Classic Answers to Timeless Questions about the Catholic Faith

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Is it not God’s will that all should be Catholic?

It is. For Christ established the Catholic Church and bade her go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. But he said also, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; he that believes not shall be condemned.” He thereby tells us that not all who hear the truth will accept it. He himself did not convert all who hear the preached, and we must not be surprised if we ourselves have the same experience. In individual cases, however, we must refuse to judge as to the degree to which even those who have heard the truth concerning the Catholic Church apprehend its significance. Their responsibility in remaining non-Catholic must be left to God. In the meantime we can but pray for them, patiently bearing the trial that those we love show no present signs of conversion to Catholicism, or the fact that they are not converted as quickly as we would wish. God’s time is the best time. It is for us to plead that he may give them the grace of the Catholic Faith, and that they may correspond with that grace despite all difficulties.


What is the evidence of God’s existence, apart from the Bible?

What do you mean by evidence? Some people think that evidence must be seen and touched, as an animal sees a patch of grass and eats it. But men are not mere animals. They have reason, and can appreciate intellectual evidence. For example, the evidence of beauty in music or in painting is perceived by man’s mind, not by his senses. An animal could hear the same sounds, or see the same colors, without being impressed by their harmony or proportion. Apart from the Bible altogether, reason can detect sufficient evidence to guarantee the evidence of God.

There are many indications, the chief of which I shall give you very briefly: The first is from causality. The universe, limited in all its details, could not be its own cause. It could no more come together with all its regulating laws than the Golden Gate Bridge could just happen, or a clock could assemble itself and keep perfect time without a clock maker. On the same principle, if there were no God, there would be no you to dispute his existence. What is created supposes a Creator who is uncreated, or the problem goes on forever; the whole endless chain of dependent beings as unable to explain itself as each of its links. It is rational to argue to an uncreated clock maker. It is not rational to ask, “Who created this uncreated clock maker?” God was not created. His creator would then be God, and not be himself. God always existed. He never began, and will never cease to be. He is eternal.

A second indication is drawn from the universal reasoning, or, if you wish, intuition of men. The universal judgment of mankind can no more be wrong on its vital point hand the intuition of an infant that food must be conveyed to the mouth. The stamp of God’s handiwork is so clearly impressed upon creation, and, above all, upon man, that all nations instinctively believe that there is a God. The truth is in possession. Men do not have to persuade themselves that there is a God. The have to try to persuade themselves that there is no God. And no one yet who has attained to such a temporary persuasion has been able to find a valid reason for it. Men do not grow into the idea of a God; they endeavor to grow out of it.

The sense of moral obligation confirms these reasons. In every man there is a sense of right and wrong. A man knows interiorly when is his doing wrong. Something rebukes his conduct. He knows that he is going against an inward voice. It is the voice of conscience, dictating to us a law we did not make and which no man could have made, for this voice protests whether other men know our conduct or not. This voice is often quite against what we wish to do, warning us beforehand, condemning us after it violation. The law dictated by this voice of conscience supposes a lawgiver who has written a law in our hearts. And as God alone could do this, it is certain that he exists.

Finally, justice demands that there be a God. The very sense of ustice among men, resulting in courts of law, supposes a just God. We did not give ourselves our sense of justice. It comes from whoever made us, and no one can give what he does not possess himself. Yet justice does not always succeed in balancing the scales, they will be balanced by a just God, who most certainly must exist.


What do you mean by the term God?

God is a spiritual, substantial, personal being, infinite in intelligence, in will, and in all perfection, absolutely simple or laking composition, immutable, happy in himself and by himself, and infinitely superior to all that is or can be conceived apart from himself. He is incomprehensible in his infinite perfection by all lesser intelligences, although knowable as to the fact of his existence as living Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, almighty, eternal, immense, and distinct from all that he has created.

If God ever had a beginning, then before he began there was nothing. Now nothing, with nothing to work upon, and no faculties with which to work, could never turn its nonexistent self into something. But there is obviously something, and there can never have been a time when there was nothing. God at least must always have existed, and if no one is responsible for his beginning, there is no one who could possibly bring his existence to an end. He always will be. God rightly declared himself the eternally existent Being when he said to Moses, “I am Who am.”


Is it not possible that matter itself is eternal?

