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Chapter 1: Faith, Religious Assent, and Reverence for God


People have a responsibility to seek faith, accept it as God makes it available, and guard it once they have it. But Christian faith is not individualistic. One only has faith by sharing in the Church’s faith. Thus, fulfillment of the responsibility of faith requires giving the Church’s teaching the assent it deserves.

There are good reasons to consider faith credible. There also are good reasons for confessing Christian faith as a Catholic, for today only the Catholic Church claims to possess the divine gift ensuring the gospel’s integrity. The so-called logical case against faith does not tell against it, nor do certain practical challenges, which are partly true and partly false.

The gospel promises every blessing for which humans can hope, while the leading alternative to Christian faith, secular humanism, is not an appealing option. Unwillingness to give up sin is the only unanswerable reason for not believing.

Faith is primarily in God, but one cannot believe in God without accepting truths one knows him to reveal. The responsibility of faith should be fulfilled integrally. However, one should not accept theological doctrines with faith, since they can be mistaken. As for apostasy and heresy, they are grave sins against faith.

One should give religious assent to certain teachings of popes and bishops which are not infallibly proposed. The submission of religious assent is not obedience, and it is reasonable. Not all papal and episcopal statements call for religious assent, but the limits on the responsibility to give religious assent are themselves limited in several ways. Deliberate refusal to give the assent due is a grave matter, and sinful dissent—encouraging others to share in wrongful nonassent—is even more grave.

Believers should seek to understand their faith better through catechetical formation. When challenges to faith arise, a sound response should be sought. Faith also requires prayer and attention to Scripture, as well as attentiveness to the signs of the times.

Acts of worship are the chief way of honoring God. False worship and superstition must be avoided. Believers should profess their faith openly, while refraining from such things as blasphemy, testing God, and sacrilege.

Vows are promises to God. It is right to make vows prudently and to fulfill them; nonfulfillment may be a serious matter. Oath taking—calling God to witness to the truth of what one says—also can be appropriate, though statements in the New Testament opposing the practice indicate that, where one has an alternative, it should be preferred. Perjury is a grave matter.