Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord,” but he answered, “Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe” (John 20:25).
I’m often fascinated by the conversations I overhear at work—particularly during lunch break. Two of my co-workers in particular—one, an Eastern Orthodox Christian from Iraq, and the other, a rather nominal (and very patriotic) Muslim from Albania—frequently enjoy discussing religion. My Albanian co-worker likes to get my Orthodox co-worker all worked up with obscure opinions and ideas about God and world religions and the relative importance of religion in one’s life (versus, say, nationality or family). The other day, they were discussing evolution, prompted by an article in the paper about some Cambrian-era fossils of what’s called “hallucigenia” (because of the creatures “trippy” appearance). This prompted the old “creation vs. evolution/religion vs. science” canard, and my Albanian friend made the comment that the Qur’an and the Bible and other religious texts don’t mention things like dinosaurs, and are therefore unscientific and cannot therefore be trusted to reveal facts about the world. From that initial leap of logic, he then said that one cannot be truly religious and believe in science, and vice versa. I entered the discussion simply to comment that his view certainly didn’t describe my religion,
It is one of those unfortunate effects of the Protestant revolution, that the literalistic, fundamentalist sects’ views on creationism (especially as popularised among fundamentalist Christians in the USA) tend to colour the world’s image of Christianity-as-a-whole’s relationship with science (into which, of course, the Catholic Church is lumped, with the obligatory references to Galileo and witch-burnings, etc., and all the misrepresentations and urban legends that go with them). Not a few Catholics—especially high-school and college age students—are caused no small degree of doubt because of this false dichotomy between religion and science, and faith and reason. And the fundamentalists become even more entrenched in their “The Bible Says It; I Believe It; That Settles It” notions, using “God of the gaps” reasoning and pseudo-scientific arguments to “disprove” evolution, because obviously if evolution is true, then God can’t possibly exist, and so round and round it goes. And in the middle, the Catholic Church says that it has no official position on Creation vs. Evolution, provided one holds 3 key points: God created the world; God created Man through a special act, endowing him with an immortal soul and God’s own image; and that all people descend from an original pair of humans. That God did this is a matter of faith. How God did it is a matter of science and history. But because a Catholic can believe that God used evolutionary processes to get us to where we are today, Creationists call us unbiblical (and even unchristian). Because we believe that God was the prime mover behind these evolutionary motions, atheists think we’re no different than the Creationists. And so, while the Church’s actual teaching on this matter is one of stark common sense open to the best scientific inquiry while firmly rooted in faith, we often find ourselves friends of neither camp. But then, common sense is rather uncommon in any sphere of life, isn’t it?
Doubts about Catholicism arise from areas beyond just the scientific questions of our origins. With the current hysteria surrounding the US decision to allow homosexual “marriage”, many have taken this opportunity to attack the Catholic Church’s stance against it. Many Catholics find the Church’s position on homosexuality heartless and unfair. I’d suggest that those same many don’t actually know what the Church’s teaching on the subject actually is. Like her views on science, Catholicism’s teachings about sexuality are eminently reasonable, and indeed, beautiful. That does not mean they aren’t difficult—but if something being hard to understand or accept was the barometer of truth, then physics and biochemistry and quantum mechanics must all be hogwash, as well.
The most unfortunate part of all of this is that when the doubts arise, so often we give up. We live in a culture where everything is easy and quick, and if the answer to our questions can’t be condensed into 144 characters, then there must simply not be an answer. This cultural ADD has led many to simply walk away from a faith rich with reason, a deep appreciation for science, and prophetic common sense.
Today we celebrate the most famous doubter in history, St. Thomas the Apostle. We honour a man who was one of Jesus’ closest friends and disciples, and yet who refused to “just have faith” in Jesus’ resurrection. Thomas needed answers. He needed proof. And even though Jesus commends and blesses those who don’t need that proof in order to believe in Him, He still gave that proof to Thomas.
And over the centuries, the Church that Jesus founded has continued to give us evidence, proof, and reasons to believe. That’s why I’m so glad for St. Thomas the Apostle—and for the Catholic Church. It’s pretty likely someone in the past 2000 years of Catholic Tradition has given your doubts and questions some thought, and just as likely that they’ve managed, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the logic of common sense, to give a pretty good answer.
And when you persevere, Jesus will assuage those doubts and reveal Himself to you (cf. Matt. 7:7-8). And with St. Thomas the Apostle, your doubts will melt away with the exclamation, “My Lord and my God!”
Blessed Feast of Saint “Doubting” Thomas!