The Truth is Still Splendid: Pope St. John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor at 30

The late pontiff’s great and most controversial encyclical, on morality and moral theology, given on August 6, 1993, still answers some of the most crucial questions of our time.

Pope John Paul II gestures to the crowd during World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, the same year he promulgated "Veritatis Splendor", which addressed issues and controversies regarding moral theology. (CNS photo/Joe Rimkus Jr.)

Outside the Catholic world, the issuing of papal encyclicals rarely garners much attention. That, however, wasn’t the case when, 30 years ago, John Paul II promulgated his long pontificate’s most controversial encyclical on August 6, 1993.

Its very title, Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), threw down a gauntlet to societies—and a church—increasingly in thrall to relativism. Major newspapers not only gave considerable coverage to Veritatis Splendor’s release; they opened their opinion-pages to the encyclical’s supporters and critics, with Catholics and non-Catholics found on both sides.

The fact that this division didn’t break down along “Catholics-versus-everyone-else” lines was revealing. First, it underscored that some Catholic scholars had effectively rejected something which the Church has taught unambiguously from its beginning: that certain acts are intrinsically evil (intrinsece malum) and never to be chosen. Second, it became apparent that many non-Catholics understood how denying such moral absolutes strikes at the heart of any society which aspires to be civilized.

I was barely in my twenties when the encyclical appeared. I’ll never forget, however, a Jewish friend commenting that he considered it indispensable reading for anyone who didn’t want to see the West collapse any further into a morass of moral incoherence. There was simply, he said, no other contemporary document like it.

Veritatis Splendor was certainly that rarity: a post-1960s text which forcibly challenged the moral subjectivism and sentimentalism which had permeated most Western culture-shaping institutions. But the encyclical wasn’t just about reaffirming basic Catholic moral teaching. It sought to present to a church and world increasingly settling for moral mediocrity a compelling narrative about what freedom and the good life are really about.

The rise of the new morality

Skepticism about humanity’s ability to know truth can be traced back as far as the Greek philosopher Pyrrho of Elis (circa 365-275 BC). Christianity, however, has always insisted that humans can know moral truth through faith and reason.

This includes the truth, as John Paul wrote in his 1984 exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia, that there are “acts which, per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.” His next line describes this as “a doctrine, based on the Decalogue and on the preaching of the New Testament, and assimilated into the kerygma of the Apostles and belonging to the earliest teaching of the Church” (RP 17).

That’s about as specific as a pope can get. But John Paul’s unambiguous reaffirmation of the existence of what are called exceptionless moral norms indicated his awareness that some Catholic theologians had all but abandoned what Veritatis Splendor would describe as a matter of “revealed faith” (VS 29).

One reason for this abandonment was the concerted campaign before and after Humanae Vitae to overturn settled Catholic teaching on contraception. The Church’s equally settled position that certain acts may never be chosen constituted an insurmountable barrier to any such reversal.

Some theologians concluded, without directly saying so, that this teaching had to be rendered meaningless so that contraception need not be understood as always contra the good of life. The result was, Veritatis Splendor bluntly stated, was “an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine” (VS 4) and, many would add, perhaps two generations of Catholic clergy in many seminaries being serious malformed in moral theology.

This, however, isn’t the whole story. Some roots of the problems identified by Veritatis Splendor went back further—especially to how Catholic moral theology had been widely understood in the decades leading up to Vatican II.

A comprehensive account of these developments may be found in Servais Pinckaers, OP’s The Sources of Christian Ethics. This illustrated how Catholic moral analysis had become detached from reflection on Scriptural and Patristic sources, inattentive to the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, and highly focused on a morality of obligation issuing from law. The latter’s influence, Pinckaers argued, was exacerbated by the popularity of Kantian ethics and its emphasis on the categorical imperative among German theologians from the nineteenth century onwards.

