August 17, 2015

Faith has a bad name in our secularized culture. Too often, it is seen as a private choice, and if it is allowed to enter the public realm, it is interpreted as an imposition, a restraint on human freedom.

Certainly, ecclesial authority can be and has been abused, not only in the distant past, but even today. All authority inevitably brings with it a measure of worldly power, and such power tends over time to corrupt.

Yet, we can hardly live without faith, without trust in a power greater than oneself. An infant is a helpless being, utterly dependent on the care of its parents.

A small child whose trust in his or her parents is betrayed can become a hollow shell of a person, unable to form lasting relationships for the rest of their life. Often, it is the child who never formed a bond of love with his or her parents who ends up emotionally crippled, wedded to a life of crime, alcohol or drugs.

To love and be loved is our greatest human need.

The love of parents for their children is an overflow of the parents' love for each other. To be sure, single parents do love their children; children of divorce often are able to form lasting relationships.

Human relationships find their hope and destiny in the God of infinite love who is the foundation of creation.

Human relationships find their hope and destiny in the God of infinite love who is the foundation of creation.

However, the natural place for love to be formed is in the family where both parents remain faithful to their vow to love each other with an exclusive, everlasting love.

Such a love is beyond normal human capacity, especially in a society where choices abound and where there is great tolerance for a wide variety of lifestyles. Why would one stay with one's spouse for a lifetime when there are so many other attractive, caring and interesting people around?

Promising to love forever, Pope Francis says in his first encyclical Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), is possible only when we understand our own lives in the light of some plan larger than our own ideas and undertakings (LF 52). Faithful love is possible only in the context of trust in the mystery of God's love.

Modern ideologies have tried to do away with God's love and build societies founded on universal brotherhood and sisterhood. It is a powerful vision, a vision lacking but two things - a father and a mother.


Without a foundation in the God who is love, the ideal of universal brotherhood easily and inevitably descends into a maelstrom of every person striving for power over the others.

However, the God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the God of infinite, everlasting love. Human relationships find their hope and destiny in this God of infinite love who is the foundation of creation.

How can we have human society without faith in God's love? We can't. We can have a tacit peace, a contract written or unwritten that prevents us from tearing each other apart. But such a civilization does not bathe in the fullness of life and freedom. Terror always lurks at the door.


With faith, deep faith, every person is seen as a blessing, a unique gift from the Creator. Each person has a unique dignity which others must hold in awe.

Without faith, we lose sight of the preciousness and unique value of each human life. A person becomes a product of conception, a totally natural being lacking a transcendent orientation.

Concludes Pope Francis: "Man loses his place in the universe; he is cast adrift in nature, either renouncing his proper moral responsibility or else presuming to be a sort of absolute judge, endowed with an unlimited power to manipulate the world around him" (LF 54). No one wants that sort of world, except perhaps those who have never experienced the love of a mother or father.


Faith provides a place where people can dwell together, not just in an uneasy peace, but in full harmony. Faith sheds light on every human relationship. In the light of faith, every relationship reflects God's own love (LF 50).

In this context, how can one humanely say that faith should be kept out of public life?

Public life is about our relationships as a community or a nation. If those relationships are supposed to be stripped of their foundation in God's love, we descend to the level of barbarity. We are not more human; we are on the path toward becoming less than human.

It is an act of violence to strip the public realm of its ties to the God of love. Society needs love; society needs faith. They are what make us most fully human.

(Last article in the series)