“Ask a Priest: Am I Wrong to Have Questions About the Faith?”

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Q: Hello, I just went to a retreat and it opened my heart and eyes more than ever for the love of Christ. I just have so many questions about my Catholic religion and what we believe. Is it wrong of me to have questions? I personally 100% without a doubt believe in God and all that he has done for us. But I can’t help question why he would do some things such as, for example, have crime in the world, etc. But when I have those questions I immediately think, “Am I going to hell now because I doubted him?” or “Is this a sin to be curious?” because it’s not that I am doubting him, I am just curious! Thank you. –E.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Thanks for your note. It is wonderful to hear that the retreat helped open your heart to Christ. That is what our Catholic faith is all about – our relationship with Jesus.

It is good to remember that Jesus, who suffered and died for you, only wants the best for you. He has already given you so many gifts – including your life, your faith, and your intelligence.

He wants you to use your intelligence in order to understand your faith better. Thus, there is no problem in asking questions about the faith. This is how good theology begins – people of faith asking questions.

Our growth in the spiritual life can be thought of as a stroll down a path. In order to walk we need two feet – the foot of faith and the foot of reason. Faith helps us to move forward when our reason only takes us so far. But once we take the step of faith, our reason follows along and goes deeper into understanding what it is we accept in faith.

This use of reason helps us avoid the trap of fideism – a belief that faith and reason are incompatible, or that religion simply means believing things that make no sense. Nothing can be further from the truth.

God created faith and reason. Both are geared toward seeking the truth, which is why, when properly exercised, they cannot contradict each other.

So it isn’t a sin to be curious about the elements of our faith. On the contrary, God wants us to use our intelligence to understand it as best we can.

It might be worth clarifying some terms. It is OK to have a difficulty about the faith. That is normal. To doubt the faith, however, is a different thing. Doubting the faith means that we call God’s trustworthiness into question. Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890) famously noted, “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” My guess is that you have difficulties, not doubts, about the faith.

To help overcome difficulties, we are blessed to have the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the treasury of the writings of the Church Fathers and the Popes.

Delving into the faith also takes prayer. The best theology is done on one’s knees. Having a full sacramental life and doing works of charity also open our hearts to the teachings of the Church.

For more reading see the YouCat or the Compendium of the Catechism. An audio course worth listening to is Peter Kreeft’s Faith and Reason: The Philosophy of Religion; your local library system might carry it.

I hope some of this helps. God bless.

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