Fr. William G. Most
Splendor of Truth
Introduction: Robert Friday, Professor at the Catholic University of
America, and head of the national Bishops' office for Diocesan Directors of
Religious education has written a best seller, Adults Making Responsible
Moral Decisions. It considers the case of an imaginary girl, Sarah, whose
marriage has broken up. There seems to be no hope of an annulment. But yet
Friday takes us through a course of reasoning winding up by saying that it
is all right for Sarah to remarry. She will not be in sin if she does so.
She can receive Holy Communion too, but best to do it where she is not
known, and similarly not teach CCD in her present place -but both only until
we can educate people to the new way of making responsible moral decisions.
For Vatican II says we should not be just sheep who follow. The very title
of his work says we must be responsible. To do it the old way would be
irresponsible, is the implication. And it would be childish, not adult.
We see there is need for the new moral Encyclical, which is aimed chiefly at
such things as this work.
Jesus teaches dramatically when He says: "Why do you ask me about good? One
is good, God". He did not mean to deny He was good, or even to deny His
divinity. But He wanted to say that if we use the same word, good, to apply
twice, that is, to God and to all others, there is something the same in the
two uses, but the difference is far greater.
So God the Good, the source of all Good is also the standard. We could say
He is the form. We speak of things as being true to form. If a man is true
to the divine form, the pattern to which he should conform, then the man is,
to that extent, good. From the start of our race, people have wanted to be
their own standard. So Eve believed the tempter saying she would be like God
- that is, able to determine for herself what is good or evil. She said in
effect: God may know what is right part of the time. But right now, I can
just see that this fruit is good.
God gave us commandments to tell us what is good in itself and good for us.
Hence Jesus told the young man: Keep the commandments. God gave these
commandments not out of a love of exercising authority, nor to gain. He
could not gain anything, not even glory. For His glory consists in giving
benefits to us.
But the reasons why He gives commands are two: 1)He, who is good, loves all
that is good: goodness says creatures should obey the Creator, children
their Father. So His holiness, i.e., love of all that is right, wants them
to do that; 2)He wants to give us good - He wants glory only through doing
that. But it is useless for Him to give if we are not open to receive. His
commandments tell us how to be open. At the same time, they steer us away
from the evils that lurk in the very nature of things. For example, getting
really drunk will bring a hangover, and - though not so many notice the
connection - much premarital sex brings a high danger of a loveless
marriage. The reason is this: in premarital sex the two are not really
interested in the well-being of the other for the other's sake (that is the
definition of love). Rather, they are using each other for sensory pleasure.
That means they are putting each other into a state such that if death
happened along, they would be wretched forever. That is more like hatred
than like love. For, as we said, to love is to will good to another for the
other's sake. Further, it is obvious that real love can hardly develop in
such a framework. But it will seem like love, for the chemistry is the same
whether love is or is not really present (love lies in the spiritual will,
which wills good to the other for the other's sake). Yes, the chemistry
gives feelings of warmth, closeness etc. But it is only chemistry, not love.
So then they may marry thinking they have a lot of love - when really all
they have is chemistry. When that chemistry subsides, they wake up to find
themselves locked in the same house with someone they do not really love. No
need to tell the rest of the story.
So, the Ten Commandments really are a gift, the means to benefit us. Hence
Moses told the Israelites (Dt. 11:26-28) he was putting before them a
blessing and a curse. A blessing, if they obeyed; a curse if they did not.
He said (Dt. 4:8) that other nations would say: "This great nation is really
a wise and intelligent people." For the Law is Wisdom, in that it leads us
to what is really good in itself, really good for us.
