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THE CONSISTENT BELIEVER





THE intolerance of the Church towards error, the natural position of
One who is the custodian of truth, her only reasonable attitude, makes
her forbid her children to read, or listen to, heretical controversy,
or to endeavor to discover religious truth by examining both sides of
the question. This places the Catholic in a position whereby he must
stand aloof from all manner of doctrinal teaching other than that
delivered by his Church through her accredited ministers. And whatever
outsiders may think of the correctness of his belief and religious
principles, they cannot have two opinions as to the logic and
consistency of this stand he takes. They may hurl at him all the choice
epithets they choose for being a slave to superstition and erroneous
creeds; but they must give him credit for being consistent in his
belief; and consistency in religious matters is too rare a commodity
these days to be made light of.

The reason of this stand of his is that, for him, there can be no two
sides to a question which for him is settled; for him, there is no
seeking after the truth: he possesses it in its fulness, as far as God
and religion are concerned. His Church gives him all there is to be
had; all else is counterfeit. And if he believes, as he should and does
believe, that revealed truth comes, and can come, only by way of
external authority, and not by way of private judgment and
investigation, he must refuse to be liberal in the sense of reading all
sorts of Protestant controversial literature and listening to all kinds
of heretical sermons. If he does not this, he is false to his principles;
he contradicts himself by accepting and not accepting an infallible
Church; he knocks his religious props from under himself and stands--
nowhere. The attitude of the Catholic, therefore, is logical and
necessary. Holding to Catholic principles how can he do otherwise? How
can he consistently seek after truth when he is convinced that he holds
it? Who else can teach him religious truth when he believes that an
infallible Church gives him God's word and interprets it in the true
and only sense?

A Protestant may not assume this attitude or impose it upon those under
his charge. If he does so, he is out of harmony with his principles and
denies the basic rule of his belief. A Protestant believes in no
infallible authority; he is an authority unto himself, which authority
he does not claim to be infallible, if he is sober and sane. He is
after truth; and whatever he finds, and wherever he finds it, he
subjects it to his own private judgment. He is free to accept or
reject, as he pleases. He is not, cannot be, absolutely certain that
what he holds is true; he thinks it is. He may discover to-day that
yesterday's truths are not truths at all. We are not here examining the
soundness of this doctrine; but it does follow therefrom, sound or
unsound, that he may consistently go where he likes to hear religious
doctrine exposed and explained, he may listen to whomever has religious
information to impart. He not only may do it, but he is consistent only
when he does. It is his duty to seek after truth, to read and listen to
controversial books and sermons.

If therefore a non-Catholic sincerely believes in private judgment, how
can he consistently act like a Catholic who stands on a platform
diametrically opposed to his, against which platform it is the very
essence of his religion to protest? How can he refuse to hear Catholic
preaching and teaching, any more than Baptist, Methodist and
Episcopalian doctrines? He has no right to do so, unless he knows all
the Catholic Church teaches, which case may be safely put down as one
in ten million. He may become a Catholic, or lose all the faith he has.
That is one of the risks he has to take, being a Protestant.

If he is faithful to his own principles and understands the Catholic
point of view, he must not be surprised if his Catholic friends do not
imitate his so-called liberality; they have motives which he has not.
If he is honest, he will not urge or even expect them to attend the
services of his particular belief. And a Catholic who thinks that
because a Protestant friend can accompany him to Catholic services, he
too should return the compliment and accompany his friend to Protestant
worship, has a faith that needs immediate toning up to the standard of
Catholicity; he is in ignorance of the first principles of his religion
and belief.

A Catholic philosopher resumes this whole matter briefly, and clearly
in two syllogisms, as follows:

(I.)
Major. He who believes in an infallible teacher of revelation cannot
consistently listen to any fallible teacher with a view of getting more
correct information than his infallible teacher gives him. To do so
would be absurd, for it would be to believe and at the same time not
believe in the infallible teacher.

Minor. The Catholic believes in an infallible teacher of revelation.

Conclusion. Therefore, the Catholic cannot listen to any fallible
teacher with a view of getting more correct information about revealed
truth than his Church gives him. To do so would be to stultify himself.

(II.)
Major. He who believes in a fallible teacher--private judgment or
fallible church--is free, nay bound, to listen to any teacher who comes
along professing to have information to impart, for at no time can he
be certain that the findings of his own fallible judgment or church are
correct. Each newcomer may be able to give him further light that may
cause him to change his mind.

Minor. The Protestant believes in such fallible teacher--his private
judgment or church.

Conclusion. Therefore, the Protestant is free to hear, and in perfect
harmony with his principles, to accept the teaching of any one who
approaches him for the purpose of instructing him. He is free to hear
with a clear conscience, and let his children hear, Catholic teaching,
for the Church claiming infallibility is at its worst as good as his
private judgment is at best, namely, fallible.

Religious variations are so numerous nowadays that most people care
little what another thinks or believes. All they ask is that they may
be able to know at any time where he stands; and they insist, as right
reason imperiously demands, that, in all things, he remain true to his
principles, whatever they be. Honest men respect sincerity and
consistency everywhere; they have nothing but contempt for those who
stand, now on one foot, now on the other, who have one code for theory
and another for practice, who shift their grounds as often as
convenience suggests. The Catholic should bear this well in mind. There
can be no compromise with principles of truth; to sacrifice them for
the sake of convenience is as despicable before man as it is offensive
to God.





Next: UNBELIEF

Previous: FAITH AND ERROR



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