Moral Theology

Understanding Catholic Moral Theology and Ethics

“Happy the one who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night. He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3, NAB.

The foundation of the moral law is the constancy of God in loving his creation. God is always good. God made us and so we are good too. However, we are an unfinished creation. God has gifted us with free will and invited us to imitate him in holiness and love in order to reach our perfection, to reach the fullness of our being. With free will, and grace, we can choose to act in ways that build up who God has already made us to be … or we can choose to tear down our very selves and our future by behaving in self-destructive ways. The moral law is the description of what is beneficial or harmful to God’s plan for our growth. It is based on human nature itself. It is as constant as God’s love of us from the beginning of creation. Understanding the moral law is the task of moral theology. It is an effort open to everyone. Born into ignorance, at first we know nothing. But through the use of the Public Revelation of God in Judeo-Christian history, and through the application of reason, we can reach a deep understanding of who we are and then can try to make the best choices possible.

Veritatis Splendor, JP II, 1993, New Advent, Vatican
This is the first time the Church has published a document on moral theology. Previously, only specific issues were addressed or moral principles were worked into the 10 Commandments section of a Catechism. This document, Veritatis Splendor, “The Splendor of Truth”, was written to bishops and theologians in order to correct widespread mistaken moral theology among the teachers of the Church in the wake of Vatican II, falsely claimed to be in its “spirit”. The encyclical is quite erudite and yet subtle: without naming names many of the points are directed at certain positions that have been held forth in circles of theological teaching. If you can wade through this document aware of exactly what is being said, and of what is being contradicted, you will be well versed in the teaching of the Church. Some of the articles in this section will help to get a perspective on the document.
Abstract of Veritatis Splendor, Opinion of Veritatis Splendor

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