Manual Moral absolutes: Catholic tradition, current trends, and the truth

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The First Catholic Moral Imperative in Politics: Involvement
  1. The Splendor of Truth: A Symposium
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The Splendor of Truth: A Symposium

We thus have a personrulistic view of morality, whose objectivity and truth are rooted in the exigencies of reason in conformity with the dignity of the free and responsible person. The natural law, written in the human heart and inscribed by the God of the Covenant on the two tables of the deoologue, brings out in relief the fundamental commandments.

This exposition of momlity is at the same time frankly Christian and reintrodu. The neglect of these dimensions in classic manuals could 1egitimately be deplored; too great a separation was effected between moral and dogmatic theology, spirituality and Scripture. But here all you need do is look at the table of contents to realize the care with which the author has reopened the lines of communication, not only on the ideological level but also on the basis of Christian experience, which undergirds the entire study.

This comes through notably at the end of eruch chapter, in lengthy quotations from spiritual authors entitled " Meditation of the Bride. The Response: the Actualization of Life in Christ.

Part I shows the Trinitarian dimension of Christian morality : it is a life in Christ, a development of union with His person begun in Baptism, growing under the ruction of the Holy Spirit and his Gifts, reaching to the glory of the Father who called him in creating him. Thus morality is itself explicitly Christian. The act whereby God wills us to be persons is the same act by which He orders us to Himself.

The author writes with great self-assurance,especially in claiming or taking for granted that the progressive school oftheology he embraces is much more strictly rational than what went before, orto the present alternatives cfr. Yet his own "experiential" approach is to the detriment ofrationality. Confusion of terminology. His book can confuse the average reader allthe more because of the way he uses terms.

He claims that his approach ispersonalist and community-based when it rather is individualist ; is consonantwith the natural law which he voids by holding human nature to be in constantevolution ; is not relativistic or subjectivistic — see, e. For his ultimatesubjectivism, see also The "rationality" ofautonomous ethics.

He presentes "autonomous ethics" with main exponents being Joseph Fuchs, Bruno Schuller, Charles Curran,Richard McCormick , as a reaction against making moral theology excessivelydependent on faith, and a movement towards grounding it more on natural law.

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This runs througout the book. The "new" morality is not only more"personalistic" and "experiential", but also more based onreason; and therefore in the true tradition of e. Thomas Aquinas. Theimpression is created that the autonomous ethics theologians base theirpositions on deeply reasoned arguments which is precisely what one so oftenfinds lacking in them , whereas the traditionalists — as also represented inmost magisterial documents — simply appeal to faith, and not to reason, tojustify an outdated position.

This he dismisses as the "faith-ethics"position, represented in particular by Joseph Ratzinger and Philip Delhaye He repeatedly gives the impression that themajor positions he sustains find support in St. Thomas Aquinas on Natural Law— ss; on rationalism v. McCormick andBruno Schuller as users, like Thomas, of the teleological method, in oppositionto the deontoligical method ss. The pre-conciliar approach to law in theChurch was voluntaristic; we have now passed over to a more rationalisticapproach, more in keeping with the true spirit of justice as presented by St.

Thomas Ch. Casti connubii, HumanaeVitae, the Declaration on Certain Questions concerning Sexual Ethics, are allexamples of the approach "making the order of nature superior to the orderof reason in sexual matters" All of this can blind the unthinking readerto the fact that it is reason itself which teaches what is the right and wronguse of the sexual faculty. His accusation is that the traditional physicalistview allowed biological structures, and not true personalist values, todetermine sexual morality ss; cf. Though he claims to identify hispersonalism with the order of reason, his position makes any rational analysisof human sexuality — body and spirit — impossible.

Reason, for him, "includes observationand research, intuition, affection, common sense, and an aestheticsense Note, for instance, his phrase: "We are notsubjected in a fated way to the inner finality of nature. We discover whatnatural law requires by reason reflecting on what is given in human experienceto lead to authentic human life Her the three words,"natural law", "requires" and "reason", have clearlyall been emptied of significance, the operative word being"experience".

So one understands the basic principle he has laiddown: "The proximate norm of morality is authentic human existence" So it is not in reason or in Revelation,but basically in "experience" which at times he qualifies as"community experience" , that moral norms find their rationale andsource. Yet, in the end, the view he offers of such norms iswholly subjectivist e. He speaks on p. He seems oblivious of the "creeping subjectivism" of the approach heproposes which makes it useless as a guide to moral thinking, formation,orcounselling.

