Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 310
In Splendor of the Truth, in Latin Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II (born Karol Jozef Wojtyla) presented a Papal encyclical that laid out his interpretation of the many aspects of the Catholic Church’s roles and responsibilities in the early 1990s. In this formal letter, John Paul encourages the faithful to continue believing that the teachings of Jesus Christ contain absolutes that govern moral action. As he writes passionately about the real existence of good and evil, John Paul II primarily addresses the Catholic bishops but also makes his teachings accessible to lay readers.
The “truth” referred to in the title, the Pope states at the outset, originates in the Creator’s works, among which people, with their capabilities of moral assessment, are uniquely important manifestations. The idea of human responsibility to uphold moral values in the face of challenges, such as ambivalence or relativist perspectives, is one of John Paul’s key messages. Although the Pope did not claim that Catholics had a monopoly on understanding or promoting goodness, the encyclical was criticized as apparently stepping back from messages of tolerance in the preceding decades. In addition, the letter emerged in the wake of widespread democratization throughout Europe in the years that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence. As these events directly affected the pope’s native Poland, his writings have also been interpreted as a cautionary note about over-reliance on secular political processes.
John Paul does not involve himself directly in contemporary politics, however; his analysis depends heavily on his readings of historically important Church documents. In particular, he draws on Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine. The 1990s encyclical has also been viewed as a retrospective evaluation of the effects of the Second Vatican Council, which Pope John XXIII convened in the early 1960s, which had greatly liberalized Church practices.
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