Jesus in His reply to the young man focused first on the commandments that
deal with love of neighbor. He did not mean to rub out the vertical for the
horizontal, like a friend of mine who said: "If I were alone on a desert
island I could have no relation to God - I can have that only through
Yet if we look closely, we will see that love of God and love of neighbor
are inseparable. It comes about this way. We said that to love anyone other
than God is to will good to the other for the other's sake. But when we turn
to love God, we cannot, as it were say to Him: "I hope you are well off,
that you get what you need". - No, even our "service", even service to a
heroic extent and degree does Him no good at all. Yet Scripture pictures Him
as pleased if we obey, displeased if we do not. Why? There are two reasons
as we said above: He loves what is good in itself, and objective goodness
says creatures should obey their Creator; and He loves to give us good
things - which is in vain if we are not open to receive. His commandments
tell us how to be open to receive. Hence they are really a gift from Him to
So it is clear, since to love God is to obey Him, as His
Son said: "He who obeys the commandments, he is the one who loves me" (John
14:21) -- then when we love God we will that He may have the pleasure of
giving to neighbor. But that is also, in one and the same act, both love of
neighbor, and love of God, for we are willing that neighbor obey Him, and so
receive His benefits, which it so pleases Him to give.
How far should we go in loving neighbor? As far as Jesus went, for He said,
"Love one another as I have loved you. . He loved even to death, death on
the cross. Such love makes us like Him, and so also like the Father, for He
and the Father are one. But as we said, God is the pattern to which we
should conform, and in doing that we are doing what is best for us. So we
have freedom among other benefits.
This love includes being like Him in interior attitudes. St. Paul told the
Philippians (2:6): "Let this attitude be in you which was also in Christ
Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not think equality with
God something to be grasped, but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a
slave, and became obedient even to death, even to death on the cross." As we
said, obedience is love of God, so He lived supremely the love of the
Father. On entering into this world as the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us
(10:7): He said: "Behold, I come to do your will O God." This was love of
the Father, or God, and simultaneously love of us, for it was for our
eternal happiness that He went so far as to take the form of a slave, and
obey even to the cross.
We said in this lies true freedom. We can see this in the mysterious chapter
20 of the Apocalypse. It tells of two resurrections, and in between them, a
reign of the just with Christ on this earth for a thousand years. Then the
second resurrection. St. Augustine proposed an interpretation which has won
widespread support. He said the first resurrection is rising from sin. To
reign on earth is to be kings, rather than slaves to sin and vices - for as
we explained in part, sin promises a happiness it cannot and does not give,
and it brings us the evils that lurk in the very nature of things. The reign
is for the 1000 years, which stands for all the time from His ascension
until His final return at the end. Then the second resurrection is the
physical one, from the graves to eternal happiness.
St. Paul says the law was our pedagogue, that is, it prepared the way for
Christ. It told us the commandments which Christ told the young man who
asked what he needed to attain eternal happiness. But there is something
higher and better. For St. Paul insistently proclaims that now that the
service of the pedagogue is finished, we are sons, and free, free from the
law. Of course Paul did not mean we may sin without fear. No, Paul also
warns (1 Cor 6:9-10), after enumerating the chief great sins and sinners:"
Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Grace makes us
children of the Father. Children as such, have a claim to inherit. Children
know well that they did not earn what they inherit - though they could have
earned to lose it. So a student of mine once summed it up by saying about
salvation: "You can't earn it, but you can blow it."
So St. Paul told the Galatians, that they must not use their freedom from
the law for the flesh, so as to follow the flesh. If so, they would not be
able to inherit the kingdom. Rather, they should follow the Spirit of
Christ. That Spirit, leads us to do what He did, in the way in which He did
it. But He did not violate the law, so we also do not violate the law in
following the Spirit of Christ. We need not even think of the law if we live
by the Spirit, for, as we said, that Spirit leads us to do as Christ did, in
the way in which He lived. But if we followed the flesh instead of the
Spirit, then we would be under the law, or as Paul told the Corinthians, we
would not inherit the kingdom. So Paul gave the Galatians two check lists,
by which they could see whether they were following the flesh, or the
But to follow the Spirit needs the grace, the strength of the Spirit. That
Spirit tells us interiorly what we should do, and gives us the strength to
do it. (This is the work of what we call actual grace). This makes us like
the only one who is really Good, with the result that se are then good, and
it also frees us from slavery to sin. Hence it really makes us free.
Experience of people shows us that to know clearly the will of God, to know
how to be like Him, needs revelation.
