The Splendor of Truth & the Squalor of Sin
December 1993By Dale Vree
Dale Vree is Editor of New Oxford Review.
Evangelizing is a tricky affair, make no mistake.
John Paul II's Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth) is the first encyclical to put forth the core elements of Catholic moral theology. The Church's moral teaching, of course, is central to proclaiming the Gospel. So how did the encyclical play in the Peoria of MediaLand? What, for example, did Newsweek make of it? Holy Shibboleths! The Pope, it seems, served up an "often tendentious sequel" to Paul VI's politically so incorrect Humanae Vitae.
Well, it's a free country. The Pope, in any case, hadn't set out to be tendentious. Indeed, if we -- undaunted by the reports of its being "obscure" (Commonweal) -- were to read the encyclical, we'd find a deeply pastoral spirit.
John Paul begins with the story of the rich young man who asks Jesus, "Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?" (Mt. 19:16). (Isn't this the question we each need to ask?) And the Pope quickly points out that it's a question "not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life," the quest "at the heart of every human decision" that "sets freedom in motion" (#7).
For Christians this quest takes a dazzling direction. We seek Christ. Jesus is the "primordial foundation" of the moral life (#19). If we understand this, we understand the wellspring of freedom.
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