More than ten years after the publication of the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II Chair started business with a Congress that makes our local churches vast wealth which will continue unraveling and spreading.
How will it be possible to make this work, how it will be possible to establish and communicate the experiences and reflections we shared these days?
I would like to answer this question from a triple perspective and complementary: one, that I consider the most fundamental one, which is absolutely indispensable instrument, the third, which is one of its most precious fruits and expected.
The first perspective is what gives us the centrality of grace in the moral life as conceived in the light of Revelation.
The second is the perspective of evangelization as essential reality, not only because there is a “mandate” of the Lord, but especially because He has told us a new life, and life tends and requires communication.
The third is the perspective of the relationship between the gospel of grace and the cultural and political life of men.
1) The centrality of grace in the Christian moral life
“With God all things are possible” (Mt 19, 26). The conclusion of Jesus’ conversation with the rich young man is doubly disappointing: the young man walks away sad because he had many possessions and disciples, shocked and bewildered to ask Jesus, “Who then can be saved? (Mt 19, 25).
“With God all things are possible”, Jesus responds with clarity and firmness, and announcing and communicating the gospel of grace. It is not possible for men to live the holy law of God in the following of Christ without grace, ie, without the new life of the Spirit, without being led by the Spirit (cf. Rm 8, 14).
The moral life of men of all time is set to be “life in the Spirit” (Rom 8: 1-12). “Imitate and live out the love of Christ is not possible for man by his own strength. He becomes capable of this love only by virtue of a gift received.” (VS 22), and, “The gift of Christ is his Spirit, whose first” fruit “(cf. Gal 5, 22) is charity:” God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that we it is given “(Rom 5: 5)” (VS 22).
Lucidly San Augustine asks “Is the love that makes us observe the commandments, or does the keeping of the commandments which bring about love?.” And he answers: “But who can doubt that love comes first observance? Indeed, who does not love has no reason for keeping the commandments”
This leads to a fundamental conclusion that the Pope adds: “Love and life according to the Gospel can not first and foremost as a kind of precept, because what demand is beyond man.’s Only possible as a result of a gift God, who heals, restores and transforms the human heart by his grace “(VS 23).
By proposing Christian morality from the perspective of the rule, from what was ordered, perhaps explaining in part the contemporary man, especially in our traditionally Christian villages, fell into a serious temptation to experience the inability to observe the holy law God, man wants to be himself who decides what is good or bad (cf. VS 102).
We must remind the frail man today is more, we joyfully announce and to express to you “temptations can be overcome, sins can be avoided because, along with the commandments, the Lord gives us the possibility to observe” (VS 102), and that “the observance of the law of God, in certain situations, it may be difficult, very difficult, but never impossible.” (VS 102).
Submit and testify Christian morality from the centrality of grace is present and bear witness to the light of hope. Does modern man has supplied no hope for optimism? Did not feel around us the distressing cry of so many men who are disillusioned, hopeless?
Only with the help of grace, the gift of the Spirit, and the collaboration of our freedom is possible for all men today live their existence in this world in the light of hope.
Hope that you can be honest, you may live in truth, justice and love. In a word may be holy. It is possible to build a new civilization centered in love and in life. You can trust in the mercy of God that opens the doors of his house in the hope of eternal life that will never end. Everything is possible for the gift of the grace of Jesus dead and risen.
2) evangelism, witness and proclamation of new life
Only the Spirit who lives in loving obedience to the Father testifies in his daily actions the new life of grace and feel the need for that life to be communicated to all men feel the need of joyful proclamation of the Gospel of grace . “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” Exclaims the Apostle after his personal encounter with the risen Christ who calls to faith and conversion.
“Evangelization is the challenge more urgent and demanding that the Church is called to face from her very beginning.” (VS 106). Today, especially, we live far from a “formidable challenge to the new evangelization” (VS 106). This exciting challenge, we are exacerbated by the reality of the “de-Christianization, levied upon entire peoples and communities once rich in faith and Christian life,” which involves not only the loss of faith or lack of relevance to the life, “but also and necessarily a decline or obscuring the moral sense: and this either by dissolution of the consciousness of the originality of Gospel morality, either by the eclipse of the same fundamental ethical principles and values.” (VS 106).
We live in our towns the emergence of a cultural form or dechristianized unchristian. Tendencies towards subjectivism, utilitarianism and relativism, not only as a pragmatic position, but as theoretically consolidated conceptions shape our world and we seriously question.
In addition, the large migrations of our world and the reality of religious diversity, particularly from the East, facing the challenge of evangelizing the delicate encounter between different cultures and interreligious dialogue.
Therefore, “the evangelization and thus the” new evangelization “- also involves the proclamation and presentation of morality.” (VS 108). Jesus not only called to faith but also to conversion (cf. Mk 1: 15).
For the proposal moral part of evangelization as an indispensable, necessary living witness of the saints, which is the sign most illustrious of the holiness of the Church of Jesus Christ coming.
The Church, as a wise teacher of morality, has always invited children to find in the saints, above all in Mary and Joseph, “the model, the strength and the joy to live a life according to the commandments of God and the Beatitudes of the Gospel “(VS 107).
In the context of the new evangelization that the proposal also involves moral of Jesus, “just opens the space to the mercy of God for the sinner who repents, and understanding of human weakness” (VS 104).
But this understanding can never mean a compromise and a falsification of the measure of good and evil to which God calls us in his holy law, to suit the existential circumstances of individuals and human groups. “While the man is human, sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings, is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that you can feel justified by itself, even without recourse to God and his mercy “(VS 104).
