Assent of Intellect and Will

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One of the most difficult things for me to gauge is how in accord I am with Catholic teaching. I was not raised Catholic, and I have to admit that my entry to the Catholic Church was accompanied by so many reservations, it's amazing I got through at all. I still had very primitive notions about this Catholic "Marian" bent. I did not believe in Papal infallibility, and I thought the Church wrong on birth control, most likely wrong on abortion, and wrong on homosexuality. Nevertheless, I entered with a willingness to believe if God would lead me there. I don't think I assented in mind, but I wanted to be Catholic and I prayed God every night that I should grow in my Catholicism.

Now, this tends to make one defensive and nervous about one's Catholicism. However, this morning TSO gave me a wonderful gift. I have no idea whether or not I read the passage he posted from the Vatican II documents in the comments section of the Respect post below; however, I discovered that all I have done is parroted what the Church teaches definitively. Whether I came to the conclusions in the post on my own or they were merely the surfacing of material read long ago, I stand by what was written and believe it with all my heart. What that says to me is that I have stumbled into Catholicism by being willing to do so. I am now "thinking more like a Catholic" if you will.

I believe that this is entirely a gift from God; however, it is a gift that had some strings attached. That is, to receive the gift I had to be willing to listen and willing to be led. I had to give assent of will to Catholic teaching, even if what I thought I was doing was praying for the grace to believe. Perhaps they are one in the same.

What I can say is that it is a source of great joy to see how closely my own thought parallels that of the Church. It suggests that the Church's magisterium is informing me in ways that I could not even begin to imagine.

I still have difficulties. I am troubled by some Church teachings, uncertain what to think about ordination of women, and the whole issue of homosexuality. But, I refuse to follow my own lead on this. I am far too often wrong--seriously wrong--on issues of great import. So I will remain in a state of discomfort for now knowing that as I pray to be part of Christ's Church on Earth, the Holy Spirit will guide me as He has always done. I can trust Him completely--more completely than I can trust my own faulty reasoning and prejudice.

In her prudential judgments the Church may err, but in all matters central to the faith she is absolutely trustworthy. Sometimes I don't know where that line is, but my fellow Catholics, my reading, and over all, the Holy Spirit all help me to find my way through my own confusion.

My thanks for this gift to TSO, who posted the passage from Vatican II, and to Talmida, whose patient, thoughtful, and courteous discourse was one of the inspirations for the original post. You guys and gals in St. Blog's are just spectacular--thank you for your persistent help on the journey. Traveling companions make the trip less burdensome.

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I would've identified exactly which document and which page I found that quote, but I copied it years ago before I started attributing quotes! But I'm glad it was helpful. I think it's highly meritorious that you assent to Church teachings because it is very hard for those who are well-read and intelligent not to put their own intelligence and opinions at the center of things. To submit to Church teaching is an especial sign of humility, and thus predestination.

The St. Terese, the Little Flower, I believe it was, wrote about the 'infused knowledge'. Based on similar experiences, it sounds like you're describing that: we're often just given knowledge, but have to find the words and right ways to relate to it (orthodoxy). So, thanks be to God for that grace. When I struggle, I look around and I find I have often been cast a line from the Doctors and Saints of the Church, as well as the Councils - often it's just a couple of lines in a much larger work, but it's enough.

I'm going to hazard a guess that the reason you've an issue with us not ordaining women is that you're not entirely clear (at least, as clear as the apodictic knowledge of mystery allows) on what's going on up there, on the Altar and on the Cross, during the Mass - at least, I used not to be. I'd suggest checking out Chrysostom's "On the Priesthood", the writings of St. John Vianney (which you can find scattered on the internet), and especially "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" (which I think is the most overlooked of JPII's Encyclicals). I've also been pointed recently to Abbot Vonier's "A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist", which I read and can recommend. I'm in the middle of 'Priestly Celibacy Today' by Thomas McGovern, and in passing he mention several points which clarify the role of the priest, as well. Put together with the remberance of Christ as Bridegroom and Church as Bride (especially given the topological study in the Songs of Solomon), who bearing their spiritual children into unity in Christ, I think gives an adequate clarification of the necessity of the masculine in the genitive and sacrificial character in the priesthood.

