Read ~ Chapter 21: The Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church
The teachings contained in this chapter are based on Holy Scriptures, the Tradition of the Catholic Church [especially the First and Second Vatican Councils, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Fathers of the Church (especially St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine)], the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (especially Saint Pope Paul VI, Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis). All Apostolic Encyclicals and Letters are found on the Vatican Website: Vatican
The Moral Code of the Old and New Testaments
The moral code of the Old Testament: Before the Old Testament, there was no moral code. The world was like a jungle. The only moral code that existed was the conscience of people. God creates every person with a conscience: it is God’s voice innate in us to do good and avoid evil. Even before the Old Testament, when someone wanted to kill someone, for example, I am sure that the voice of God in their conscience was alarming them to stop, even though they did not have a moral code.
With the Old Testament the revelation of God to Israel was accompanied also by a revelation of a moral code. We see in the history and the traditions of the Old Testament not only the 10 Commandments but many other moral codes that God gave the people of Israel to follow. God was very clear about the moral obligations of his Covenant with Israel in similar terms like these: “My people, do your part of the deal and you have my blessings…Israel do this and avoid that and I, your God, will take care of you.” (see Isaiah 41 and 46)
The moral code in the New Testament: With the New Testament, Jesus Christ established a moral code that is much more perfect than that of the Old Testament. It invites us to a radical commitment and to perfection (be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect). Jesus Christ wants every person to act according to the will of God and to be vigilant to follow every little detail of God’s commandments: “Not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven.” The final judgment is based on our actions that either helped or rejected our brethren (see Matthew, 25)
What must I do to inherit eternal life: When the young man came to Jesus he asked Him “Lord what must I do in order to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ answer not only invited him to follow the 10 Commandments, but also went beyond them to a life of love and compassion (the parable of the merciful Samaritan). The invitation of Christ to fulfill the moral code of the Old Testament and perfect it in the New Testament is an essential dimension for the salvation of the human person.
Voice of the conscience: Those who never heard of Christ and the moral code he established for the redemption of humanity are not totally deprived of the knowledge of God’s will. In fact, their conscience which is God’s voice in every human being will always gear them to choose good over evil. St. Thomas Aquinas calls it ‘natural law’. He teaches that the natural law “is nothing other than the light of understanding infused in us by God, whereby we understand what must be done and what must be avoided. God gave this light and this law to man at creation.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas, In Duo Praecepta Caritatis et in Cecem Legis Praecepta. Prologus: Opuscula Theologica, II, No. 1129, Ed. Taurinen (1954), 245)
The constitutive elements of the moral act
The object of moral acts: We face moral decisions everyday. The specific good toward which our will tends is called the ‘object of our moral decisions.’ Here, our reason must judge the true goodness of the object we are about to choose, depending whether it is or not in conformity with the Gospel and the moral teachings of the Church. The Catechism teaches: “The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good.” (CCC, 1751)
Some objects of our moral acts are intrinsically evil: Some actions, just because they are oriented to a good goal, still are not good. The end does not justify the mean. For example, killing is against God’s law no matter what the circumstances are. So, if a girl gets pregnant through incest or rape, would it be a good action to have an abortion? No. Even though the circumstances are bad and the goal is to help the girl move on, the action in itself is intrinsically evil because it is still a killing. The Catechism teaches: “The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts – such as fornication – that is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.” (CCC, 1755)
Between two objects that are intrinsically evil, choose the lesser one: Sometimes it is challenging to make a moral decision because no matter what I choose in that specific situation is ‘evil.’ For example, my father’s doctor asks me not to tell my father about the truth of his heart condition because such a worry might end up causing him a heart attack. When my father asks me if he has a bad heart condition, I have two choices. Either lie to him (which is evil) or tell him the truth which might kill him (which is evil too). Which evil is greater, me telling a lie or him dying? Of course, him dying is a greater evil. In that situation telling a lie is not evil.
Our evil moral objects have different degrees of sinfulness: Some objects of our moral decisions are grave sins and they break our communion with God; others are venial and don’t break that communion. For example, white lies, gossip, imperfect charity, and lustful thoughts are evil moral objects but do not hinder us from receiving communion. It is always good to confess them and receive absolution so our communion with God would be more perfect. Sins such as murder, apostasy (denying the Catholic faith publicly), adultery, fornication, perjury, and deep hatred break our communion with God and need immediate confession.
