From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):
The Church’s teaching, and in particular her firmness in defending the universal and permanent validity of the precepts prohibiting intrinsically evil acts, is not infrequently seen as the sign of an intolerable intransigence, particularly with regard to the enormously complex and conflict-filled situations present in the moral life of individuals and of society today; this intransigence is said to be in contrast with the Church’s motherhood. The Church, one hears, is lacking in understanding and compassion. But the Church’s motherhood can never in fact be separated from her teaching mission, which she must always carry out as the faithful Bride of Christ, who is the Truth in person. “As Teacher, she never tires of proclaiming the moral norm . . . The Church is in no way the author or the arbiter of this norm. In obedience to the truth which is Christ, whose image is reflected in the nature and dignity of the human person, the Church interprets the moral norm and proposes it to all people of good will, without concealing its demands of radicalness and perfection”.149
In fact, genuine understanding and compassion must mean love for the person, for his true good, for his authentic freedom. And this does not result, certainly, from concealing or weakening moral truth, but rather from proposing it in its most profound meaning as an outpouring of God’s eternal Wisdom, which we have received in Christ, and as a service to man, to the growth of his freedom and to the attainment of his happiness.150
Still, a clear and forceful presentation of moral truth can never be separated from a profound and heartfelt respect, born of that patient and trusting love which man always needs along his moral journey, a journey frequently wearisome on account of difficulties, weakness and painful situations. The Church can never renounce “the principle of truth and consistency, whereby she does not agree to call good evil and evil good”;151 she must always be careful not to break the bruised reed or to quench the dimly burning wick (cf. Is 42:3). As Paul VI wrote: “While it is an outstanding manifestation of charity towards souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ, this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ himself showed by his conversations and dealings with men. Having come not to judge the world but to save it, he was uncompromisingly stern towards sin, but patient and rich in mercy towards sinners”.152
149 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (November 22, 1981), 33: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [AAS] 74 (1982), 120.
150 Cf. Ibid., 34: loc. cit., 123-125.
151 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia (December 2, 1984), 34: AAS 77 (1985), 272.
152 Encyclical Letter Humanæ Vitæ (July 25, 1968), 29: AAS 60 (1968), 501.
— Veritatis Splendor 95