(My abridgment of  the Encyclical Letter)

                                      Veritatis Splendor

                                     (Introduced by the Pope's Angelus Message)

1. Introduction:

 On October 7, 1993, just 12 days after Veritatis Splendor was released, the Pope spoke of his Encyclical just before reciting the Angelus. This is what he said. 

  Angelus Message of October 7, 1993 on Veritatis Spendor

   "The truth will make you free" (Jn 8:32).

These words of Jesus are the main theme of the recent Encyclical "Veritatis Splendor", intended as a proclamation of truth and a hymn to freedom: values felt strongly by contemporary man and deeply respected by the Church.

   But what is "freedom"?

Contemporary culture is experiencing this question in a dramatic way. Indeed, one observes a widespread tendency to make freedom an absolute, uncurtailed by any limits or sense of responsibility. Yet freedom understood in this way would be manifestly inauthentic and dangerous. Therefore, it is not accidental that all societies feel the need to exert some control over its exercise.
What is the source of the legitimacy of this "control"? ... The true guarantee of an ordered freedom is in its moral foundation, recognized by individuals and communities as a whole.

   "The truth will make you free".

According to the Gospel, freedom must rely on the rock-solid basis of truth. Not all that is materially possible is also morally licit. Moral freedom is not the power to do anything whatever, but a human being's ability to fulfil without restraint what corresponds to his or her vocation as a child of God made in the Creator's image.  Man is therefore not truly free when he shirks the deep and unchangeable demands of his nature. Without this truth, he would end up being the hostage of his worst instincts, a slave of sin (Jn 8:34) and the personal and social consequences would only be disastrous, as unfortunately, experience has amply proved.

But is it possible for the person to know this "truth" as his own with certainty? Perhaps this is the crucial issue in our time, so deeply imbued with relativism and scepticism. The Church believes in the strength of reason, which, although partly clouded and weakened by sin (Gaudium et spes,n.15), somehow makes us share "in the light of the divine mind"(ibid), and ceaselessly indicates moral truth through our conscience. Therefore, far from being in opposition to faith, reason finds in it support, verification and a deeper understanding, since Jesus, the Word made flesh, not only reveals God to man, but also fully reveals man to himself (ibid n.22). Christ is the Redeemer of man; it is Christ who "sets freedom free" (Veritatis Splendor, n.86).

2.        Veritatis Splendor   (My abridgment, bringing together essential passages) 


The splendour of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator  and especially in man, leading him to know and love the Lord. People are made holy by "obedience to the truth". (1 Peter 1:22). This obedience is not always easy, because of original sin. Man's capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Man is tempted to an illusory freedom. But no darkness of sin or of error can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth, and a search for the meaning of life.

    Thus no one can escape from the fundamental questions: What must I  do? How do I distinguish good from evil? The answer is only possible thanks to the splendour of truth shining within man. Christ is the answer to all man's religious and moral questions. On the basis of certain presuppositions, there is now among many within the Christian community itself an overall and systematic calling into question of the Church's traditional moral doctrine. At the root of this, is the detachment of freedom from truth. In particular, it is asked: Is it possible to obey and thus love God without having to obey the Commandments in all circumstances? Also must faith and morality be intrinsically and unbreakably linked?


no.6-8:   "Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?" (Mt 19:16)
The young man's question is about the full meaning of life. He senses a connection between the moral good and the fulfilment of his own destiny, and the answer is from Christ. For this purpose God willed the Church. People need to turn to Christ again to receive from Him the answer to the question about what is good and what is evil.

no.9-11:   "There is only one who is good" (Mt 19:17) 
To ask about the good ultimately means to turn towards God, who is the Good itself. Thus the young man's question is a religious question. What man is and what he must do becomes clear when God reveals Himself. The moral life is the response to God's loving initiative.  The good is belonging to God, obeying and acknowledging Him.