The homosexuality thing becomes clear when you understand the underlying flaw about the 'disordered use of a good'. For that, I think one needs Aristotle and Aquinas to give one the framework to think about it properly. Also, check out the "Spiritual Combat" of Scupoli - that serves to remind us of the holiness to which we are called, and how easy it is to fall into disorder (the works of the diabolos - literally the 'one who throws himself across the path').

One final point: ever since I started saying the Liturgy of the Hours (almost) daily: morning and evening prayer, plus reading the OOR from the 4-book set, I found lots of these little side-questions get answered (indirectly, usually, but sufficiently clearly). Saying a daily rosary - especially with a little book of the mysteries which has relevant scripture passages - also helps in some core faith things. All good stuff.

God bless, keep going!

Topological, above, should read 'typological'.

Although, in retrospect, given items like the 'halves of pomogranites', 'jewels in the handiwork of an artist', a 'round bowl' and 'two young fawns, twins of a gazelle', maybe topological _is_ the right way to think of the Songs of Solomon. :-)

Dear Nonymoose,

Thank you. You may be right about both issues, and perhaps some of the resources you suggest will help. Presently I identify the problem with a human sense of justice v. divine will; and perhaps a misplaced sense of compassion--I don't know. What I do know is that God will lead me where he wishes me to go, and you may just be one of the agents. Thank you.



Dear TSO,

You flatter me with your praise. Thank you for your kindness. It doesn't feel particularly meritorious, because I have been so often very, very wrong that it's hard to take myself that seriously.

But thanks for the thought anyway.



Steve, in addition to A. nonymoose's suggestions, have you read any of JPIIs Theology of the Body? That might help with your misgivings on the teachings regarding homosexuality. JPII did a masterful yet logical and compassionate job with putting his thoughts in order regarding human sexuality. And you're such an avid reader I bet you could get through it rather quickly too!


I admire your obedience to enter the Church with unresolved issues. When I was going through the process, I struggled through everything until I could come to understand the Catholic position because I didn't have any of the obedience or humility necessary to assent without understanding. Fortunately for me, the resources that I came across were sufficient to convince me of the Church's position on all the issues that I had. (Primarily Mary, although some of the other issues you mention are familiar to me as well). I still don't have much obedience or humility, but perhaps I have more faith in God's providence to guide the Church always. It certainly is a tribute to your humility that you can assent without understanding. And it is a tribute to our Church that She can contain all of the disputes and disagreements from her members and hold us all together in charity.


Dear Brandon,

Obedience may be a gift given to the intellectually lax. :-D

Had I waited until all issues were resolved, I would never have entered. But the passage from Revelation and John Chapter 6 kept calling--"The Spirit and the Bride say come. . ." Who then is the Bride of Christ? I had come through John Chapter 6, interpreted in the old, flat, fundamentalist style, to realize that it was the Church that still viewed the sacrament of the Eucharist as real food and real drink, real presence, and real spiritual food. John 6 led me to the Catholic Church and with my Sola Scriptura backdrop, I could not resist obeying what it said--a real problem for a fundamentalist who really does employ the fundamentals!

Anyway, I have no doubts, but I am troubled and puzzled by some things. Those I accept as the limitations of my human understanding. I may not be able to defend these points of doctrine in the way I can some, but I hold them as my own and seek to come to terms with them.

Thanks for your kind words.



a real problem for a fundamentalist who really does employ the fundamentals!


I have said that I was the best Protestant I could be, in that I protested my way all the way back to the Catholic Church.




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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 18, 2006 7:45 PM.

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