Catholic or utopian? Two irreconcilable views about moral "ideals" in "Veritatis Splendor"


The post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia sparked criticism that some language used in chapter 8 could lead the reader to arrive at the view that the moral good, generally understood as at least requiring adherence to the commandments, is an ideal.1 While this essay was instigated by such concerns, it is not its goal to assess their veracity. Rather, this essay will show that there is a history of describing the moral good as an ideal in papal teaching since at least Leo XIII, but that these Popes at the same time flag an illegitimate use of the term “ideal” to describe the moral good. It will then be claimed that Saint John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor gives a sufficient outline of both the way in which the moral good can be referred to as an ideal, and the way in which it cannot. Finally, these two senses of “ideal” will be contrasted with each other, focusing especially on the capacity of the false understanding to rationalize sin.


Christian theology, Roman Catholic Church, papal teaching, moral good, ideal, “Veritatis Splendor”, Saint John Paul II

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