The Theological Virtue of Faith is a gift from God which helps a man to believe in and commit himself to God and His Holy Catholic Church,  and is opposed by various sins against Faith including Doubt, Incredulity, Heresy, Apostasy, Schism and Blasphemy. The gift of the Virtue of Faith is supernaturally strengthened by the Gifts of Understanding and Knowledge which also protect a man against falling way from God.

The Virtue of Faith

“Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that He has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because He is truth itself. By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God…” (CCC 1814). “The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. But “faith apart from works is dead”: when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of His Body” (CCC 1815). “The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it…Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation…” (CCC 1816). 

Faith is saying, “yes” to the reality of God, using both the intellect to know and understand, and the will to inspire the intellect to assent and firmly hold on to the truth of God. Before a man can say, “yes” to Faith, God has allowed the man to both exist and to be able to understand and accept Him; Faith is a supernatural gift from God which is offered to a man and, God, respecting the inherent dignity of the freedom of the men He has created, allows every man to choose whether to receive the gift of Faith or not. 

The Theological Virtue of Faith is supernatural, for it is an act of the Holy Spirit which allows a man to grasp a glimmer of the supernatural reality of God, a reality which is beyond a man’s ability to fully grasp and understand. Nevertheless, God through Sacred Scripture and His Holy Catholic Church has revealed the truth of His divinity in ways (the Gospel, the Creed, the Sacraments, Precepts, etc.) that every man can grasp and hold to with certainty, if the man accepts the gift of Faith; Faith is given as an unknowing certainty in the reality of God and as the ability to grasp and say “yes” to specific doctrines as preserved and passed down from Jesus to the men of the present day, preserved and perpetuated by His Holy Catholic Church. 

The  man who receives and cultivates the supernatural gift of Faith has a life-changing conversion through which he is moved to turn away from and sincerely repent of deadly sin which will separate him from God, and seeks to live a life based on the fullness of Truth which is only found in Christ’s Holy Catholic Church. For the man of Faith, seeking to know, love and serve Jesus Christ becomes the driving motivation in his life. With the acceptance of the gift of Faith, the Catholic man experiences the growing joy and peace which Jesus promises, through the Sacraments, prayer and an active effort to battle against sin and serve God and neighbor. The man of Faith, though he continues to experience sorrow and suffering because he is in the world, has an ever-growing experience of God’s love and mercy in his life; the Catholic man of Faith, though still battling in the life-long  Spiritual Combat, knows he has finally found a home in the Holy Catholic Church and looks forward to his eternal home in Heaven with God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the Apostles, and all the angels and saints.  

The Lack of Faith

In opposition to the supernatural gift of Faith in God is the Lack of Faith (Unbelief) , a state of disbelief in God that is the sorry consequence for those who refuse to accept God. Because man is created in the image and likeness of God and has been specifically prepared to accept the supernatural gift of Faith, he is predisposed to have belief in something. Sadly, those who reject Faith, place their “faith” in all kinds of false or incomplete things of the world, be it “mother nature”, false gods, false religions, politics, ideologies, science, psychology, philosophy, or “great” men. Those who have a Lack of Faith in God are prone to all sorts of perversion which leads to every conceivable sin: 

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.” (Rom 1:28-32).  

The man who has a Lack of Faith and rejects God is destined to be continually disappointed by “faith” in things that cannot satisfy and living in the chaos of uncertainty, happiness, and sin. In this life, instead of true peace they find turmoil, and instead of true joy they find fleeting pleasures and great sorrows. Tragically, those who knowingly and willingly reject God fall into unrepentant mortal sin and are doomed to experience the eternal torment and anguish of Hell that defies human description.

The Gift of Understanding and Knowledge strengthen Faith

To help a man to first accept and continue to grow in Faith, the Holy Spirit gives a receptive man the Gifts of Understanding and Knowledge. The Gift of Understanding allows a man to grasp and comprehend the supernatural truth of the reality of God, the mysteries of the faith, the spiritual combat and the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell). The Holy Spirit also gives the man of Faith the Gift of Knowledge which allows him to grow in his knowledge of the truths and practical aspects of the Catholic faith so he has the necessary information to make holy decisions and take right action as a man living in the human world.

Sins against the Virtue of Faith

Opposing the Theological Virtue of Faith are several grave sins, some of which when they are committed by a Catholic man, because of the clear intention to reject the Church’s teachings and the risk of leading others to do so, can result in excommunication from the Church.