As a result, much pre-Vatican II Catholic moral theology was marked by considerable tensions between freedom and law. According to Pinckaers, “law” had “the appearance of a pressure external to the person, despite all attempts to interiorize and justify it.” That encouraged many confessors to stress rules-for-the-sake-of-rules. “Freedom” was thus reduced to “whatever isn’t forbidden.” Taken together, this contributed to a mentality of “how far can I go without breaking the rules?”

The upshot of this were often legalistic approaches to morality. When the Church consequently came under immense pressure in the 1960s to abandon its opposition to contraception, much of the moral theology being taught in the Roman universities and seminaries around the world wasn’t well-equipped to respond adequately.

It was against this background that scholars like Pinckaers sought to renew Catholic moral theology after Vatican II. Renewal, however, isn’t the same as displacement. Some Catholic moralists saw the contraception controversy as an opportunity to further their efforts to construct a new morality: one which retained some of the language and structure of Catholic moral reasoning but embodied ways of ethical reflection far removed from Catholic teaching.

Errors old and new

One of Veritatis Splendor’s objectives was to explain major errors characterizing particular theories advanced by influential Catholic moralists who became prominent in the 1960s. While these individuals weren’t named, it’s not hard to identify who they were.

Consider the encyclical’s critique of what was called “the fundamental option.” This position was associated with the German Redemptorist theologian Bernard Häring (1912-1998) who taught for many years at Rome’s Alphonsian Academy. In brief, it involved stating that what ultimately mattered for morality was the radical choice for faith in God.

This “fundamental option” for Christ was, the argument went, of much greater consequence than more particular free choices. As long as you love Christ, you’ll remain a Christ-centered person. You shouldn’t subsequently fear that God will get too concerned about any number of actions always understood as gravely sinful by the Church.

Häring, his defenders might reply, was trying to help Catholic moral theology escape a fixation with rules and to underscore love as the fundamental way of the Christian. But while affirming that the Christian is someone who’s made a fundamental choice for Christ, Veritatis Splendor also stated that Christianity has always understood this same choice to be linked to doing certain acts and always, without exception, refraining from other particular actions (VS 66-67, 84).

That’s one reason why the encyclical’s analysis of Christ’s encounter with the rich young man identifies the choice to always follow the negative commandments listed in the Decalogue’s second tablet (don’t murder, don’t steal, etc.) as “the basic condition” (VS 13) for life in Christ. For these “negative precepts” protect and promote goods like life and truth-telling which are core to our nature as humans and provide content to the great commandment to love God and our neighbor (VS 13).

Veritatis Splendor also observes that each of my free choices for or against these goods engages the fullness of my reason and free will (VS 71). Accordingly, should I freely choose to murder someone, I can’t help but damage my fundamental option for Christ who teaches us that this choice is never compatible with life in him.

Of course, our friendship with Christ is restorable via another free choice: the confessing of the sins that broke our relationship with Christ and a loving God’s ensuing forgiveness. Nor is it enough to just “do no evil.” We’re also called to do good. To claim, however, that our basic free choice for God can somehow be reconciled with free choices for evil is to fly in the face of both Catholic faith and reason itself.

A second category of approaches to morality condemned by Veritatis Splendor is likewise characterized by their implicit denial that certain acts may never done. These theories are grouped under the titles of “consequentialism” and “proportionalism.” The first holds that an act’s morality is determined by calculating the foreseeable consequences of our free choices. The second maintains we make moral choices by determining the proportions of evil and good that’s probable in a given act.

To find a generic representative of these ways of thinking, we need look no further than Josef Fuchs, SJ, (1912-2005), another well-known German theologian who taught at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University for decades. The most precise expression of Fuchs’ method of moral reasoning may be found in his Christian Ethics in a Secular Arena (1984). Fuchs describes it in the following way:

Because of the co-existence of pre-moral goods and pre-moral evils in every human act, we must determine the moral rightness or wrongness of an act by considering all the goods and evils in an act and evaluating whether the evil or the good for human beings is prevalent in the act, considering in this evaluation the hierarchy of values involved and the pressing character of certain values in the concrete.