no.12-15:  "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Mt19:17)
God's answer to this question is given already in the law which is inscribed in his heart: the "natural law" (Rom 2:15). This is the light of understanding infused in us by God, whereby we understand what must be done and what must be avoided. But God also gave the Ten Commandments: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments". The Commandments are the first step towards freedom.

no.16-21:   "If you wish to be perfect" (Mt 19:21)
The commandments must not be understood as a satisfactory minimum, but as the path involving the quest for the perfection of love. Christ the teacher invites the young man to seek this perfection. This perfection to which all are called, and the promises attached to them, are expressed in the Beatitudes. They are a kind of self-portrait of Christ, and invite us to follow Him closely. Perfection demands the maturity in self-giving to which freedom is called. The following of Jesus is the foundation of Christian morality.

no.22-27:      "With God all things are possible" (Mt 19:26) 
Union with Jesus is the effect of the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is available through the Church and her Sacraments. Jesus' high moral demands exceed human abilities, but are possible through God's grace: "with God all things are possible" (Mt19:26). 26: No damage must be done to the harmony between what one believes and how one lives. The unity of the Church is damaged not only by the distortion of the Faith, but by a disregard of moral obligations. The task of properly interpreting the word of God, whether in its written form or in that of Tradition, has been entrusted only to those charged by Christ with the Church's teaching authority.


no.32-33: Certain currents of modern thought have gone so far as to exalt     freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute value. As well as this, modern culture questions the existence of freedom.

no.35-53:           I.  Freedom and Law.

no.35:Revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man but to God alone. Man is certainly free inasmuch as he can understand and accept God's commands. Freedom is not unlimited: it is called to accept God's moral law. Indeed, freedom is fulfilled in the acceptance of that law. But the claim to determine, on the basis of a sovereignty of reason, what is good or evil, will involve asserting a conflict between freedom and law.

no.36-37: The natural moral law has God for its author, and in Revelation there is a specific moral content universally binding, which is for both the order of salvation, and for the realm of this world too.

no.38-41: "God left man in the power of his own counsel" (Sir 15:14)
The exercise of dominion over the world is a task involving man's freedom in obedience to God. But man himself has also been entrusted to his own care and responsibility. In performing morally good acts man develops his likeness to God, and so his own perfection. Human reason discovers and applies the moral law. The moral law has its origin in God, yet it is a properly human law. Genuine moral  autonomy never means creating moral norms, rather it means the acceptance of God's moral law. Thus man shares in God's wisdom.

no.42-45: "Blessed is the man who takes delight in the law of the Lord"
In order freely to do good and avoid evil, man must be able to distinguish good from evil. He does this by the light of natural reason. This very discernment of good from evil is the function of the natural law. This is why this law is called the natural law: not because it refers to the nature of irrational beings but because the reason which promulgates it is proper to human nature. The Anatural law" engraved in the human heart is none other than human reason itself which commands us to do good and avoid sin. But this command of reason has force because it is the interpreter of a higher reason to which our freedom is subject: that of God. Thus the natural law is itself the eternal law, the reason of our God. Man is enlightened in this discernment by Revelation and faith. The Church receives the gift of the New Law, which is the fulfilment of God's law in Christ and in His Spirit. This is the law of the Spirit. But God is the author of both the natural and the new law. The acceptance of God's plan and law is the only way to affirm freedom.

no.46-50: "What the law requires is written on their hearts" (Rom 2:15)
The person, including the body, is completely entrusted to himself, and it is in the unity of body and soul that the person is the subject of his own moral acts. It is in the light of the dignity of the human person that reason grasps the specific moral value of certain goods towards which he is naturally inclined. From this springs the moral requirement of respecting fundamental goods. A doctrine which dissociates the moral act from the bodily dimensions of its exercise is contrary to Scripture and Tradition.

no.51: Inasmuch as the natural law is inscribed in the rational nature of the person, it is universal in its precepts and authority over all. The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. Some things are never to change and are founded on Christ.

no.54-64:         II.  Conscience and Truth.