Hence He gave the Commandments. Those people who do not have that revelation
depend on the law written in their hearts, of which St. Paul spoke in Romans
2:14-16. They can really know the law in that way. But, as we said,
experience shows that that law on the hearts can become dim, it becomes
dimmer every time a person sins, because then he turns his gaze from the
image of the only one who really is Good.
But even with this revelation, it is highly desirable to have a further
help, namely, a Church to interpret God's law for us. In His love for us,
Christ gave us such a Church. Vatican II said (DV #10):The task of
authoritatively interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on
[Scripture or Tradition] has been entrusted exclusively to the living
teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of
At the start of this encyclical the Pope observed that sadly, so many refuse
to use this divinely provided help. So there is dissent from the teaching of
the Church, extensive dissent, even on the part of those whose duty is to
teach what the Church teaches. They remind us again of Eve, who wanted to be
her own standard of right and wrong, to be like God, knowing good and evil.
No wonder there is so much violence in the world today and in the U. S. Each
one thinks he is the standard of good and evil: "As long as I think it is
all right, it is all right." Because of our courts, public schools for long
have been forbidden to teach any religion or morality. So many Catholic
schools have failed too. No wonder!
But God does not excuse sins done in good faith. In Leviticus chapter 4 He
gave many rules for sacrifices to be offered in case someone violates a law
of God without knowing he is doing so: he must offer a sacrifice to make up
for it. Even the leftish New Jerome Biblical Commentary on this passage says
that God wants the objective order righted for even unwitting violations.
Scripture shows so many examples where He acted because of such things.
Abraham had told the Egyptians his wife Sarah was his Sister. And so the
King's agents took her to the king. The king was very pleased, and sent
Abraham rich presents. But then Genesis 12:17 reports that "God struck
Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because he had Abraham's wife"
- even though he was in good faith!
In pagan Rome, everything was permeated with religion, even if it was a
false religion. They at least saw the need of a higher power. That was less
evil than official godlessness, with a government that promotes and favors
the worst immorality.
The Church has grown in penetration into the deposit of truth once given it
at the start. This includes also deeper understanding of moral principles.
This does not mean anything has been reversed; all has been under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, who can be patient with slow development, but
will never permit the gates of hell to prevail by letting the Church teach
As we said, some whose assignment is to teach true doctrine have deviated,
have dissented from the Church. On the way to Jerusalem, St. Paul at Miletus
(Acts 20:17-35) warned Bishops and Priests (v. 30):"Out of your own number
some will come, distorting the truth and leading astray those who follow
them." And we think too of the terrible warning in Second Timothy 4:3:
"There will come a time when they will not accept sound doctrine, but with
itching ears, will accumulate teachers for themselves. They will turn aside
their hearing from the truth, and turn to fables."
God had warned Ezekiel (3:17-18) that he had been appointed watchman, to
warn the wicked. If he failed to warn them, the wicked one would die for his
sin, but God would hold the false watchman responsible for the death of that
sinner. And Wisdom 6:& warns: "The lowly may be forgiven in mercy, but the
mighty will be mightily tested."
To sum up: when the young man asked what he needed to do to get eternal
happiness, Jesus gave a dramatic turn: Only God is good. He meant, that God
is the standard, the form, which we must be like. to be like Him is to be
good. He gave commandments to spell out what it is - not that it does Him
any good, but He loves objective goodness, and wants us to be open to
receive. Commandments tell us how to be open. So the commandments are a gift
to us. - Jesus focused first on love of neighbor, without neglecting love of
God. But love of neighbor and of God are inseparable: to will good to
neighbor means willing he be open to receive God's benefits - and this gives
God the pleasure of giving. So love of God is obedience. We must be like
Christ even in interior attitudes, which gives us true freedom, so that we
can reign with Him on earth (cf. Apoc. 20). The law was a temporary guide to
take us to school: now we have the truth which makes us free, for we must
follow the Spirit, without even having to look at the Law for the Spirit
gets us to follow Christ. -- We need help to know His will - that is
revelation, and revelation as interpreted by the Church. Sadly, so many fail
to use this help: no wonder so much violence, each is his own standard,
instead of having God as standard. U. S. is worse than pagan Rome, which at
least had a higher power. Church today has grown in understanding, yet some
who should teach are failing. God's warning to Ezekiel about the watchman
applies to them.
