Intelligent people?


Please don’t anyone take this wrong because I really don’t mean it in a bad way at all.

I have been struggling for quite some time now with an issue about the Catholic Church.

From my perspective there are several areas of Catholic teachings that are very difficult to accept. Those issues for the most part involve reason versus faith, or maybe what would be better described as reason versus submission.

The question that has been bothering me is how can people of above average intelligence with lots of formal education continue to accept the teachings of the Catholic Church?

One of my all time heroes was W. F. Buckley. He was hugely intelligent and very well educated but he remained Catholic his whole life.

How do people like Buckley remain Catholic and still maintain their enormous intellectual curiosity?

My guess is that I am not sufficiently bright to pose the question appropriately. However, there remains the concept. How does one stay Catholic with superior intellectual abilities?


Certainly, there have been no shortage of intellectuals who have been Catholic. Of course, this should be no surprise because the Catholic Church played a large role in developing the foundations of what became today’s modern university.

Honestly, I haven’t clue what you are asking. Perhaps you should tell us the specific issue you have and that can be addressed.


Yes, it would be helpful to give some examples. Otherwise, any answer to such a general question will lend to the false premise that it is incomprehensible that intelligent people can be, and are, Catholic.

The fact that some of the most brilliant minds in history have been and are Catholic should be your first indication that there is no inherent contradiction. Maybe a smart guy embracing Catholicism here and there living in less sophisticated times could be explained away, but this is hardly the case. :slight_smile:


How can intelligent people remain Catholic? Or maybe even how can intelligent people be Christian?


How can these brilliant people be Catholic?


Someone once said (and I paraphrase here) that the great thing about the Catholic Church is that its doctrine is so simple and reasonable, that the most uneducated peasant can understand and comprehend it, and yet so complex and logical, that it makes sense to the most intelligent and brilliant theologians.

I’m a Ph.D. in history and I’ve done my share of intellectual investigations, and the more I probe, the more sense it makes. Is there something in particular you’re struggling with?


I think it comes down to recognizing the limits of human reason. This requires a certain amount of humility and a certain amount of honesty. Faith takes us beyond what reason can show us.

There is no contradiction between faith and reason. If you have specific problems you have in mind, please mention them.


I would like to think of myself as fairly bright. I got better grades in school than anyone else and I learn things pretty quickly. While I will readily admit that there are many people much smarter than I am, God did give me the ability to learn quickly. I have a very wide variety of interests from astronomy, to physics, to building furniture, to being a light airplane pilot, history, designing and building telescopes, to computer software engineering (my profession), an appreciation of classical music, geology and so on. Basically, I am really good at integrating information from many sources and learn that way. A jack of all trades, but master of none.

I was also an atheist for most of my adult life, suddenly converting to the Church in 2003 after a supernatural and miraculous experience.

In my study of Catholic Church doctrine and dogma, I found that when viewed from a strictly orthodox perspective and eliminating the more modern aspects, recent speculations and the hand-wringing from the politically correct crowd, the whole of Catholic doctrine makes absolute logical sense. There are no logical holes. There ae no insurmountable problems. True, there are things that are difficult to comprehend, like the virgin birth, and some tings that are just impossible to comprehend, like the Trinity. But they do not take away from the the perfect consistency of Catholic teachings.

The only problems that I have encountered when trying to understand Catholic teaching is when I try to incorporate things by Hans Kung or Gregory Baum. Their stuff, and similar modern trends, make no sense and create all sorts of logical problems.

If I had been humble enough to study Catholic doctrine when I was an atheist, I would have come to believe in God and become a Catholic on my own.


Do you have “superior intellectual abilities?”


Since you don’t want to bring up any specific issues, my next question is why would this be a concern of yours? Do you base your life decisions based on what people with superior intellectual abilities would do?


I realize this will sound flip but, How can intelligent people NOT be catholic?

The Church is 2000 years old, and add to that an addtional 1000 years or so fo Jewish history. It contains the writings of literally thousands of philosophers, theologens, historians, apologists, etc…
It is a worldwide organization of a Billion people or so in every language and culture.
It’s source is God Himself, through the offices of the Apostles, Magesterium and Bible.
It’s truths, dogmas, teachings and sacraments have stood the test of time agianst everything evil has been able to throw against it.

