Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Veritatis Splendor and Medjugorje

I've been pondering something for some time now with regards toMedjugorje and Veritatis Splendor (Splendor of Truth) - the encyclical written by Pope John Paul II to clarify the Church's position on certain matters in moral theology (and in this case - philosophy).

Beginning in paragraph 75, the late Pope talks about consequentialism and proportionalism. He defines towards the end of that first paragraph this way:

The former claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice. The latter, by weighing the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the "greater good" or "lesser evil" actually possible in a particular situation.

Veritatis Splendor was aimed at theologians. One must have a background in basic philosophy and theology to fully grasp this encyclical. For the rest of us, the late, saintly Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, explains Veritatis Splendor in his simple Q & A fashion in the book, Catechism on The Splendor of Truth.

141. What is proportionalism?
This is the erroneous moral theory which claims that the value of a human act depends on the proportion of good and evil effects which this action produces. In the last analysis this is moral subjectivism. Each person then decides for himself whether something is good or bad, depending on the balance of good or evil effects which his action is expected to produce (VS75)

142. What is consequentialism?
This is the erroneous moral theory which claims that the goodness or badness of our actions basically depends on the results or consequences forseen as following on our actions. As with proportionalism, consequentialism is essentially a subjective morality. Each person, on his or her own, evaluates what they foresee as the result of their conduct. Then, guided by this norm, they are supposed to pass judgmnet on their moral behavior.

Behind both theories proportionalism and consequentialism, are a proud refusal to accept God's word, as taught by the Church, on the morality of our human behavior (VS75).

Now that we have some idea of what these are, and why the Catholic Church sees them as erroneous, I want to raise a question. This is not addressed to those who truly believe interiorly that the Blessed Mother is appearing to alleged seers in Medjugorje. Rather, the question is addressed to those who personally disbelieve in authenticity of the apparitions, but remain interiorly supportive of it all. Or, for those who personally know such people.

There is a common argument among this latter group of people who say, "I don't personally believe, but.....there are vocations, conversions, large volumes of people seeking confession and going to holy Mass.....good things are happening there....so, let them be."

Lets think about this for a minute......

First, there are indeed vocations, people converting to God and to Catholicism, people building virtue and leading holy lives. Heavy sacramental life alone can do this. This is explored more thoroughly in a document entitled, Medjugorje and the Flow of Grace. We also know from the 1978 document on discernment of apparitions, which came out prior to Medjguorje, that discernment isn't based on good fruits alone, nor is it the first thing to be judged.

If I disbelieve in authenticity of apparitions at Medjugorje, but support it - even if only interiorly - on the basis of the good that it yields, am I not giving in to consequentialism or proportionalism?

Furthermore, if there is even one person - from an alleged seer to associate - using any kind of deception to keep it all going (for power, for money, or even because of "good fruits"), is this not sinful activity regardless? And, are those people enabled by silence or support, in that sinful activity? What about their salvation? Is even one soul worth losing (if they are involved in a willful act of deceit) to keep a good thing going?

In essence, is supporting such a thing, when an individual believes it to be false, based on thinking which is morally flawed?

This is not a question of whether Medjugorje is authentic or not. I will gladly post any comments pertaining to the question but will not post those comments which head into the typical cyclic arguments about Medjugorje.

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