he cannot get as a Catholic or to the desire to escape what he has come to regard as irksome duties which fidelity to his Catholic religion would require of him.

NEXT TOPIC »

MORE FROM VOLUME 4

"THAT CATHOLIC CHURCH
A Radio Analysis"
- Book Title