Now the Pope goes into the heart of his message in this Encyclical, and
becomes specific about the moral errors that are abundant today.
He notes that some so exalt freedom and to make it the absolute standard -
but that means there is no real standard of good and evil, and so there is
chaos, leading logically to atheism.
Those in error have in common this mistake: they exalt conscience above all,
even above the law of God.
Now it is true, that we are obliged to follow conscience, and to violate it
is at least subjectively sinful. Suppose, for example, a man was convinced
that to eat a banana was mortal sin, and in that belief, did eat one. He
would sin mortally, not by eating the banana, which is harmless, but by
doing what he believed was mortally wrong. But this does not mean "as long
as he thinks something is all right, it is all right." No, as we saw, God
punishes even unwitting violations of His law. So at the outset, we have the
obligation to align our conscience with the law of God as taught by His
Church. Otherwise there is no law, each one would be his own standard. And
violence would be the result, as indeed it is today.
Oddly, in an age that adores freedom, we find psychologists, such as B. F.
Skinner, who say we have no free will. He experimented much with training
pigeons, and thought we were much the same as pigeons. Of course Martin
Luther, in his major work, The Bondage of the Will also taught that we have
no free will. It is not strange Luther fell into so horrendous an error: he
too wanted to be his own standard of what is good and evil, rejecting the
Church for Scripture alone - though he did not know how to prove which
ancient books were part of Scripture, so if he had been logical, he would
have never appealed to Scripture at all. In that same book he also taught
something most Lutherans probably do not know about. He said a human being
is like a horse. Either God or satan will get on and ride, and accordingly
we do good or evil. But we have nothing to say which one rides, and hence,
nothing to say about whether we go to heaven or hell!
Existentialism has been a fertile source of moral and other errors. For an
Existentialist thinks there are no general truths, only things that happen
to happen. So if you ask him: Is adultery wrong, he must say: I don't know.
Give me a case. When he gets the case, on what principles does he decide it?
On no principles, for it is a matter of principle for an Existentialist to
have no principles - principles are general truths, under which many things
fall. But he is committed to thinking there are no general truths. So he
must not say adultery is right - a general truth - nor may he say adultery
is wrong - another general truth. He can only say: Give me a case. Here is
indeed a so-called freedom that swings like a weathervane. Existentialists
also say the world does not make sense. No wonder, to have no principles
keeps one from making sense of anything.
Still others have tried to distinguish the ethical order from the moral
order, with a moral order for this world only. Of course, they might as well
have no principles, like the Existentialists.
Similarly, some say a general or universal norm in morality is not adequate
for circumstances vary so much. Now it is true that there are variations in
circumstances, and that subjective disposition on the part of the person who
acts can vary much. But that does not destroy the more basic fact that there
are some things which by their very nature, independently or anyone who does
them, independently of the disposition of any who do them, are morally
wrong. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle tried to find a basis for
morality in the mean, we would say, the golden mean. For example, he said
that the virtue of courage is between the extremes of cowardice, and
rashness. That happens to be true in a general way. and there are similar
sets of three positions in many moral virtues. But Aristotle in spite of all
of that saw and said that there are some things which are such that we do
not look for a golden mean: murder, adultery, theft. So we do not tell
someone: Please do not commit adultery too often, but do not avoid it
altogether - do just the right amount of adultery. Aristotle knew this was
and is wrong. Adultery is simply wrong in itself, regardless of the
intention of the doer and other interior dispositions, and regardless of
circumstances. So there are universal norms, that hold in spite of the
variations of intention, in spite of variable circumstances.
