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The encyclical that everyone should read

Ahead of the 25th anniversary of Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendour of Truth”), Archbishop Charles Chaput said that St John Paul II’s encyclical will endure “long after many other works of popes and politicians are forgotten”. The reason is simple: “What it says is true.”

In an essay for First Things, the archbishop argued that the encyclical freed Catholics from a “false rivalry between moral truth, on the one hand, and human freedom and fulfilment, on the other”. The idea that the Church’s moral guidance is “essentially about imposing rules” is a “radical error” and “one of the worst obstacles to spreading the faith”, he wrote.

But, as John Paul II explained, moral commandments “have value because they point to something far more profound: how to live in order to grow in virtue and attain fullness of life”. The false, legalistic approach is alive today in the form of “legalist minimalism” – that is, the idea that “Catholic moral theology can be more life-affirming to the degree that it cedes territory to our unfettered freedom”.

Veritatis Splendor, Archbishop Chaput said, was a forceful reminder that moral truths are objective, salvific, and promote authentic freedom.

“To a great extent, today’s debates within the Church ­– on issues of sexual identity, sexual behaviour, Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, the nature of the family ­­– simply exhume and reanimate the convenient ambiguities and flexible approaches to truth that Veritatis Splendor forcefully buried,” he wrote.

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