THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TEACHES:
What is indifference to faith?
Indifference to faith is to care for no religion, to consider all religions equally good, or to neglect attending religious instruction.Our future and true home is heaven. Oh! how full of joy and sweetness is that one word, "heaven, paradise."
To the ear of the exile there is nothing sweeter than then name of home. What wonder, then, that the name of heaven should be so full of sweetness, since it is our true home, our home forever? When blessed Egidio heard any one speak of heaven, he was so overcome with joy that he was lifted up into the air in an ecstasy of delight.
Now, no one can go to heaven unless he knows the way to heaven. If we wish to go to a certain city, the first thing we do is to ask the way that leads to it. If we do not know the way, we cannot expect to arrive at that city. So, too, if we wish to go to heaven, we must know the way that leads to it. Now, the way that leads to it is the knowing and doing of God's will. But it is God alone who can teach us his will; that is, what he requires us to believe and to do, in order to be happy with him in heaven.
The end for which man was created is everlasting union with God says the Vatican Council, is far above the human understanding. It was, therefore, necessary that God should make himself known to man, and teach him the end for which he was created, and what he must believe and do in order to become worthy of everlasting happiness.
Now, God himself came and taught us the truths which we must believe, the commandments which we must keep, and the means of grace which we must use to work out our salvation. To know God's will is to know the true religion or the true way to heaven. As God is but one, so his holy will is but one, and therefore his religion is but one. In order that we might learn, with infallible certainty, this one true religion, Almighty God appointed but one infallible teaching authority the Roman Catholic Church and commanded all to hear her and believe her infallible doctrine, under pain of exclusion from eternal life.
Now, not to care to know the true religion, is to despise God and all he has done and suffered for our salvation. This indifference to faith is the enormous crime of the age, and especially of this country. The sins of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah cried to heaven for vengeance. "The sin of Sodom is become exceedingly grievous. We will destroy this place, because their cry is grown loud before the Lord." (Gen., xviii., 20.) Now, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in the gospel that those who are indifferent to the true religion not caring to know it, and to listen to his apostles and their lawful successors, are far more guilty in the sight of God, and shall, on this account, be more severely judged than the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Whosoever shall not receive you (the Apostles) nor hear your words, going forth out of that house, or city, shake off even the dust from your feet for a testimony against them. Amen, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment, than for that city." (Matt., x., 14, 15, and Luke, ix., 5.)
This severe judgment is executed even here below upon those who are guilty of the sin of indifference to the true religion. Their prayer, says the Lord, is an abomination. "He who turneth away his ears from hearing the law, his prayers shall be an abomination." (Prov.,xxviii., 9.) St. Paul tells us in plain words, in what the judgment consists which God passes and executes upon those who are indifferent to the true religion. He says that "those who did not like to have the knowledge of God (of the true religion) were delivered up by God to a reprobate sense to do such things as are unbecoming, to become filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, hateful to God, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy." (Rom., i., 28-32.) Now as there is and can be but one true religion, all the others must be false, must be opposed to God and hateful to him. Now that which is false and opposed to God cannot be good. Consequently it is false to say that all religions are good.
To maintain that all religions are good, is to maintain that truth and falsehood are equally pleasing to God; that God is just as well pleased with those who blaspheme him as with those who honor him. That to adore the devil is just as pleasing to God, as to adore the living and true God himself. Who can swallow such monstrous absurdities? There is a man. He is a notorious liar, a perjurer, a thief, a wretch without honor, without principle, and without morals. Now can you love and respect that man just as much as the man who is truthful, honest, and virtuous ? Would you introduce that perjured wretch into your family ? Would you allow him to associate with your pure wife, with your beautiful and virtuous daughters ?
Now if you love truth and virtue, does not God love them more ? If you hate falsehood and crimes, does not God hate them more ? Now the more precious a thing is in itself, the more dangerous, the more hateful is its counterfeit. A one hundred dollar counterfeit note is more dangerous than a ten dollar counterfeit note. Now the true religion is the most precious gift that God has bestowed on man. Consequently a counterfeit or caricature of it must be most hateful to God. Why did God forbid idolatry so strictly in the Old Law; why did he punish idolaters so severely, why did he even exterminate so many nations for practicing it, if all religions are equally good and pleasing to God ?
What need was there for Jesus Christ to come down from heaven to become man, to suffer and die on a cross, all in order to establish the true religion what need, I say, was there of all this if all religions are equally good, equally pleasing to God ? "But," some one will say, "at least all the Christian denominations are good" All the Christian denominations? How many denominations are there? And among all these, how many hold the same doctrines? How many of them hold even the same doctrines they held a few years ago ? What one of them believes in, the others reject. What one of them believed in yesterday, he rejects today. Show me one doctrine in which all the sects agree. Now, do you mean to say that Christ, who is God, can be the author of all these wrangling sects ? God is the
author of peace and unity. The devil alone is the author of wrangling sects, the promoter of discord. Can you believe that it is equally good, equally pleasing to God to adore Jesus as the living God, as we all do, or to hold that he is a mere man as do the Unitarians? All the truths of religion have been revealed by God. Now, do you mean to say that God would reveal one truth to one class of men, and reveal the opposite to another class! The Son of God became man precisely in order to establish the true religion, a perfect religion, free from all doubt and error. He taught and labored for thirty-three years. He founded a Church, committed to her care all his doctrines, and his sacraments. He sent to his Church, the Holy Spirit to remain with her always, and teach her all truth. He promised that he himself would remain with his Church all days even to the end of the world.
