Oct 20, 2005

Veritatis Splendor

On Some Criticisms

      When I read Veritatis Splendor I also read Häring’s criticism in the Tablet.  I also looked at op-ed pieces that were written at the same time and was amazed at the flood of criticism.  Melina is right; most of the critics focused on chapter two of the encyclical, the part about the sources of Moral of Theology and intrinsic evil and not on the other chapters.  Chapter two of the encyclical is the most important part of the encyclical, I agree, but Melina argues that the document should be looked at in its entirety.  Melina wants renewal in Moral Theology too, new Gospel wine, a new, comprehensive outlook yet profoundly traditional (6).  Melina knows that one cannot get rid of the the moral norms but at the same time he realizes that morality should not be governed by a legalism so prevalent in older systems.  There has been a “rupture of the bond between freedom and truth” and there is a crisis in Moral Theology.
     The subject has been fractured and takes on the guise of whatever social environment it finds itself in.  The fractured “I” is not truly free because it is bound to the truths of disconnected moral systems, never really able to “become a free subject of action”.  He points a finger at the bourgeois society of the “rich young man” as the result of the shipwreck in morality.  He also sees technology as destructive to man when disconnected from conscience.  He quotes Heidegger and Rabelais.  Our computers and super fast jets are nothing without conscience.  I passionately believe this; that technology can remove us from a “connect”, not only from a guiding conscience but from the connect of the other as well, thus a disconnect from God.  I am reminded of Fahrenheit 451, the novel about a dystopia where fire fighters burn books to keep people from thinking and feeling.  Maybe there needs to be an embrace of the more profound questions of human existence, rather than just “What must I do”?   
       How is Melina going recontextualize Moral Theology yet remain profoundly traditional?  It seems he is going to bring in the virtues to put together the pieces of the shattered ego.  I don’t know how he is going to do this, but noticing that he has already quoted Alistair McIntyre (After Virtue) and C.S. Lewis and Aristotle in the first thirty-three pages I can see that Virtue Ethics will play a large role in resurrecting the fragile “I”, the wounded subject that seems to be the cause of the crisis in Moral Theology.  He will also bring in the necessity of community in creating a moral realm that is aesthetic and good.  Beauty is necessary for salvation, I believe.  Beauty is the splendor of truth.  If we lose the beautiful then we have lost humanity.  If we lose the community, the need for friends, that Aristotle so beautifully wrote about in the Nichomachean Ethics, then humanity will surely be at lost, no matter how technologically advanced we become.  Melina asks a beautiful question that I hope he expounds upon: “What kind of community will help me to attain the values to which I am called”.  I get frustrated in thinking about what I should do; I am asked about what I do in my life, so much so, that I wish sometimes people would ask me, ‘how will you attain the values to which you are called’?  There has to be a return to the virtues, to an aesthetic, and a retethering of freedom and truth, I agree and the moral life must find a home.   But, still I wonder what he means by remaining profoundly traditional?  He mentions that he is going to address the nexus between freedom and truth, that may bring a profoundly traditional Moral Theology, yet, still I do not know what he means by that statement.  He is also going to bring in the connection between faith and morality.  I can see how this will also be profoundly traditional, because Melina does not want the attitude of faith lost to morality; he wants to affirm that to believe is also a profoundly moral assertion.  So, I hope that this books provides some insights in bringing back the human family, so we can more authentically say to one another, “What?  You too?  I thought that no one but myself  ...” (32).

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