In the depths of his conscience man detects a law which he does not impose on himself, but which holds him to obedience. The voice of conscience tells him to do good and avoid evil in specific ways. This law in his heart has been written by God. Conscience is like God's herald, and commands things as coming from God's authority.

This is why conscience has binding force. It is a moral judgment of man and his actions, acquiting or condemning. The judgment of conscience is a practical judgment, applying God's moral law to a particular case. And it is imperative: it commands. To have a "good conscience" one must seek the truth and judge in accord with it. But conscience is not an infallible judge. One can have a mistaken conscience, which is still a disorder in relation to the truth about the good. But it is also possible to be at fault for one's mistaken conscience. Christ's words call us to form our conscience correctly. We must put on the mind of Christ, The faithful must give careful attention to the certain teaching of the Church. For the Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher Christ's truth. Freedom is not "from" the truth, but in it.

no.65-70:    III. Fundamental choice and specific moral decisions.

Certain fundamental choices do shape a person's entire moral life. This is especially the decision of faith, the obedience of faith. But the fundamental choice cannot be separated from the choice of particular moral acts. One's basic option is at stake in the acts. So with every freely committed mortal sin, man offends God, and even if he perseveres in faith, loses God's grace and eternal happiness. It is quite wrong to say that a mortal sin only occurs when an act involves a conscious fundamental opting against God. There is a real distinction between mortal and venial sins. Mortal sin exists when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered. The Fundamental orientation can be radically changed by choices of gravely disorded acts.

no.71-83:           IV. The moral act.

It is precisely through his acts that man attains perfection as man. Human acts (free acts) are moral acts because they express and determine the goodness or evil of the individual who performs them. Acting is morally good when the choices of freedom are in conformity with man's true good and are ordered to his ultimate end: God. And only the act in conformity with the good can lead to life. But, what is it that ensures this ordering of human actions to God? The Pope discusses and condemns false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action. One cannot be considered to love God and one's neighbour if one is not observing the commandments. What one actually does is crucial. True, for a right moral decision one takes account of the intention of the action, and its circumstances, including its consequences. But the morality of a person's act depends primarily and fundamentally on the object rationally chosen by the deliberate will. Now the object of the act of willing is a freely chosen kind of behaviour. To the extent that it is in conformity with the order of reason, it is the cause of the goodness of the will. So, if a person wishes to be good, he must choose to do good actions. An act is good if its object is in conformity with the good of the person with respect for the goods morally relevant for him. It is therefore wrong to hold (as in teleological and proportionalist theories) that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its object the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which choice is made, or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned. So there are objects of the human act by their nature incapable of being ordered to God. These are "intrinsically evil" because of their object. These are acts that are always seriously wrong. An example of an intrinsically evil act is an act of contraception. Circumstances or intentions can never make a bad act a good one. All this must be insisted on to preserve an objective moral order. Our primary inspiration for a life that is objectively moral is the splendour of truth which is Jesus Christ himself. In him, man can live his vocation to perfection through his good actions.


no.84-87:     "For freedom Christ has set us free" (Gal.5:1).
The basic question is the relationship between freedom and truth. Only a freedom which submits to the Truth leads us to our good. But the saving power of the Truth is being denied, and freedom is left to itself to decide what is good. God's law is man's good. So moral judgments must be in accordance with the truth (the true way to act). This finds its support in constantly looking to Jesus. What is the point of freedom? The Crucified Christ reveals the true meaning of freedom. He lives it fully in a total self gift, and he calles his disciples to share in his - Christ's - freedom. We have been given a real freedom, but it is limited and weak. It is also in rebellion, and so our freedom itself needs to be freed. It is in communion with Christ that we are freed, to be truly free. As in Christ himself, perfect freedom is in total obedience to God.

no.88-89:        Walking in the light. (1 Jn 1:7)
There is another point: one's faith is to be lived in a moral life. One cannot separate faith from morality. Faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, and a truth to be lived out. It has a moral content, and entails the acceptance and observance of God's commandments. Through our moral life (the way we live), our faith becomes witness. Christ is its source and model. This witness can reach martyrdom. The profound relationship between our faith and morality is shown in the absolute prohibition of intrinsically evil actions. Such actions may never be done, even at the cost of martyrdom. 

