Veritatis Splendor

by Karol Jozef Wojtyła

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

"Veritatis Splendor" is an encyclical (doctrinal letter written by the standing Pope) by Pope John Paul II in the early 1990s outlining the Catholic Church's ideas on absolute truth and the nature of evil. He also expresses some Catholic doctrine and opinions regarding birth control, which, at the time, was a major point of debate in the Catholic Church.

Here are some quotes from the text that are very pertinent to its teachings:

People today need to turn to Christ once again in order to receive from him the answer to their questions about what is good and what is evil.

This quote illustrates the main point of the entire text. Dealing with the issue of moral relativism, which is the belief that there is no objective good and evil, the Pope is hoping to clarify, first of all, that God has outlined a true and absolute law that frames the ideas of good and evil, and second of all that the only way to truly find and understand what good and evil are is to seek Christ.

Later on, the Pope quotes further from the Biblical story of the rich young ruler, which is his guiding text for this cyclical, and he makes the following point:

Not only the rich man but the disciples themselves are taken aback by Jesus's call to discipleship, the demands of which transcend human aspirations and abilities.

The Pope is saying here that, while God has outlined good and evil, Christ is making what seems like an impossible claim—to forsake everything you have and follow Christ—in order to be saved. However, Christ reassures them that with God all things are possible. The Pope expounds upon this idea by saying that God has provided the strength needed to follow through on good actions and following the letter of the Mosaic law. So, while there is absolute truth, it is difficult to follow and be good. However, God has empowered us through Christ to be able to follow it.

A final discussion is made referring to the idea of "doing evil for the greater good", or a Machiavellian concept of "the ends justifying the means." Pope John Paul II uses contraception, an abhorrent practice according to rigid Catholicism, to explore this idea.

Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it.

Essentially, the general idea the Pope is espousing here is that doing evil is always morally wrong, even if the intent is for the good of humanity or oneself—which makes evil an absolute wrong, not just a relative one. Specifically, however, the Pope is claiming that it is always wrong, no matter the circumstances, to use contraception, because it is preventing God's will or intent in creating a human life.

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