The Intention behind moral acts: Besides the moral object we tend to, there is a subjective intention that plays a major role. The end of our moral actions is the first goal of the intention. What we are trying to achieve determines the intention behind our decisions. Such an intention guides the will toward a good to be achieved in our action. The Catechism teaches: “The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: it is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken.” (CCC, 1752)
One Intention could guide several actions and one action could inspire several intentions: Intention could stand behind many of our actions. If we perform all our daily decisions with the intention to share God’s eternal life, all our actions are directed by that one intention. At the same time, one action could have several intentions behind it. The Catechism teaches: “Intention is not limited to directing individual actions, but can guide several actions toward one and the same purpose; it can orient one’s whole life toward its ultimate end. For example, a service done with the end of helping one’s neighbor can at the same time be inspired by the love of God as the ultimate end of all our actions. One and the same action can also be inspired by several intentions, such as performing a service in order to obtain a favor or to boast about it…On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as alms giving).” (CCC, 1752 and 1753)
Good Intention does not necessarily make a moral act good by nature: This is the principle according to which, ‘then end does not justify the mean.’ My good intention to protect my sister from her abusive husband does not justify me killing him. A good intention to reach a good goal must have a good mean to achieve it.
The Circumstances behind moral acts: The Circumstances behind our moral acts are secondary elements. They cannot change the nature of the act being intrinsically good or evil. The Catechism teaches the 2 dimensions of the circumstances: “They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent’s responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death).” (CCC, 1754)
Intentions and circumstances cannot define the goodness of an act: You may not do evil so good might come out of it! Another example is when someone thinks that “I am getting married tomorrow, who do I hurt if I have pre-marital relations with my fiancee the night before?” Since premarital relations are against the values and the commandments of the Gospel, this relationship is still a sin in itself and it does hurt God. God in his infinite wisdom established that the relationship of love is by nature an act between married couple. In that sense we read in Psalm 50: “Against you alone have I sinned.” Every action we perform is either intrinsically good or intrinsically evil, no matter what the intention is behind it. The Catechism teaches: “Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil…It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.” (CCC, 1749)
What makes a moral act good: For the moral act to be good, it requires the goodness of the object, the intention, and the circumstances. “An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself.” (CCC, 1755) Fasting is good as long as it has a good end, such as sharing in the suffering of Christ. It becomes an evil action, even though it is a good object, if it aims ‘to be seen by men’ not for the glory of God.
Some dangerous moral convictions in our culture
Cognitive approach in moral theology: In moral theology there are two approaches: cognitive and pragmatic. The approach of the Church is cognitive: it takes the Divine Revelation (Word of God and Tradition of the Church transmitted by the Magisterium) as the point of departure of her moral decisions. An example: God says, “Don’t kill.” Therefore, any killing is against the Gospel and God’s commandments. In the cognitive approach, God’s Divine Revelation is behind our reasoning for our moral decisions.
Over and over again, the Church confirms the moral teachings of Christ in regards to all new moral dilemmas of our time. Regardless of the differences in cultures and nations, the consistency of the Church in following the cognitive approach is inspiring. For example, in a country like the United States, it is enough to read answer of the US Bishops to all moral questions to realize that the Redeemer did establish a visible Church. Read some examples on the website of the National conference of Catholic Bishops: US Bishops
Pragmatic approach in moral theology: In the pragmatic approach, not accepted by the Church, people place themselves as the source of the moral decisions. Their reasoning, “I think this is right or wrong and, therefore, it must be that way.” This approach is false and misleading. Here, people create their own moral truths. The truth in the pragmatic approach, that is often applied in our culture, is based on individual opinions that are often false. Saint Pope John Paul II warns the Church against such a pure subjective approach to the truth because it destroys the metaphysical reality of objective truth about God and the world. The Pope says: “Certain currents of modern thought have gone so far as to exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values. This is the direction taken by doctrines which have lost the sense of the transcendent or which are explicitly atheist. The individual conscience is accorded the status of a supreme tribunal of moral judgment which hands down categorical and infallible decisions about good and evil.” (Veritatis Splendor, 32) Also Pope Benedict VI rejects this modern “subjectivism which, by regarding reason as the only source of knowledge, becomes incapable of raising its ‘gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being’ (Pope Benedict VI, Dominus Iesus, 4 and Saint Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 5)
Following your conscience and heart could be false: Natural Moral Law and Divine Moral Law: At the moment of our creation there was given us an innate sense that naturally tends to accepts God’s commandments. We call it the Natural Moral Law: it is given to everyone and therefore it is “universally understandable and communicable.” (Veritatis Splendor, 36) Our reason was given an intelligence that, in light of God’s creational grace, it discerns what needed to be avoided. It is a subjective conscience that makes us aware of God’s voice in our mind. Because of our fallen nature, the natural light of our reason is incapable of understanding and deciding what is good and what is evil. We need God’s Divine Revelation to establish the ultimate criteria of good and evil. Such a revealtion was fulfilled exclusively in and through Jesus Christ.
