Last October, the journal First Things carried my comments on the encyclical Veritatis Splendor. In March, it published my thoughts on Fides et Ratio. Each text needs the other. They’re a diptych. And both mark anniversaries this year; 25 and 20 respectively.
I went into a lot of detail in each of those First Things pieces, and I won’t repeat it here for two reasons. First, the landscape of the Church in the United States has changed drastically, and painfully, over the last six months. And second, I’m a pastor, not a scholar. My interest in any papal document is very practical: Does it help me help others to know God, live his will, and get to heaven, or not? For a layman – and by “layman” here, I mean anyone outside the academic community – Fides et Ratio can be a demanding text. It’s not an easy read, and it needs to be understood as a sequel to and completion of the project begun by John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor.
Briefly - Project - Truths - Man - Behavior
Briefly put, that project is this. Permanent truths about good and evil, man and his behavior and meaning, do exist. Faith and reason are the means to find and know those truths. Each needs the other in its search. John Paul stresses this in the encyclical’s opening words: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”
In a sense, Fides et Ratio, like nearly everything else written by Karol Wojtyla, is simply a working out of...
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A man rises to the greatness that is expected of him.