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Infallibility boosted in leaked encyclical: 'Splendor of Truth' arrays self against modern moral trends.

Splendor of Truth' arrays self against modern moral trends

Unlike Humanae Vitae in 1968, which was not allowed to exist until it appeared, Pope John Paul's next encyclical, Veritatis Splendor ("The Splendor of Truth"), has been in the air a long time.

It was first announced by John Paul himself in 1987, the 200th anniversary of the death of St. Alphonsus Liguori, patron of confessors and moral theologians. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told a cardinals' meeting in 1991 that it would attack the Enlightenment notion that "the good was undiscoverable and inaccessible." But still it did not come.

Last month, Norbert Greinacher, moral theology professor at Tubingen in Germany, claimed direct knowledge of the upcoming encyclical. He denounced it in a July 3 interview in the Italian daily, La Repubblica.

"It's not sensational as far as sexuality is concerned," said Greinacher, "but its main point is a still more rigorous and restrictive emphasis on papal infallibility. The whole thing is very negative."

He added that Veritatis Splendor, concerned with "principles," was only a first installment A later encyclical would apply it to practical cases and everyday life. An enterprising Rome news agency, ADISTA, got hold of a copy of Gremacher's version of the encyclical and leaked extracts from it July 31, feast of St. Ignatius.

Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Vatican press officer, treated the leak with lofty disdain. The text available to ADISTA, he declared, is "partial and nonauthentic," and "primitive, three years out of date, and very largely superseded."

The language, structure and style of this 3-year-old draft, Navarro-Valls went on, is very different from that of the true encyclical which, anyway, the Holy Father had not yet signed. Asked about a report in the Spanish daily El Pais that the pope would sign it Aug. 6, feast of the Transfiguration and 15th anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI, Navarro-Valls testify replied, "It's on the pope's desk."

Of course, there is usually a gap between signature and publication, so don't expect it in time for the papal visit.

Who wrote it? ADISTA named two Communion and Liberation theologians: Angelo Scola, bishop of Grosseto, Italy, and Rocco Buttiglione, professor at the Liechtenstein International Academy of Philosophy.

Two Polish theologians allegedly completed the team: Jozef Tischner, an old friend of the pope, and Salvatorian Fr. Tadeusz Styczen, the pope's successor in the chair of moral theology at the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland.

Navarro-Valls dismissed all this as speculation. "The Holy Father wanted to hear," he claimed, "the views of a great number of pastors and theologians of various nationalities." But he did not vouchsafe any further information.

ADISTA did not invent these names. They were lifted from the Communion and Liberation monthly, Trenta Giorni, and may therefore be considered reliable. The right-wing review added the Swiss Dominican, Georges Cottier, theologian to the papal household.

The magazine said that the draft had been cut down from 300 to 150 pages, claiming also that it was written in Italian and Polish. If true, this would confirm that the consultors were limited to one narrow theological school. The moral theologians of the Jesuit Gregorian University and the Redemptorist Alfonsianum had no part in it.

No one doubts that the purpose of the encyclical is to insist on the existence of an "objective moral order" in which certain actions are of themselves right or wrong. Any form of ethical relativism is rejected.

The "unofficial" version begins: "The splendor of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator, leading and inviting us to seek our human freedom in his divine love."

Its polemical purpose is plain from the start. It sets itself against ethical trends found within the church itself - and found for years, it adds, referring to Pius XII's 1956 condemnation of "situation ethics."

"Some have even asserted," it complains, "that the church can say nothing magisterially on general moral questions and can only stimulate the conscience of individuals and mediate moral values."

It seeks to refute such positions in three substantial chapters. Chapter 1 establishes the scriptural basis of morality. It begins from the question of the rich, young man in Matthew 19:16: "Teacher, what good deed must I do to obtain eternal life?" There follows a discussion of the beatitudes and the "new commandment" of love.

Chapter 2 lays down "The Principles of Moral Teaching." It defends the concept of "natural law" as based on the truth that the human person is made "in God's image." Universally applicable natural law is the basis of human solidarity.

It declares that certain acts are "intrinsically evil" and admit of no exceptions. They cannot be "redeemed" by good intentions or good consequences. In a long and sophisticated discussion of "conscience" it stresses that the human conscience needs to be "formed" or "trained" to know the good.

Chapter 3 on "Moral Theology in the Mission of the Church" draws the practical consequences. It says that the authority of pope and bishops extends even to "moral teachings that have not yet been finally defined." It demands that bishops should sack dissenting moral theologians and rigorously supervise Catholic universities and publications.

Media attention has concentrated on the disciplinary measures of this final chapter. Theologians will be more interested in chapter 2 which is most likely to bear Pope John Paul's personal stamp.

According to Trenta Giorni, the publication delay was due to the papal desire to harmonize his own "philosophical anthropology" (based on the phenomenologist Max Scheler) with traditional Thomism.

This, then, will be the most weighty theological encyclical of the pontificate. A writer in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera described it as "a kind of spiritual testament of a now old and exhausted pope." If it makes moral theologians unemployed, it will keep ecclesiologists busy for a long time.
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Title Annotation:papal document
Author:Hebblethwaite, Peter
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Aug 13, 1993
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