Now, having said all of that, I agree with the other posters that it woudl be helpful if you could point to a specific teachings, ideas, dogma’s etc. that you feel flies in the face of intelligence?



I don’t think it should be so much your thoughts and reasons why others, reguardless of intelligence level, are catholic… but what about you. Reading and reasoning and learning. It all makes sense… in a single word it’s called… Faith. There are very intelligent reasons for all the church’s teachings… all of them.



My question to you would be, "How could these intelligent people NOT be Catholic?"
Some of the greatest minds in history were Catholic. Do you have specifics on why an intelligent person would not be Catholic? Or is it something you were told about the Catholic Church that has formed this apparent predjudice?
I don’t consider myself too much of a slouch in the intellect department and the more that I read and study about the Catholic faith, the more respect that I have for the Catholic Church and the stronger my faith.
So my suggestion to you is to come forward with your objections to the Catholic faith and I am sure many on this site will be more than happy to respond to them, if you cannot do that, and have only vague statements that you presented there is not a whole lot that we can respond to.



Because the Catholic faith is True. Brilliant people can recognize Truth when they see it.


Since W F Buckley is an “all time hero” of yours, why not read his work on the subject: Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith

In Nearer, My God, William F. Buckley Jr. turns away from the political concerns that form the crux of his reputation and offers a series of thoughtful meditations upon his Roman Catholic faith. Although the book is subtitled An Autobiography of Faith, only portions of it are strictly autobiographical. Other sections include ruminations on the controversies of the modern Church–such as the continued ban on birth control and the ordination of female priests–and an exegesis of Difficulties, a remarkable 1934 collaborative debate between a Catholic priest and an amateur theologian. (“The volume has slipped from regular use,” Buckley writes, “and even from the memory of younger people, but it is not anachronized, though it takes on some questions that no longer vex the religiously curious.”)

Buckley writes with consistent intelligence and precision; how, indeed, could it be otherwise? Even those who do not agree with him politically will be struck by the sensitivity of his spiritual inquiry, particularly in his elaboration of the distinction between contemporary Catholic practice and the enduring Catholic heritage. Nearer, My God serves as a splendid testimony to the maintenance of faith. –Ron Hogan

It looks like it is out-of-print, but perhaps you can buy it used ($40-100) or find it in a library.


A better question may be…how can otherwise very intelligent people not be Catholic? :stuck_out_tongue: :wink:



Brenda V.





Out of all of the world’s Christian bodies, the Catholic Church values natural human reason the most by far. This is probably best reflected in the philosophical tradition of Thomism (the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas and his various disciples). We take philosophy very seriously; we have all but canonized Plato and Aristotle in our theological traditions. Even Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s books are peppered with references to Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Levinas, etc. We are, ideally, very well-read in and attuned to the intellectual discourse and controversies of not only our day but our civilization.

The most important matter to keep in mind, however, is that real faith is always a gift that God gives to the individual person. No matter how smart or intellectually gifted a person is, if they have not received this personal gift they will not have faith; a lot of articles of faith will indeed seem hard to accept and even downright silly, illogical, etc. I say this as a former atheist who very much felt these things about Christianity in general… until I was called out of that life. Almost overnight, for seemingly no particular reason, I began to feel more and more drawn to the faith. The closer I got the more I fell in love, and understood. (If you had told me in my atheistic days that I would be where I am today, I would’ve said you were insane. And believe me, I have done more to royally sabotage my faith in the past two years than probably most Catholics have done in their entire lives… yet my faith will not leave me.)


I have read that book several times. I bought it when it was first available. Buckley was a cradle Catholic and that book didn’t shed much light on why he remained Catholic.

I find some of the Catholic stuff kind of hocus pocus. Like saying a certain set of words to free souls from purgatory, or novenas. I think that sort of stuff is peripheral in the Catholic Church so it probably isn’t fair to ask how intelligent people go along with that because they probably don’t. That’s my guess anyway. I cant’ imagine W. F. Buckley saying a set number of a prescription prayers in the belief that souls would be set free from purgatory if he did that.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit