Man must claim freedom in Truth, lest he destroy himself

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

The fundamental question which the moral theories mentioned above pose in a particularly forceful way is that of the relationship of man’s freedom to God’s law; it is ultimately the question of the relationship between freedom and truth.

According to Christian faith and the Church’s teaching, “only the freedom which submits to the Truth leads the human person to his true good. The good of the person is to be in the Truth and to do the Truth”.136

A comparison between the Church’s teaching and today’s social and cultural situation immediately makes clear the urgent need for the Church herself to develop an intense pastoral effort precisely with regard to this fundamental question. “This essential bond between Truth, the Good and Freedom has been largely lost sight of by present-day culture. As a result, helping man to rediscover it represents nowadays one of the specific requirements of the Church’s mission, for the salvation of the world. Pilate’s question: ‘What is truth’ reflects the distressing perplexity of a man who often no longer knows who he is, whence he comes and where he is going. Hence we not infrequently witness the fearful plunging of the human person into situations of gradual self-destruction. According to some, it appears that one no longer need acknowledge the enduring absoluteness of any moral value. All around us we encounter contempt for human life after conception and before birth; the ongoing violation of basic rights of the person; the unjust destruction of goods minimally necessary for a human life. Indeed, something more serious has happened: man is no longer convinced that only in the truth can he find salvation. The saving power of the truth is contested, and freedom alone, uprooted from any objectivity, is left to decide by itself what is good and what is evil. This relativism becomes, in the field of theology, a lack of trust in the wisdom of God, who guides man with the moral law. Concrete situations are unfavourably contrasted with the precepts of the moral law, nor is it any longer maintained that, when all is said and done, the law of God is always the one true good of man”.137

136 Address to those taking part in the International Congress of Moral Theology (April 10, 1986), 1; Insegnamenti IX, 1 (1986), 970.
137 Ibid., 2: loc. cit., 970-971.

Veritatis Splendor 84

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