Why is objective morality necessary for true charity?

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Charity in truth

In a world dominated by moral relativism, “what is truth?” According to Patrick Madrid, “the answer, from a Catholic perspective, is Jesus Christ… ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’” Morality is “objective truth given by God, not to ruin our lives, but to make us truly free”[1].

Charity, on the other hand, is the theological virtue where we love God (the most) for His own sake, and love our neighbor as ourselves for love of God (CCC 1822). Love of God and neighbor (Mt 22:37-40) are the source and summary of Catholic morality[2]. Charity is to “keep my commandments, (so) you will abide in God’s love.” (CCC 1824).

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declares in Caritas in Veritate, “Charity in truth is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and humanity. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, and is distorted to mean the opposite[3].”

Charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction (CCC 1829). Genuine compassion requires love for another’s true good, authentic freedom and happiness[4]. We should not conceal the moral truth, but propose it as an outpouring of God’s eternal Wisdom[5]. “Love has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth… (We need) to defend the truth, articulate it with humility and conviction, and bear witness as charity “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6) [6]. However, we need to do so with respect, patience, and trusting love as people’s moral journey are fraught with difficulties, weakness, and pain[7]. According to Paul VI: “It is charity to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ, this must be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ was patient and rich in mercy[8].”

Contemporary moral theology is wrong

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For Saint John Paul II, contemporary moral theology — subjectivism and individualism – erroneously interprets freedom to the moral law, human nature and conscience. These ideologies lessen or deny the dependence of freedom on truth[9]. They create a chasm between freedom and law, arguing the moral law must give freedom of conscience to individuals. Subjective freedom and individual conscience can determine good and evil. The individual conscience, however, can never be against the objective moral truth. Conscience stands under the objective moral law and is formed by it, so “the truth about the moral good, as declared by reason, is recognized by conscience[10].” In correct conscience, it is objective truth received by man; in erroneous conscience, it is what man, mistakenly, subjectively considers to be true[11].

Contemporary moral theology causes Man to become uncertain of his origin and destination, leading to gradual self-destruction, contempt for human life, and violation of basic rights [12]. We need to accept the truth of God the Redeemer in order to construct a renewed society: “Totalitarianism arises from a denial of objective truth. If there is no transcendent truth to which man achieves his identity, there is no guaranteeing just relations between people. Their self-interest would set them in opposition to one another[13].”

Objective truth and genuine freedom

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In Veritatis Splendor, Saint John Paul II reorients morality towards classical Catholic tradition of a morality of virtue leading to happiness using the parable of the rich young man seeking eternal life (Matt. 19:16–26) [14]. “True happiness is not found in riches, well-being, fame, power, achievement, or creature; but in God alone, the source of good and love” (CCC 1723). God gives us moral laws and commandments to help us grow in virtue to attain the fullness of life.[15] Jesus teaches us the truth about right and wrong so that “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32)[16].

God willed to leave man “in the power of his own counsel” (cf. Sir 15:14), so he would seek his Creator and freely arrive at blessed perfection by cleaving to God[17].” Human freedom and God’s law intersect when man obeys God and God pours out His gratuitous benevolence towards man[18].”It is in the Crucified Christ that we can understand how obedience to universal and unchanging morality respects a person, rather than threatens his freedom. The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom: He lives it fully in the total gift of Himself[19].

Man finds his uniqueness and growth by obedience to universal morality. These norms guarantee a just and peaceful human coexistence, a genuine democracy[20].

Conclusion

Veritatis Splendor remains important as there is a false rivalry between moral truth, freedom, and fulfillment [21]. The Church defends the universal and unchanging moral norms to serve man’s true freedom[22]. God gives us freedom so we could respond to his offer of friendship.[23] Fellowship with God is our true happiness and goal of our existence. Atheism and relativism is a lack of trust in God’s wisdom to guide man with the moral law[24]. Understanding God’s love and wisdom allow us to view the moral law as a liberating truth, a grace-filled source of hope, a path of life.[25].

[1] http://www.madisoncatholicherald.org/news/around-diocese/894-speaker-addresses-why-and-how-we-should-fight-moral-relativism.html

[2] http://www.beginningcatholic.com/catholic-morality

[3] https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2009/07/17/justice-and-charity/

[4] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[5] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[6] https://veritas-vincit-international.org/2015/12/24/pope-francis-labels-catholics-who-believe-in-absolute-truths-as-fundamentalists/

[7] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[8] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[9] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[10] https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/10/the-splendor-of-truth-in-2017

[11] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[12] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[13] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[14] https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/10/the-splendor-of-truth-in-2017

[15] https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/10/the-splendor-of-truth-in-2017

[16] https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/10/the-splendor-of-truth-in-2017

[17] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[18] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[19] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[20] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[21] https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/10/the-splendor-of-truth-in-2017

[22] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[23] https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/10/the-splendor-of-truth-in-2017

[24] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[25] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

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