Last week, on the 25th anniversary of Veritatis Splendor, I looked at how St John Paul’s encyclical of 1993 took up the challenges created in the aftermath of Humanae Vitae 25 years earlier. Blessed Paul VI went to his grave 40 years ago this month secure in the knowledge that he had “not betrayed the holy truth”, but fully aware the Church had lost its confidence that it could teach authoritatively on moral questions, particularly those related to marriage and family.
Veritatis Splendor came amid the most extraordinarily rich decade of papal teaching since Leo XIII. In 1991 John Paul issue his charter for the free society, Centesimus Annus, and his affirmation of the essential missionary identity of the Church, Redemptoris Missio – a theme that dominates current priorities in Rome. In 1995 came Evangelium Vitae and in 1998 Fides et Ratio. That’s just the encyclicals, and does not include the monumental achievement of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
But 25 years after Veritatis Splendor, what is its status in the Rome of Pope Francis? Is it still considered now what it was acknowledged to be in 1993, namely, the deepest magisterial treatment of the moral life as a whole, rather than a specific moral question? That it was the most comprehensive magisterial teaching on freedom, truth, conscience and choice after Vatican II?
It is tiresome to return to Amoris Laetitia, but it offers clear evidence that the reach of Veritatis Splendor is restricted in Rome today. In the nearly 400 footnotes in the longest papal document in the history of the Church, not a single citation was made to Veritatis Splendor; it was simply excised from memory by the drafters of Amoris.
The dubia of the four cardinals put the matter in question form: how should the passages be understood in Amoris Laetitia which propose a way of thinking that is explicitly condemned by Veritatis Splendor?
It is worth recalling what Veritatis Splendor taught on conscience:
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