Remarkable too is the insight of another great Greek philosopher, Plato. In
his Theatetus 176 he said:
"We should fly away from earth to heaven as fast as possible; to fly away
means to become like God, so far as this can be done; and to become like
Him, is to become holy, just and wise... God is... perfect righteousness,
and the man who is most righteous is most like him." In other words, God is
the supreme model or standard of Goodness, and that man is best who is most
Another moral aberration is that of the fundamental option. It says that it
is extremely hard to commit a mortal sin. Some authors would say that if
they must decide about the spiritual state of a couple practicing
contraception, they should first inquire about their life in general. If
they are good in general, then their fundamental option is good - and so
when they contracept, they do not really mean to break with God! But the
Epistle of St. James says, 2:10-11 that if a man violates one commandment,
he violates them all. The reason is that in violating one, he is implicitly
denying the authority of the lawgiver.
The Pope of course rejects this notion of the fundamental option. To
knowingly and willing commit any thing that is a mortal sin does entail a
definite break with God, and hence, if one dies in that state, eternal ruin.
This false notion was condemned by the Doctrinal Congregation in its
Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, of Dec. 29, 1975
#10. Of course, many theologians rejected that declaration then. So now the
pope restates it. Sadly they are even now rejecting the teachings of this
Probably the most serious dissenters are the consequentialists and the
proportionalists. The Encyclical (in #75) describes them thus: "The former
[consequentialism] claims to draw criteria of the rightness of a given way
of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving
from a given choice. The latter [proportionalism], by weighing the various
values and good being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged
between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the 'greater
good' or 'lesser evil' actually possible in a particular situation." The
imaginary Sarah of whom Father Friday spoke, whom we mentioned at the start,
works this way.
To make the matter clearer, we must review the fact that there are three
things that determine the morality of a particular concrete action: the
object, that is, the nature of the action in itself, regardless of who does
it, the purpose, in the mind of the doer, and the circumstances. Friday and
the consequentialists and proportionalists manage to blur the object and the
intention rather fully. Friday says that to kill is wrong. We might think of
killing a mosquito, a turkey, or a human. Killing is wrong in all three
cases. But there is a greater good to be had in the case of killing a
mosquito or a turkey, not to be found in killing a human being. So Sarah can
come to think that we should not so stick to one rule as to damage the
effects of others. She thinks that there is a greater good to be had if she
remarries than if she does not. So it is all right for her to remarry, and
she will not be in a state of sin if she does so, she can receive Holy
Communion, and can continue to teach CCD - the latter two should be done
elsewhere to avoid shocking those who do not understand the new and
"responsible" way of acting. Yes, Sarah may be uncomfortable, and at risk.
But this is worthwhile for an adult decision. There is a greater good.
How is it possible to ignore the essential, morality of the object, the
nature of the thing done? Some say that it is only a premoral, not a moral
evil. Or they call it an ontic evil, an evil in the order of being, not in
the order of morality.
One of the chief dissenters is Richard McCormick, S. J. He wrote a key
article, "Veritatis Splendor and Moral Theology" in America of October 30,
1993, pp. 8-11.
McCormick says the poor Pope simply does not understand the
proportionalists, for there is a problem of defining the object in concrete
cases: "Just as not every killing is murder, and not every falsehood is a
lie, so not every artificial intervention preventing or promoting conception
in marriage is necessarily an unchaste act."
McCormick says it is not easy to decide which elements are part of the
definition of the action in itself, the object. So, he says that in the case
of killing, the object includes not just the mere physical act, but also the
reason, the purpose. So killing in a just war is permissible. Similarly in
the case of lying: we may lie in diplomacy. Hence if we define sexual self-
stimulation correctly, we will see that masturbation to obtain a sample for
fertility testing is permitted. And then also, contraceptive intercourse in
marriage should be so defined that it may be permitted when the reasons are
His reasoning is clever, and will deceive many. But we need to take a closer
What is wrong with killing? It is not the mere physical taking of life, but
the violation of the rights of God, the only Lord of life that makes murder
wrong. In a just war, God not only does not object: in the Old Testament He
positively ordered some wars, and praised David for always doing His will.
At times God even ordered the killing of all in a pagan city, even children.
Some today say that is immoral. They do not correctly define murder. Murder
is a violation of the rights of the only Lord of life. When that Lord orders
a killing for His own reasons, it is not wrong, it is obedience. In the case
of the destruction of cities, God ordered it because He knew that Jews would
be apt to fall into idolatry if the pagans still remained around. Actually,
the destruction was not complete enough to have the desired effect. The Jews
often did fall into idolatry.