The revelation of the moral code by Jesus Christ invites every human person to adopt what God wanted them to do. There should be an absolute harmony between our subjective conscience and the demands of our Creator’s moral code. The role of subjective conscience is to look at the universal good establish by the creator and apply it to the specific situations in which we need to make a decision about choosing good and avoiding evil. There should never be an opposition between the Gospel’s moral law and our conscience.
Our culture, however, has recently shifted the moral action from what God intended us to do from the beginning to what the human person ‘feels like doing’. Under the excuse of following the heart and the conscience often contemporary people issue the criteria of good and evil and appoints themselves as judges over the nature of the moral action. Saint Pope John Paul II teaches that in those circumstances “the individual conscience is accorded the status of a supreme tribunal of moral judgment which hands down categorical and infallible decisions about good and evil. To the affirmation that one has a duty to follow one’s conscience is unduly added the affirmation that one’s moral judgment is true merely by the fact that it has its origin in the conscience. But in this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and “being at peace with oneself”, so much so that some have come to adopt a radically subjectivistic conception of moral judgment.” (Veritatis Splendor, 32)
Relationship between Truth, Freedom, natural Law, and Divine Law
Freedom and law: Many people in our cultures today tend to oppose law and freedom. They believe that laws limit the human deliberations and stop them from doing what they wish to do. Somehow these people think that their freedom is capable of creating values to be follow and not be subject to values already established by the Creator. If one deeply looks at these thoughts, one discovers that there is a hidden atheism behind them because they eliminate the revelation of the moral code by God. St. Pope John Psul II accurately describes these tendencies by teaching that “…some present-day cultural tendencies have given rise to several currents of thought in ethics which centre upon an alleged conflict between freedom and law. These doctrines would grant to individuals or social groups the right to determine what is good or evil. Human freedom would thus be able to “create values” and would enjoy a primacy over truth, to the point that truth itself would be considered a creation of freedom. Freedom would thus lay claim to a moral autonomy which would actually amount to an absolute sovereignty.” (Veritatis Splendor, 35)
The true meaning of freedom: Many contemporary approaches define freedom as the capacity of ‘doing whatever we want.’ This false assumption is detrimental to the human person because God is still the creator of such a freedom. God created us free but our freedom should naturally be oriented to obey the Creator as he establishes the truth of creation. The true nature of freedom is intrinsically oriented to be in harmony with the truth of God as revealed exclusively in and through Jesus Christ and as such taught by the Catholic Church. That’s what Jesus attested: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) Just because God asks us to do this and avoid that does not diminish the authentic character of our freedom. On the contrary, it reveals its true character and nature.
