St. Peter tells us that we are made holy through “obedience to the truth” (1 Pet 1:22). Unfortunately, in today’s culture, each individual decides what is true and these many “truths” conflict with each other. What is the ultimate guide for moral truth?
St. John Paul II in his classic encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), says: “Only God, the Supreme Good, constitutes the unshakeable foundation and essential condition of morality.” He goes on to say that only “upon this truth is it possible to construct a renewed society and to solve the complex and weighty problems affecting it.” Society today simply has lost its bearings and moral compass.
John Paul II identified the spread of a devious political movement that aims to rob the dignity and authentic freedom of the person in following the moral authority of God almighty.
“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 people. Their self-interest as a class, group or nation would inevitably set them in opposition to one another. If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power takes over, and each person tends to make full use of the means at his disposal in order to impose his own interests or his own opinion, with no regard for the rights of others.… Thus, the root of modern totalitarianism is to be found in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person who, as the visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by his very nature the subject of rights which no one may violate — no individual, group, class, nation or State. Not even the majority of a social body may violate these rights, by going against the minority, by isolating, oppressing, or exploiting it, or by attempting to annihilate it (Centesimus Annus, 44).” (emphasis added)
Sound familiar? John Paul II wrote these words 30 years ago. They ring even truer today. These are the times in which we live. Moral truth is under attack. The center of this attack is the traditional family of one man, one woman, and any children they may have. Those who hold to a Judeo-Christian worldview are labeled as narrow-minded bigots, out of touch with progressive morality.
The Church is not immune from these philosophies. John Paul II wrote this encyclical to combat the theories of teleologism, also known as consequentialism or proportionalism. John Paul says…
The teleological ethical theories (proportionalism, consequentialism), while acknowledging that moral values are indicated by reason and by Revelation, maintain that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behaviour which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values. (emphasis added)
These theories promote the idea that moral truth varies with circumstances. “Such theories…are not faithful to the Church’s teaching,” says John Paul II, “when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law.”
John Paul II said many today live “as if God did not exist.” He calls us to live in the light of the Gospel in making judgments and decisions regarding the morality of certain acts.
It is urgent then that Christians should rediscover the newness of the faith and its power to judge a prevalent and all-intrusive culture. As the Apostle Paul admonishes us: “Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of the light (for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful words of darkness, but instead expose them… Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:8-11, 15-16; cf. 1 Th 5:4-8). (emphasis added)
In these difficult times, John Paul II in profound clarity shows us the “extraordinary simplicity” of the compass for navigating the treacherous waters of moral questions.
At times, in the discussions about new and complex moral problems, it can seem that Christian morality is in itself too demanding, difficult to understand and almost impossible to practise. This is untrue, since Christian morality consists, in the simplicity of the Gospel, in following Jesus Christ, in abandoning oneself to him, in letting oneself be transformed by his grace and renewed by his mercy, gifts which come to us in the living communion of his Church. (emphasis added)
This great saint holds up to us, Mary, as the model of Christian virtue. “Mary lived and exercised her freedom precisely by giving herself to God and accepting God’s gift within herself…openness to the grace of God.” Let us invoke Mary to help us to discern what is true and righteous in the eyes of God.
Mother of Mercy,
watch over all people,
that the Cross of Christ
may not be emptied of its power,
that man may not stray
from the path of the good
or become blind to sin,
but may put his hope ever more fully in God
who is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4).
May he carry out the good works prepared
by God beforehand (cf. Eph 2:10)
and so live completely
“for the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12).
 John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, §99; internet: https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html (accessed June 26, 2021).
 Ibid., §75.
 Ibid., §76.
 Ibid., §88.
 Ibid., §119.
 Ibid., §120.