The Sin of Doubt

Doubt  (CCC 2088) is a sin against the virtue of Faith which can take several forms. Doubt refuses to believe and give assent to what the Church teaches in the unchanging and absolute truth of Catholic doctrine. Doubt can be either freely chosen (Voluntary) or a nagging uncertainty (Involuntary); both are deadly and lead to spiritual blindness.

Catholic doctrine can be likened to a solid and unshakable structure of a grand palace, but if parts of the foundation are removed, the palace will collapse. So too is the virtue of Faith: if a man rejects and militantly refuses to believe any doctrine of the Church, his Faith collapses, whether he realizes it or not, and is dead. Rather than receiving the supernatural gift of Faith, the man who doubts has rejected the supernatural and has embraced his own selfish, incomplete and foolish ideas. 

The man of Faith accepts all in totality and doubts nothing of the Church’s doctrine. When confronted with something he doesn’t fully yet grasp, rather than to doubt or reject, the man of Faith realizes his own ignorance and the reality of his spiritual poverty, submits to the perfect wisdom of Christ in His Church, and through prayer and effort seeks to come into full understanding.

The Sin of Incredulity

Incredulity (literally, “unbelief”; CCC 2089) is the neglect of a revealed truth or the willful act to reject some aspect of Catholic truth and is a mortal sin against the Faith. Incredulity often begins because a man has become a slave to his passions, falls into and begins to love a mortal sin which leads him to stop believing that his sin is a sin; he becomes Incredulous. 

The grave sin of Incredulity is especially prevalent in large numbers of Catholics in today’s decaying culture who refuse to assent to the clear and unchanging doctrines of the Church or choose to ignore them in their personal lives (e.g. the mortal evils of abortion, contraception, sex outside of marriage, divorce, homosexual acts, etc.). 

Whether they know it or not, those guilty of the sin of Incredulity no longer have a living Faith; their faith is dead and lacks the ability to save because the Incredulous man has cut himself off from God. 

The Sin of Heresy

Heresy (CCC 2089) is the steadfast corrupting belief in a false doctrine held by a person who presumes to be Catholic, but has cut himself off from the Church by knowingly and willingly accepting and promoting something the Church does not teach. The heretical man is in grave and deadly error, an error of his own making and choosing and he removes himself from communion with the Church.

There are some within the Church who today openly promote false teachings (e.g. ordination of women, homosexual “marriage”, abortion, acceptance of contraception, euthanasia, the reality of Judgment and Hell, etc.) who, because of their willful, knowledgable and persistent rejection of the Church’s clear teaching, are heretics. Those who stubbornly, knowingly, and willingly embrace Heresy incur automatic excommunication (in Latin, latae sententiae excommunication; Canon Law 751, 1364; CCC 2272) for they are no longer in communion with what the Church holds true; those who in any way support the abortion of a living child in the womb are instantly excommunicated (Canon Law 1398). 

Heresy in any form must not be tolerated. Heretics, those who hold to heresy, can be tolerated, with the hope of their repentance, but only if they do not cause scandal and lead other Catholics into heresy. Heretics who genuinely repent and receive absolution in the Sacrament of Penance are joyously received back into full communion with the Church. 

The Sin of Apostasy

Apostasy (from the Greek, apostoasia, meaning to “revolt, defection, to stand away from”; CCC 2089) is the grave and damning sin of formally renouncing the truth of the Catholic faith, whether an apostate pursues another religion or not.  Renouncing the truth of the Church and becoming an apostate results in a loss of the saving faith in Christ and is a shameful and unmanly act of ingratitude and betrayal of Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church. Those who with full knowledge formally renounce the Catholic faith incur automatic excommunication (in Latin, latae sententiae excommunication; Canon Law 751, 1364). 

The Sin of Schism – Schism (Greek skhisma, meaning, “division, cleft”; CCC 2089) is the grave and  damning sin by which a Catholic, revolting from submission to the pope, causes division which may lead others to oppose the rule and authority of the pope.  Those Catholics who obstinately refuse to submit to the pope and/or refuse to be in communion with other faithful Catholics, incur automatic excommunication (in Latin, latae sententiae excommunication; Canon Law 751, 1364). 

The Sin of Blasphemy

Blasphemy (Latin blasphemia, meaning “speaking ill, impious speech, slander, to speak evil of”) is a denouncement of the divine goodness of God and is always a mortal sin. “Blasphemy is directly opposed to The 2nd Commandment. “Blasphemy consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward Him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name….The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things…Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and His Holy Name. It is in itself a grave sin.” (CCC 2148).