no.90-94:      Martyrdom, the exaltation of the holiness of God's law.
There are many such examples of martyrdom in the Scriptures, and Saints. Martyrdom, accepted as an affiration of the inviolability of God's law, bears witness to the holiness of God's law, and to our personal dignity as being created in God's image and likeness. Now while martyrdom is the high point of the witness to moral truth, and one to which few are called, nonetheless there is a consistent witness which all Christians must daily be ready to make, even at  the cost of grave sacrifice. This may at times require heroism.  

no.95-97: Absolute moral norms serve the good of the person and society.
It is said that this insistence on absolute norms is intransigence. No. Genuine compassion must mean love for the person and for his true good. This will mean never watering down a moral truth, but rather firmly defending what we are morally obliged to do. This is to be done firmly, but with profound respect and trusting love. The Church serves every man's freedom and dignity in prohibiting whatever is intrinsically evil, that is, anything which is always morally wrong. God's commandments are the rules of social life.

no.98-101:    Morality and the renewal of social and political life.
If society is to be renewed, its moral sense has to be renewed, and this in turn depends on its religious sense being renewed. God is the foundation of morality. The inseparable connection between truth and freedom is extremely important for the life of society. A very great danger for a democracy is the loss of the sense that some things are absolutely wrong, in whatever sphere of life. This is the risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism.

no.102-105:       Grace and obedience to God's law:
It is in the Cross of Jesus, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the Sacraments, that we find the grace to keep God's moral law. Our concrete possibilities are discovered in Christ's Redemption. And we should take to heart the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Here we encounter two different attitudes of the moral conscience: the self-satisfied conscience, and the repentant one. In our day the attitude of the Pharisee will be shown in adapting the moral norm to one's own capacities and interests, and even in rejecting the idea of a norm. The repentant conscience acknowledges weakness, asks mercy, and looks for grace to live the moral law.

no.106-113:   Morality and the new evangelization. Moral theologians.
Evangelizing our society anew involves confronting the dechristianization of persons and entire communities. This dechristianization has entailed the loss of faith and an obscuring of the moral sense. So the new evangelization also involves the presentation of morality. There is a new life to be lived, a "Way" to be followed. The life of holiness constitutes the simplest and most attractive way to perceive at once the beauty of truth, and the value of unconditional fidelity to the absolute moral demands of God's law. At the heart of this new evangelization and of the new moral life it proposes and awakens is the Holy Spirit, its source and strength. The Spirit of Jesus brings about the flourishing of the moral life. The moral theologian serves the believing effort of the Church to understand the faith, in communion with the Church's Magisterium.

no.114-117:    The responsibility of the Church's Pastors:
Christ's "answer" to the question about morality has been entrusted by Him in a particular way to the Pastors of the Church. Today, Christian moral teaching is a chief area for pastoral vigilance. This Encyclical has set forth the foundations of the church's moral teaching, and has evaluated certain trends in moral theology today. Its central theme is the reaffirmation of this: the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts. The unwavering demands of of God's command that we be holy are based upon God's infinitely merciful love for us, a love that leads us to the fulness of life. When people ask the Church the questions raised by their consciences, the Church's reply contains the voice of Christ, the voice of the truth about good and evil.

no.118-120:         CONCLUSION: MARY, MOTHER OF MERCY.

Mary is the Mother of the One who is the revelation of God's mercy. No human sin can erase the mercy of God. This mercy reaches its fullness in the gift of the Spirit, and it is the Spirit who makes possible the perfect accomplishment of the good. Mary is the Mother of Mercy because it is to her that Jesus entrusts his Church and all humanity. She obtains for us divine mercy. She is the radiant sign and inviting model of the moral life. She understands sinful man and loves him with a mother's love. She is on the side of truth, always resisting the justification of sin.