One of the unfortunate consequences of the interview is that it left open some ambiguities for those not well versed in the faith. I’ve read through it a couple of times now and have jotted down a few quotes which could be interpreted in several different ways (even considering settled Church teaching). In areas, though, where Church teaching is clear, we at least have some boundaries of what the Holy Father does/doesn’t mean. I thought it might be worthwhile to start with one particular section that I could see might be easily misunderstood. I’m guessing this could be the case because up until a few years ago, I didn’t have a good grasp on this. Let’s start with the quote:
The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.
This quote at first shocked me because to doubt divine and Catholic faith is a sin. As the CCC says:
2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:
Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.
It is a common misnomer today when people say things like, “there is no faith without doubt – the two go hand in hand”. Or some people might think, “well, I believe Catholicism because that’s how I was raised. I could certainly be wrong about all this. My Mormon friend seems just as sure of his faith, so there’s a decent chance I might be wrong to think Catholicism is true.” These are false and dangerous understandings of faith. So, that’s obviously NOT what Pope Francis is talking about. He is not talking about doubting the Catholic Faith. He is not suggesting that we should doubt that Jesus is Lord and that the Catholic Church is the one true way to salvation. No, that’s not what he’s suggesting at all. I’m not going to claim I know for sure what he does mean, but I’ll take a guess. I *think* what he means is in matters of our own lives (in discernment) that we should leave open the possibility that we might not know with certainty what God is asking us to do in certain situations. For instance a situation where a job opportunity presents itself in another state. Should you move your family so that they’ll be in a better position financially or do you stay put so as not to uproot them? I often hear people say something like, “I prayed about it and I feel at peace that I know this is what God wants of me.” I’ve rarely felt like that if ever (at least in matters outside of divine and Catholic faith), but I’ve left open the possibility that God does reveal such things to people. It sounds to me like that Holy Father is suggesting we be careful in situations like these not to confuse our own desires and intentions with God’s will for us. That’s just a guess and one way to possibly interpret what he said (and I could certainly be wrong about that ). But the reason for the post is to make it clear that the Holy Father does not want us to doubt our Catholic faith.