Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bryan Cross on St. Thomas, Faith, and the Church

Here is an excellent article by Bryan Cross on the subject of St. Thomas’ view of the relation of faith to the Church. In it, he interacts with II-II Q5 A3 of the Summa Theologiae (“Whether a man who disbelieves one article of faith, can have lifeless faith in the other articles?”). We have examined this important article in the past here at The Supplement, focusing upon its significance for so-called “cafeteria Catholics,” who want to pick and choose what they believe among the teachings of the Church. Mr. Cross speaks more generally and at greater length on Aquinas’ meaning in this article, and with greater clarity. I commend it to you.

Now, in the present time, dissent on various teachings of the Church is commonplace, even among Catholics. One can reject the authority of the Church outright, as dissenting Catholics do, or one can fashion a ‘Church’ in one’s own interpretive image, as Protestants do, and convince oneself that one is submitting to the Church. But both actions are rejections of the divinely established authority through which faith adheres to the articles of faith. For the reasons St. Thomas explains, where there is faith there can be no picking and choosing from among the Church’s teachings, because what makes faith to be faith is not essentially the set of articles believed, but the basis on which they are believed, namely, the authority of God, given to the Church to teach and interpret the deposit of faith.

Faith is not faith merely because of what is believed, he says, but because of the basis on which things are believed, which must be (as St. Thomas says) the authority of the Church.

Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ, has not the habit of faith, but holds that which is of faith otherwise than by faith.

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