'Veritatis Splendor' Defeats 'New Morality'

Author: Frank Morriss

"VERITATIS SPLENDOR" DEFEATS "NEW MORALITY" by Frank Morriss Like the morning sun burning off the night fog, dissipates the theological smog that has confused so many and led to dissent from traditional Catholic moral doctrine.

Specifically, the separation of human actions from the interior and subjective motive or intention is rejected:

"If the object of the concrete action is not in harmony with the true good of the person, the choice of that action makes our will and ourselves morally evil, thus putting us in conflict with our ultimate end, the supreme good, God Himself" (p. 89, the official English text, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993).

This alone sweeps away the pretenses at an intellectual defense of the cherished immoralities of those who attempt to find virtue in misunderstood freedom of conscience, or who make the very fact of choice a determinant of morality. More succinctly, Pope John Paul II puts it thus:

", renewed in the Blood of Jesus Christ and in the gift of the Spirit" (p. 95, , emphasis in the text).

The Pope quotes from the new , no. 1761:

"Consequently, as teaches, 'There are certain specific kinds of behavior that are always wrong to choose, because choosing them involves a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil'" (p. 96, Ibid.).

Unfortunately for the dissenters, the Pope does not leave this matter unspecified:

Turning to St. Paul, he cites immorality, idolatry, adultery, sexual perversion, theft and robbery, greed, drunkenness; and to St. Augustine, where we find fornication and blasphemy as acts not made good by good motives; and to the Second Vatican Council where acts hostile to life itself-homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, and voluntary suicide-are identified as a disgrace and a "negation of the honor due to the Creator." The Pope singles out "contraceptive practices," and quotes from Pope Paul VI's :

". . . It is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (cf. Rom. 3:8)-in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of men, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family, or of society in general" (p. 100, Ibid.).

The opposite has been promoted by some "new theologians" (that is, proponents of a "new morality"), with a number of novel and not-so-new errors under various names. identifies them and leaves them in shreds, like defeated banners of some rebel marauders:


"Particular acts which flow from this option would constitute only partial and never definitive attempts to give it expression; they would be only its 'signs' or symptoms.... This is pushed to the point where a concrete kind of behavior, even one freely chosen, comes to be considered as merely physical process, and not according to the criteria proper to a human act.... These tendencies [separating an act of faith as in the fundamental option from the choice of particular acts] are ... contrary to the teachings of Scripture itself." The Pope points out that any true fundamental option for God and good "" (pp. 8183, Ibid., emphasis in text).

"The former [consequentialism] claims to draw the 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 goods 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" (p. 92, Ibid.).

"Such theories are not faithful to the Church's teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the divine and natural law" (p. 94, Ibid.). (It was in his rejection of these theories that the Pope presented the statement from given above.)


"Here various approaches are at one in overlooking the created dimension of nature and in misunderstanding its integrity.... Human nature, understood in this way, could be reduced to and treated as readily available-biological or social material. This ultimately means making freedom self-defining and a phenomenon creative of itself and its values. Indeed, when all is said and done man would not even have a nature; he would be his own personal life-project. Man would be nothing more than his own freedom" (p. 59, Ibid.).

". . . Since the human person cannot be reduced to a freedom which is self-designing, but entails a particular spiritual and bodily structure, the primordial moral requirement of loving and respecting the person as an end and never a mere means also implies, by its very nature, respect for certain fundamental goods, without which one would fall into relativism and arbitrariness" (p. 62, Ibid.).


"Some people . . . disregarding the dependence of human reason on divine Wisdom and the need, given the present state of fallen nature, for divine Revelation as an effective means for knowing moral truths, even those of the natural order, have actually posited a of reason in the domain of moral norms regarding the right ordering of life in this world. Such norms would constitute the boundaries for a merely 'human' morality; they would be the expression of a law which man in an autonomous manner lays down for himself and which has its source exclusively in human reason.

