The Church


Believing With Catholic Faith

by Dominic Neri


It is not imprudent to accept something as true if the person telling something to you is God or the instrument of God. Before God we are all children. This is what we must understand. The Church is not just a human institution like the public education system or one’s parents or the government; if it were, the typical doubting approach would apply. One could then consider various issues with only human faith and not divine and therefore gauge whether the one speaking to you is trustworthy or not. But since God is always trustworthy since He cannot deceive or be deceived and is all good - indeed Goodness Itself - it is supreme folly not to accept whatever He reveals through whatever means He reveals. Once one sees that the Christ Revelation is in and through the living communion of the Church, i.e., the Apostolic visible Body of Christ, a definite communion of faith and charity, one sees by a divine grace of supernatural faith (which grace was given in baptism as an infused habit or ability to believe) that the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost making the church to be permanently married to her Head, the Risen and Ascended Lord, is the chosen instrument of Revelation and cannot err in her definite teachings received and developed over the centuries. That is the Catholic understanding.

If this is not accepted and one decides to pick and choose only Scripture and human reason subjectively judging, even if taking into account the Tradition, one is essentially Protestant. If one does not accept the ordinary and definite universal teachings on faith and morals, but does accept the solemnly defined ones, then one is still not in full communion with the Catholic Church of God.

For instance, one sees that the Church clearly and definitely teaches women cannot ever be ordained to Holy Orders. But one doesn’t see why. If one accepts the definite ordinary teaching of the Church as God’s mind revealed, one has the Catholic faith; but one also has an intellectual difficulty (and it is in this respect that Newman’s statement, “a thousand difficulties do not make one doubt” applies). One has this intellectual difficulty precisely because one is no longer a child and has an active mind that wants to know why something is so in matters of Revelations as much as in the matters of nature.

It is here that the fittingness arguments help – not to show the actual cause from the evidence as following necessarily, thus binding the mind, but as quieting the mind enough, e.g.: the spousal symbolism of Bride and Groom to Christ and the Church. That may not quiet the mind of a particular individual, but that can be because that person’s mind is not used to thinking in terms of religious symbolism as meaningful concerning doctrine because of a too one-sidedly logical or scientific way of thinking, not because the argument is not persuasive to the religiously intuitive mind. These are Mysteries, after all, on an order that surpasses the lesser mysteries of nature. That difficulty does not have to be resolved, since one accepts the teaching on the basis that the Church is revealing God’s mind and Heaven will reveal everything to everyone’s satisfaction, i.e., on divine faith. Sometimes it takes centuries for the Church to come up with the “reasons” why she already infallibly knew something was true, e.g., the Immaculate Conception. One can afford to wait because one has faith in God that is security enough. One doesn’t need to have proof. Insight into divinely-revealed truths, be they principle Truths or derived ones (as the ordination of men only) comes from another source that reason alone. The great spiritual writer, Archbishop Luis M. Martinez of Mexico speaks of this source in his book, The Sanctifier:

“In the knowledge that the intellectual gifts of the Spirit produce in our spirit, there is no reasoning: there is only intuition. Reason is something human; intuition is something angelic or divine. However, there is a trace of it even in the natural order. We say of a man who has probed deeply into some field of knowledge that he is familiar with it, that he has the watchful, observant artistic eye. . .

“In the natural order, intelligence is the ability to perceive the abstract, the immaterial truth; in the supernatural order, intelligence penetrates higher truths. As the natural light of reason makes us understand sensible things, the light of the gift of understanding, . . .serves to penetrate supernatural truths and to reveal their intimate depths. . .

“. . .to attain perfection, we need to ponder in this way the exalted truths of faith. But faith alone, which is based on the authority of God, who revealed these truths, is not enough to make us penetrate them; we need the additional power of the gift of understanding.”

Thus divine faith is contrary to every doubt, but not contrary to obscurity or intellectual difficulty. And by a deeper spiritual life of the love of God attained through prayer, the sacraments and the virtues, the latent gifts of the Holy Spirit given at Baptism and in the soul of those who are not in mortal sin but have sanctifying grace can be used by the Holy Spirit to penetrate the various Mysteries of God.

This is exactly how the Saints and Doctors of the Church understand the teachings of the Church. So if we have attained the use of reason but have not yet reached the contemplative level of the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit because of immaturity in the spiritual life, we must be content to sit at the feet of the Saints and Doctors of the Church and let our minds be formed by understandings God gave them. But, if worse, we fall into serious sin by disobeying the known and clear will of God through the Church not only will we be without sanctifying grace and charity, we will also be without the Gifts of the Holy Spirit even in the latent state and we will have only fallible reason, used to thinking in worldly ways or only human ways and there will be no spiritual understanding of the analogy of Mysteries of Faith. Even worse, if we then reject such understandings of the Saints and Doctors which agree with the teaching of the Church in favor of our own judgment of things, we become positively blind to the mind of God and His Revelation and fall into the sins against the Holy Spirit (sins against faith) because of self-love, the very opposite of the love of God. Self-love because we contradict the will of God, so love our own will more than His and refuse to fight ourselves (mortify ourselves, following St. Paul) and prefer consequently our own judgment to the judgment of God’s Church, so as to continue in self-will on some point.

But the person who has the Catholic faith will accept what the Church says, even if he has an intellectual difficulty with it (it is not a doubt because he accepts the teaching through faith). Among the devout who are not yet contemplatives, usually just mentioning the fitting argument will be enough to quiet the mind. In fact, even among the unlearned, it often comes from them: e.g., devout women sensing they do not belong with the priest offering the Sacrifice at the altar often are found to say that if women were meant by Christ to be priests, He would have made His Mother the first one. Period! End of discussion! It is among the secularly educated with little piety that we usually find an inability to intuit that fitting argument. Ditto for the Church’s moral teaching regarding homosexuality.

Dominic Neri

June 3, 2009