In the context of the new evangelization is genuine place, thinking that theology be developed on the moral life, and the training and performance of the various pastoral agents, in particular, of the priests and catechists.
The Church is in great need of moral theologians to deepen the moral proposal of Jesus, make it understandable to contemporary man and so irreplaceable render service to the new evangelization.
The dedication of many in the culture and in the teaching of moral theology is a true gift of the Spirit and ecclesial ministry. Moral theologians are called to live their charism and ministry in an “intimate and vital connection with the Church” (VS 109).
This link with the Church involves, first, service to God’s people to be helped, not hindered, to apply increasingly straight and deep faith to their lives. On the other hand, the moral theologian is called to carry out its mission by keeping a link to the charism and ministry of the Magisterium of the Pope and the Bishops.
The charisma of moral Magisterium, far from impeding the development of moral theology, theologian gives the essential moral certainties to progress in the knowledge of moral truth and formulate increasingly properly. In this sense, we must establish a bond of close communion between moral theology and charismatic moral teaching, with the awareness that dissent with the moral teaching “is contrary to ecclesial communion” (VS 113). The faithful have a right to the moral teaching of the Church in its entirety.
Moreover, the moral theologian must necessarily serve the scientific findings of man and nature, knowing that they only give an “empirical and statistical normality”. Therefore, “the human sciences, however all valuable skills they offer, can not take decisive indications of moral standards” (VS 112).
The other pastoral workers actively involved in evangelism, especially priests and catechists, they have to exercise their ministry with true ecclesial conscience and responsibility, knowing that your recipients expect from them “the truth that sets you free.”
3) The gospel of grace and the cultural, social and political
One last point I would like to emphasize on the teachings contained in Veritatis Splendor, is the relationship between the gospel of grace and the cultural, social and political men. We can say that the encyclical of Pope definite laid the foundation of a Christian personalist moral, not to the individual holds on individualism, rather inserts necessarily the Community dimension of their existence. Any moral issue is simultaneously personal and social.
This appears clearly in categorical defense of Pope makes “the absolutely essential demands of man’s personal dignity, (which) should be considered way and condition for the very existence of freedom” (VS 96).
This defense of personal dignity is directed to each man and all men, “not only to individuals but also to the community, to society as such” (VS 96).
The absolutely essential demands of the personal dignity of every man and of all men are “the unshakable foundation and solid guarantee of a just and peaceful human coexistence, and hence of genuine democracy, which can be born and grow only if based in the equality of all its members, united in their rights and duties. Given the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the poorest of the poor of the earth to the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal. ” (SV 96).
Thus only a morality which acknowledges moral norms as valid always and for all, without exception, can guarantee the ethical foundation of social coexistence, both nationally and internationally (cf., VS 97).
Given the serious forms of social and economic injustice, political corruption, abuses of ethnic, demographic extermination and destruction of the environment suffering people and entire nations, the need for a radical personal and social renewal capable of ensuring justice, solidarity, honesty and transparency (cf. vs. 98). “In the center of the cultural issue is the moral sense, which in turn rooted and fulfilled in the religious sense” (VS 98).
Only on the “truth that makes you free” is possible to solve the serious problems of peoples and nations, particularly the most diverse forms of totalitarianism: “Totalitarianism arises out of a denial of truth in the objective sense. If there is no transcendent truth, in obedience to which man achieves his full identity, then there is no sure principle for guaranteeing just relations between men: the interests of class, group or nation would inevitably contradict one another. If not acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power, and each tends to use up the means at its disposal to impose his own interests or his own opinion, without respecting the rights of others … The root of modern totalitarianism is to be seen, therefore, in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person, visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by nature the subject of rights which no one may violate neither the individual nor the group, or social class, nor the nation, nor the State. Not even the majority of a social body, by going against the minority, by isolating, oppressing, exploiting or attempting to annihilate “(Centesimus annus 44, quoted in VS 99).
So the Pope says in a lucid diagnosis of reality, today we face a challenge no less serious than that of the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century: “the risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any civil coexistence sure moral reference point, stripping over the acknowledgment of the truth. Indeed, “if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power . a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism ‘”(VS 101; appointment Centesimus Annus 46).
In this broad perspective of the moral life that Pope raises, we can say that the encyclical Veritatis Splendor is the Constitution of Liberty of individuals, families, peoples and of humanity, which, at the end of the second millennium and the prospect of new, lays the foundations of an integral humanism which is called to be the soul of a new universal civilization: the civilization of love and life.
At the end of the encyclical, the Pope turns to the Father’s mercy sent His Son Jesus Christ for the gift of the Spirit, in the figure of Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Mercy.
Mary is Mother of mercy, for Jesus, his Son, is sent by the Father as disclosure and communication of His Mercy, and it encourages us and guides us to follow.
Mary is Mother of mercy because Jesus, on the cross, entrusted his Church and all humanity.
Mary is Mother of mercy as radiant sign and inviting model of the moral life to live one’s freedom giving himself to the Father and the Father by accepting the gift.
Mary is Mother of Mercy because it invites every human being, in celebration of the wedding of his son throughout history, to welcome “the Truth that sets us free” always doing what He tells us (cf. Jn 2 , 5).
Let us entrust to Mary, mother of mercy, the teachings of this Constitution of Liberty, Veritatis splendor, so that the Splendor of Truth illuminate our lives, in our church communities and of all humanity.
Thank you very much.
Buenos Aires, September 25, 2004.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio S.J.