For Fuchs, then, one or more aspects of an act might be evil. But that act may still be undertaken if you’re compared the totality of evils and goods in that act, concluded that the goods outweigh the evils, and measured this against the totality of bads and goods involved in alternative acts.

That, however, contradicts the Christian teaching that an act is good only if good in all relevant respects and evil if defective in any respect (Bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu). It also nullifies the very idea of intrinsically evil acts.

Measuring immeasurables

But there’s also a philosophical problem with Fuchs’ method. It assumes that we can measure moral goods and evils.

Humans can certainly weigh those outcomes which are quantifiable. This occurs all the time in the natural sciences and particular social sciences like economics. But, Veritatis Splendor stressed, proportionalists and consequentialists were proposing that we can comparatively evaluate things which are in many ways incomparable and unquantifiable.

Precisely how might you determine, for instance, that three evils potentially realized in an act outweigh, say, two goods potentially realized by the same act? How do you measure the effects of an evil like stealing against the impact of pursuing a good like knowledge of truth? From what perspective can any human being propose to engage in such weighing in a way that’s reasonable? In short, Fuchs and his followers were proposing a commensuration of things which are incommensurable.

This wasn’t a new philosophical error. The same mistake plagues Jeremy Bentham’s act-utilitarianism and John Stuart Mill’s rule-utilitarianism: the error of seeking to measure the immeasurable. Thus Veritatis Splendor highlighted “the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, of evaluating all the good and evil consequences and effects . . . of one’s own acts.” Such “an exhaustive rational calculation,” the encyclical added, “is not possible. How then can one go about establishing proportions which depend on a measuring, the criteria of which remain obscure?” (VS 77).

It follows that if you embrace proportionalism or consequentialism then, at some point, you’re bound to become arbitrary in the way you make moral judgments. And to be arbitrary in one’s moral reasoning is to be irrational. Indeed, the only being who could possibly know all the foreseen (let alone the unforeseen!) good and evil effects of any given free choice is God—and Him we human beings most certainly are not.

When the encyclical appeared, some proportionalists and consequentialists maintained they did believe in moral absolutes. Their writings, however, demonstrated that they didn’t understand moral absolutes in the same way that Christ, Paul, Augustine and Aquinas did.

Instead we find formulations like those proposed by the Jesuit moralist Bruno Schüller (1925-2007) in a 1980 festschrift for Karl Rahner, SJ. These take the form of tautologies like “don’t steal when it would be wrong to do so” or “don’t kill wrongfully.” They leave open the possibility that there might be such things as “rightful stealing.” That’s contrary to Catholicism’s understanding of moral absolutes because the object of an act of theft is always evil, and therefore irreconcilable with the good.

Denying moral absolutes, however, does something else. It opens the door to people rationalizing evil.

In a 2005 essay, Joseph Ratzinger noted that “a moral theologian, now deceased, once remarked that “good means ‘only better than.” Reflecting on that claim, Ratzinger warned, “If this is the case, nothing is intrinsically evil.” That would mean it’s conceivable that anything may be done.

If that’s true, maybe it’s tolerable to hand over the Jews in your village to the SS if you calculate that this will save the whole village from going to Auschwitz. Perhaps it’s sometimes reasonable to kill prisoners to harvest their organs if this is the only way to save innocent individuals’ lives.

Yes, these are vivid examples, and no doubt some proportionalists and consequentialists would never have countenanced such choices. The difficulty is that their theories couldn’t generate an in-principle objection to such actions ever being undertaken.

This is what my Jewish friend found so impressive about Veritatis Splendor. Its insistence on the moral absolutes that he, as a Jew, recognized in the Decalogue wasn’t only about living a coherent moral life. He grasped that they protect the weak from the strong, the fashionable, the loud, and the ruthless.

Christian morality’s more excellent way

Other errors which had permeated Catholic moral theology since the 1960s were critiqued in Veritatis Splendor. Yet there was another side to the encyclical: its effort to show how striving to live the way of Christian morality is a path to grandeur for everyone, however humble our station in life.