I admit that it would be possible for an eternal Cause to produce eternally some basic created reality. We know from Revelation that God did not create from eternity. But it would have been possible for him to do so. However, you must not this: The appeal to the eternity of matter, which cannot be proved, does not exclude the necessity of an outside Cause. The mere duration of a ting does not explain its existence. You cannot explain a running train by saying innocently, “Why, it was always running.” In the universe we see a succession of causal mutations, each succeeding being cause by a preceding stage, and no one element can explain itself independently of the rest. And if each link in a chain is dependent, the whole chain is dependent. An eternal series of dependent and caused things can be reasonably explained only by One who is independent and uncaused, who exists with a complete self-sufficiency not to be found in finite things.

In passing, let me call you attention to the problem of life. Even if matter is eternal, there was certainly a time when life did not exist on this Earth, and certainly a time when it began to exist. Any belief that it began spontaneously, and without the creative power of God, is unworthy of a reasonable man.

You do not believe that the universe can be explained in terms of the material only. Most certainly I do not. The mere materialist offers explanations that do not even deserve a place in the catalogue of errors. The are too puerile. Of visible things materialism give explanations one wold expect for a prattling baby or from a lunatic. Of invisible things and spiritual things it gives no explanation at all. It constructs bodies with smaller bodies, like child playing with a set of blocks, and it gets quite out of breath by the time it gets to things of the mind. It contradicts itself by speaking of laws of mater, for a law is a decree formulated by reason, and reason is not material. Materialists prove God every time they speak in order to deny him. For at the back of every denial of God there is the idea of God. No man can believe in truth, or appreciate goodness, or seek happiness, without tending toward the Author of these things. Yet each of these ideas leads to God. Materialism is not rational, and its only real appeal lies in the fact that it makes the universe the magnificent plaything of man’s pride and gives him a free field for his passions.


What becomes of God when you think of the misery and starvation in the world?

We have already seen that there is a God. Inability to comprehend every detain in the universe does not prove that there is no God but merely the limited capacity of the finite human mind. However, the human mind can propose certain principles that go a long way toward the removal of difficulties.

First, evil is really the negation of privation of good, and if there is evil in the world, there is also much good that can be accounted for only by the existence of God.

Second, the fluctuations of this mutable life cannot affect God’s existence. Meaning, you cannot have God when things seem to be all right and annihilate him when things seem to go wrong. If God exists before things go wrong, he still exists despite the unhappiness of an individual. And not that word
individual. Viewing the race as a whole, we find that life is a mixture of comfortable and uncomfortable things. When we are happy, others are suffering. When we are suffering, others are happy. We cannot say that God exists for the happy ones and simultaneously does not exist for the unhappy ones. We must not take local and individual views only but a universal outlook.

Third, and particularly as regards the uneven distribution of this world’s goods with consequent starvation for some, God’s providence has not failed. Man’s administration is the fault. While individuals suffer lack, we know that the world has produce enough wheat, fruit, meat, and wood to feed and clothe everyone. God has not failed to provide enough to fill every mouth. But he has given this world over to the administration of men, and it is their bad management they must correct rather than blame God. At least their incapable administration should teach them the saving grace of humility.

God permits these things only because he knows that there is a future life where he will rectify and compensate all inequalities. In the meantime, he draws god to of these miseries, for the teach men not to set their hopes entirely upon this world as if there were no other and help to expiate the sins of mankind. If we cannot be entirely happy here, let us at least make sure of bing happy in the next life.

We might say, “If God is good, why did he allow his Son to go through excruciating torture?” Sin is the real evil, not suffering. Christ found happiness in proving his love by suffering, a greater good than mere health. And the miseries of this world have driven thousands to God, who would have been self-sufficient and independent only for the naturally insoluble problem of suffering. If only for this reason, we can discern an indication of God’s goodness in it.


If God is loving, just, and all-powerful, why does he permit moral evil, or sin?

Because God is Love, he asks the freely given love of man and not a compelled love. Because he is just, he will not deprive man of the free will that is in accordance with his rational nature. Nor is this against the omnipotence of God, for even his power does not extend to contradictory things. Man cannot be fee to one and serve God without being free to reject him and rebel against him. We cannot have it both ways. Even God, if he wants men to be free, cannot take from them the power to choose evil. If he enforces goodness, he takes away freedom. If he leaves freedom, he must permit evil, even though he forbids it. It is man’s dignity that he is master of is own destiny instead of having to develop just like a tree that necessarily obeys natural law. Men, as a matter of fact, misused their freedom, and sin and brutality resulted. But it was impossible to give man the gift of freedom and the dignity of being master of his own destiny without risking the permission to such failures.


