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, click on the blue.

Five Steps Descending Into Chaos

In November 1994, the voters of Oregon approved a law that would permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients judged to be in the last six months of life. How can one predict with certainty that a patient has only six months to live? But even if we could, such doctor-assisted suicide would still be wrong.  Holland has moved from legalizing assisted suicide to out-right euthanasia. Herbert Hendlin writes, ‘The Dutch have moved from euthanasia for the terminally ill to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress, from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia (called ‘termination of the patient without explicit request’). The Dutch government’s own research has documented that in more than 1,000 cases a year, doctors actively caused or hastened death without the patient’s request. "Virtually every guideline established by the Dutch to regulate euthanasia has been modified or violated with impunity" (Excerpted from The New York Times, December 16, 1994). Hendlin’s conclusion: "The terminally ill need better care, not euthanasia."

Rising pressure to legalize euthanasia in the United States is one more example of separating freedom from truth. This moral bankruptcy lives by the axiom: "If I want it, it’s good. If I do it, it’s right." Such freedom is out of control and has no reference to truth. "Man is no longer convinced that only in truth can he find salvation. The staying power of the truth is contested, and freedom alone, uprooted from any objectivity, is left to decide by itself what is good and what is evil" (No. 84). More and more the message of rootless freedom is death—abortion at the beginning of life and euthanasia at its end.

There are five steps in this descent into chaos:

(1) Truth is the starting point, a truth that can be known by reason from the natural law and by faith from revelation. This truth is meant to be a sure guide for conscience and the proper use of freedom.

(2) Our culture and its major communicators, however, have relativized truth. They argue that there is no objective truth. They contend that even if there were truth, it cannot be known with certitude. They have created a loss of confidence about truth. All that is left then is opinion. Cynically, our culture repeats Pilate’s question, "What is truth?" and implies there is only opinion.

(3) In this poisonous atmosphere, freedom, unhinged from truth, becomes license. I am now free to do what I want, not what I should. Self-discipline loses its beneficial effect on building character. Civilized restraint disappears in the face of an increasingly coarse and vulgar culture. Freedom is out of control when the light of truth is not there to guide it.

(4) Now only power makes any sense. And how will one find power in our society? Through politics. Morality becomes the creature of power plays in the voting booth and the courts. Polls determine what’s right and wrong. Politicizing morality makes a mockery of genuine freedom. The more people reach for power the less freedom exists in society.

(5) The result of all of this is a culture of death. One thousand patients a year in Holland are terminated without special request. Millions of unborn babies in America are deprived of their freedom to live by powerful adults and clinics aided by the Supreme Court. Teenagers kill one another in our streets. Disengaging freedom from truth has been a disastrous experiment.

The pontiff argues that religious faith in Jesus crucified is the best way to recover a respect for truth and freedom. Faith in Jesus opens us to confidence about knowing truth and making us genuinely free. "For freedom Christ has set us free" (Gal 5: 1).

"Each day the Church looks to Christ with unfailing love, fully aware that the true and final answer to the problem of morality lies in him alone.... It is in the Crucified Christ that the Church finds the answer to the question troubling so many people today" (No. 85).

The Cross reminds us that self-giving is the best path to self-fulfillment. Love shows us truth, which guarantees freedom. The result is abundant life, hope, and peace.

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 subcription. 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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