In fact the thrust of the approach of the book by a Seminaryprofessor is that the pastoral function of the moralist is "not so muchproviding answers to moral questions as encouraging the process of arriving ata moral decision" He claims to show that the Encyclicals,etc. He insists that in the Church's ongoing"learning-teaching process", with its necessary expressions ofdissent, "the point of reference While accepting that God's Will must be"mediated" for us, he says that only "our personal religiousexperience of God A "Personalist" analysis —conditioned by history. But hisrelativism, his ignoring of Revelation, and his practical rejection of NaturalLaw see below make it impossible for him to clarify his "point ofdeparture": i.

He says "inpersonalist morality the human person adequately considered is the criterionfor discovering whether an act is morally right" But the analysisoffered of the human person "adequately considered" 66ss , isterribly inadequate. The application of thecriterion means that an action is morally right if it is beneficial to theperson considered adequately — in the first three dimensions.

But he then blandly adds: "But since itis a criterion about the human person as an historical being,it requires aregular review of the possibilities we have available to promote the humanperson so that we can determine whether they truly do so. Janssens recognizesthat the application of this criterion is not easy" Good forJanssens! As is obvious, "historicity" dominates the moralcriterion and pulverizes its "objectivity".

The "new" view of theologyrejects unchanging principles and essences, and accepts that constantlychanging historical situations make truth and certainty very relative things: cf. He praises magisterial documents in which he sees "historicalconsciousness" noticeable in the field of social teaching and criticizesthose that lack it noticeable above all in the field of sexual ethics.

Values, feeling, imagination and heart.

Moral knowledge is not"conceptual"; it is "evaluative knowledge", "feltknowledge", that comes from the heart It is "the self-involvingknowledge which makes deciding and acting on behalf of what we value truly ourown. Without this knowledge we act merely by hearsay, by what we are told isright, rather than on the basis of what we have discovered to bevaluable" A considerably large part is influenced by the church's effecton the imagination". So, he concludes, the task of pastoral ministry — inteaching, etc. He attaches special importance to theliturgy for this task; but thinks the liturgical reform has so far failed.

Amain reason is its present "excessive reliance on verbal forms ofcommunicating the mystery of divine love". Aware of this and of the real difficulties that exist for young people in many countries today, especially when social and moral deterioration is present, parents are urged to dare to ask for more and to propose more. They cannot be satisfied with avoiding the worst — that their children do not take drugs or commit crimes.

They will have to be committed to educating them in the true values of the person, renewed by the virtues of faith, hope and love: the values of freedom, responsibility, fatherhood and motherhood, service, professional work, solidarity, honesty, art, sport, the joy of knowing they are children of God, hence brothers and sisters of all human beings, etc. In their most recent findings, the psychological and pedagogical sciences come together with human experience in emphasizing the decisive importance of the affective atmosphere that reigns in the family for a harmonious and valid sexual education, especially during the first years of infancy and childhood, and perhaps also during the prenatal stage, because children's deep emotional patterns are established in these phases.

The importance of the couple's balance, acceptance and understanding is stressed. Furthermore, emphasis is placed on the value of a serene relationship between husband and wife, on the value of their positive presence both father and mother during these important years for the processes of identification, and on the value of a relationship of reassuring affection toward their children. Certain serious privations or imbalances between parents for example, one or both parents' absence from family life, a lack of interest in the children's education or excessive severity are factors that can cause emotional and affective disturbances in children.

These factors can seriously upset their adolescence and sometimes mark them for life. Parents must find time to be with their children and take time to talk with them. As a gift and a commitment, children are their most important task, although seemingly not always a very profitable one. Children are more important than work, entertainment and social position. In these conversations — more and more as the years pass — parents should learn how to listen carefully to their children, how to make the effort to understand them, and how to recognize the fragment of truth that may be present in some forms of rebellion.

At the same time, parents will have to be able to help their children to channel their anxieties and aspirations correctly, and teach them to reflect on the reality of things and how to reason. This does not mean imposing a certain line of behaviour, but rather showing both the supernatural and human motives that recommend such behaviour. Parents will succeed better if they are able to dedicate time to their children and really place themselves at their level with love. The Christian family is capable of offering an atmosphere permeated with that love for God that makes an authentic reciprocal gift possible.

