Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

scribed it as "a kind of spiritual testament of a now old and exhausted pope." If it makes moral theologians unemployed, it will keep ecclesiologists busy for a long time.□


58
Encyclical nails objective right and wrong

( October 8, 1993) Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II's encyclical on moral theology, was to have been promulgated Oct. 5. Days before the U.S. bishops had the 170-page document in their hands, excerpts were appearing last week in European newspapers.

What is the new encyclical for?

The introduction describes the "specific purpose" of the encyclical thus: "To set forth the principles of a moral teaching based upon Sacred Scripture and the living apostolic tradition, and at the same time to shed light on the presuppositions and consequences of the dissent which that teaching has met (with)" (paragraph 5 in text).

That suggests a positive and a negative aim: to expound the foundations of Christian morality in the light of scripture and tradition, and to denounce errors either of disagreement or dissent.

The encyclical is written in a crisis atmosphere. For "it is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions" (4).

The encyclical is addressed specifically to bishops. Everyone else is, in a sense, eavesdropping. Pope John Paul is trying to stir up his fellow bishops to action.

"Dear brothers in the episcopate," he cries, not without a note of pathos, "we must not be content merely to warn the faithful about the errors and dangers of certain ethical theories" (83).

So mere warnings about dangerous moral theologians are not enough. Bishops should adopt "appropriate measures to ensure that the faithful are guarded from every doctrine and theory contrary to it" (116).

-252-

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