The Lost “Duty of Religion”: Everyone’s Moral Obligation to Seek the Truth

Renan, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Do we really care anymore?

Our modern culture is mostly indifferent to finding the truth in matters of religion. If such truth even exists, many people think, seeking it might be well and good for some people; but if you’re “just not into that,” don’t worry, you’re still a good person. In fact, by not caring about it too much, a person may think they’re virtuously remaining neutral.

But they’re not. They’re actually committing a grave sin.

Things of God and eternity are central to what it means to be human and to the purpose of life. These are not optional “add-ons” to life but the foundation. As a result, all people have a positive moral obligation to seek the truth and then adhere to it once it is found.

That’s the position of the Catholic Church. Under the heading “The social duty of religion and the right to religious freedom,” the Catechism (quoting the Second Vatican Council) states clearly:

“‘All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it.’ This duty derives from ‘the very dignity of the human person.'” (2104)

Pope St. John Paul II reiterated this point, underscoring how important it is, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor: “Although each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known.” (34, emphasis added)

Notice that this means a person can’t refuse to seek the truth about God and then claim immunity from ignorance. If a person, say, doesn’t fulfill some religious obligation established by God due to ignorance of it, they can still be held culpable if they could have known it if they had pursued the truth as they are supposed to. (Hence, the distinction in Catholic moral theology between invincible and vincible ignorance.)

We live in an age of unprecedented access to information and education. It’s easier than ever to read the Bible, the Catechism, the Church Fathers, or any other religious texts.

So let us all seriously pursue the truth and trust that God will lead us closer to Himself!

[See also: The “Eternal Sin”: The True Meaning of “Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit”]

[See also: Thou Shalt Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain: Blasphemy Is Still a Sin]

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