In a 2014 interview with Commonweal, Cardinal Walter Kasper asserted that “heroism”—by which he appears to have meant heroic virtue—“is not for the average Christian.” But settling for moral mediocrity isn’t Veritatis Splendor’s view of the Christian vocation. This is spelt out in the encyclical’s first and third chapters. These integrate freedom and truth in ways which ensure they aren’t at odds but rather directed to the fullest realization of life in Christ.

Against those who reduce freedom to absent of constraint, Veritatis Splendor specified that Christianity’s understanding of liberty goes beyond this. Freedom, it emphasized, is inseparable from man’s unique capacity for reason, free will, and consequent ability to know and choose more-than-instrumental-goods. When we constantly strive to choose these goods and avoid evil, we shape ourselves in the direction of the true, good and beautiful. No longer are we slaves of our passions. Instead we become wholly free and more truly alive.

To this end, Veritatis Splendor reminds us that the completeness of the liberty to which our reason directs us is found in Christ: the Logos who opens up to us the prospect of eternal life and the Revelation that God is capital “L” Love. From this standpoint, Christian moral principles aren’t “rules-for-rules-sake.” Instead “the rules” are intimately concerned with living in the Truth.

Obviously we can’t do this on our own. Veritatis Splendor recalls Paul’s insight that while we can know and choose the good, we’re also drawn to evil. All of us have violated one or more of the negative commandments. Hence, the encyclical underscores, we need grace (VS 102-105).

In some of its most powerful passages, Veritatis Splendor points to the saints and martyrs as those who testify that keeping God’s law is “never impossible” (VS 102). Their lives demonstrate, John Paul wrote, that “It would be a very serious error to conclude . . . that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an ‘ideal’” (VS 103). The saints and martyrs show us that everyone is capable of holiness: that, as the encyclical insists, “It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the ‘poorest of the poor’ on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal” (VS 96).

No doubt, enduring pain or even losing one’s life by witnessing to the moral absolutes central to Christian moral reasoning—by refusing like the Japanese Jesuit Paul Miki to deny one’s faith; by refusing like Thomas More to lie on oath; by refusing like the Ugandan boy-pages to submit to the king’s sexual demands—makes little sense to the consistent utilitarian. Veritatis Splendor, by contrast, underscores how a truly Christian ethics firmly incorporates our free choices against evil and for the good into our witnessing to the Kingdom of God.

Because every time we respect what Veritatis Splendor called “certain fundamental goods” (VS 48)—especially when doing so means suffering—we illustrate that Christian morality is no mere “ideal.” Instead man’s capacity for true freedom and excellence and the workings of God’s grace are shown to be real. And that reality is a foretaste of the Kingdom which is to come.

Such is the radiance of the greatest of truths which, if we choose, sets us free.

(Editor’s note: This essay was posted originally on August 2, 2018, to mark the 25th anniversary of Veritatis Splendor. As the past five years have only accentuated the need for moral truth, we happily repost it now on the 30th anniversary of the encyclical.)

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About Dr. Samuel Gregg 39 Articles
Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. The author of many books—including the prize-winning The Commercial Society (Rowman & Littlefield), Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy (Edward Elgar), Becoming Europe (Encounter), the prize-winning Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization (Regnery), and over 400 articles and opinion-pieces—he writes regularly on political economy, finance, American conservatism, Western civilization, and natural law theory. He can be followed on Twitter @drsamuelgregg


  1. Right on, all the way, but what if the ploy today is no longer about proportionalism or consequentialism?

    What if the really “new paradigm” is to both assert clearly Catholic teachings on moral absolutes while at the same time simply setting them aside from time to time (initially), depending on accompaniment and discernment of concrete cases? The subjective situation becomes the objective reality, so it has been said.

    • But how? I have never seen an attempt to do so where the phoniness of applying proportionalism or consequentialism, the attempt to prove to God that we know better than Him how to judge all the effects of our actions, which we construe favorably while ignoring our victims, were not obvious. In Amoris Laetitia I repeatedly cite the implication for which no one ever responds, in print of face to face among Francis apologists, that the reasoning of Francis is a war on first wives. There is no way of reading his conclusions without concluding he finds no fault with a man “discerning” in his “concrete circumstances in today’s world” it is acceptable to abandon his broken family and run away with his mistress to start a second family. The sophist just talks about imagined happy scenarios and ignores the damages of actions that God and the victims of sin always have to deal with.

