Sometimes it can be hard to reconcile our call to evangelization with this world we are currently in- a world full of unbelief and with seemingly no desire to believe. Faith is sometimes seen as a weakness, an opiate to escape from the dark realities of the world; but any real believer knows that this is not the case at all. Fr. Nicholas J. Laforet in his book Unbelief: Its Causes and Cures says, “Faith…produces a twofold-effect in us: first, it reveals to us truths of the supernatural order; next, it adds to the truths in the natural order already discerned by reason. . . . More than this, faith, as light and as power, purifies the eye of…understanding.” Fr. Laforet then goes on to explain what the causes of unbelief are.
This means that people simply do not know religion or what the Church believes and teaches. It is important to remember though that there is total ignorance and partial ignorance of which Fr. Laforet says that a vast majority of unbelievers are totally ignorant. He says, “Question those learned and distinguished men who in our own days have passed fro rationalism or Protestantism to the Catholic Faith, ask them why they rejected, and sometimes with supreme contempt, the teaching of the Church? Most of them will answer that they were ill-informed in regard to that teaching; many that they were wholly ignorant of it.” The way to counteract ignorance is by solid instruction in the Catholic Faith as it takes reason “for grated, purifies, strengthens, extends, and elevates it”.
Materialism isn’t just a disordered desire for material items but for sensible realities. Dogmatic materialism denies the existence of the soul and of God and practical materialism doesn’t deny either of these things explicitly but rather forgets about them; these two aspects make up the twofold materialism and it is radical infidelity as it denies the foundation on which all religion, especially the Christian Faith, stands. Fr. Laforet points out that men reach this by two roads “libertinism of life, and, also…by that religious indifference that enervates the best part of the soul and ends by extinguishing its life.” The cure for materialism is mortification because notification is the control and right ordering of the passions under the will.
Fr. Laforet says so many really profound things about skepticism, so I will just give you a taste of his wisdom and not comment further:
“…moral universal skepticism, of that state of mind that denies nothing positively but at the same time does not affirm any truth of the moral order, whether natural or supernatural.”
“Skepticism is a weakness of the will and of the understanding. It is the younger son of pride.”
“Pride begins with a ridiculous self-sufficiency and ends in despair.”
“The causes of skepticism are complex; it is not produced in the same way in all minds that are attacked by this terrible malady. In the case of most infidels, it is not the result of a serious search after truth, but of an ill-directed search.”
“We are intelligent beings, no doubt, but we are also infinite beings, and consequently the comprehension with which we are endowed is finite.”
“Occasionally skepticism springs less from pride than from a false direction of the understanding.”
“Change, instability, fluctuation, is a malady of the understanding as well as of the heart of man; faith cures us of this malady by fixing our mind upon truths and prohibiting doubt.”
Sophistry is the corruption of both the heart and understanding. Fr. Laforet points out that 18th century sophists used to attack the Faith in the name of reason but now attack reason itself, which is the progress of intellectual decay. “Sophistry is the perversion and utter overthrow of the mind,” he writes. He further says that this sophistry comes directly from pantheism which is universal identity or general confusion. “I know of but two remedies,” Fr. Laforet writes, “humility and the sincere love of truth….Let this deadly indifference be replaced by the vivifying love of truth, justice, and goodness.”
5. Natural Religion
Fr. Laforet posits, “Now, is it conceivable that a learned man, whose mind is not corrupted, should recognize a personal and free God, the Master of the universe, and yet deny Him the power of acting in a world as He pleases, according to the dictates of His wisdom and the inspirations of His love?” The answer is yes, as can be demonstrated by Deists and agnostics, and many others. The root of this unbelief is the will. “It is pride, it is sensuality, it is egotism in some shape or other that hinders the will from turning toward Jesus Christ and fixing in sincerity the eye of the understanding on this adorable form.” Again, it is humility and faith that combat the error of the will in unbelief.
Fr. Nicholas J. Laforet’s book Unbelief: Its Causes and Cures helps us understand the errors of others, and also ones that we might fall into accidentally or willfully as we desire to go deeper in understanding and faith, and gives clear, solid guidance in how to combat these errors so that we might enjoy the fullness of Faith in Christ.