A post entitled Keeping Faith Real by Marc Cardaronella introduced me to the concept of “enrichment of faith”. A definition, by way of quotes:
It’s the idea that faith is only truly enriching when it’s a lived reality in the heart of the believer. And, it must be communicated that way.
Everything, “all pastoral activity,” Wojtyla wrote, was to be directed toward fostering a mature faith that was fully lived.
“Everything he did flowed from this idea,” Gaitley said. “he was constantly making the faith concrete and livable. He was constantly helping the faithful to bring the Gospel home to their hearts and into their lives.”
Before we delve into this idea of “enrichment of faith”, let us turn to the Baltimore Catechism to find out just what faith is in the first place:
Q. 465. What is Faith?
A. Faith is a Divine virtue by which we firmly believe the truths which God has revealed.
So, faith is a virtue, a good habit, a gift from God, a habit of “firmly believing” the truths that God has told us.
Why, then, would it need “enriching” by calling it “a lived reality in the heart of the believer”? Reality is merely what is actually happening around you. Virtue is an act. It is happening from you, not around you. Oh, but it is happening “in the heart of the believer”.
At this point, it seems that “enriching” faith by calling it “a lived reality in the heart of the believer” is just a convoluted way of saying faith is a “virtue”. Why avoid the word “virtue”? It is a perfectly good word.
Note that this definition of faith has, up to this point, not involved any enrichment. In fact, it is only the first half of the definition proposed by the Baltimore Catechism. It states (in a roundabout manner) that faith is a virtue, but it does not say what faith believes in (the truths revealed by God). It fails to fully define faith, much less explain how faith is “enriched”.
I would not single out this definition of “enrichment of faith” if it wasn’t presented as a major plank of the platform of the pontificate of John Paul II. Taking Mr. Cardaronella at his word, half of the Baltimore Catechism definition of faith is actually an enrichment of the faith; and that half was a guiding principle of John Paul II.
Mr. Cardaronella then invokes John Cardinal Newman as “an example of someone who made the enrichment of faith happen”. Newman, it turns out, communicates “real knowledge” as opposed to “notional knowledge”. Notional knowledge is “general, abstract, or merely conceptual” knowledge. In contrast, real knowledge is “born of experience, passion, and life. This is knowledge acquired because faith has changed you.” A money quote from Mr. Cardaronella’s primary source, Father Michael Gaitley, states that “Vagueness doesn’t move people.”
According to Mr. Cardaronella, the Catholic presentation of Christianity is vague. It is not “real”. It is notional, abstract, impersonal. It does not move people. Ah, but evangelical churches make Christianity real! Sure “their biblical based sic theology is incomplete, but it’s in touch with the Word of God and the words of Jesus. That is real, and it works.”
While the zeal of protestants is admirable, their Christianity is “real” only in the sense that it exists in all its heresy. It is not “real” because it is more personable; the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith are the most personable, for they fulfill the whole person. Protestant Christianity may be easier for a modern person to relate to, but only because it is closer to modernity, and farther from Christianity.
“Catholic religious education… stresses learning doctrinal formulas, not living them.” Would that it stressed doctrinal formulas! In amongst the collages and milquetoast guitar strumming, some doctrine is taught, but it is hardly anything compared to what the faithful learned prior to Vatican II. American schoolchildren memorized the Baltimore Catechism! When they were asked about an aspect of the Catholic worldview, they could cough it up and explain it.
A consequence of having this level of “notional” knowledge was that you had to wrestle with it. Memorizing is work. As you learned the material, you had to make sense of it. More importantly, as you made sense of it, you decided whether or not it was something you believed. And if you believed it, if you had any integrity whatsoever, you attempted to live it!
As Augustine insisted, you cannot love what you do not know. This “notional” knowledge is needed before love of Christ and living the Christian life can occur. It’s a necessary prerequisite. Yet Mr. Cardaronella asks at the end of his post “Is it fair to say the notional is killing the Catholic Church?” NO! The abandonment of the notional is killing the Church! The faithful do not know Jesus, they do not know the teachings of His Church. Little wonder they do not love Him and His Church!
The Effect of Vatican II
The Council sought to update the presentation of the Faith in a way that would seize the imagination and soul of modern man. In reality, the new evangelization is an extension of the missions of Vatican II.
The problem with this is that the presentation of the Faith that Mr. Cardaronella says has been lacking is a direct result of Vatican II! The “new evangelization” is a direct continuation of the policies of Vatican II that led to the exodus of Catholics to protestantism, the exodus that Mr. Cardaronella bemoans in the opening paragraphs of the post!
Father Gaitley is right: vagueness doesn’t move people. The new evangelization, as it is commonly presented in this article and elsewhere, is a vague notion. It doesn’t really move people. Specific doctrines, specific knowledge of Jesus Christ, lay the foundation for knowing and loving God in this life so that we might be happy with Him in the hereafter.