“There can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason”

The following is from the decrees of the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), on the consistency of faith and reason:

The perpetual agreement of the Catholic Church has maintained and maintains this too: that there is a twofold order of knowledge, distinct not only as regards its source, but also as regards its object. With regard to the source, we know at the one level by natural reason, at the other level by divine faith. With regard to the object, besides those things to which natural reason can attain, there are proposed for our belief mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, are incapable of being known. …

Now reason does indeed when it seeks persistently, piously and soberly, achieve by God’s gift some understanding, and that most profitable, of the mysteries, whether by analogy from what it knows naturally, or from the connection of these mysteries with one another and with the final end of humanity; but reason is never rendered capable of penetrating these mysteries in the way in which it penetrates those truths which form its proper object.

For the divine mysteries, by their very nature, so far surpass the created understanding that, even when a revelation has been given and accepted by faith, they remain covered by the veil of that same faith and wrapped, as it were, in a certain obscurity, as long as in this mortal life we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, and not by sight [2 Cor. 5:6-7].

Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason.

God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth. The appearance of this kind of specious contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained in accordance with the mind of the Church, or unsound views are mistaken for the conclusions of reason. …

Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things; on the other hand, faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds.

Hence, so far is the Church from hindering the development of human arts and studies, that in fact she assists and promotes them in many ways. For she is neither ignorant nor contemptuous of the advantages which derive from this source for human life, rather she acknowledges that those things flow from God, the lord of sciences, and, if they are properly used, lead to God by the help of his grace.

Nor does the Church forbid these studies to employ, each within its own area, its own proper principles and method: but while she admits this just freedom, she takes particular care that they do not become infected with errors by conflicting with divine teaching, or, by going beyond their proper limits, intrude upon what belongs to faith and engender confusion.

For the doctrine of the faith which God has revealed is put forward not as some philosophical discovery capable of being perfected by human intelligence, but as a divine deposit committed to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully protected and infallibly promulgated.


Shame is good for you

Phillipe has an excellent post on moral excellence and the value of shame.

To be human is to mess up. Otherwise we would be God (personally I don’t want the job). It is our effort to learn, to grow and to progress in a conscious fashion in spite of ourselves that is what moral and spiritual development is all about. Take that away and where would we be? Pretty bored and stunted in our development. One of the mysteries of life is that God makes use of imperfect instruments like ourselves to achieve His will in the world. It will never cease to amaze me.


God guides and blesses us according to our effort, rather than a particular outcome. Outcomes are ultimately the fruit of the dynamic interplay of human striving and divine assistance. It’s the striving that really counts. Personally, I’d rather be part of a community of imperfect people striving to be their best, than people who’ve already attained perfection (or at least think they have!).

Good stuff.

Sometimes I lament that our society has rejected shame and guilt. But I don’t think that’s right. Everyone still has a strong sense of shame. The difference is that many people, what you might call social or moral liberals, have a different value system so they place their shame in other areas. Sexual immorality is not shameful to them. But other things, like throwing a recycleable in the trash, can induce intense feelings of guilt.

Not that that’s bad. I recycle. I’m just saying, a sense of shame is normal. If you get the wrong spiritual training, though (like what folks get in our culture), your sense of shame can be warped, and you’ll become numb and even approving of things for which you ought to feel shame.

“God does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals”

From Lumen Gentium, one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council, promulgated in 1964:

At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right. God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness. He therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto Himself. With it He set up a covenant. Step by step He taught and prepared this people, making known in its history both Himself and the decree of His will and making it holy unto Himself. All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh.

“Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel, and with the house of Judah … I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people … For all of them shall know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord.” Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood, calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God. For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperishable seed through the word of the living God, not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit, are finally established as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people … who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God”.