Lumen Fidei 48

Pope Francis makes a case for faith as a body of belief, taking things a bit beyond faith as a quality of virtue:

48. Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity. Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole. Each period of history can find this or that point of faith easier or harder to accept: hence the need for vigilance in ensuring that the deposit of faith is passed on in its entirety (cf. 1 Tim 6:20) and that all aspects of the profession of faith are duly emphasized. Indeed, inasmuch as the unity of faith is the unity of the Church, to subtract something from the faith is to subtract something from the veracity of communion. The Fathers described faith as a body, the body of truth composed of various members, by analogy with the body of Christ and its prolongation in the Church.[Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, II, 27, 1: SC 294, 264] The integrity of the faith was also tied to the image of the Church as a virgin and her fidelity in love for Christ her spouse; harming the faith means harming communion with the Lord.[Cf. Augustine, De Sancta Virginitate, 48, 48: PL 40, 424-425: "Servatur et in fide inviolata quaedam castitas virginalis, qua Ecclesia uni viro virgo casta coaptatur"] The unity of faith, then, is the unity of a living body; this was clearly brought out by Blessed John Henry Newman when he listed among the characteristic notes for distinguishing the continuity of doctrine over time its power to assimilate everything that it meets in the various settings in which it becomes present and in the diverse cultures which it encounters,[Cf. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (Uniform Edition: Longmans, Green and Company, London, 1868-1881), 185-189] purifying all things and bringing them to their finest expression. Faith is thus shown to be universal, catholic, because its light expands in order to illumine the entire cosmos and all of history.

I’m totally clear on faith in God as a virtue as well as acknowledging faith as a “deposit” other human beings hand on to me, a Christian believer.

It is those human beings who cannot be expected to be perfect in handing on the faith, and the acknowledgement that different times and cultures emphasize different points of Christian doctrine bears this out.

That said, there certainly is a danger in picking and choosing what to emphasize. Conservatives (and others)  criticize sexual liberty. Parents, victims, and survivors criticize immoral bishops. Personal experiences (harm done to one’s children, threats to the clerical culture, rebellion against authority) all form and shape us. They might even distort priorities of mature believers.

Faith that is then needed less that “body” of Irenaeus, and more the light that one receives after a searching and honest discernment.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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