Conscience prompts us to surrender even life itself in testimony to moral truth

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

In this witness to the absoluteness of the moral good Christians are not alone: they are supported by the moral sense present in peoples and by the great religious and sapiential traditions of East and West, from which the interior and mysterious workings of God’s Spirit are not absent. The words of the Latin poet Juvenal apply to all: “Consider it the greatest of crimes to prefer survival to honour and, out of love of physical life, to lose the very reason for living”.147 The voice of conscience has always clearly recalled that there are truths and moral values for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life. In an individual’s words and above all in the sacrifice of his life for a moral value, the Church sees a single testimony to that truth which, already present in creation, shines forth in its fullness on the face of Christ. As Saint Justin put it, “the Stoics, at least in their teachings on ethics, demonstrated wisdom, thanks to the seed of the Word present in all peoples, and we know that those who followed their doctrines met with hatred and were killed”.148

147 “Summum crede nefas animam præferre pudori et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas”: Satiræ, VIII, 83-84.
148 Apologia II, 8: Patrologiæ Cursus completus, Series Græca 6, 457-458.

Veritatis Splendor 94

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