      • “The reasoning of Francis is a war on first wives.” Allow a brotherly correction Edward, Francis is also at war with first husbands. Seriously, your comment is spot on. Like so many here, you see that toleration of concubinage to please the most, will open the AL door to toleration of anything. I think it was Dr. Joseph Siefert who called the Amoris rationalization of heteropraxy “an atomic bomb in moral practice.” Most though he was catastrophizing. No more.

        While we are airing grievances about dispensing from object truth, I laughed the first time I read Amoris Laetitia footnote 329. In sum, it teaches that adulterous sex can sometimes be best for the sake of the kids. Right!! We do it for the kids…sure. And priests never tolerate our concubines for our donations. Got it.
        Perhaps all of this is not about mercy alone. Perhaps Francis and friends have simply given up on the laity and despaired of our ability to live God’s law.

  2. Faithful to Aquinas and to reality John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor defines morality in a human act not circumstances or intent though the latter must be good. Discernment in Amoris Laetitia determines the good of the act in a form of proportional good of circumstances and intent aimed at an objective ideal finding sufficiency in an act as the “most generous response to God” (303). John Paul II foresaw that exact paradoxical tension between the human condition in context of mitigating circumstances and the Law. Pope Francis’ schemata is consistent with the Law of the Decalogue and human frailty, whereas John Paul II in Veritatis affirms freedom from sin the gift of grace won by Christ pouring out his Precious Blood from the Cross. If the object of the act [materia circa quam] is good the object must therefore be ordered to God. And that ordering is the effect of grace without which Man remains in sin.

  3. Yes, I propose that Veritatis Splendor—the Decalogue plus the graced Beatitudes—is brilliantly summarized in part of paragraph 52: “…the commandment of love of God and neighbor does not have in its dynamic any higher limit, but it does have a lower limit, beneath which the commandment is broken.”

  4. The faithfulness of Veritatis Splendor is its witness to this word of life:

    “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

    Why does Jesus say this to us?

    Because He loves us.

    And he loves us better than any man, including those now telling us to do something else.

    Thus in VS do John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger imitate the Good Shepherd, because they tell us to listen to the commands of Jesus, because Jesus commands us because he remains faithful to us, because he loves us.

    Thank you Father Most High, for Your Son, and faithful shepherds like John Paul II, and Joseph Ratzinger.

  5. Yes, since no one, even Popes, have the power to dispense with the objective truth, that is Christ – the plan is to bypass the Deposit of Faith/Truth in pastoral practice. Apparently, infallibility does not proud from encouraging and enabling heteropraxy.

    A future Pope (with Council?) will confirm orthodoxy again and fix our broken pastoral practices. But I do not expect to see this. More likely, we will get Amoris (Victor) Splendor 💋 and centuries (?) of tolerating all manner of evils.

    In the meantime, I plan to imitate the late, great Msgr. William B. Smith of NY. Bombs away!
    “Nice is not a virtue. Scripture doesn’t say Blessed are the nice!”
    “Today is not the day God is calling you or anyone to act against His objective moral law.”
    “There are no galant adulterers, not even Mr. Trump.”
    “Sodomy doesn’t fit.”
    “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”
    “If thin was a virtue, we would need to canonize every anorexic in Manhattan.”
    More later…

    • I enjoy many of your comments, but you might note that there is some galantry in passing from a former life of playboy to a level of reformed awareness that led to actions that saved the lives of more unborn children than any individual in human history.

