By fulfilling the law, love of neighbor reinforces the Commandments

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

These [teleological ethical] theories can gain a certain persuasive force from their affinity to the scientific mentality, which is rightly concerned with ordering technical and economic activities on the basis of a calculation of resources and profits, procedures and their effects. They seek to provide liberation from the constraints of a voluntaristic and arbitrary morality of obligation which would ultimately be dehumanizing.

Such theories however are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behaviour contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. These theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition. Although the latter did witness the development of a casuistry which tried to assess the best ways to achieve the good in certain concrete situations, it is nonetheless true that this casuistry concerned only cases in which the law was uncertain, and thus the absolute validity of negative moral precepts, which oblige without exception, was not called into question. The faithful are obliged to acknowledge and respect the specific moral precepts declared and taught by the Church in the name of God, the Creator and Lord.125 When the Apostle Paul sums up the fulfilment of the law in the precept of love of neighbour as oneself (cf. Rom 13:8-10), he is not weakening the commandments but reinforcing them, since he is revealing their requirements and their gravity. Love of God and of one’s neighbour cannot be separated from the observance of the commandments of the Covenant renewed in the blood of Jesus Christ and in the gift of the Spirit. It is an honour characteristic of Christians to obey God rather than men (cf. Acts 4:19; 5:29) and accept even martyrdom as a consequence, like the holy men and women of the Old and New Testaments, who are considered such because they gave their lives rather than perform this or that particular act contrary to faith or virtue.

123 Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session VI, Decree on Justification Cum Hoc Tempore, Canon 19: H. Denzinger-A. Schönmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum [DS], 1569. See also: Clement XI, Constitution Unigenitus Dei Filius (September 8, 1713) against the Errors of Paschasius Quesnel, Nos. 53-56: DS, 2453-2456.

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False solutions seek to separate free will from specific obligations and choices

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

But as part of the effort to work out such a rational morality (for this reason it is sometimes called an “autonomous morality”) there exist false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action. Some authors do not take into sufficient consideration the fact that the will is involved in the concrete choices which it makes: these choices are a condition of its moral goodness and its being ordered to the ultimate end of the person. Others are inspired by a notion of freedom which prescinds from the actual conditions of its exercise, from its objective reference to the truth about the good, and from its determination through choices of concrete kinds of behaviour. According to these theories, free will would neither be morally subjected to specific obligations nor shaped by its choices, while nonetheless still remaining responsible for its own acts and for their consequences. This “teleologism”, as a method for discovering the moral norm, can thus be called — according to terminology and approaches imported from different currents of thought — “consequentialism” or “proportionalism”. The former claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice. The latter, by weighing the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the “greater good” or “lesser evil” actually possible in a particular situation.

The teleological ethical theories (proportionalism, consequentialism), while acknowledging that moral values are indicated by reason and by Revelation, maintain that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behaviour which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values. The acting subject would indeed be responsible for attaining the values pursued, but in two ways: the values or goods involved in a human act would be, from one viewpoint, of the moral order (in relation to properly moral values, such as love of God and neighbour, justice, etc.) and, from another viewpoint, of the pre-moral order, which some term non-moral, physical or ontic (in relation to the advantages and disadvantages accruing both to the agent and to all other persons possibly involved, such as, for example, health or its endangerment, physical integrity, life, death, loss of material goods, etc.). In a world where goodness is always mixed with evil, and every good effect linked to other evil effects, the morality of an act would be judged in two different ways: its moral “goodness” would be judged on the basis of the subject’s intention in reference to moral goods, and its “rightness” on the basis of a consideration of its foreseeable effects or consequences and of their proportion. Consequently, concrete kinds of behaviour could be described as “right” or “wrong”, without it being thereby possible to judge as morally “good” or “bad” the will of the person choosing them. In this way, an act which, by contradicting a universal negative norm, directly violates goods considered as “pre-moral” could be qualified as morally acceptable if the intention of the subject is focused, in accordance with a “responsible” assessment of the goods involved in the concrete action, on the moral value judged to be decisive in the situation.

