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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

"Faith and Truth:" a response to the Popes'
new encyclical "Lumen Fidei" (Light of Faith)

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Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI have jointly written and published a new encyclical, “Lumen Fidei” or “Light of Faith”. Excerpts can be found on the Washington Post and mirrored at the Huffington Post web sites. A copy of the full document is online at the Vatican web site. 1

One of the excerpts states in passage 24::

“Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves. Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life.”

I agree with them 100%! I wonder however, what makes either or both Popes think that they, or the Catholic Faith and Church they represent are in possession of TRUTH? Especially since I know that I possess a piece of it that is in strong disagreement with theirs!

I doubt that they would accept my distinction between Faith and Knowledge. Faith is needed by those who know they have no proof of TRUTH. Knowledge has proof of truth. Faith is hoping that something is true where there is no proof.

I printed out a copy of the full encyclical from the Vatican web site after the editor of the Religious Tolerance web site pointed out it was now available. He asked if I might want to modify my original submission. Boy did I! This shows it is always better to go to the source than to rely on the Huffington Post or the Washington Post for the “whole” story!

What I say is simply my opinion, my thoughtful commentary. I am sure there are many that will take offense at what I say and some that will think I don’t go far enough in condemning this piece. I hope you will read the full encyclical for yourself and think about my comments and decide for yourself what you wish to believe, what your Faith is in.

I don't doubt for a minute the depth and sincerity of the authors' Faith. I just wish they didn't doubt, but had more respect for, the basic goodness and depth and sincerity of those folks that don't believe what they believe.

There are statements that I agree with 100 %:

From passage 3:

“Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.”

From passage 4.

“Mankind is particularly in need of light.”

However, I disagree with the Popes in that I don’t think the “light found in the Catholic Faith” is right for everyone.

From what they write I can see where the fundamental Faith of the Catholic Church, or Catholic Faith have failed. It is just one of those “beautiful stories” they mention in the first passage I quoted above.

The fundamental belief is that Faith transforms the man (or woman).  I wish it would be true, sadly reality shows us it isn’t. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some folk that aren’t transformed, but for far too many there is no transformation.

From passage 19:

“In accepting the gift of faith, believers become a new creation; they receive a new being; as God’s children they are now “sons in the Son”.

“Faith in Christ brings salvation because in him our lives become radically open to a love that precedes us, a love that transforms us from within, acting in us and through us.”

I think some of the sex scandals with Catholic Priests are a result of this particular belief, that becoming a priest transforms the man. We know some men aren’t transformed.

I can see where they have isolated themselves from the followers of other Religions and from Agnostics, Atheists, Deists, Humanists, etc. They have no understanding of the lives of those others, the hope and happiness, peace and serenity, goodness of character and purpose to their lives their “Faith”  (even though it is different from the Catholic Faith) brings them.

From passage 7:

“What is the origin of this powerful light which brightens the journey of a successful and fruitful life?”

They are saying it is their FAITH.  Implying other lives that don’t have this FAITH aren’t successful or fruitful.

From passage 13:

“Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another.”

“By constantly turning towards the Lord, we discover a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols.”

To me, implying that others that don’t believe what you believe are in some way inferior to you isn’t just wrong. It is a blatant Lie, it sows the seeds of fear and distrust of “the other” that have torn our world apart.

I think it also shows how what they claim for their Faith -- that it transforms people -- simply isn’t true. Or perhaps it does, the transformation however isn’t for the better but for the worse, making the individual more self-righteous, judgmental, hypocritical and intransigent.

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From passage 19, The passage about Salvation by Faith we read:

“Such people, even when they obey the commandments and do good works, are centered on themselves; they fail to realize that goodness comes from God. Those who live this way, who want to be the source of their own righteousness, find that the latter is soon depleted and that they are unable even to keep the law. They become closed in on themselves and isolated from the Lord and from others; their lives become futile and their works barren, like a tree far from water.”

What the Popes fail to see is that sometimes those trees that appear to be ‘far from water’ have roots that go deep and draw life giving water from the depths, and their fruits are bountiful and nourishing.

For the non-religious human, those depths, the sustenance they seek is totally within their selves, within their own psyche. The FAITH they need is in themselves, in their own inherent goodness, and in their unity with all humanity and other living things, in the Truth that comes from knowledge of the world and of ourselves. It is NOT a Faith that is without Truth.

As the Popes themselves say, from passage 15

“The history of Jesus is the complete manifestation of God’s reliability.”

This means to me that IF there is no truth to Jesus’ story there is no truth to the reliability of God

From passage 16:

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.”

From passage 35 we read:

“Any-one who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by his help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love.”

Oh dear. I think they should word their passages in the opposite way before they decide if what they are saying is right. For if the one is true than the opposite is also true. So those who don’t do good to others are drawing away from God, God has withdrawn his help and dimmed their eyes. So even though they claim they have Faith and are true believers, their actions show us that they don’t? That it is just a sham? Our day to day actions, are important, they show whether the force (the Faith) that moves us if of goodness or is a force of Evil or as I would prefer to call it, just a not so good force.

They also contradict themselves. Or so it seems to me. From passage 36:

“God cannot be reduced to an object He is a subject who makes himself known and perceived in an interpersonal relationship.”

From passage 25:

“Yet at the other end of the scale we are willing to allow for subjective truths of the individual, which consist in fidelity to his or her deepest convictions, yet these are truths valid only for the individual and not capable of being proposed to others in an effort to serve the common good.”

What makes the Popes think that what the “interpersonal relationship” they mention in 36 isn’t as subjective as what they discuss in 25?

Then there is this passage, #38

“I cannot possibly verify for myself something which happened so long ago. But this is not the only way we attain knowledge.”

“Persons always live in relationship.” 

"[Faith/truth] comes down to us through the memory of others—witnesses—and is kept alive in that one remembering subject which is the Church.”

The converse is also true. Lies/half truths also:

“come down to us through the memory of others—witnesses—and is kept alive in that one remembering subject which is the Church.”

It seems to me that the Popes are calling on people to have Faith in the Church, Faith that the leaders of the church are telling the TRUTH and not passing on lies.

I prefer to place my “Faith” in what I know to be true, rather than what I hope is true.

I wrote an essay much earlier entitled, “Seeking the truth, I found many truths”.  I would never be so presumptuous to claim that I am the sole possessor of TRUTH, that my Faith is the ONLY TRUE FAITH. But then I am not a Pope representing the Catholic Church.

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A related essay:

Apology by the RCC for past sins and faults

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally posted: 2013-JUL-20
Latest update: 2013-JUL-20
Author: Susan Humphreys

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Reference used:

  1. Pope Francis, "Lumen Fidei," The Vatican, 2013-JUN-29, at: http://www.vatican.va/
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