I get so indignant when I see suffering that I agree with the axiom, “The only excuse for God is that he does not exist.”

First, if there is no God, indignation is absurd. For then suffering is a necessary result of blind material forces. You might just as well get indignant with the sun for rising later in wintertime.

Second, the absurdity of the axiom you quote should be evident from the fact that any excusing supposes someone at fault; and if God is at fault, he exists. But let me add that if he does exist, he cannot be at fault.

Meantime, the only explanation of evil is that God does exist. Evil cannot exist apart from positive beings to experience it. God did not create evil, but he did create all positive beings, permitting them to lack normal perfection at times.

Again, if you say that there is evil, therefore there is no God, I reply, “There is good, therefore there is a God.” And my reason is stronger than yours, because the good certainly outweighs the evil in this world. And the good cannot be explained without God, while the evil can be explained with God. He permitted it only because he was good and powerful enough to draw from it a benefit greater than any harm it can effect.


Face the dilemma. God could either prevent evil or not. If he can but will not, he is not good; if he cannont, he is not all powerful.

That dilemma is invalid. If a dilemma is to be valid the disjunction must be complete, exhausting all possibilities. There must be no room for the reply, “dater tertium” — there is a third possibility. Your dilemma fails, if evil and pain and suffering are useful. What if the evil we see in this world are the necessary condition of a higher good? What if, still more, they are indispensable to the progress of man the realization of his destiny — if someday they are the compensated by an eternity of happiness? In any case, for a dilemma to be valid, the inference from each alternative in itself must be certain and indisputable. Neither of your alternatives is even reasonable.

Absolutely speaking, God could annihilate the whole of creation, and then, of course, there would be no problem of evil in the universe. But assuming the God wants this type of world, then pain and suffering are a necessary condition; and it was certainly better to permit them than not to create a universe in which it was possible for them to occur.

As it is, your very terms involve a contridiction. In practice, the assertion that if God cannot remove all pain he is not all powerful means, where physical pain is concerned, that if God cannot have sensitive beings without their being sensitive, he is not all powerful! For, granted the power of sensation, our sensations will be pleasant and unpleasant even with the variations of the weather! Where moral evil is concerned, your assertion means, “If God cannot have free and morally responsible beings who are not really free and morally responsible, he is not all powerful.” For, granted freedom of will, moral evil is a necessary possibility.


Do you believe literally in God as Creator of all things, visible and invisible?

Yes. But remember that things, whether visible or invisible, are things insofar as they have positive being. Now try to follow carefully this treatment of the subject.

Evil, as such, whether physical or moral, is not a positive entity but is a privation of due perfection. God has created every positive entity, but he does not directly produce those privations of perfection that are called evils.

Take the physical evil of a decayed tooth. God is the cause of all the positive being involved. That part of the tooth which is not yet decayed, but which is still good, owes its existence to God. The existent nerves owe their being to God and are good nerves. Their perfectly good registrations letting us know that the tooth is out of order are due to God’s causality. But the real evil is the absence of a healthy tooth and of right order in the nerves. Even the germs that consumed the tooth are quire good germs so far as their being goes. Even the process of consuming the tooth was excellent as a process.

But the evil element is reduced to absence of order and absence of a healthy tooth; and absences of perfection are not caused by any positive actin of God. God permits the, if you with, insofar as he does not choose to prevent corrosive processes, or to produce a good tooth as fa as it is eaten away.

In all this I do not deny that pain is a positive experience. Owing to the absence of a healthy tooth, there is quite a positive vibration of the exposed nerve giving positively painful registrations. But the positive action is a good activity; the evil is merely lack of due order. And while God is the Creator of all positive entities, he is not the Creator of a lack of what should be there.

The same principle applies to moral evil. The will and the action by which I choose are good in themselves. The evil is the lack of moral recitude — again an absence of something that should normally be there. And God does not cause the absence of what should be present.

Why he permit s the nonexistence or the privation of due order in created things is another question. We are dealing with the causality of God. God is not the cause of evil as such.