The Son of God sent his Apostles to preach to every nation all that he had taught. He confirmed those doctrines by numberless miracles. He sealed these doctrines with his own blood; he sealed them with the blood of millions of glorious martyrs. And yet you will tell me, after all this, after all that God has done to teach men the true faith, it matters little what a man believes. Jesus Christ says: "He that will not believe shall be damned," and you say, "he will not be damned at all, for all religions are good." What then do you make of Jesus Christ ? Will you dare assert that Jesus Christ told a lie? "If all religious are good," then there is no such thing as heresy. And yet St. Paul warns us against heresy. He classes heresy with wilful murder and adultery. He says that the heretic shall not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Even the apostle of love, St. John, forbids us to associate with a heretic.
If all religions are good, what need was there of so many councils, even from the days of the apostles down to the present? Why has the Church struggled so long against heretics and innovators ? Why has she fought and bled, and suffered so bravely for the perfect maintenance of the truth? If all religions are good, then all those martyrs who poured out their blood like water for the true faith, were fools; then all those converts Dr. Brownson, Mary of Ripon, Dr. Ives, and so many others, who have sacrificed every thing for the true faith, were fools; then all those Catholics in Ireland and elsewhere, who suffered and died for the faith, were fools! If all religions are good, what need is there of your Protestant Churches, and Protestant preachers? What need is there of your bible societies and foreign missionaries?
If all religions are good, why are Protestants, infidels, Freemasons and so on, so bitterly opposed to the Catholic Church? Why do they form secret societies sworn to exterminate the church? The Catholic religion is, after all, a religion and if all religions are good, why then the Catholic religion must be good, and if it be good, why did Martin Luther and the first Protestants leave it? "As for me I respect every man's Religion." Indeed! Now what does that mean: I respect every man's religion, or "I respect every religion?" for it is the same thing. A man, who speaks thus means to say: "I believe that all religions are doubtful," or "There is no absolutely true religion on earth," or "The question of religion is one of very little importance." Those who make use of this expression: "I respect every man's religion," look upon themselves as learned men, and pride themselves on their generosity and toleration. But in reality they are men of very shallow minds, and as for their learning: "Tis deep as the sky in a lake, Till the mire at six inches reveals the mistake." I ask you what kind of brains must that man have who tells you coolly that he respects or accepts two propositions exactly the reverse, aye, the very contradiction of each other ?
Philosophy comes from two Greek words meaning "love of wisdom,"; i.e. "love of truth." Now the man that loves and respects falsehood, can certainly be no philosopher. True charity forbids us to despise those who are in error, on the contrary, it teaches us to pity and love them. But there is an infinite difference between loving those in error, and loving the error itself; there is an infinite difference between loving the sinner, and loving his sins. To say: "I respect or esteem all religions," is not only unreasonable, but even blasphemous, for, by it, you assert that you esteem that which God abhors you respect and esteem falsehood.
Whenever you meet any of those men who, boastingly declares that he respects all religions, take a good look at him. If he is one of those grown up children, so common at the present day, who merely repeat what they have heard without understanding its meaning, then pity him from your heart and correct him kindly. If he is, how ever, one of those arrant knaves an agent of some secret society, tear off the mask at once from his brow and show him in all his hideous deformity the enemy of man the enemy of God! The man without religion pretends to be a philosopher. He tells you he is above the ignorant prejudices of the vulgar. Now the man without religion is certainly no philosopher. He can lay no claim whatever to true solid learning. The greatest pagan philosophers that we have any knowledge of were undoubtedly Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Now these men spent nearly their whole lives in studying the questions: "What is the soul ? What be comes of us after death? What is God?" and so on. In a word, they studied continually those very questions that religion teaches us. To be indifferent to religion, then, is to be indifferent to all true philosophy. The man without religion is in reality but little higher than the beast of the field. To be indifferent to religion is to be indifferent to the highest and noblest truths that can occupy the human mind, the relations between God and man, between this life and the next, the evils we must avoid and the good we must gain. Doubt concerning such truths is the death of the intellect, but indifference with regard to such vital truths, shows that a man's intellect must indeed be on a level with the brute. What are you to think of a lawyer who tells you it is indifferent to him whether he wins his case or not. What are you to think of a doctor who assures you he is quite indifferent whether his patient recovers or not? What are you to think of a general who tells you that he cares little whether he conquers or is defeated?
Now the man who is indifferent with regard to religion is even far more blameworthy. Moreover, the man who boasts that he has no religion insults the good and holy God who made man to know, love and serve him, he insults that God who, as our Creator and Lord, has a perfect claim to our entire worship and obedience. What would you think of the woman who boasts that it is indifferent to her whether she lives with her husband or with another? What would you think of a son who boasts that he has no more respect for his father than he has for his enemy? Now the man who boasts of his religious indifference is a thousand times worse. He has as much respect for the synagogue of Satan as he has for the church of Christ; as much respect for the false inventions of bad priests as he has for the doctrines of Christ and the Apostles.
A certain infidel once boasted in company that he had no religion. "Oh" said the gentleman of the house, there are others here who are afflicted in the same way." "Who are they?" asked the infidel. "Why, our dogs and our horses," answered the gentleman. "Only these poor brutes have sense enough not to boast of their misfortune."
Nay, the infidel is even worse than the beast. He resembles the very demons of hell. They, too, refuse to worship God. They, too, hate and deny God. Yet with all this the infidel pretends to be a man of sense, a man of learning. He pretends to have made a more thorough study of religion than the very priests and doctors of the Church who have devoted their whole life to this sacred subject.