FAITH IS NOT 'BLIND'
Catholics are often accused of giving 'blind' assent to the teachings of the church. By 'blind' is meant, 'unreasoning' and 'unthinking'. Now such an accusation is doubly false, for Catholics give no blind assent to the Church, and indeed, are forbidden to do so. As Vatican I teaches, 'Faith is by no means a blind action of the mind' but rather, by faith 'man yields free obedience to God.' 'Free obedience' can never be unreasoning or unthinking. The Church by infallible definition cannot teach anything as true which is manifestly against reason. To again quote Vatican I: 'although the faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, and God cannot deny himself, or can truth ever contradict truth. The false appearance of such contradiction is mainly due, either to the dogmas of faith not having been understood and expounded according to the mind of the Church, or to the invention of opinion having been taken for the verdicts of reason.' The Catholic then gives his assent, in the words of this same Council, 'by yielding to Him [God] the full homage of our intellect and will'. Hence, although the act of faith is an intellectual act, yet it is also an act of homage which is in the power of the will to withhold. It will be argued that a child accepts the faith without any such refinements - and such is indeed true, for he accepts it on the testimony of his parents. (It is the same reason that leads a child not to play in the street.) Or more exactly, the Faith is infused into him by Baptism and the parents later teach him the material objects of the Faith. Thus Catholic parents have the obligation of teaching their children the truths of the faith as soon as they reach the age of reason, and the child in turn has the obligation to study and 'know' his faith, and to freely give his assent to it.
The habit or virtue by which we give our assent to the teachings of the Church is never a 'cool feeling' arising from some evolutionary subconscious. This of course, in no way precludes our feeling strongly about the faith.
'69 of the bishops and only 45 of the priests agreed that 'faith means essentially belief in the doctrines of he Catholic Church', whereas 46 of the bishops and 69 of the clergy would agree that faith is 'primarily an encounter with God and Jesus Christ rather than an assent to a coherent set of defined truths.'
(Andrew Greeley, l973)
There has been no post-Conciliar concept of faith as such, and put to the question, most authorities would claim that there has been no change in the meaning of the term. Yet the word 'faith' is used by members of this Church in such a wide variety of circumstances as to make its definition virtually impossible. What is fostered by this institution is an 'open' attitude - if some Catholic want to believe in the traditional way, this is acceptable, providing they also tolerate the new 'pluralism' and don't insist upon participating in the traditional rites, and providing they don't insist others maintain the same standards. Others are equally free to call themselves 'Catholic' while denying fundamental tenets of the Catholic Faith. As Cardinal Bernadine, formerly president of the U.S. Bishop's conference admitted, 'many consider themselves good Catholics, even though their beliefs and practices seem to conflict with the official teaching of the Church.' Of course he finds this in no way objectionable, for when he was asked how a person like Avery Dulles S.J. could publicly deny the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Our Lady (thus declaring himself a 'depraved heretic' and outside the Church), and continue to teach theology at the Catholic University of America, he responded by stating that it was his 'belief that it was legitimate for those theologians to speculate about the removal of doctrines that had already been defined, and to request the Magisterium to remove such doctrines from the content of the faith!'. Karl Rahner, a darling of the post-Conciliar Church, tells us that 'the historicity of the creed, the opinions about the nature of the Church's unity... the difficulties created by a Christendom that has lost its self-evidence... has brought to the fore in a most distressing fashion, the problem of reformulation of the Creed.'. This priest who remains in good standing points out in the same article that 'the pluriformity of philosophies must lead to a legitimate pluriformity in thinking about the faith.'(25). John McKenzie states 'Faith is a response to revelation; doctrine the product of theology, is an understanding and an application of the faith. The Church uses theology and doctrine; indeed, these are the means by which the Church evolves with the world and with history. Faith never becomes antiquated; doctrine easily does.'. (26)
An excellent example of this is provided by the statement of the entire French hierarchy which, after the publication of Paul VI's Humane vitae forbidding artificial methods of birth control, stated that any couple could use contraceptive methods providing that to do so was in their conscience 'a lesser evil'. Now the idea that the faithful can choose a 'lesser evil' than the direct disobedience of God's laws, or that they can under any circumstances cooperate in an intrinsically evil act violates the Catholic faith. What is even more extraordinary is that Paul VI sent them a telegram thanking them for 'so clearly interpreting his thinking' on the issue .(27)
It will be argued that these examples are 'abuses' and do not reflect the mind of the Church. Let us look to the hierarchy for a contrary stance. When Cardinal Suenens declared himself a Pentecostal, he stated (sometime later) that if the Pope were to ask him to deny the 'Pentecostal creed', he would do so at once. Paul VI never made such a request, and indeed has given this movement his blessing and approval(28). And what of John Paul II? Consider his comments made to the seminarians at the Lateran University (Feb. 15, 1980): Loyalty to the Church, he said, is not to be defined 'in a reduced sense, as maintaining standards, nor does it mean staying within the bounds of orthodoxy - avoiding positions that are in contrast to the pronouncements of the Apostolic See, the Ecumenical councils and the learned doctors of the Church... We must have a divergence of positions, although in the end, we must rely on the synthesis of them all.'
Typical of the modernist theologian is vagueness and ambiguity of expression. Faith is described as 'man's response to God's revelation', as an 'encounter with Christ', as a 'birth in the Spirit', and as 'personal' or 'religious experience'. Such phrases speak of a 'visceral Christianity' in which the individual cannot be openly accused of heterodoxy and at the same time is free to believe anything he wants. The quotation from Father Andrew Greeley at the head of this section proves beyond doubt that such ideas are rampant in the post-Conciliar Church. To state that the faith is an 'encounter with God' might possibly allow for an orthodox interpretation, but to state along with this 'rather than an assent to a coherent set of defined truths' can never be reconciled with the Catholic position. Our faith is 'no simple sublimating aspiration', no 'experiential' sort of 'encounter with Jesus' such as any Protestant can claim, no sort of 'personal understanding', 'commitment', or 'feeling'. It is, to use the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, 'the act of the intellect assenting to a Divine Truth owing to the movement of the will, which is itself moved by the grace of God' (Summa II-II, iv, a.2). Those who doubt this should consider the Oath against Modernism which, as we have noted, is part of the Solemn Magisterium: 'I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind impulse of religion welling up from the dept of the unconscious under the impulse of the heart and the inclination of amorally conditioned will, but the genuine assent of the intellect to a truth which is received from outside...'