      • As for the quote, it was Msgr. Smith in the 90s. As a rare defender of HV and a contributor to VS, my old teacher always held out for objective truth.
        Regarding pro-life, yes, we used Trump and he used us. We wanted SCOTUS Judges and he wanted the White House. Trust me, that is all it was, I have the scars to prove it. Trump can tell the “reformed awareness” part to the judge. My political gut has convinced me from day one that in the end, Trump will betray everyone. And since I got the judges I want, I’m done using him politically. He is fired! A deal is a deal! Etc. I’ll take my chances with the next knucklehead.

  6. Five years since this excellent and very timely article was first posted. We might quibble that Veritatis Splendor is not “controversial,” but only “controverted;” and that the ploy to day is no longer even this, but to simply ignore it altogether.

    In recurrent postings, yours truly has centered on three concise and central teachings (teachings!) in Veritatis Splendor (VS), and these are repeated here:

    FIRST, “A separation, or even an opposition [!], is thus established in some cases between the teaching of the precept, which is valid and general, and the norm of the individual conscience, which would in fact make the final decision [no longer a ‘moral judgment’!] about what is good and what is evil. On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called ‘pastoral’ solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a ‘creative’ hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept [thou shalt not!]” (VS, n. 56).

    SECOND, “This is the first time, in fact, that the Magisterium of the Church [!] has set forth in detail the fundamental elements of this [natural law and ‘moral’] teaching, and presented the principles for the pastoral discernment necessary in practical and cultural situations which are complex and even crucial” (VS, n. 115).

    THIRD, “The Church is no way [!] the author or the arbiter of this [‘moral’] norm” (VS, n. 95). Hello!

    Do we see, now, why the block-party elements of synodality don’t have much to say about Veritatis Splendor?

    Instead, omissions, silence toward the dubia, half-truths, photo-ops, name-calling, and even such as this from synodist theologian-extraordinaire Hollerich: “I believe that this [the teaching that homosexual actions, etc., are objectively sinful] is false. But I also believe that here we [!] are thinking further about the teaching […] this can lead to a change in teaching […] I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation [!] of this teaching is no longer correct [….].”

    • Peter, citing Hollerich, you wrote: “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation [!] of this teaching[**] is no longer correct [….].” I have been a vocal opponent of the heterodox beliefs of the German Episcopate for quite some time. The quote above is one example of the many **false** justifications they use to sneak heresy into the Synod’s agenda. They use the word “science” because they believe it lends a certain amount of credibility/authority to their proposals.

      [**] the Church’s current teaching that homosexuality and same-sex attraction are intrinsically disordered.

      Satan is the Father of lies. He always seeks to hide those lies under a veneer of truth. The current state of Science constitutes one layer of that veneer. The lies can be very pervasive, especially when joined with another lie (i.e., one in which biological/false compassion masquerades as spiritual compassion). So, how truthful/reliable is recently conducted Science? According to the experts, not very truthful/reliable at all. [ ]

      According to one scientist:

      [quote]It has been an open secret for some time that there is a crisis of irreproducibility of scientific studies in medicine and other fields. No less a figure than the [former] Director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, wrote [ ] that, “the checks and balances that once ensured scientific fidelity have been hobbled. This has compromised the ability of today’s researchers to reproduce others’ findings.” For example, the National Association of Scholars reports, “In 2012, the biotechnology firm Amgen tried to reproduce 53 ‘landmark’ studies in hematology and oncology, but could only replicate 6 (11%).”[1] In 2015 an article was published in Science in which there was an attempt to replicate 100 studies from three well-known psychology journals in 2008.[2] In the original studies, nearly all had produced statistically significant results [i.e., p=<0.05], whereas in the study replications, only a little over a third produced similar significant results.[end quote][3]

      Let me clarify. We are talking about falsified scientific studies submitted to Science Journals for peer review and subsequent publication. The submissions are written in such a way as to deliberately hide article falsifications from the Journal publisher. Raw research data is also withheld from the Journal.

      What’s worse: the scientific disciplines germane to the German Synod’s claims are also the same disciplines (i.e., behavioral and social sciences) experiencing the most significant percentage of studies containing falsifications that, if discovered, would cause them to fail the peer review! Furthermore, those falsified studies are more frequent in the United States than in any other country.[4] For the last hundred years, I might add that the U.S. has been the chief proponent of policies and laws that are destructive to the family — the domestic Church.

