The Decrees of the Vatican Council/Part 1/Chapter 3

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Of Faith

MAN being wholly dependent upon God, as upon his Creator and Lord, and created reason being absolutely subject to uncreated truth, we are bound to yield to God, by faith in His revelation, the full obedience of our intelligence and will. And the Catholic Church teaches that this faith, which is the beginning of man's salvation, is a supernatural virtue, whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that the things which He has revealed are true; not because the intrinsic truth of the things is plainly perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, who reveals them, and who can neither be deceived nor deceive. For faith, as the Apostle testifies, is "the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things that appear not."[1]

Nevertheless, in order that the obedience of our faith might be in harmony with reason, God willed that to the interior help of the Holy Spirit there should be joined exterior proofs of His revelation, to wit, divine facts, and especially miracles and prophecies, which, as they manifestly display the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are most certain proofs of His divine revelation adapted to the intelligence of all men. Wherefore, both Moses and the prophets, and most especially Christ our Lord Himself, showed forth many and most evident miracles and prophecies, and of the Apostles we read: "But they, going forth, preached everywhere, the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed."[2] And again it is written: "We have the more firm prophetical word, whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light shining in a dark place.[3]

But though the assent of faith is by no means a blind action of the mind, still no man can assent to the Gospel teaching, as is necessary to obtain salvation, without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who gives to all men sweetness in assenting to and believing in the truth.[4] Wherefore faith itself, even when it does not work by charity, is in itself a gift of God, and the act of faith is a work appertaining to salvation, by which man yields voluntary obedience to God Himself, by assenting to and co-operating with His grace, which he is able to resist. Further, all those things are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by her ordinary and universal teaching (magisterium), proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed.

And since without faith it is impossible to please God, and to attain to the fellowship of His children, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification; nor will anyone obtain eternal life, unless he shall have persevered in faith unto the end. And that we may be able to satisfy the obligation of embracing the true faith and of constantly persevering in it, God has instituted the Church through his His only-begotten Son, and has bestowed on it manifest marks of that institution, that it may be recognized by all men as the guardian and teacher of the revealed Word; for to the Catholic Church alone belong all those many and admirable tokens which have been divinely established for the evident credibility of the Christian Faith. Nay, more, the Church itself, by reason of its marvellous extension, its eminent holiness and its in exhaustible fruitfulness in every good thing, its Catholic unity and its invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credibility, and an irrefutable witness of its own divine mission.

And thus, like a standard set up unto the nations,[5] it both invites to itself those who do not yet believe, and assures its children that the faith which they profess rests on the most firm foundation. And its testimony is efficaciously supported by a power from on high. For our most merciful Lord gives His grace to stir up and to aid those who are astray, that they may come to a knowledge of the truth; and to those whom He has brought out of darkness into His own admirable light, He gives His grace to strengthen them to persevere in that light, deserting none who desert not Him. Therefore there is no parity between the condition of those who have adhered to the Catholic truth by the heavenly gift of faith, and of those who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion; for those who have received the faith under the teaching (magisterio) of the Church can never have any just cause for changing or doubting that faith. Therefore give thanks to God the Father, who has made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light; let us not neglect so great a salvation, but with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.[6]

  1. Hebrews xi, 1.
  2. Mark xvi, 20.
  3. 2 Peter i, 19.
  4. Second Council of Orange, confirmed by Pope Boniface II A.D. 529, against the Semipelagians, can. vii. See Denzinger's Enchiridion Symbolorum, p. 50, Würzburg, 1854.
  5. Isaias xi, 12.
  6. Hebrews xii, 2; x, 23.