Magazine article The Christian Century

Catholic Theologian Rips Encyclical

Magazine article The Christian Century

Catholic Theologian Rips Encyclical

Article excerpt

A noted Roman Catholic moral theologian has accused Pope John Paul li of putting "absolute trust" in his own powers, "whatever the risk, whatever the danger." Writing in the English Catholic weekly the Tablet, Bernard Haring maintained that the pope's recent encyclical on morality, Veritatis Splendor, is directed toward instilling in Catholics "total assent and submission to all utterances of the pope."

Haring said "the pope is confident that he has a binding duty to proclaim his teachings with no calculation whatsoever about the foreseeable practical consequences for the people concerned and for the whole church." Above all else, according to Haring, the pope wants to underscore the point in the encyclical that the Catholic prohibition against contraception is beyond challenge and absolute-even more so than the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." Haring, 80, who taught for many years at the Lateran University in Rome, is viewed by many theologians as having, during the 1950s, reinvigorated a Roman Catholic moral theology that had been tied to textbook formulae.

Haring stated in the article that the pope allows exceptions to "Thou shalt not kill" in cases of self-defense, the death penalty and just wars. But regarding contraception, noted Haring, John Paul concludes that "any artificial means for regulating birth is intrinsically evil and sinful, without exception, even in circumstances where contraception would be a lesser evil. He would consider such considerations unlawful and dangerous, because they take into account a weighing of values. …

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