      The question arises: Are we going to change Church Doctrine based partially on scientific studies, the integrity of which is HIGHLY questionable?

      [1] David Randall and Christopher Welser, “The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science: Causes, Consequences, and the Road to Reform,” National Association of Scholars,, April 09/2018 (accessed 03/26/2022).

      [2] Open Science Collaboration, “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science,” Science: American Association for the Advancement of Science,, Aug. 28, 2015 Vol 349, Issue 6251.

      [3] Andre Van Mol, et al., “Correction: Transgender Surgery Provides No Mental Health Benefit,” Public Disclosure: The Journal of the Witherspoon Institute,, September 13, 2020 (accessed 03/26/2022).

      [4] Check Hayden, E., US behavioural research studies skew positive. Nature (2013).

  7. Since dates matter in Providence and we are constantly being told to discern. Here goes:

    Pope Francis repeatedly used the great phrase of the JPII pontificate today, Be Not Afraid, without referencing JPII, at a WYD event founded by JPII on the anniversary of JPIIs great Encyclical Veritatis Splendor which Francis has been undermining since he took office. Did Francis honor the memory of JPII at all in Portugal?
    Perhaps this pontificate is petty and envious. Regardless, JPII is being canceled. More, few predecessors are ever referenced. Only John XXIII is beloved for his pastoral style, so he must be canonized with JPII (since apparently Francis was stuck honoring him). There is something particularly pathetic about this. And the longer Francis operates, the less one can believe that he entered into the papacy with good will. Sounds like grounds for an annulment.

  8. Is it not possible that both absolutism and proportianism may both be right at the same time without contradiction? On the Devine side it is proportionall ( the justice and mercy continuum), while the human side is absolute.: something is always wrong. For us it is either black or white, but God’s mercy mitigates can mitigate the harshness.

    • Probably not a “continuum,” and not a false dualism between “absolutism” (sic) and “proportianism” (sp).

      From the Devine (sp) side we clearly have this, for example, from the merciful truth in Person, the incarnate Jesus Christ: “but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mt 5:28).

      Yes, “God’s mercy can mitigate the ‘harshness'” (sic?), but still does not dissolve His own revealed truth about Himself and, therefore, about ourselves. Instead, He said this, too, to the adulterous woman: “go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11). A decision of the heart and will…

      yes, still humanly subject to temptation (not a sin) and likely further falls, together with genuine repentance and divine forgiveness, but not a blended and exonerating “continuum.”

    • While there may be conditions that substantially mitigate culpability of an objective intrinsic evil, example whether a person is guilty of murder or justified self defense, or whether a sacramental marriage is invalid due to lack of full disclosure by one party regarding their alcoholism] a person’s manifest behavior more than likely manifests their culpability.
      We are indebted to respond to good or evil and exercise reasonable judgment. As a priest I must do so and not shirk withholding absolution, for example in instances of unwillingness to admit that finding pornography entertaining is objectively a serious sin. Christ would not have issued commandments with the proviso to repent if not followed – if intrinsically evil acts did not possess permanence. Unfortunately, the issue the Church faces today is exactly the issue of withholding reasonable judgment due to the belief that mitigating circumstances annul all judgment.

  9. Osoba i Czyn, Person and Act, is the original title of John Paul II’s treatise, wrongly translated The Acting Person. The latter terminology was actually coined by Max Scheler. Scheler had a substantial influence on the moral thought of John Paul [John Paul wrote a second doctorate on Scheler in defense of Scheler, who was sanctioned by German bishops]. Scheler focused on the act, not the intent as the determinant of good or evil. We find this emphasized in Veritatis Splendor, the moral object.
    John Paul interpreted Scheler in the light of St Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas correctly postulated that there are two acts of the will in a moral act, that of the interior will, and that of the external. In Veritatis he explained how Proportionalism placed morality of the act on the interior act of the will, synonymous with intent. Proportionalists argued in terms of the greater good [which the German bishops misunderstood in Scheler’s works] as what determines morality. John Paul, following the thought of Aquinas’ clarity on a moral act explains that the choice of act, what it does is where morality is realized.We can cite innumerable examples when the greater good instead of the act resulted in monstrous behavior.