The evaluation of the consequences of the action, based on the proportion between the act and its effects and between the effects themselves, would regard only the pre-moral order. The moral specificity of acts, that is their goodness or evil, would be determined exclusively by the faithfulness of the person to the highest values of charity and prudence, without this faithfulness necessarily being incompatible with choices contrary to certain particular moral precepts. Even when grave matter is concerned, these precepts should be considered as operative norms which are always relative and open to exceptions.

In this view, deliberate consent to certain kinds of behaviour declared illicit by traditional moral theology would not imply an objective moral evil.

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Fr. Carr to offer TLM this Wednesday, Saturday

The Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) will be offered at 7:00 am on Wednesday and Saturday mornings of this week by Reverend Father Richard Carr at St. Michael Church, 7401 St. Michael’s Lane, Annandale.

On Wednesday morning, June 22, Low Mass of the Feast of St. Paulinus of Nola will be offered. Low Mass of the Feast of St. William, Abbot, will be offered on Saturday morning, June 25.

Please note that these Masses are scheduled at the discretion of the celebrant, and are not part of the parish’s published Mass calendar. These Masses have been added to our seven-day schedule.

How are human acts ordered toward God?

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

But on what does the moral assessment of man’s free acts depend? What is it that ensures this ordering of human acts to God? Is it the intention of the acting subject, the circumstances — and in particular the consequences — of his action, or the object itself of his act?

This is what is traditionally called the problem of the “sources of morality”. Precisely with regard to this problem there have emerged in the last few decades new or newly-revived theological and cultural trends which call for careful discernment on the part of the Church’s Magisterium.

Certain ethical theories, called “teleological“, claim to be concerned for the conformity of human acts with the ends pursued by the agent and with the values intended by him. The criteria for evaluating the moral rightness of an action are drawn from the weighing of the non-moral or pre-moral goods to be gained and the corresponding non-moral or pre-moral values to be respected. For some, concrete behaviour would be right or wrong according as whether or not it is capable of producing a better state of affairs for all concerned. Right conduct would be the one capable of “maximizing” goods and “minimizing” evils.

Many of the Catholic moralists who follow in this direction seek to distance themselves from utilitarianism and pragmatism, where the morality of human acts would be judged without any reference to the man’s true ultimate end. They rightly recognize the need to find ever more consistent rational arguments in order to justify the requirements and to provide a foundation for the norms of the moral life. This kind of investigation is legitimate and necessary, since the moral order, as established by the natural law, is in principle accessible to human reason. Furthermore, such investigation is well-suited to meeting the demands of dialogue and cooperation with non-Catholics and non-believers, especially in pluralistic societies.

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The moral life orders our freely chosen actions to our final end

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

The Christian, thanks to God’s Revelation and to faith, is aware of the “newness” which characterizes the morality of his actions: these actions are called to show either consistency or inconsistency with that dignity and vocation which have been bestowed on him by grace. In Jesus Christ and in his Spirit, the Christian is a “new creation”, a child of God; by his actions he shows his likeness or unlikeness to the image of the Son who is the first-born among many brethren (cf. Rom 8:29), he lives out his fidelity or infidelity to the gift of the Spirit, and he opens or closes himself to eternal life, to the communion of vision, love and happiness with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.123 As Saint Cyril of Alexandria writes, Christ “forms us according to his image, in such a way that the traits of his divine nature shine forth in us through sanctification and justice and the life which is good and in conformity with virtue . . . The beauty of this image shines forth in us who are in Christ, when we show ourselves to be good in our works”.124

Consequently the moral life has an essential “teleological” character, since it consists in the deliberate ordering of human acts to God, the supreme good and ultimate end (telos) of man. This is attested to once more by the question posed by the young man to Jesus: “What good must I do to have eternal life?”. But this ordering to one’s ultimate end is not something subjective, dependent solely upon one’s intention. It presupposes that such acts are in themselves capable of being ordered to this end, insofar as they are in conformity with the authentic moral good of man, safeguarded by the commandments. This is what Jesus himself points out in his reply to the young man: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17).

