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THE SPLENDOR OF ACCURACY.ยท HOW ACCURATE? WILLIAM E. MAY Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family Washington, D.C. I N THE introduction to the collection of essays published under the title The Splendor ofAccuracy: An Examination of the Assertions made by Veritatis Splendor,1 Joseph Selling and Jan Jans write that the "central question that needs to be posed to the text of Veritatis Splendor" concerns the audience and situation its author has in mind (p. 9). They maintain that it appears to be addressed to "universal pastors (priests trained in seminaries) who (should) have one set of universal solutions to every conceivable pastoral problem one might face, anywhere, anytime" (p. 9). Assuming that this is indeed the case, they then say that the "best way to interpret what Veritatis Splendor says" is "from the point of view of the pastors and their educators" and that the Encyclical finds serious problems here (p. 9). Notwithstanding the unmistakable implication of the book's title, the subtitle, and, as we shall see, several of its main essays, the editors claim that neither they nor the contributors to the volume "wish or intend that this study be understood as a challenge or a rebuke to the teaching of the magisterium in the encyclical" (p. 10). Rather, they wish to "respond to the assertions made in the encyclical that give the impression of pointing to serious problem areas in contemporary Roman Catholic moral 1 Joseph Selling and Jan Jans, eds., The Splendor of Accuracy : An Examination of the Assertions made by Veritatis Splendor (Kampen: Kok Pharos Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1994). 465 466 WILLIAM E. MAY theology as it is being researched and taught in any number of seminaries, universities and institutions of higher learning" (p. 10). I believe that Selling and Jans seriously misconstrue the purpose of Veritatis Splendor. It is surely not intended to equip priests trained in seminaries with "one set of universal solutions to every conceivable pastoral problem one might face, anywhere, anytime." Rather its stated purpose is to set forth clearly "certain aspects of doctrine which are of a crucial importance in facing what is certainly a genuine crisis" (VS, n. 4) and to address this crisis by presenting "the principles of a moral teaching based upon Sacred Scripture and the living apostolic Tradition, and at the same time to shed light on the presuppositions and consequences of the dissent which that teaching has met" (n. S). In particular , the "central theme" of the Encyclical, as identified by John Paul II himself, is to reaffirm the Church's teaching that there are "intrinsically evil acts" prohibited "always and without exception" by universally valid and immutable moral prohibitions (n. 115). John Paul II likewise emphasizes that the "morality of the human act depends primarily and fundamentally on the 'object' rationally chosen by the deliberate will" (n. 78) and that "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" (n. 80). Human acts specified by objects of this kind are the intrinsically evil acts prohibited by absolute moral norms, the teaching which constitutes, as has been noted, the "central theme" of the Encyclical. Thus the pope repudiates, as incompatible with Catholic teaching, those moral theories which deny that one can judge an act immoral because of the kind of "object" freely chosen and consequently deny that there are intrinsically evil acts of this sort and, corresponding to them, absolute moral norms (cf. nn. 74-77, 79). While repudiating these theories, John Paul II does not name any contemporary Catholic theologians who espouse them. Some contemporary moral theologians who advocate the proportionalist method of making moral judgments are among the THE SPLENDOR OF ACCURACY 467 contributors to this volume, namely, Joseph Selling himself, Louis Janssens, and Bernard Hoose. In their contributions, Selling and Hoose name other theologians known for their advocacy of this moral theory, e.g., Joseph Fuchs and Richard A. McCormick. The purpose of the essays by Selling, Janssens, and Hoose seems to be, as shall be seen...


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