Sunday, October 25, 2015

Doubt and the Truth - Part 3

One last entry on doubt and why my doubts about some Catholic teachings have weighed on me.

It is not possible to question or doubt an infallible teaching of the Catholic Church. As an example, here an excerpt from the "Definition" section of Ineffabilis Deus (the document proclaiming the Immaculate Conception):
Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.

To not accept an infallible teaching means you are not in communion with the Catholic Church. This is the same penalty for procuring an abortion or committing murder. It is a serious sin to "think otherwise" about an infallible teaching. I have spent many years studying and trying to understand the teachings of the Catholic Church so that I could accept them; I "craned my neck to Rome" when I was left with utter confusion.

In my exploration of the Eastern Orthodox Church I discovered that the Eastern Church had the same questions as the Roman Catholic Church, but the East answered deep theological questions in a different, thoughtful, theological way (see Doubt and Truth - Part 2). On learning this, the weight of my doubts were lifted.


  1. I think it would be helpful here to parse out what you mean by "doubt", since the word admits to a variety of meanings. As I know you are aware, not understanding a teaching, not seeing how it could be true, having trouble seeing how it hangs with other things one knows to be true, etc. can all be called "doubt", and this doubt is not per se problematic. In this, East and West agree. Here's a thought experiment: Suppose an Orthodox Christian accepted that Jesus is divine, but could not accept that he was divine just as fully as the Father. She has doubts, and the doubts don't seem to go away. Would you regard the Orthodox Churches as burdensome because they viewed such a position as untenable, and that a person who held to such doubts (i.e. who refused to accept Nicene/Constantinopolitan/Chalcedonian credal Christianity as the faith of the apostles) had made a shipwreck of her faith? That is, is your question really about doubt, or is it that you no longer believe that the Catholic Church is empowered by the Holy Spirit faithfully and infallibly to pass on the apostolic faith?

  2. Since reading your first post, and following along quietly after the flurry at the beginning, I as well have wondered about the question Fr. Dominic asked in his above comment - is this really about doubt or about which Church possesses the fullness of the Truth?
    I have confessed "doubt" often enough in the confessional. Since I have come back to the Faith, my seeming "doubts" have bothered me. Recently (currently) in going through another, seemingly more serious period of doubt, a Dominican Friar of the Southern variety (whom we both know), has pointed me toward a book which has this to say: "...the overall thrust of the biblical teaching on doubt is plain. A variety of words are used, but the essential point is the same. Doubt is a halfway stage. To be in doubt is to be in two minds, to be caught between two worlds, to be suspended between a desire to affirm and a desire to negate . . . " For me, without the firm foundation, the trust, that I have in Holy Mother Church, I long ago would have succumbed to despair. There are days when I feel my faith is hanging by the thinnest of threads - but remembering that feelings are not always indicative of Truth, I hang on because I know what the Church says is True. It seems to me, in reading what you have written, that you no longer trust the Church in matters of faith . . . . isn't that the bigger question, rather than how "doubt" is seen in these two faith traditions?