  10. My encounter in a parish with abortion and contraception peddlers and pedagogues, showed them to live in a high level of sophistication. In short, they thrive with dialogue and mount up to high position because, quite simply, they mean to extinguish authority through dialogue.

    The discursive account of “fighting against abortion” given by “God’s Fool” in his/her comments in the article on Sheen and the bomb, brought back to me what this sophistication could involve.

    Remember this was in the ’90’s after Veritatis Splendor and these people could already remonstrate and co-ordinate “broad talking” on ideas and feelings; easily weaving them. As they went others “caught on” and fell in with it including outspoken and heated up “Charismatics” and new arrivals.

    In sum, when you indicate in the “dialogue” the utter evil involved they say you are being divisive. But in reality their activism is already the division that constrains authority to take action not keep jabbering. So when the priest takes no notice but joins another debate to do with “internal narratives”, or, “internal forum”, you begin to realize what is really happening.

    One person in the parish can formulate the points very cogently and deliver an organized feeling for it in one sitting. Alternatively he can spread out his responses. Another person outside the parish begins “walking with” the issue and mirroring the same themes and “feelings” speeches.

    “God’s Fool” calls it “synodaling”. You have to be very attentive when it is occurring to be able to recognize it and to be able to string together disparate events and communications. All due respect to “God’s Fool” but there has to be more than just throwing around words and abiding in silence. Truth is not merely about “waiting for everybody to know the truth”.

    You might express a concern about it to someone. One reaction would be disbelief and reprimand. Another reaction would be a paternalizing counsel to accept reality “maturely”. The parish priest said I was being “spiritual” and had a call to be a deacon; and he never seriously engaged me after that. The “calling into question” modality is quite alive and well-developed, make no mistake.

    This quote is from Gregg above -:

    ‘ ….. 30 years ago, John Paul II promulgated his long pontificate’s most controversial encyclical on August 6, 1993.


    But John Paul’s unambiguous reaffirmation of the existence of what are called exceptionless moral norms indicated his awareness that some Catholic theologians had all but abandoned what Veritatis Splendor would describe as a matter of “revealed faith” (VS 29).

    One reason for this abandonment was the concerted campaign before and after Humanae Vitae to overturn settled Catholic teaching on contraception. The Church’s equally settled position that certain acts may never be chosen constituted an insurmountable barrier to any such reversal.

    Some theologians concluded, without directly saying so, that this teaching had to be rendered meaningless so that contraception need not be understood as always contra the good of life. The result was, Veritatis Splendor bluntly stated, was “an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine” (VS 4) ….. ‘

    • Forgive me Elias, but I have no idea what you are saying. So if I never respond again to you, assume that I simply lack the sophistication. Should you chose to no longer accompany me for my want of style (?), I accept your discernment. Regardless, I leave our synodaling with the consolidation that it has somewhat mitigated my ecclesial loneliness. (von Balthasar). And for this, I thank you. Cheers, You Know Who

      • What I related persists to today. It would never have occurred to me to suppose it could be synodal or synodality. It seems to me it wants to spread. Even your response now, to me, is in line with how it keeps going and grows.

        This isn’t “conspiracist” it is real. You just can not keep exposing parishoners to murderers and telling them they must co-operate on account of inclusivity. And trying to isolate those who object as having “internal forum” contradictions and “internal narrative” rebellions.

        It’s not necessary for me to get insulting. It’s just all wrong.

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  1. The Truth is Still Splendid: Veritatis Splendor at 25 -
  2. Language, Truth, and Reality: Revisiting Veritatis Splendor on its 25th anniversary – Catholic World Report
  3. ‘Veritatis Splendor’ and the Spirituality of Youth| National Catholic Register - My Catholic Country

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