Things old and new: Pope Saint John Paul II on moral doctrine and its development

Clague, J. (2015) Things old and new: Pope Saint John Paul II on moral doctrine and its development. Studia Teologiczno-Historyczne Śląska Opolskiego, 35, pp. 193-207.

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John Paul’s doctrinal output in faith and morals was prolific and its scope wide-ranging. In his role as pontiff, John Paul was concerned to protect and promote the truths of the faith. Yet in doctrinal terms he was also an innovator, introducing new teachings, new language, and new ways of thinking about old certainties into the Catholic moral tradition. Notwithstanding his strong avowal of the existence of absolute and unchanging moral norms, John Paul contributed more than any other pope to the Church’s thinking about the historicity of morality and the historicity of doctrine. This study will outline John Paul’s approach to doctrine and its development and discuss how this was put into effect, especially in relation to his teaching on women’s dignity and rights.John Paul did not articulate a fully-fledged theory of doctrinal development. Rather, he undertook to further the doctrinal renewal in faith and morals initiated by Pope St John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council. John Paul recognised that study of Scripture and the Church’s tradition in light of historical and cultural circumstances would produce a deeper understanding of the meaning and requirements of faith, and allow the Church to advance and apply theological and moral insight. His teaching sought to: read the signs of the times and identify the appropriate Christian response; offer guidance on new medical and scientific possibilities and pressing social and political questions; better connect existing moral teachings to scripture and tradition; and better align concrete moral norms to the Christian vision and its values. In so doing, John Paul amplified and augmented under-developed themes, proposed stronger arguments and better reasons for certain teachings, and updated, revised and reformulated earlier doctrines found wanting. It is clear that, for John Paul, the development of the Church’s moral doctrine that “unfolds down the centuries” is a complex and multi-faceted process. However, for John Paul there are clear limits to doctrinal reformulation: doctrine must always cohere with and never depart from the moral and theological truths of the faith. Development, yes; distortion, no.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Clague, Ms Julie
Authors: Clague, J.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Journal Name:Studia Teologiczno-Historyczne Śląska Opolskiego
Publisher:Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Opolskiego
ISSN (Online):2391-937X

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