Children who have this experience are better disposed to live according to those moral truths that they see practiced in their parents' life. They will have confidence in them and will learn about the love that overcomes fears — and nothing moves us to love more than knowing that we are loved. In this way, the bond of mutual love, to which parents bear witness before their children, will safeguard their affective serenity. This bond will refine the intellect, the will and the emotions by rejecting everything that could degrade or devalue the gift of human sexuality.

In a family where love reigns, this gift is always understood as part of the call to self-giving in love for God and for others. The self-giving that inspires the love of husband and wife for each other is the model and norm for the self-giving that must be practised in the relationships between brothers and sisters and the different generations living together in the family.

Conceptual Lacunae and Confusions in the Religion and Morality Debate

And the communion and sharing that are part of everyday life in the home at times of joy and at times of difficulty are the most concrete and effective pedagogy for the active, responsible and fruitful inclusion of the children in the wider horizon of society". Basically, education for authentic love, authentic only if it becomes kind, welldisposed love, involves accepting the person who is loved and considering his or her good as one's own; hence this implies educating in right relationships with others.

Children, adolescents and young people should be taught how to enter into healthy relationships with God, with their parents, their brothers and sisters, with their companions of the same or the opposite sex, and with adults. It must also not be forgotten that education in love is an overall reality. There will be no progress in setting up proper relationships with one person if at the same time there are no proper relationships with other people.

As we have already mentioned, education in chastity, as education in love, is at the same time education of one's spirit, one's sensitivity, and one's feelings. The attitude toward other persons depends largely on the way spontaneous feelings for them are handled, the way some feelings are cultivated and others are controlled.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Moral Reasoning and Absolute Truth - 10th Vero Beach Prayer Breakfast

Chastity as a virtue is never reduced to merely being able to perform acts conforming to a norm of external behaviour. Chastity requires activating and developing the dynamisms of nature and grace which make up the principal and immanent element of our discovery of God's law as a guarantee of growth and freedom. Therefore, it must be stressed that education for chastity is inseparable from efforts to cultivate all the other virtues and, in a particular way, Christian love, characterized by respect, altruism and service, which after all is called charity.

Sexuality is such an important good that it must be protected by following the order of reason enlightened by faith: "The greater a good, the more the order of reason must be observed in it". From this it follows that in order to educate in chastity, "self-control is necessary, which presupposes such virtues as modesty, temperance, respect for self and for others, openness to one's neighbour". Also of importance are what Christian tradition has called the younger sisters of chastity modesty, an attitude of sacrifice with regard to one's whims , nourished by the faith and a life of prayer.

The practice of decency and modesty in speech, action and dress is very important for creating an atmosphere suitable to the growth of chastity, but this must be well motivated by respect for one's own body and the dignity of others. Parents, as we have said, should be watchful so that certain immoral fashions and attitudes do not violate the integrity of the home, especially through misuse of the mass media. In this regard, the Holy Father stressed the need "to promote closer collaboration between parents, who have primary responsibility for education, those in charge of the mass media at various levels and the public authorities, so that families are not left without guidance in such an important sector of their educational mission In fact the presentations, content and programmes of healthy entertainment, information and education to complement that of the family and the school must be recognized.

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Unfortunately this does not change the fact that in some countries especially there are many shows and publications abounding in all sorts of violence with a kind of bombardment of messages that undermine moral principles and make it impossible to achieve a serious climate in which values worthy of the human person may be transmitted".

In particular, with regard to use of television, the Holy Father specified: "The life-style — especially in the more industrialised nations — all too often causes families to abandon their responsibility to educate their children. Evasion of this duty is made easy by the presence of television and of printed materials in the home.

(PDF) Voting, intrinsic evil, and commensuration | Kevin Flannery -

These occupy the time for children and young people. No one can deny the justification for this when the means are lacking, to develop and use to advantage the free time of the young and to direct their energies". Another circumstance that facilitates this is the fact that both parents are busy with their work, in and outside the home. There is the duty — especially for believers, for men and women who love freedom, to protect the young from the aggressions they are subjected to by the media.