He also said that it is all right to lie for the sake of diplomacy. Again,
we need a closer look. The best definition of a lie I have seen is this: A
lie is any action or statement, which, when properly interpreted, is known
by the speaker to be false. This means that the meaning of a statement must
take into account not only the dictionary meaning of the several words, but
also the context. We normally do, and should, take into account context.
Without it we would fail to grasp the meaning intended by the speaker. Hence
if a mother sends the child to the door
to say to the salesman that she is not at home, if the salesman understands
the context, the sense is obvious: Maybe she is here, maybe not, but for
sure, she doesn't want to see you.
A powerful example in the matter of diplomacy is our having in place
intercontinental missiles which would produce mass destruction, doing far
more than could be warranted by the principle of the double effect. Under
that principle it is at times permitted to bomb a military target even
though that will cause the deaths of some noncombatants. Their deaths are
not intended. If the destruction of the military target is important enough
to outbalance that unfortunate side effect, it may be done legitimately. But
we return to the intercontinental missiles. They would surely do far more
than the double effect principle could justify. How is it that we can have
them in place? We would not be allowed to use them even for retaliation. To
have them in place amounts to a statement to other nations: If you do this,
we will do that. Now Pope John Paul II sent a special message to the United
Nations on precisely this subject, on June 11, 1982. In it he said: "The
teaching of the Catholic Church in this area has been clear and consistent.
It has deplored the arms race, called none the less for mutual and
progressive and verifiable reduction of armaments, as well as greater
safeguards against possible misuse of these weapons... . In current
conditions 'deterrence' based on balance, certainly not as an end in itself,
but as a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament, may still be
judged morally acceptable. Nevertheless in order to ensure peace, it is
indispensable not to be satisfied with the minimum which is always
susceptible to the real danger of explosion."
How can this be justified? As we said, having them in place amounts to a
statement: If you do this, we will do that. But as we said, all statements
must be understood in their proper context. What is the proper context here?
The context of a nation at war or in danger of war is such that no one in
his right mind would expect the nation to disclose its secrets. So the
proper interpretation of this statement, made by having missiles in place
is: Zero. No message. Hence it is not a lie.
We come back now to contraception, which McCormick thinks can be morally
right in view of motives. Is this true? No. McCormick again has not found
the right definition of the object. The real reason why contraception is
wrong is that it is a violation of the rights of God, who has established
this means to continue our race. We must respect His rights, and so
contraception is wrong. Is Natural Family Planning wrong too then? No. For
in it the couple are not going against God's plan, but are rather using the
principles God Himself has given for proper regulation of births. Of course,
this must be used rationally, not just for selfish purposes. There must be a
suitable reason for using the infertile periods for a long time or for the
rest of one's life. But given those conditions, it is not a violation of
God's plan, rather is making use of the means He Himself has provided, it is
working within His plan.
We conclude, the Pope is not guilty of failure to understand, as McCormick
charges. Rather, it is McCormick who lacks understanding.
And so Friday and Sarah similarly lack understanding. They are not at all
adult and responsible.
What we have just said shows also the error of those who say that the
teaching of the Church on contraception is merely making a rule out of
physical nature. But, they continue, we have improved nature in so many
ways. Why not in this way? We reply: 1)What we do now does not really change
fundamental nature, but changes some applications of natural things. We can
also notice this: if a man who is an expert on machinery comes to see a new
machine, he can tell from the way it is built what it is supposed to do.
Similarly, one examining the sexual powers of the human race can see that
they were designed by the Creator for continuing the race, not as a means of
selfish entertainment. And in deed, masturbation and homosexuality are
selfish: the race can never continue because of those actions! 2)More
basically, the real reason why contraception is wrong is what we said,
namely, that it violates the rights of God who has set up this means of
continuing the race.
The Pope adds that there is a need of pastoral work, really, of evangelizing
people all over again, for so may lack the basics of the faith, thanks in no
small part to the tragic failure of our so-called Catholic schools for a
long time to convey the faith.
