Veritatis Splendor Summary
First, this needs some context. Karol Jozef Wojtyła is much more commonly known as Pope John Paul II. He was the Pope 1978 until his death in 2005, and he presided over the Catholic church through many of the most recent, turbulent times in regard to faith, religion, and politics.
In 1993, he wrote an encyclical titled "Veritatis splendor," or "The Splendor of the Truth," to outline the ideas of the Catholic Church in regards to teaching moral philosophy and ethics. It is a direct rebuttal of the idea of moral relativism, which is increasingly present in modern culture and posits the idea that there is no absolute and definitive truth, but that good and evil are fluid concepts that are relative to whoever is involved. An encyclical is an official Papal document, exploring the beliefs inherent in Catholic doctrine.
This letter had several main points of emphasis that it explored, stemming from the basic tenants that truth is absolute, and it is the duty of the Church to expose that truth to the world as it was revealed by the Lord through the Bible.
The first point is that the Catholic church, and the global church at large have a duty and authority to speak out on moral issues, because, according to Christian beliefs, God has revealed in the Bible the nature of absolute truth and laid out a specific moral code.
Beyond that, he expresses that humans have been granted freedom and reason to explore and grow—that is, to mature them so they can grow in their understanding of truth and grow closer to God. However, this freedom and reason is subject to God, and if it conflicts with God's law, God's law is inherently true and therefore must inform and change the freedom and reason.
The text goes on to state that things are fundamentally separated into two categories that are more complex than simply good and evil. They are separated into the option of sin—which is anything that is not done in the pursuit of a relationship with God as clarified in Romans, and the option of salvation—which is everything done in an attempt to pursue a relationship with God. He also states that there are inherently evil actions—things that are simply contrary to God's law and to what is morally acceptable—and in no situation are they relatively justified. The Pope concludes his letter by stating that truth is absolute and objective, and that we as humans can know what is objectively right through studying scripture. We have also been given the freedom and power to do things that are morally right, as God has given us the strength necessary to follow his commandments.
Veritatis Splendor, one of the major encyclicals written by Pope John Paul II, addresses the question of moral truth from a Christian perspective. In response to new controversies, John Paul proposes to answer certain fundamental questions regarding the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.
John Paul begins his essay with an exegesis of the famous dialogue of Jesus with the rich young man in chapter 19 of the Gospel of Saint Matthew. In this dialogue, the young man asks Jesus what good he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers so as to link moral good with the fulfillment of human destiny and to relate the moral life to acknowledgment of God. Humans are bound to obey the natural law that God has implanted in the human heart. The natural law is first given expression in the Decalogue and reaches fulfillment as the new law of the New Testament. The complete moral path for Christians is to follow Jesus, especially in the new commandment that he gave his disciples: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Humans are able to give a free response of love for God and for neighbor by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Because of this relationship between the moral good of human acts and eternal destiny, the Church has developed a special aspect of theology referred to as moral theology. In moral theology, the Church assesses what is good and evil in...
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