– Corrado Gnerre
Dear friends, days ago I had in my hands an old book of commentary on the catechism. Reading it, I was struck by a passage about reason. Reason was said to be a gift of God and, through this, it is shown that God exists. I am quite young, I recently attended school, but the idea I have now is that there is incompatibility between faith and reason. I want some clarification with regard to this.
Dear …, God wanted man as a union of reason and will. This means that the will is not only noble but also reason, and vice versa: reason is not only noble but also the will. Now, if God wanted man as much will as reason, it means that he (man) must reach God as much with will as with reason, neither with will alone nor with reason alone. For a sound theology (which is the Catholic one) rationalism is certainly a serious mistake, the belief that truth can be known only through reason, but fideism is just as serious a mistake, which is instead the belief that only faith is enough to get to the truth and therefore to get to God. Fideism is only faith without reason; the reason that would even be considered a sort of “prostitute of satan” as the heresiarch Luther used to say. And in fact, Protestantism is structurally fideistic, but of this, dear … I cannot speak now.
What does the Bible say about fideism? I make the Book of Wisdom speak: (13,9): “… truly foolish by nature all men who lived in the ignorance of God and from visible goods did not recognize who he is, they did not recognize the author, while considering his works… In fact, the author is known by the size and beauty of creatures by analogy…because if they could know the universe so much, why didn’t they find the Creator sooner?” The words are clear: the reason alone can reach the certainty of the existence of God. Saint Paul writes to the Romans (1, 19-20): “…what can be known about God is them (to the pagans ) manifest; God himself has manifested it to them. In fact, from the creation of the world onwards, its invisible perfections can be contemplated with the intellect in the works he accomplished.”
Dear …, the Catholic Magisterium has also spoken clearly. Vatican Council I in the dogmatic constitution Dei Filius (II) states: “… the Holy Mother Church holds and teaches that God, the principle of all things, can be known with certainty with the natural light of human reason through created things. “The Second Vatican Council reaffirms in the dogmatic constitution on the divine Revelation Dei Verbum: “God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certainty with the natural light of human reason from created things.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church in n.31 is also important: “Created in the image of God, called to know and love God, the man who seeks God discovers some ‘ways’ to get to know God. They come also called ‘evidence of the existence of God’, not in the sense of the evidence sought in the field of natural sciences, but in the sense of ‘converging and convincing arguments’ which allow to reach true certainties. “And again in No. 286: “Undoubtedly, human intelligence can already find an answer to the problem of origins. In fact, it is possible to know with certainty the existence of God the Creator through his works, thanks to the light of human reason.”
In short, dear …, if we reflect, we understand that only the Catholic Church defends reason. This statement is a bit strange if you think about the things that are usually said about it: Catholic obscurantism against Enlightenment rationalism etc … Now, in addition to the fact that rationalism is anything but a valorization of reason, it must be said that true exaltation of reason is when it is affirmed that it is “capable”, if not of understanding at least to know the Truth. Well, this conviction only dwells in authentically Catholic (adverb that unfortunately we must underline today) thought. In the story ‘The blue cross’, Chesterton makes Father Brown, his most famous literary “creature” say: that reason is always reasonable, even in the last limbo, even at the ultimate limit of things. I know well that the Church is accused of lowering reason, but the opposite is the case. Alone on earth, the Church makes reason truly supreme. Alone on earth, the Church affirms that God himself is tied to reason. In the same story, the unmasking of the thief Flambeau, disguised as a priest, takes place in Father Brown because the evildoer, engaging in a theological discourse with the priest, had spoken badly of reason, something (at least for those times of greater orthodoxy) that was very unlikely to heard by a Catholic priest … and he says to him: “You attacked reason. This is bad theology. “
(From La buona battaglia. Apologetica cattolica in domande e risposte, 2019©Chorabooks. Translated by Aurelio Porfiri. Used with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved)