The term, “Fides et Ratio” is Latin for Faith and Reason. In his encyclical, Fides et Ratio, Pope St. John Paul II (1998), wrote about how God has created Man and Woman with a natural desire to seek the Truth. By encountering, loving, and knowing God our Father more and more, humanity begins to understand in incremental levels the complete and whole truth about ourselves – as made in the image and likeness of God our Father, and as so deeply loved by God our Father. Pope St. John Paul II says, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth…” (1998, Introduction) The implication of such a statement is as follows: Faith and Reason exist in a complementary relationship with each other. If we have faith (heart knowledge) and no reason, we lose one wing, and flight is impossible, as with the case of having all of reason (head knowledge), but no faith, flight is also impossible.

With the emphasis of one over the other, the Catholic becomes imbalanced. Canon 217 states that “Since they are called by baptism to lead a life in keeping with the teaching of the gospel, the Christian faithful have the right to a Christian education by which they are to be instructed properly to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation,” and in Canon 218, “Those engaged in the sacred disciplines have a just freedom of inquiry and of expressing their opinion prudently on those matters in which they possess expertise, while observing the submission due to the magisterium of the Church.”

The challenges however are that first, the majority of Catholics are not really formed and choose to remain ignorant; second, as a result of being ignorant, they become easily swayed by the influx of information that is passed around – confusing heresy, sometimes schismatic, and popular opinion with the teachings of the Church; third, seeing no need to learn more deeply about the matters pertaining to their faith, they inevitably becoming purveyors of half-truths, seeking solace in the spectacular, and highly persuasive, but erroneous teachings of evangelical pastors and secular speakers. These shun the fullness of Truth offered by the Catholic Church, and are happy to be fed with a cheap and diluted bootleg version of the Truth, because it is more palatable to them. These then go on to, in a horrible subversion of Canon 218, to express their opinion indiscriminately, thinking that they are the experts because they have watched some 30-second Tiktok video, or read some leaflet of dodgy origin that was handed to them at the entrance of some MRT station; and because these opinions go viral, become misconstrued as the truth.

On the flip side of the Ignorant Catholic, is the Complacent Catholic – Oh I have already learnt this in Catechism Class, I know all about it, why do I need to go for this formation talk? This type of Catholic is comfortable with the status quo, and comes with the mentality that there is no need for change, as we have always done it this way.  These Catholics could also be stuck in a certain era of Church teaching, and find themselves unable to cope with the newer teachings that address the concerns and the relevance of the age, as with the curious case of the Catholics and the Old Catholics in Netherlands. The Old Catholic Church, or under its full moniker, The Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht (OCCUU), despite its name, is not in union with the Catholic Church (Caridi, 2016).

To be Catholic, under Canon 205, persons in full union with the Catholic Church are joined with it through the profession of the same faith, the same sacraments, and the same ecclesiastical governance. All three elements must be present for someone to be really Catholic.

The Old Catholics could not accept the teachings of the First Vatican Council and broke away from the Catholic Church. The history of the OCCUU Old Catholic Church is highly complex, as the former Catholic Bishop of Utrecht was part of the schismatic movement, and as Canon 1012 states, “the minister of sacred ordination is a consecrated bishop” – this means that he retains his power to consecrate new priests and even other bishops. A rebel Catholic bishop can thus ordain other rebel priests and rebel bishops. Nonetheless, Canon 1013, states, “No bishop is permitted to consecrate anyone a bishop unless it is first evident that there is a pontifical mandate.” This means that while, these rebel consecrations are illicit as they have not received approval from the pope, they are still sacramentally valid priestly ordinations. Which leads to the strange case of these OCCUU Old Catholic priests having the power to celebrate a valid Mass, and to validly confer Confirmation and Holy Orders, but because they are not in communion with the papacy, and should not be doing any of these in the first place, these liturgical celebrations continue to retain their status as illegal and illicit in the eyes of the Catholic Church, and the Faithful need to exercise caution in avoiding them (Caridi, 2016).

Pope St. John Paul II in his earlier encyclical, Dominum et Vivificantem (1986) has already stated that, “This faith, uninterruptedly professed by the Church, needs to be constantly reawakened and deepened in the consciousness of the People of God.” (2) The faith of the Church is constantly ancient and constantly new as it draws from the depository of Faith in the form of Sacred Scripture, the teachings of the Magisterium, and Sacred Tradition, and as it addresses the concerns of the relevant time with the movement, discernment, and the help of the Holy Spirit. There is hence a need to revisit existing relevant doctrine, and to see how the Holy Spirit is speaking to the Church in the current age at the same time as new studies and new doctrines are convened.

In Fides et Ratio (1998), almost a decade on after Dominum et Vivificantem (1986), Pope St. John Paul II writes to show how embedded in Sacred Scripture, is found the deep and profound relationship between the knowledge that ensues as a result of faith, and the knowledge that comes forth as a result of reason. The poetic exegesis given in Sirach 14:20-27 for example, showcases a tender intimacy between the seeker of Wisdom and of Wisdom, and the imagery describes the Seeker of Wisdom like a bird that has found a secure nestling place within a tree’s lush branches and leaves (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, n.d.). The use of imagery taken from the real world, also tells us that the world and everything that occurs in it, are realities to be observed, examined, reflected upon with the faculties of reason, and with Faith closely interwoven in the analysis of these unfolding events, not so much as to negate the work of reason, but to bring it to a fuller understanding of itself in how the man or woman can begin to see that in all these happenings of history, nature, space, physics, and time, that it is God our Father who acts succinctly to bring all things into being and all occurrences to fruition (Pope St. John Paul II, 1998). To use an analogy, reason knocks on the door of mystery, while faith opens the door to mystery.

A means to bridge Faith and Reason can be found in the study of Theology. While there are several branches of Theology:

  1. Dogmatic – the study of the theoretical truths of faith concerning God and His works, and the understanding that the Church is the depository of Faith that Christ entrusted His successors to guard and hand down from generation to generation.
  2. Moral – the study of the practical truths of morality, and the application of God’s laws in our lives.
  3. Pastoral – the study of how the application of the laws of the Church ministers towards the care of souls.
  4. Systematic – the study of how the doctrinal traditions of the Church may be applied to the religion’s present setting.
  5. Ascetical – the study of Man’s cooperation with Grace so as to attain the Perfection as envisioned by God our Father. The study of the lives of Saints for example would be a valid exercise in Ascetical Theology.
  6. Mystical – the study of the acts, experiences, or states of the soul that cannot be produced via normal human intervention. A contemplation on the mystical experiences of the soul, for example the soul’s ecstasy, and of divine revelation to persons, like Mother Mary’s apparitions to people, would constitute such a study in Mystical Theology.

(Hardon, 2000; Catholic Answers, n.d.)

These different branches have to do with providing us with a foretaste and a glimpse of what we will all encounter when we enter into Heaven – the contemplation of the Divine Word, the joy that comes from us gazing upon the Face of God, looking and reflecting upon the Glory of Christ, bowing down in worship in the constant presence of God, and seeing with utmost clarity the reason and purpose for our own creation amidst all of God’s creatures (Thompson, 2022). The corollary argument is this: If we are all going to be in this sense Theologians in Heaven, what do we have to lose if we begin right now as we contemplate upon the loving action of God in the world that He has created and by unpacking the foundational questions of what is meant to be a human being? (St. Paul’s Seminary, n.d.)

To concretise this a little more: the study of Theology is built upon the listening to and of the Word of God. It highlights the primacy of God’s Word and how important it is in unpacking our own day to day living. It next encompasses the tangible action and movements of Faith as a response to God’s Word. These are further supported by the search to understand the reasons for our Faith. In summary, the study of Theology is so important in our journeying in the Faith as Theology helps us to examine the Mystery of God that is revealed in and through Christ, and because it empowers and articulates the experience of faith as those who are in communion with the Church participate fully in the gift of life that has been gifted to us by God our Father (International Theological Commission, n.d.).

Our lives are so rich and resplendent. We are missing out on the fullness of life that God intended for us if we choose to live our faith without understanding it on a deeper level in both the head and the heart.

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



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Catholic Answers. (n.d.) Theology. Catholic Answers. Retrieved February 2, 2023 from – v-mystical-theology


Code of Canon Law. (n.d.) Part I. The Christian Faithful. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from


Hardon, J. A. (2000). Modern Catholic Dictionary. Eternal Life Publications.


International Theological Commission. (n.d.). Theology today: Perspectives, Principles, and Criteria. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from


Pope St. John Paul II. (1986). Dominum et Vivificantem. [Encyclical]. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from


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St. Paul’s Seminary. (n.d.). Who Should study Theology? St. Paul Seminary. Retrieved February 2, 2023 from


Thompson, C. 2022, February 19). Who Should Study Theology? St. Paul Seminary. [Video]. YouTube.


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (n.d.). Commentary on Sirach 14. USCCB. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from