Some Catholics have No Faith At All. Literally.

I am not speaking rhetorically. Some Catholics, who attend Mass and receive Communion, lack all three theological virtues: love, faith, and hope. They are not in the state of grace, due to one actual mortal sin or another. And at least one of their actual mortal sins is a grave sin against faith, such that they have not only lost love and hope, but also the virtue of faith.

The Council of Trent infallibly taught that every actual mortal sin deprives a person (who was in the state of grave before the sin) of the theological virtues of love and hope, but that only certain sins, grave sins against faith, deprive the sinner of faith as well.

“it is to be affirmed that the received grace of justification is lost, not only by unfaithfulness, whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, even when faith is not lost.”

An actual mortal sin of unfaithfulness deprives the baptized Christians of love, faith, and hope. An actual mortal sin which does not gravely offend against faith, deprives the sinner of love and hope, but not faith.

I have noticed, though, among Catholics who discuss the faith online and among more than a few teachers of Catholicism that some of them apparently lack the virtue of faith. They have no faith at all in Tradition, or Scripture, or the teachings of the Magisterium. Certainly, they believe whatever ideas pertaining to religion are consonant with their own thinking. But that is not faith. When any Pope or Council teaches an idea contrary to the version of religion in their own mind and heart, they reject it. They judge every idea on faith and morals by their own mind and heart, as if they were above the Magisterium, to judge it (and to judge unjustly). They refuse to accept any idea, no matter how clearly it is taught by Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, unless they are convinced in their own mind, by reasoning within their own understanding. And that is not faith.

For Catholic Christians, faith is believing in the teaching of Jesus and His Church, including teachings that are not entirely understood, including teachings that are contrary to one’s own understanding. Can you name a teaching of the Catholic Faith that you do not really understand, but accept? Can you name a teaching of the Magisterium that is contrary to your own understanding, but which you accept on faith?

On the other hand, are there teachings of the Magisterium that you do not accept, because they do not make sense to you? Or are there teachings of the Magisterium that you have had to reformulate, so that the idea you accept is not really what the Magisterium itself states? This is very common among Catholics, and surprisingly common among persons who teach Catholicism.

I often notice in Catholic discussion groups Catholics who demand explanations for Church teachings that don’t seem right to them. And they want the explanation to fit their own current limited understanding. They are not willing to accept any teaching, especially one contrary to their own thinking, merely on faith. And the usual end result of this demand for explanations is that the person is not convinced, and so they do not believe.

If you want to understand a difficult teaching of the Church, first accept that teaching whole-heartedly, based on faith, and out of love for God and hope for eternal life in Heaven. Only afterward will you be able to understand the teaching.

The alternative approach never works: first to fully understand the difficult teaching, and why it is correct, and what the answers are to various possible objections, and only afterward to believe. In such a case, the person will never arrive at belief. For the mind and heart of the fallen sinner, raised in a fallen sinful world, is not able to understand without faith.

You cannot demand to understand a teaching before you put your faith in it. And you cannot accept a difficult teaching of the Church, merely by understanding it. For understanding is not an act of faith. And without faith, it is often difficult or impossible to understand. And you cannot radically alter Church teaching, so that it conforms to your own mind, before you believe it. For that type of “belief” is not true faith, but self-worship, that is, idolatry.

{11:25} At that time, Jesus responded and said: “I acknowledge you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and have revealed them to little ones.
{11:26} Yes, Father, for this was pleasing before you.

Be little, and put your faith in the teachings of the Church, even those teachings difficult to understand, difficult to accept, or difficult to follow.

Now I’m going to tell you another truth, about the sad state of affairs in the Church today. Many teachers of the Catholic Faith, including some priests, many theologians, and many authors, bloggers, and online commentators, do not have faith at all. They do not possess the theological infused virtue of faith at all. And yet they are popular among Catholics, and they “teach” many persons.

I cannot see their souls, so I cannot be certain in any particular case. But over the course of time, it has become clear that so much rejection of magisterial teaching and so much radical revision of controversial Church teachings, as is found among teachers of the Faith, cannot possibly occur unless many of these teachers utterly lack the virtue of faith and the state of grace.

If someone is in a state of actual mortal sin, they might still retain the virtue of faith. But everyone in a state of actual mortal sin lacks the virtues of love and hope. However, a person can lose all three virtues, through a grave sin against faithfulness.

A person who has faith, may or may not be in the state of grace.
A person who has faith, may or may not have love and hope.

A person who lacks love, also lacks hope, and is not in the state of grace, but may have faith.
A person who lacks hope, also lacks love, and is not in the state of grace, but may have faith.

A person who lacks faith, also lacks love and hope, and is not in the state of grace.

These teachers of the Catholic faith, who themselves lack the theological virtue of faith, cannot have the virtues of love or hope. They are entirely devoid of all three infused virtues. And they cannot regain those virtues, until and unless they repent with perfect contrition, or make a good Confession with at least imperfect contrition.

But to all appearances, they are entirely unrepentant. They continue teaching one grave error on faith, morals, and salvation after another. They continue to refuse to believe any teaching that is contrary to their own thinking. They continue to radically revise Church teaching, so that it conforms to their mind and heart — rather than conforming their own fallen sinful mind and heart to the holy teachings of the Faith. They accept correction from no one. They continue to teach the version of Catholicism in their own mind and heart, without regard for the teachings of Jesus and His Church. Any Church teaching contrary to their own mind and heart is ignored or is radically revised, so as to conform to their own mind and heart.

{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Some of these teachers of Catholicism are very popular. Birds of a feather, flock together. Unfaithful teachers find much support from other Catholics, who also refuse to put their faith in the teachings of the Church, especially the teachings that are difficult to understand, or accept, or practice. These faithless teachers of the holy Faith are not in the state of grace, and have no love, no faith, no hope. Yet they feign holiness quite well. They talk a good game. But unless they repent from the grave sins that caused them to be deprived of love, faith, and hope, they will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.

{15:12} Then his disciples drew near and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees, upon hearing this word, were offended?”
{15:13} But in response he said: “Every plant which has not been planted by my heavenly Father shall be uprooted.
{15:14} Leave them alone. They are blind, and they lead the blind. But if the blind are in charge of the blind, both will fall into the pit.”

These false teachers are the blind leading the blind. They are very popular because many Catholics are also willfully blind to Church teaching.

{9:39} And Jesus said, “I came into this world in judgment, so that those who do not see, may see; and so that those who see, may become blind.”
{9:40} And certain Pharisees, who were with him, heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?”
{9:41} Jesus said to them: “If you were blind, you would not have sin. Yet now you say, ‘We see.’ So your sin persists.”

These false teachers are guilty for their apparent ignorance because they are willfully blind. Some have refused to put their faith in any difficult teaching, willfully blinding themselves to truth. Worse still are those teachers who know very well that what they teach is incompatible with Catholic teaching, and they teach it nonetheless.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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