Only God establishes the truth about good and evil: Who are we to establish ourselves as the criteria of what is good and what is evil? How can we decide what moral actions are good and which ones are evil? St. Pope John Paul II taught that when God asked Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God established himself as the source of what is truly good and what is truly evil. Only God our Creator has the prerogative of knowing the true good and the true evil. Even though God gave man and woman a wide range of freedom, allowing them to ‘of every tree of the garden’ (Genesis 2:16), this freedom is still limited. St. Pope John Paul II summarizes this truth: “With this imagery, Revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man, but to God alone. The man is certainly free, inasmuch as he can understand and accept God’s commands. And he possesses an extremely far-reaching freedom, since he can eat “of every tree of the garden”. But his freedom is not unlimited: it must halt before the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, for it is called to accept the moral law given by God. In fact, human freedom finds its authentic and complete fulfilment precisely in the acceptance of that law. God, who alone is good, knows perfectly what is good for man, and by virtue of his very love proposes this good to man in the commandments.” (Veritatis Splendor, 35)
Faith alone is not enough for salvation; faith needs to be in action
Faith, moral action, and salvation: That will lead us to compare the relationship between faith, moral actions, and salvation. Jesus tells the young man asking him who to do in order to inherit life: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17). The Letter of St. James taught that faith without action is dead. You can’t just believe in Jesus Christ and assume you are saved without acting on your faith. This has been the teaching of Scriptures since the beginning of the Church. St. Peter invites his readers to not only have faith but put it in action: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12) Also St. Paul invites the Galatians to understand the rule of life which is “faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6) St. John boldly states: “Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.” (1 John 2:4)
The most evident truth about the importance of our actions for salvation is the Gospel of Matthew. When Jesus was talking about those who hears his words and put them into actions, he says: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
The entire Bible is based on a moral code where God invites us to do good and avoid evil. The relationship between faith and actions can never be jeopardized as if faith alone makes one part of the Church regardless of their individual moral convictions. Jesus tied up the human actions to eternal salvation: ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life). Saint Pope John Paul II refuses the opinion ” which questions the intrinsic and unbreakable bond between faith and morality, as if membership in the Church and her internal unity were to be decided on the basis of faith alone, while in the sphere of morality a pluralism of opinions and of kinds of behavior could be tolerated, these being left to the judgment of the individual subjective conscience or to the diversity of social and cultural contexts.” (Veritatis Splendor, 4)
Demons believe in Jesus and confess him to be the Son of God but they are not saved: Believing in Jesus is the first step, acting on Jesus’ commands will lead us to a union with God. Remember that even the demons believe in Jesus Christ too, but they are not saved. They confessed him to be the son of God every time he drove them out of the possessed. Demons refused to act according to God’s plan and therefore were eternally condemned. So believing in Jesus and confessing him to be the Son of God and Savior, just like the evil spirits did, does not imply an automatic salvation. When analyzing the Young man’s question to Jesus, “Lord what must I do to inherit eternal life”, Saint Pope John Paul II comments: “Consequently, after making the important clarification: ‘There is only one who is good, Jesus tells the young man: ‘If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments’ (Mt 19:17). In this way, a close connection is made between eternal life and obedience to God’s commandments… Jesus himself definitively confirms them and proposes them to us as the way and condition of salvation.” (Veritatis Splendor, 12)
Salvation is an ongoing dynamic reality: Sentences I hear sometimes like “I was saved last Sunday when I accepted and confessed Jesus” are non-sense. Salvation is an ongoing dynamism in our lives that fluctuate between believing in Jesus Christ and applying this faith in our daily decision. Accepting faith alone as a condition for salvation, destroys the moral action because, implicitly, it creates in many minds the wrong message: “I believe in Jesus, so it does not matter what I do because I am saved.” These convictions completely contradict the teachings of the Bible. In fact, Jesus was explicit that in the final judgment, the conduct of every person will be judged by God (see Mark 12:38-40; Luke 12:1-3; John 3:20-21; Romans 2:16; 1 Colossians 4:5). Whatever we do to the brethren of Jesus, we are doing it to him (Matthew, 25). In this sense, Saint Pope John Paul Ii says: “This is a still uncertain and fragile journey as long as we are on earth, but it is one made possible by grace, which enables us to possess the full freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21) and thus to live our moral life in a way worthy of our sublime vocation as “sons in the Son.” (Veritatis Splendor, 18)
Those called ‘redeemed’ in the Bible do not imply predestination: Based on the dynamic character of redemption, the concept of ‘redeemed’ in the entire Bible acquire a unique meaning. If Jesus redeemed the entire human race by his Incarnation, death, and resurrection, why are ‘redeemed’ singled out? The concept of ‘those who are redeemed’ (Book of Revelation; Isaiah 35:8, etc…) does not imply a ‘special’ group of people that God wanted to redeem leaving behind the rest of humanity. It rather indicates God’s eternal knowledge of ‘who’ will follow the path of salvation choosing the narrow road. Predestination does not mean that God has already decided what will happen to all people; it rather indicates God’s eternal foreknowledge of their fate. God gave everyone an authentic freedom to decide their destiny and accept Christ’s salvation. The fact that he foreknew what they were going to choose, does not imply that he deprived them of a true freedom.
