Father Hardon Responds to Those Who Minimize or Eliminate the “Deposit of Faith”
Particularly in lieu of recent scurfuffles over whether the Papal Nuncio told Bishop Strickland that “there is no deposit of faith,” people today seem to forget that we’ve been told by modernists for 50 years that there is no deposit of faith. McBrien’s Catholicism, used by Catholic schools to “catechize” for quite some time, had advanced this idea (of course, because it was a tome of modernism).
Whether or not the Nuncio said it, it’s so common an idea today that it’s worth putting into perspective what the Deposit of Faith actually is. Here is Father Hardon answering this very question!
Question posed to Father Hardon:
Are we still bound to believe all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches?
Yes, we are still bound and shall remain so bound as long as there is a Catholic Church, which Christ assures us will be until the end of time. However, I think it is worth distinguishing that question.
First on its negative side, there are those, and I tried to somehow address myself to that mentality last week, there are those who are saying that there really is no such thing as a deposit of faith. In other words, that there was not, until the end of the apostolic age, a body of truths which Christ and the apostles communicated to the world.
But, so these people say, it is an ongoing revelation which is part of that process, remember process theology we spoke of last week. Well, quite clearly, this is on the negative side to that question. If a hypothesis which is contrary to the faith that we are talking about, if the hypothesis were true, that the Church had not received, and we use the pluperfect tense, which means something finished in the past, that the Church had received from her Master the truths that then she is to communicate to the world until the end of time, but that new truths are somehow welling up from the sub or unconscious in the human spirit, especially the collective human spirit, well, it is quite possible then that, even then it would be difficult to see how God would contradict himself. But then, no doubt on that hypothesis, there could well be new revelations which might at least seem to contradict the established deposit of faith.
However, once we accept the premise that there is a deposit of faith, now the word is not for best, but what it means is there is a “once for allness” about what Christ gave to his Church, and that this revelation is no longer added to, obviously never subtracted from, but that the Church’s unique mission in the world is to preserve that revelation, explain and clarify its meaning down the ages, and apply the interpretation to all the contingencies of place and time as long as the human race is in existence.
Consequently, even on the first level, but certainly on the second, which is part of Catholic teaching, there can be no question but that we are now, as our forebears were, as Catholics expected to accept whatever the Catholic Church teaches, with a prior assumption that Christ entrusted uniquely to the Church the revelation which he first gave to the apostles during his stay on earth.Hardon, John A. Lectures on the Catechetical Directory: Catechetics in the Pastoral Mission of the Church. date uncertain, but likely to be early 1990s.
BAM. Any Catholic that is not a modernist knows that Our Lord left an unchangeable and objectively real deposit of faith that is entire, complete, and true. It is what the Incarnate God revealed to us for us. If people love God Incarnate, then they accept what He says, and inform their will to assent to it.
Curiously, Father’s Modern Catholic Dictionary does not have an entry for “Deposit of Faith.” [!] But, we can gather and glean Father’s definition from his discussion above:
DEPOSIT OF FAITH. A body of truths which Christ and the apostles communicated to the world. Jesus intended this to have a “once for allness” – meaning it is complete and needs no addition. Furthermore, it must obviously never subtracted from. The Church’s unique mission in the world is to preserve that revelation, explain and clarify its meaning down the ages, and apply the interpretation to all the contingencies of place and time as long as the human race is in existence. Catholics are expected to assent to the entire Deposit of Faith as a condition of faith and belief in Jesus Christ.My poor attempt to reduce the above into a Catholic Dictionary type entry.
Critically, the point is that is is the Church’s mission to proclaim the Deposit of Faith, right?
Note Father’s reference to “process theology”…. for the unaware, that is Teilhard de Chardin — which Pope Francis recently mentioned should be re-examined… *cough*
More — just to iron in some of the point — in a different talk, Father Hardon makes the point about the Deposit of Faith not being man-made, nor is it opinion:
On this first level it finally means that this body of doctrine is not a collection of theological positions or an accumulation of man-made theories. I might add there are many theological positions, and libraries are filled with the theories of Christians, but not this.
This is a deposit of faith whose fundamental teachers were the apostles whom Christ specially chose and to whom he singularly revealed the mysteries of God’s nature and of the divine will in man’s regard.Hardon, Rev. John A. Workshop: Who is Catholic Today? recording dated 11-22-1971.
And, for those who may wonder, it is common across many lectures Father gave to give this warning: “The human mind is limitless in its conceiving of new ideas, but these new ideas may never contradict the original deposit of faith which Christ gave us.”
Does this sound “backwards” or “Rigid”? Have you experienced this kind of “minimization” of our faith? What about the definition above — tell me what I missed or how you’d improve it! Tell me about it in the comments!
This article, Father Hardon Responds to Those Who Minimize or Eliminate the “Deposit of Faith” is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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