Daily Archives: August 15, 2010

The Theological Virtue of Faith and how V II disfigured it. Part Two

Johannes Vermeer, "Allegory of Faith"

I have examined here the traditional understanding of the theological virtue of faith as based on the intellect.

This has changed after Vatican II, when faith started to be presented  more and more as something:
1) emotional; pertaining to our world of feelings rather than asking us for serious intellectual work, and
2) consisting in a process rather than in a result, or to use Amerio’s words in a tending rather than a knowing.

Please read what the French Bishops published in 1968 because what they have to say is indicative of so much that has been taught afterwards:

“For a long time faith has been presented as an adherence of the intellect, enlightened by grace and supported by the word of God. Today […] faith is presented as an adherence of one’s whole being to the person of Jesus Christ. It is an act of life and not only simply intellectual, an act addressed to a person and not only to a theoretical truth”

Note here that the Bishops start with a brilliant definition of faith as it has traditionally been taught; but then, they proceed to say that… henceforward they’ll do it better! What follows is an emotional flight which is not faith anymore, but rather the fruit of a confusion of faith with hope and charity.

When the Bishops say that faith is an “act of life”, they are confusing it with hope. When they talk of adherence to the person of Jesus, they are confusing it with charity. When they say that it is not simply intellectual, they ignore what faith as a theological virtue is. When they say that something is “simply a theoretical truth”, they ignore what Truth is and launch themselves into a sugary, emotional flight with no intellectual content instead. Truth is truth and is not less true because it is an intellectual one; to downplay it as “simply a theoretical truth” is an emotionally charged and, I dare say, effeminate view of things.

Or take the words of Cardinal Garrone in 1968:

In the last century theologians had been led to affirm the capacity of human reason to prove the existence of God. [..] Theologians have abandoned God in the hands of the philosophers. […] We must recognise that we made a mistake, because we have asked of philosophy what it could not give…

Again, look at the mentality clearly emerging here. Faith as an intellectual process leading to intellectual certainties is not even downplayed, but even discarded. “We have made a mistake”, says the chap happily pretending to forget that what he calls “mistake” is traditional Church teaching and has been solemnly proclaimed by the First Vatican Council. He simply discards the role of the intellect in giving proof of the existence of God.

With what does Cardinal Garrone then substitute the intellectual work of getting to God, attaining the Truth? With the usual sugary, sentimental, emotional and frankly not all too meaning series of slogans:

We must discover the attributes of God, not the abstract ideas of philosophy but the names, the true names of God. Our mission is to preach the faith, not ideas.

Intellectual truths are dismissed as “abstract ideas of philosophy”. Faith is now considered some very vague “discovering” (again: a process, a tending) rather than getting to the truth and staying solidly rooted in it.
Notice the strongly emotional language which doesn’t mean much in itself (“discover the attributes of God” is a vaguely blasphemous soundbite, as if the Church wouldn’t possess the truth about God already) but does sound oh so pure and piously striving. Let us say it once again: Cardinal Garrone was here so enamoured with his own “discovering” that he was evidently willing to discard traditional Catholic teaching  – and the clear statements of the First Vatican Council – and to feed the masses with an emotional and very sugary soup instead; “we want to preach the faith, not ideas” very well describes this brainless but good sounding emotionalism.

In the following years, things didn’t get better.  Who was the last priest telling you that faith as a theological virtue is based on the intellect? Who was the last priest telling you that God can be reached already on an intellectual plane? How often have you heard, instead, a mishmash of concepts mixing faith, hope and charity and rather discarding the intellectual knowing in order to privilege the searching, the tending, the process, the “feeling”?

If sound teaching is discarded it is no surprise that unorthodox ideas and currents start to pervade the life of the Church. If approximation and superficiality take the place of sound reasoning it is no surprise that all kind of nonsense is confused with correct teaching. If emotions are allowed to shut down the intellectual process it is no surprise that these emotions lead to the most extraordinary consequences.

It is high time to recover sound teaching on the matter of the theological virtues, explaining what they are and keeping them well separated. Without this there will be no proper understanding and without proper understanding there will be no orthodoxy.


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