"In no way would God be considered the Author of this law, except in the sense that human reason exercises its autonomy in setting down laws by virtue of a primordial and total mandate given man by God. These trends of thought have led to a denial, in opposition to Sacred Scripture (cf. Matt. 15:3-6) and the Church's constant teaching, of the fact that the natural moral law has God as its Author, and that man, by the use of reason, participates in the eternal law, which it is not for him to establish" (p. 48, Ibid.).

The encyclical makes a most important and telling point regarding dissent from the Church's moral teaching:

"No damage must be done to the is damaged not only by Christians who reject or distort the truths of the faith but also by those who disregard the moral obligations to which they are called by the Gospel (cf. I Cor. 5:9-13)" (p. 34, Ibid., emphasis in text).

This clearly rebukes those claiming true and equal Catholicity even as they reject the Church's moral teachings. It identifies them as dissenters on a level with doctrinal heretics. Without using the term, describes dissent on morality as a species of heresy. It points out that "ever since apostolic times the Church's pastors have unambiguously condemned the behavior of those who fostered division by their teaching or by their actions."

This raises to consideration the recent "pastoral approach" to immorality that has confused the faithful and emboldened immoralists to claim the right to practices contrary to Christian Tradition and to Revelation itself. The encyclical early refers to this situation:

". . . The traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church's moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality in the light of which each individual will independently make his decisions and life choices" (p. 7, Ibid., emphasis added).

Do not the words emphasized above summarize the "pastoral approach" that has so de- emphasized the compelling nature of Catholic teaching?

Toward the end of the encyclical, Pope John Paul II sets out the correct posture and response called for by good pastors, concerned with protecting the flock from rogue theologians. I must give this in elided condition because of space limitations:

", in the form of carefully orchestrated protests and polemics carried on in the media, Opposition to the teaching of the Church's pastors cannot be seen as a legitimate expression either of Christian freedom or the diversity of the Spirit's gifts. When this happens, the Church's pastors have the duty to act in conformity with their apostolic mission, insisting that the right of the faithful to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity must always be respected....

"It is our common duty, and even before that our common grace, as pastors and bishops of the Church, to teach the faithful the things which lead them to God.... The truth of this teaching [of Christ to the young man that he follow the Commandments] was sealed on the cross in the Blood of Christ: in the Holy Spirit, it has become the new law of the Church and of every Christian.

"This 'answer' to the question about morality has been entrusted by Jesus Christ in a particular way to us, the pastors of the Church; we have been called to make it the object of our preaching, in the fulfillment of our [prophetic office]. At the same time, our responsibility as pastors with regard to Christian moral teaching must also be exercised as part of the [priestly office].... Especially today, Christian moral teaching must be one of the chief areas in which we exercise our pastoral vigilance, in carrying out our [ruling, governing office]....

"As bishops, we have the grave obligation to be vigilant that the 'sound doctrine' (I Tim. 1:10) of faith and morals is taught in our dioceses" (pp. 135-138, passim, Ibid., emphasis in text).

Finally, our Catholic politicians and jurists should heed the truth taught by regarding their duties as civic and community servants:

"The Commandments of the second table of the Decalogue in particular- those which Jesus quoted to the young man of the Gospel (cf. Matt. 19:19)- constitute the indispensable rules of all social life.

"These Commandments are formulated in general terms. But the very fact that 'the origin, the subject, and the purpose of social institutions is and should be the human person' (, no. 25) allows for them to be specified and made more explicit in a detailed code of behavior. The fundamental moral rules of social life thus entail to which both public authorities and citizens are required to pay heed.... In the end, only a morality which acknowledges certain norms as valid always and for everyone, with no exception, can guarantee the ethical foundation of social coexistence, both on the national and international level."

Only the Catholic faith - in such pronouncements as this-has the remedy to the plague of disorder, violent behavior, and lawlessness threatening civilization itself.

This article was taken from the November 4, 1993 issue of "The Wanderer," 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733. Subscription Price: $35.00 per year; six months $20.00.