09 September 2015

Yes, Let Us Rally to the Truth

I have to say again how grateful I am to those stalwart Catholic outlets, small in number but vigorous in faith and intellect, that remind me again and again to hold fast despite everything.  I won't list them all for fear of leaving anyone out, but today Rorate Caeli sent the Care Bears packing simply by posting some excerpts from Veritatis Splendor, the 1993 encyclical letter of John Paul II.

I can still remember how this encyclical inspired me to a greater faith, stuck as I was in the neo-Catholic fever swamp but looking for the beauty of truth.  And here it was, the Splendor of the Truth, pointing out that true freedom consists in the ability to choose the Good, and not in a mere liberty to do as one thinks they wish, which in reality is a slavery to sin.

My wife and I went to a presentation on Veritatis Splendor given by a professor at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and I was blown away by it. In my mind then, and in my mind now, it was the best thing John Paul II wrote, and we all know he wrote a lot. Sometime reader of this blog, Reader X, often chided me by saying that no Pope deserves credit for simply doing his job.  It seems to me now that JPII looks like Gregory the Great by comparison to the current occupant of the papal apartments Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Rigged Synods getting you down?  Consider what even the relatively anemic Church is capable of teaching in this encyclical, and be of good cheer to the end.  I will repost only one excerpt below, but there are more at Rorate.  And why not just read it all?

103. Man always has before him the spiritual horizon of hope, thanks to the help of divine grace and with the cooperation of human freedom. 

          It is in the saving Cross of Jesus, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the Sacraments which flow forth from the pierced side of the Redeemer (cf. Jn 19:34), that believers find the grace and the strength always to keep God’s holy law, even amid the gravest of hardships. As Saint Andrew of Crete observes, the law itself “was enlivened by grace and made to serve it in a harmonious and fruitful combination. Each element preserved its characteristics without change or confusion. In a divine manner, he turned what could be burdensome and tyrannical into what is easy to bear and a source of freedom”.(163)

          Only in the mystery of Christ’s Redemption do we discover the “concrete” possibilities of man. “It would be a very serious error to conclude . . . that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an ‘ideal’ which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a ‘balancing of the goods in question.’ But what are the ‘concrete possibilities of man’? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act. God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

104. In this context, appropriate allowance is made both for God’s mercy towards the sinner who converts and for the understanding of human weakness. Such understanding never means compromising and falsifying the standard of good and evil in order to adapt it to particular circumstances. It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings; what is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that he can feel self-justified, without even the need to have recourse to God and his mercy. An attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.

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