The human freedom is authentic: Created in the image and likeness of God, the human person undoubtedly possesses an authentic human freedom. The fact that God predestined us to inherit eternal life, does not diminish our decisions to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) There would be no morality if our freedom was fake. Quoting the book of Sirach, Saint Pope John Paul II teaches: “For God willed to leave man ‘in the power of his own counsel’ (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he would seek his Creator of his own accord and would freely arrive at full and blessed perfection by cleaving to God.” (Veritatis Splendor, 34)
Freedom and grace: In every action we decide to perform, there is a constant relationship between our freedom and God’s grace. God’s grace incarnate in Christ spurs us on to always choose the good; yet, we must freely accept this grace and act on it. If in every decision we keep acting according to such a grace, we will be bringing our being higher and higher to the level God intended us to be at the moment of creation. Jesus called this ‘perfection’ when he was conversing with the rich young man. After realizing that he has been keeping the commandments, Jesus invited him to step up to the last phase of perfection. Jesus would have never invited him (and therefore us) to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect if this was not possible. Saint Pope John Paul Ii comments: “Jesus’ conversation with the young man helps us to grasp the conditions for the moral growth of man, who has been called to perfection: the young man, having observed all the commandments, shows that he is incapable of taking the next step by himself alone. To do so requires mature human freedom (‘If you wish to be perfect) and God’s gift of grace (‘Come, follow me)…Human freedom and God’s law are not in opposition; on the contrary, they appeal one to the other.” (Veritatis Splendor, 17)
Faith alone in the Letters to the Romans and Ephesians: When the Letters to the Romans and to the Ephesians state that we are saved through faith, they are simply emphasizing the essential first step, to adhere to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in obedience of faith. In opposition to the necessary circumcision according to the Jewish law, these two letters confirmed faith in Jesus Christ alone without circumcision is enough for salvation. By no means these two letters were ignoring the necessary action that should be the result of our faith in Jesus Christ. The first necessary step in our relationship to the Gospel is to freely accept it. Trying to understand it and to act on it, is a lifelong journey. Those Letters, therefore, by no means imply that believing in Jesus and not doing anything about it, is sufficient for salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ will save us as long as we live it. Vatican II teaches: “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged.” (Lumen Gentium, 14)
The great St. Augustine confirms how faith and grace is the first step into accepting and serving the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, he continues, such a faith that causes us to enjoy the freedon of God’s children is not salvation yet as long as we live in this body. He says: “Why, someone will ask, is it not yet perfect? Because ‘I see in my members another law at war with the law of my reason’… In part freedom, in part slavery: not yet complete freedom, not yet pure, not yet whole, because we are not yet in eternity. In part we retain our weakness and in part we have attained freedom. All our sins were destroyed in Baptism, but does it follow that no weakness remained after iniquity was destroyed? Had none remained, we would live without sin in this life. But who would dare to say this except someone who is proud, someone unworthy of the mercy of our deliverer?… Therefore, since some weakness has remained in us, I dare to say that to the extent to which we serve God we are free, while to the extent that we follow the law of sin, we are still slaves.” (In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus, 41, 10)
‘Believing’ is also an action: We have an authentic freedom and a moral code to follow: “don’t kill; don’t commit adultery…” These are things Jesus Christ said to the young man when he asked Him, “What should I do to inherit eternal life?” We can’t just believe and assume we are saved without doing anything. Actually, believing is also an action. When you accept Jesus Christ as your savior, you are taking an action.
Our moral actions perfect our being and lead us to salvation
Moral actions are a journey of faith: We are faced by decisions every day of our life. Every decision that we take that is conformed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, brings our being to be what God intends it at the moment of our creation. In other words, our moral actions perfect our being and keep bringing it to a higher degree of holiness.
St. Pope John Paul II on communion of sin: This great Pope taught the Church that there is both communion of saints and communion of sin. When we choose the good moral action, we bring the entire world closer to God. When we sin, we bring down with us the entire world. What makes us special consists in the fact that we are conscious of our actions. As human subjects we not only act, but also we are aware of our actions and the consequences they bear on the Church on earth and in purgatory.