Clearly such an ordering must be rational and free, conscious and deliberate, by virtue of which man is “responsible” for his actions and subject to the judgment of God, the just and good judge who, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, rewards good and punishes evil: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor 5:10).

123 The Second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, makes this clear: “This applies not only to Christians but to all men of good will in whose hearts grace is secretly at work. Since Christ died for all and since man’s ultimate calling comes from God and is therefore a universal one, we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of sharing in this paschal mystery in a manner known to God”: Gaudium et Spes, 22.
124 Tractatus ad Tiberium Diaconum sociosque, II. Responsiones ad Tiberium Diaconum sociosque: Saint Cyril of Alexandria, In Divi Johannis Evangelium, vol. III, ed. Philip Edward Pusey, Brussels, Culture et Civilisation (1965), 590.

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Morality is man’s voluntary pursuit of the good

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

The morality of acts is defined by the relationship of man’s freedom with the authentic good. This good is established, as the eternal law, by Divine Wisdom which orders every being towards its end: this eternal law is known both by man’s natural reason (hence it is “natural law”), and — in an integral and perfect way — by God’s supernatural Revelation (hence it is called “divine law”). Acting is morally good when the choices of freedom are in conformity with man’s true good and thus express the voluntary ordering of the person towards his ultimate end: God himself, the supreme good in whom man finds his full and perfect happiness. The first question in the young man’s conversation with Jesus: “What good must I do to have eternal life?” (Mt 19:6) immediately brings out the essential connection between the moral value of an act and man’s final end. Jesus, in his reply, confirms the young man’s conviction: the performance of good acts, commanded by the One who “alone is good”, constitutes the indispensable condition of and path to eternal blessedness: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17). Jesus’ answer and his reference to the commandments also make it clear that the path to that end is marked by respect for the divine laws which safeguard human good. Only the act in conformity with the good can be a path that leads to life.

The rational ordering of the human act to the good in its truth and the voluntary pursuit of that good, known by reason, constitute morality. Hence human activity cannot be judged as morally good merely because it is a means for attaining one or another of its goals, or simply because the subject’s intention is good.122 Activity is morally good when it attests to and expresses the voluntary ordering of the person to his ultimate end and the conformity of a concrete action with the human good as it is acknowledged in its truth by reason. If the object of the concrete action is not in harmony with the true good of the person, the choice of that action makes our will and ourselves morally evil, thus putting us in conflict with our ultimate end, the supreme good, God himself.

122 Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, II-II, q.148, a.3.

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Departing Fr. Czarnota to offer TLM Sunday at Silver Spring

A Low Mass will be offered Sunday morning, June 19, at the Traditional Latin Mass Congregation of Silver Spring, Maryland.  The celebrant of the Mass of the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost will be Reverend Father Paul Czarnota of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Holy Mass will begin at 8:00 am.  Confessions will be heard from 7:30 to 7:55 am. All are invited to share coffee and doughnuts after Mass in the downstairs community room of the rectory.

Sunday’s will be the last traditional Latin Mass offered by Fr. Czarnota at Old St. John’s Church. He has successfully completed his studies at the Catholic University of America toward a graduate degree in Canon Law. In July, he will return to the Archdiocese of Detroit, after assisting the Silver Spring TLM Community for more than three years.

At the end of Mass, Fr. Czarnota will bless religious items, such as rosaries, medals, and statues. The community is collecting prayers, cards and offerings to wish him Godspeed, and requests that offerings be given to Mrs. O’Connell for transmittal to Fr. Czarnota after Mass.

Silver Spring TLM Congregation meets at the Historic Church of St. John the Evangelist, 9700 Rosensteel Avenue, Forest Glen.