He notes that only morality can bring peace, and an end to violence. The old
pagan Roman poet Horace saw this well when he wrote: What good are laws?
they are empty without a sense of morality. - So we can multiply police, and
jail sentences, and teachers in our schools - but without teaching morality
based on the will of God, violence will increase, not stop.
The laity can help here, by showing the success and beauty of a life lived
by God's rules - that is, if they really do that. Some so-called Catholic
politicians have turned St. Paul inside out. Paul said in Romans 12:2: "Do
not be conformed to this world." These false leaders say: We must not be
different. They even take the lead in the false "values" of this world.
Incidentally, that very word "values" is dangerous. It implies subjectivity:
I value this, and you value that. Rather we need to talk about objective
morals in obedience to God.
But especially the Pope calls for the help of moral theologians. Many of
them have been taking the lead in fighting against the Church, in promoting
disobedience to God. They have often said, as we saw in the case of the
imaginary Sarah, that the Church has not given any definitions on moral
matters, and if there is no solemn definition, a thing is free matter.
Their ignorance is tragic. There are three or four levels of Church teaching
(depending on how we group them), and every one is binding. First is of
course the definition. The second is given by Vatican II in LG #25: "Even
though individual Bishops do not have the gift of infallibility, they can
still teach Christ's doctrine infallibly, provided that, maintaining the
bond of unity among themselves and with the Successor of Peter, they present
one teaching as the one to be held definitively." So even the day to day
routine teaching of the Church throughout the world, when it says
definitively something is a part of our faith, is infallible. This is all
the more so when the Bishops are assembled in a General Council. Thirdly,
when Ecumenists were straining at papal teaching, Pius XII in 1950 wrote in
Humani generis: "Nor should we think that the things taught in Encyclicals
do not require assent, on the plea that in them the Popes do not use the
solemn teaching authority. These things are taught with the ordinary
teaching authority, in regard to which it is also correct to say: 'He who
hears you, hears me. '" Then he continued, specifying the conditions in
which this would hold: If the popes in their Acta deliberately take a
position on something currently being debated in theology, it is removed
from debate. And then it falls under the promise "He who hears you, hears
me." Of course that promise cannot fail, so such teachings are infallible.
Finally, Vatican II presented the fourth level in LG #25. Canon 752 of the
new code made it very clear: "Not indeed an assent of faith, but yet a
religious submission of mind and will must be given to the teaching which
either the Supreme Pontiff, or the college of Bishops pronounces on faith or
on morals when they exercise the authentic Magisterium, even if they do not
intend to proclaim it by a definitive act." - So even things not presented
as definitive, and so not as infallible, call for even internal belief. They
forbid taking to the press as Curran has done and contradicting even in
We note the assent to this fourth level is based not on the virtue of faith
as the first three are, but on religion - since it is admitted there is a
chance of error. However the experience of the centuries shows that track
record of the Church on this level is far better than that of criminal
courts, in which the judge commonly instructs the jury that to declare the
man guilty, they must find it proved "beyond reasonable doubt." In other
words, they need not exclude every tiny doubt. Or when we eat food from a
can, we do not send it to a lab to check for Botulism, a deadly poison, not
likely to show up in routine opening of a can. -How can we believe something
that could be wrong? We do, practically, believe when we open a can, or when
we hear a decision in a criminal court. They are far more fallible that the
Church even on this fourth level.
Near the end, the Pope calls on the Bishops to check on the soundness of
doctrine taught in Catholic institutions, and tells them if the doctrine is
false, they should remove the right of that institution to call itself
Catholic. Imagine what would happen if the Bishops really followed this!
At the very end, he calls on the help of the Blessed Mother. It is often
said, rightly, that she has crushed all heresies. This was especially
evident in the early centuries. For to hold that she is Mother of God
implies that He is God, and that He has both divine and human natures - she
could not be Mother if He were only divine, and if only human, she would not
be the Mother of God.
So here is a remedy for all the moral evils of our world, if only Catholics,
especially moralists, will comply. Sadly, they have already begun to not
only not accept, but to fight against this great document.