Reflections on Veritatis Splendor by Alfred McBride, O.Praem. To review books by Fr. Mc Bride: (The Millennium : End of Time? a New Beginning? (1998--$8.76), Father McBride's Family Catechism (1998--$7.96) or Father McBride's Teen Catechism (1996--$7.19) at our on-line book store Amazon.com, click on the blue.
Some acts are always bad.
Violence is becoming as American as apple pie. In a recent two-week period, frightening outbreaks of violence occurred in places we used to think were safe. A mother, forty-three, and her son, fifteen, went to a movie in a mall in Missouri on a warm afternoon. About forty-five minutes after the theater darkened, the teenager allegedly took out a handgun and pumped four bullets into his mother's head.
Three teens were arrested for allegedly murdering three eighty-year-olds in Arkansas. In a small town in Texas, where people still leave their front doors unlocked at night, eighty-two-year-old Mildred Stallones, a retired schoolteacher, was found strangled to death. She was widely respected and known for her generosity to children. Murders, rapes, and violent robberies have increased every year since 1980. All the while, many professional moralists have been spinning theories that excuse people from the responsibility for their sins and crimes. Instead of providing guidance for growth in moral responsibility, they fiddle while Rome burns. Some even deny there are acts that are intrinsically evil--that is, acts that are always bad. John Paul II disagrees. "Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature 'incapable of being ordered' to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image" (No. 80).
What is a list of such unspeakable acts? The Second Vatican Council said the list includes: murder, abortion, euthanasia, genocide, mutilation, mental and physical torture, rape, subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, slavery, prostitution, trafficking in women and children, and degrading work conditions that treat laborers as mere instruments of profit (see "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World," No. 27).
Such acts are always wrong, but not only because society forbids them or we find them offensive. They are wrong because they violate the very nature of being human and living together. If someone sincerely believed that rape was right, that would not justify it; the person's conscience judgment is wrong. Even if a whole society approved rape, that would not make it right. Rape is wrong for every age, place, and circumstance. It is intrinsically evil.
Should we be surprised at the rise of intrinsically evil violent acts in our society when we legally approve the essentially evil act of abortion? Mother Teresa pointed this out in her speech several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast: "I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?"
The American bishops addressed this matter in their November 1994 pastoral message, "Confronting a Culture of Violence - A Catholic Framework for Action." They note that violence is paralyzing and polarizing our communities. The celebration of violence in the movies and video games is poisoning our loss of respect for human life is evidenced in the increasing acceptance of abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty," said the bishops. "A nation that destroys more than 1.5 million unborn children every year will never overcome the culture of violence." What should we do? The pope would say we should first get our heads and hearts straight on what is truly Christ's moral teachings and what is basic to human nature as seen in the natural law. That is what his Veritatis Splendor is all about. Practical steps require a proper moral worldview if they are to be successful.
the U.S. bishops have proposed the following practical steps, to which others must be added: (1) Follow the teachings of Scripture and the Church about respect for life, pursuing peace, seeking justice, and building community. (2) Confront actively the violence of abortion. (3) Pursue swift and effective justice without vengeance. (4) Overcome the tragedy of family violence. (4) Curb the easy availability of deadly weapons. (5) Promote the practice of virtue, moral responsibility, forgiveness, social justice, and economic fairness. (6) Protect the presence of our parishes, schools, hospitals, and social services, especially in neighborhoods of violence and fear, which need the hope the Church can provide.
Finally, we must "show the inviting splendor of that truth which is Jesus Christ" (No. 83)
These syndicated articles are copyrighted by Our Sunday Visitor and are purchased with donations made to the Friends of the Good News who support this newsletter. Fr. McBride writes for Our Sunday Visitor. All quoted matter is from the encyclical, unless otherwise indicated. ©1998 Our Sunday Visitor. Used by subscription. This article appeared in the February1999 edition of The San Francisco Charismatics (ISSN 1098-4046). Member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
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