Our deliberate acts express and determine our goodness or evil

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law, which has its intimate and living centre in the moral conscience, is manifested and realized in human acts. It is precisely through his acts that man attains perfection as man, as one who is called to seek his Creator of his own accord and freely to arrive at full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.119

Human acts are moral acts because they express and determine the goodness or evil of the individual who performs them.120 They do not produce a change merely in the state of affairs outside of man but, to the extent that they are deliberate choices, they give moral definition to the very person who performs them, determining his profound spiritual traits. This was perceptively noted by Saint Gregory of Nyssa: “All things subject to change and to becoming never remain constant, but continually pass from one state to another, for better or worse . . . Now, human life is always subject to change; it needs to be born ever anew . . . But here birth does not come about by a foreign intervention, as is the case with bodily beings . . .; it is the result of a free choice. Thus we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we will, by our decisions”.121

119 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 17.
120 Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, I-II, q. 1, a. 3: “Idem sunt actus morales et actus humani.”
121 De Vita Moysis, II, 2-3: Patrologiæ Cursus completus, Series Græca 44, 327-328.

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The “fundamental option” contradicts Tradition and the Divine law

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia reaffirmed the importance and permanent validity of the distinction between mortal and venial sins, in accordance with the Church’s tradition. And the 1983 Synod of Bishops, from which that Exhortation emerged, “not only reaffirmed the teaching of the Council of Trent concerning the existence and nature of mortal and venial sins, but it also recalled that mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent”.116

The statement of the Council of Trent does not only consider the “grave matter” of mortal sin; it also recalls that its necessary condition is “full awareness and deliberate consent”. In any event, both in moral theology and in pastoral practice one is familiar with cases in which an act which is grave by reason of its matter does not constitute a mortal sin because of a lack of full awareness or deliberate consent on the part of the person performing it. Even so, “care will have to be taken not to reduce mortal sin to an act of ‘fundamental option’ — as is commonly said today — against God”, seen either as an explicit and formal rejection of God and neighbour or as an implicit and unconscious rejection of love. “For mortal sin exists also when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered. In fact, such a choice already includes contempt for the divine law, a rejection of God’s love for humanity and the whole of creation: the person turns away from God and loses charity. Consequently, the fundamental orientation can be radically changed by particular acts. Clearly, situations can occur which are very complex and obscure from a psychological viewpoint, and which influence the sinner’s subjective imputability. But from a consideration of the psychological sphere one cannot proceed to create a theological category, which is precisely what the ‘fundamental option’ is, understanding it in such a way that it objectively changes or casts doubt upon the traditional concept of mortal sin”.117

The separation of fundamental option from deliberate choices of particular kinds of behaviour, disordered in themselves or in their circumstances, which would not engage that option, thus involves a denial of Catholic doctrine on mortal sin: “With the whole tradition of the Church, we call mortal sin the act by which man freely and consciously rejects God, his law, the covenant of love that God offers, preferring to turn in on himself or to some created and finite reality, something contrary to the divine will (conversio ad creaturam). This can occur in a direct and formal way, in the sins of idolatry, apostasy and atheism; or in an equivalent way, as in every act of disobedience to God’s commandments in a grave matter”.118

116 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia (December 2, 1984), 17: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis 77 (1985), 221.
117 Ibid.: loc. cit., 223.
118 Ibid.: loc. cit., 222.

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The “fundamental option” blurs the distinction between mortal and venial sin

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

As we have just seen, reflection on the fundamental option has also led some theologians to undertake a basic revision of the traditional distinction between mortal sins and venial sins. They insist that the opposition to God’s law which causes the loss of sanctifying grace — and eternal damnation, when one dies in such a state of sin — could only be the result of an act which engages the person in his totality: in other words, an act of fundamental option. According to these theologians, mortal sin, which separates man from God, only exists in the rejection of God, carried out at a level of freedom which is neither to be identified with an act of choice nor capable of becoming the object of conscious awareness. Consequently, they go on to say, it is difficult, at least psychologically, to accept the fact that a Christian, who wishes to remain united to Jesus Christ and to his Church, could so easily and repeatedly commit mortal sins, as the “matter” itself of his actions would sometimes indicate. Likewise, it would be hard to accept that man is able, in a brief lapse of time, to sever radically the bond of communion with God and afterwards be converted to him by sincere repentance. The gravity of sin, they maintain, ought to be measured by the degree of engagement of the freedom of the person performing an act, rather than by the matter of that act.

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