Communion of saints and our moral action: The communion of saints is our faith in action benefiting the whole Body of the Church. Prayer by nature is an action: it is a free decision of the will to elevate the soul to enter in communion with God. So when we pray we benefit the entire Church (on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven)
Our brethren in heaven who share the glory of God will always pray for us. God is the God of the living not the God of the dead. Therefore, our brethren who passed to be with God are not dead: they can still act according to God’s will to pray for us and protect us. They are our heavenly family who, in a way that we can never fathom and understand, constantly beg God for mercy, protection, and salvation. They will always be that part of the Church that is powerful, interceding for all of us until we join them in heaven. Their actions benefit the Church on earth and in purgatory.
The Tradition and Magisterium guarantee the true moral code in human history
Not all moral questions and answers are in the Bible: When we have moral questions today that are not answered by the Bible directly (cloning or the contraceptive pills…), the Catholic Church has the responsibility of answering these questions. The Spirit of Christ from above and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church from below will keep answering the moral dilemmas of our time. To illustrate the work of the Holy Spirit in the Magisterium consider the Council of Jerusalem in 49 A.D. At that time, the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem to discuss whether the new pagan converts to Christianity should be circumcised or not. They claimed that “it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and ours” that new converts should not be circumcised. Amazing sentence, people don’t pay attention to it: the Apostles and, following in their footsteps, the Magisterium confirm that ‘their decision and that of the Holy Spirit’ is one and the same. In this regard, St. Pope John Paul II states: “At all times, but particularly in the last two centuries, the Popes, whether individually or together with the College of Bishops, have developed and proposed a moral teaching regarding the many different spheres of human life…With the guarantee of assistance from the Spirit of truth they have contributed to a better understanding of moral demands in the areas of human sexuality, the family, and social, economic and political life. In the tradition of the Church and in the history of humanity, their teaching represents a constant deepening of knowledge with regard to morality.” (Veritatis Splendor, 4)
Don’t disagree with the Church so quickly. The Church’s teachings are God’s teaching: I invite all of you who rush into disagreeing with God and the teachings of the Catholic Church, to be more patient and inquisitive. The teachings of the Catholic Church since the beginning are inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit from above and the Church from below will continue explaining Christ’s divine revelation and the moral code until the end of time. That was the promise of Jesus Christ himself that he and the Holy Spirit will abide in the Church forever. In this regard, Saint Pope John Paul Ii says: “The same Spirit who is at the origin of the Revelation of Jesus’ commandments and teachings guarantees that they will be reverently preserved, faithfully expounded and correctly applied in different times and places. This constant “putting into practice” of the commandments is the sign and fruit of a deeper insight into Revelation and of an understanding in the light of faith of new historical and cultural situations.” (Veritatis Splendor, 27)
Theologians have no right to have moral teachings against the Magisterium of the Church: The job of moral theologians is not to contradict the moral teachings of the Church’s Tradition and Magisterium. on the contrary, they need to foster her teachings and explain it in simple terms so the faithful are encouraged to abide by it. Saint Pope John Paul II states in this regard: “In particular, note should be taken of the lack of harmony between the traditional response of the Church and certain theological positions, encountered even in Seminaries and in Faculties of Theology, with regard to questions of the greatest importance for the Church and for the life of faith of Christians, as well as for the life of society itself.” (Veritatis Splendor, 4)
Theological reflections on the moral act of the human person have always been welcomed by the Church. The task of theologians is to deepen the understanding of the Divine Revelation’s message of what we can do and what should we avoid. Once theologians’ thoughts start to misrepresent what the Church taught since the beginning, such approaches will be condemned by the Church as not in harmony with Divine revelation. Saint Pope John Paul II describes the theological trends that took place right after Vatican II by saying: “At the same time, however, within the context of the theological debates which followed the Council, there have developed certain interpretations of Christian morality which are not consistent with “sound teaching” (2 Tim 4:3). Certainly the Church’s Magisterium does not intend to impose upon the faithful any particular theological system, still less a philosophical one. Nevertheless, in order to “reverently preserve and faithfully expound” the word of God, the Magisterium has the duty to state that some trends of theological thinking and certain philosophical affirmations are incompatible with revealed truth.” (Veritatis Splendor, 29)
The moral teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church are eternal, truthful, and necessary for our salvation: People are invited to realize that God, in and through Jesus Christ, once and for all revealed a moral code to be followed. As such, these teachings will be perpetuated in the Catholic Church through the actions of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Truth will continue forever to assist the Magisterium in teaching the moral code revealed by Christ and apply it to today’s culture. Acting according to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church is the safest way to attain eternal life. St Peter said in his letter: “Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10-11)