In The News…

Forthcoming Encyclical on Morality


The Roman whisper was that the encyclical was ready in October 1990, complete with the title  Veritatis Splendor, ( The Splendour of Truth). Then it ran into objections from the theologically-minded German Bishops, according to the rumors. This sent Cardinal Ratzinger back to the drawing board.

Be that as it may, Cardinal Ratzinger, perfect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1980, referred to it quite openly as “an eventual document on the defence of human life” during the meeting of cardinals in April 1991. What he said then reflects the real thinking behind the encyclical, and no doubt its actual contents.


His starting point was the paradox that although the twentieth century boasts of having emphasized human rights, it is also the century in which they have been most flouted. How can that be explained? Cardinal  Ratzinger blames the eighteenth-century Enlightment. It is based on- and undermined by-two principles, he thinks.

First, it held that reason should emancipate itself from tradition and authority, so as to be free.

Secondly, the Enlightment thinkers held that certainty of truth was unobtainable, there being no criteria for recognizing it. Truth is not something “given,” objectively out there; it is what I see from my personal perspective.

The consequence for social morality of such thinking is that public policy can never be based on shared values, for there are no shared values. Hence society fragments.

Equally, there are implication for the individual. Freedom becomes defined, not as the capacity to tend towards the good, but as emancipation from the conditioning that holds back.

In the light of this analysis the cardinal went on to consider the “defence of human life.” Hough encouraged by the spread of pro-life movements, he feels that the other side is gaining the upper hand. He sees “ a veritable war of the powerful against the weak, a was that aims to eliminate the handicapped, rub out those who cause trouble and in the end those who are simply poor and ‘useless’”.

The Cardinal is appalled by this retreat from the Christian conception of the infinite worth of every human life. He believes that relationships, and especially relationships between the sexes, re becoming depersonalized.

The woman says: “A baby? Yes, but when I want it, and on my terms.” The cardinal invents no comparable little speech for the male, but one guesses it might go: “ Sex? Yes, but with no hang-ups, no guilt and no consequences.” Thus the “mystery of life” the sense of awe that accompanies birth and death, even for the least “religious”- departs. Birth, when allowed to happen, becomes and exercise in technique, while death, if not anticipated by euthanasia, is tucked away out of sight.

Cardinal Ratzinger accepts that feminism is often a defence of women against exploitation by men. But he adds a rider. Feminism, if based on individualism and utilitarianism, will become an instrument of slavery rather then liberation.

His conclusion: “ The ultimate root of hatred for life, of all the attacks on human life, is the loss of the sense of God. When God is lost, all sense of human dignity is lost along with God.” He is not saying that the unbeliever cannot be moral, but that the unbeliever ha no basis for public morality.

(Source: The Tablet, London, England, February 15, 1992)

True Foundation of Democracy


In an address to Christian Democratic leaders meeting in Rome for an international Forum in late November 1991, Pope John Paul II reminded them that the “sure foundation” for democracy is found in “  firm moral conviction.”

After stating how moral relativism is threatening both democracy and Christianity, the Pope said : “ A society’s life depends on firm moral convictions. When there is no more trust in the very value of the human person, one loses sight of what constitutes the nobility of democracy; it is then ready to give way to various forms of corruption and manipulation of its institutions.

“ Christians who are involved in politics have the precise duty of fighting to protect the respect due the human person who has been created and loved by God. Contrary to what one sometimes hears stated, a sincere faith does not necessarily led to fanaticism or contempt for different convictions.”
(  Source:  CNS, The Monitor,  January,1992)

Contraception, sign of Degradation


Pope John Paul II, strongly defending the church’s ban on artificial birth control, said contraception “ deforms” married loved love and is a sign of “ moral degradation.”

The Pope, addressing a group of Italian natural family planning instructors at the Vatican January 10, 1992, said the church would continue to propose a combination of self-control and natural methods when couples have good reason to limit family size.

“ The refusal to transmit life and the rejection of pro- creation, which are part of a contraceptive mentality, deform the logic of the gift of married love and are a sign of serious moral degradation,” the Pope said.

“ This behaviour reflects a pessimistic judgment about existence and a preference for immediate pleasures.” He said.

In distinguishing between natural family planning methods and artificial contraception, the Pope said that when a couple uses the natural methods, they “ bring the instinctual and psychic dynamism of sexuality to the level of the person,” integrating it with human love. By abstaining from sex, a couple avoids falsifying the act of conjugal love, he said.

“The contraceptive choice, on the other hand, leaves sexual behaviour practically unchanged but falsifies the intrinsic meaning of the giving and receiving that are part of conjugal sex act, closing it off arbitrarily to the dynamics of the transmission of a new live,” he said.

The Pope said the church’s teaching on birth control is often wrongly understood as “refusal or low regard for human sexuality.” On the contrary, he said, the church is promoting spiritual energy needed to defend love from danger of selfishness.
( source:  CNS,  The Monitor,  January, 1992)

Pro-life Strategies


A 12-page booklet  In the Service of Life has been issued by the Vatican press. It is a working paper issued by Council for the Family President Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujilo as a follow-up to the April 20-22, 1992 Roman summit of pro-life leaders from around the world. Canada was represented at this meeting by Campaign Life Coalition Board Member Winifred Prestwich.

The booklet reflects on the rights of infants under five headings : scientific-technical ; doctrinal; cultural; legislative; political-institutional .

Under politics the booklet notes that “ We must constantly analyze the economic and political components which make up the anti-life structures so as to define the crucial points on which to concentrate our activity.”

“Some of those components include ‘organizations exercising influence over children and young people, aimed at changing the mentality of new generations, destroying family values.”
(  Source:   New Freeman,  February 8, 1992)

No Future without Christianity


In February of this year Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned that if Europe loses its Christian roots, the result could be anarchy and “ even the end of the great European Heritage of the dignity and rights of man.”

The perfect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was speaking at the Catholic University of Milan.

Ratzinger acknowledged that Pope John Paul’s call for the re-evangelization of Europe had aroused some fears that Catholics were out to dominate under the guidance of the Pope. That was not so, he said. The Vatican had often warned that faith and politics should not be mixed.
( Source: The Tablet,  February 22, 1992)

Divorce and Celibacy


On March 28, 1992, Pope John Paul II urged “affectionate care and spiritual assistance to men and women who live in irregular situations.. above al those people who have divorced and remarried…”( address to French Bishops)

“ I encourage pastors to welcome people living in such situations,” he stated.

He added, however, “this cannot be achieved outside the framework established by the law and the Magisterium of the Church, because the Church is the guardian, not the master, of the sacraments instituted by Christ.”

( Note: There are seven sacraments, one of which is marriage. Divorce is not recognized, but the Catholic Church does accept annulments when it can be shown that prerequisites for real marriage were lacking at the time of the wedding—deceit, psychological immaturity or other reasons, as for example, when a young couple decides never to have children.

The last is so flagrant an offense that no marriage is deemed to have taken place.

While divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received an annulment may attend Mass and join other activities, they may not receive communion.

In Canada, the Pope’s affirmation of an ancient rule was denounced by Tom Harpur in his Toronto Star column ( April 5, 1992) as “ double-speak.” Vicious as ever, Harpur suggested that the Pope’s invitation was meant to fill the collection plate but then give nothing in return.