Thirty years of Veritatis Splendor

The encyclical Veritatis Splendor of St. John Paul II deals with the foundations of moral theology. Published in 1993, 30 years ago, its premises are still very relevant today. One specific area of application is the theology of the body.

José Miguel Granados-August 13, 2023-Reading time: 2 minutes

©Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

This past August 6 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the important encyclical letter "Veritatis splendor" (VS) of Pope St. John Paul II on the foundations of morality. Among other topics, it recalls the need for an adequate understanding of the truth of the human body in order to offer a doctrine adequate to divine revelation and to the "essentially human experience".

First of all, he briefly considers some insufficient and erroneous theories that lead to serious deviations in action and life (cf. VS n. 46). In this regard, he denies the alleged conflict between freedom and moral law, between conscience and nature. Likewise, he rejects the objection that accuses the Catholic conception of the natural moral law of physicalism and biologistic naturalism.

In reality, man cannot decide the meaning of his behavior without relying on nature, which is shaped according to the Creator's plan; moreover, he is capable of understanding this natural law with his reason. when it is well conformed (cf. VS n. 47).

It is therefore false to claim that freedom is uprooted from the human essence, exorbitant, empty of content, exposed to arbitrary choice, and that it treats the human body as a brute being devoid of meaning and moral values. For the natural moral law evidences and prescribes certain purposes, rights and duties, which are based on the bodily and spiritual nature of the human person and his social condition.

The doctrine of the Church affirms that the rational, spiritual and immortal soul is the form of the body and the principle of unity of the human being, who exists as a whole - in unity of body and soul, as a unified totality - as a person. For all these reasons, he concludes: "The person, through the light of reason and the help of virtue, discovers in his body the precursory signs, the expression and the promise of the gift of self, according to the wise design of the Creator. It is in the light of the dignity of the human person - which must be affirmed for its own sake - that reason discovers the specific moral value of certain goods to which the person is naturally inclined" (VS n. 48).

In addition, John Paul II has extensively developed the doctrine on the "theology of the human body": it constitutes a doctrinal body, which forms an authentic philosophical-theological anthropology-ethics from the key of nuptiality, in dialogue with the currents of classical and contemporary thought. We will explain the sources and the keys to this original contribution of the Pope to the family in successive installments.

The authorJosé Miguel Granados

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