Archbishop Gomez tells graduates to overcome divorce of faith and reason

Archbishop Gomez hands out diplomas during graduation ceremonies at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula CA Photo Credit Thomas Aquinas College 3 CNA US Catholic News 5 16 11 Archbishop Jose Gomez hands out diplomas during graduation ceremonies at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA. Courtesy Thomas Aquinas College.

Addressing new graduates of Thomas Aquinas College on May 14, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez urged them to bear witness to the Catholic Church's harmony of faith and reason, in a culture that has lost its intellectual and religious bearings.

“The problem today is that our intellectuals and our cultural leaders no longer have confidence. They are skeptical that we can know our creator from what he has created,” Archbishop Gomez told the 82 graduating seniors and their families. “So we bracket off the question of God as something we cannot know.”

The archbishop contrasted this skeptical conclusion with the words of Blessed John Paul II, who described faith and reason as the “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth.” He pointed out that God “made us with minds that can reason and hearts that can believe,” with both abilities needed to know the truth about God and the world.

“When God is unknown, we are unknowable to ourselves,” Archbishop Gomez observed, citing the Second Vatican Council's warning that “without a creator, the creature vanishes.” He also noted that modern science, for all its important advances, had become the foundation for a world in which the question of God was no longer relevant.

“We have eliminated God from all the processes by which we seek knowledge about ourselves and about our world,” he explained. “God is no longer a factor in our methods. Hence, God is nowhere to be found among our conclusions.”

“We have allowed Almighty God to become eclipsed in our scientific and intellectual life — in higher education, and in our culture in general.”

In such a world, he said, even believers were expected to live as if God did not exist.

“You will realize very quickly,” he told the new graduates, “that in order to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of our society, you will be asked to essentially conduct yourself as if you don't believe in God.”

“You need to resist that temptation in your own lives,” said the archbishop. “But you also have an important duty to confront this culture with the power and the promise of the Gospel.”

“Our world needs to be brought to a new remembrance of the God who created us and redeemed us,” Archbishop Gomez stated. “You must promote a new dialogue of reconciliation between faith and reason.”

This reconciliation, he explained, is an urgent task in a world that is quickly acquiring new technological abilities, while losing touch with its moral sense.

“We are building a world where faith and life are completely separated,” he warned. “Where knowledge and technical ability are separated from ethics and morality. Where power is divorced from responsibility.” 

He noted that the modern scientific concept of reason “can find no reason to defend the weak, the unborn, or the human embryo.” This “self-limited” and exclusively practical form of reason “can find no reason, no value, in a person born with disabilities.”

Ultimately, he noted, a materialistic concept of reason can find no purpose or meaning in anything.

“Since we cannot see God with a telescope, or detect the human soul with an MRI machine, we conclude that trying to talk about these realities is a waste of time,” the archbishop said. “Do we really want to accept that reality is only what we can see, or touch, or prove with experiments?”

The void left by this skepticism, Archbishop Gomez observed, had not remained empty. Instead, because of man's essentially spiritual nature, it had become filled with various substitute-religions.

“You are entering a world that is a kind of ‘spiritual bazaar’ — filled with ancient religions, new spiritualities, new paganisms, and all sorts of obsessions and substitutes for religious faith.”

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But most of these alternatives to Christianity appeal only to the factors – subjective experience, intuition, and emotion – that are written off by modern science.

The answer, Archbishop Gomez said, lies in the Catholic Church's integration of reason and faith.

“As St. Paul said, we can know the invisible nature and eternal power of our Creator, from the visible and temporal things of creation.”

But Archbishop Gomez told the graduates, who completed a rigorous program based on the “great books” of Western civilization, “we can never be content with only proving God’s existence.”

“We need to proclaim God’s love. We need to proclaim him as Lord of creation, master of history, and king of every human heart.”

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