Yet another study confirms the hemorrhaging taking place inside the Church in the West. People are leaving the Faith in droves. A good many are leaving for agnosticism, atheism, or the often used, nones category. Much of what drives these individuals to leave en masse is our failure to explain coherently and concisely the relationship between faith and reason in the face of widespread criticism in the culture.
The Western world is dominated by secular education where children are taught principles, ideas, and a worldview that is often hostile to the Catholic Faith. The West has been engaged in a battle between faith and reason for the last 500 years. First, far too many splitting from the Catholic Church abandoned reason altogether believing it to be a broken ability in Fallen men. Second, this led to the inevitable split on the side of reason as philosophy and science embarked on the path of proving that a rationalist-materialist worldview is the only one worth having. Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI devoted great volumes of work to bridging the chasm created between faith and reason. The problem now: We are ignoring the Church’s resources at our own peril.
It is very difficult for a child to parse the nuances of their faith from what they are taught in the classroom, especially at times of tremendous peer pressure and intellectual confusion. Since public education is the primary source of education for those families who cannot afford Catholic education or who cannot, or choose not, to homeschool, there must be a way to reach children from an early age in order to teach them that faith and reason work harmoniously together. They are not in opposition, they are complementary. Each works for the other, but since faith is supernatural, it elevates and heightens reason to unachievable heights it could never reach without grace.
Parents, teens, college students, and all members of the laity really need to examine the relationship between faith and reason closely in order to understand the battles being waged in our culture. We are often marginalized and dismissed precisely because the culture does not understand the authentic natures of faith and reason, either individually or as they work together, and we do not provide clear responses.
Saint John Paul II sought to clarify and elucidate on the Church’s brilliant teaching on faith and reason in his incredible encyclical Fides et Ratio. It is truly a gift for our times. The understanding of faith was furthered in Pope Emeritus Benedict’s undertaking of his last encyclical, which was finished by Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei. We have resources. We have answers to the questions or attacks made against our Faith, we only have to use them and share them with our children. If we do not, then they will fall for the errors of our times and leave the Faith all together. Children are not coming back in later years as was the case in previous times. Secular college campuses seem to be a place where the faith of many goes to die. Much of this is because that faith was not nurtured or aided by the gift of reason, properly ordered.
One Reply to “Catholic Exchange: Why So Many Are Leaving the Church: The Faith and Reason Problem”
I was born Catholic and will remain Catholic but remain astounded at the number of my former high school classmates who have drifted to other faiths, or worse, to nonbelief. I have never, ever questionned my faith. I realize it is a gift and one for which I remain profoundly grateful. That said, as someone 71 years old, I will say that I know many, including a former nun, who much preferred out pre-Vatican II Church with the beautiful buildings where Mass was celebrated with glorious, respectful music, often in Latin. Many have left because they do not care for the modernization of the churches physically or the taking away of the beauty and ritual of the Latin Mass. I miss it desperately and often watch Mass on EWTN so I get a little but of the Latin service I so love. If I were physically able, I would drive over an hour every Sunday to get to one of the few churches celebrating the Mass on Latin. I cringe every time I see the modernization of a once beautiful Catholic church. I will never leave and am so grateful for my strong faith, but I much prefer my church before Vatican II, at least in celebration of the Mass and the beauty of the churches where Mass was offered. Because I cannot readily get out, I watch the Sunday Mass on TV. I was very happy watching the Mass by the Passionists until the music started to sound like a hootenanny. I truly miss the old ritual as much as I miss my parents – something beautiful is gone.