|Abstract (english)|| |
The title of this doctoral thesis Izvori moralne spoznaje u svjetlu nauka Drugoga vatikanskog koncila (The Sources of Moral Knowledge in the Light of the Teaching of the Second Vatican Council) indicates a specific approach to and study of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. As opposed to fundamental moral theology, the Council did not expressis verbis formulate a teaching on sources of moral knowledge. However, in its systematic exposition of the Christian teaching on Revelation, i.e., the Scripture and Tradition, Church Magisterium, the Church, theology, liturgy, the human being, the dignity of the human being, conscience, and on many other relevant topics, it has, in our opinion, fundamentally illuminated, deepened, and widened our traditional insights on the sources of moral knowledge. There is no doubt that nowadays the conciliar efforts to renew the Church are facing new and much more complex challenges. This fact is widely recognised in the moral domain that is immersed in a deep crisis and threatened by relativism. Because of this, the conciliar mandate and demand to renew moral theology imposes itself with new emphases and one of these is certainly the need for renewal of sources of moral knowledge that are, at the same time, sources of moral theology. In this study we will consistently focus on the fundamental source of our topic, the teaching that has been systematically presented in all documents of the Council, especially in the four constitutions: the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes, and the Constitution on Divine Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium. We believe that on the basis of the comprehensive conciliar teaching we can confidently develop and deepen essential theses of the teaching on sources of moral knowledge and, on this basis, offer a valuable contribution to their better understanding, on the one hand, and their renewal as an important contribution to the renewal of moral theology, on the other hand. That the teaching of the Second Vatican Council can be studied and interpreted in the light of sources of moral knowledge is proven by the fundamental orientation of the Council itself that, on the one hand, aimed at the integral renewal of the Church and the teaching and, on the other hand, at the integral renewal of the human being and society in the Christocentric key. The method of research and presentation in this doctoral thesis follows the method of moral theology. Our doctoral research and its results will be presented in five chapters. In the first chapter we will critically present cultural and anthropological characteristics of our times that reveal a deep moral crisis and, consequently, a crisis of moral knowledge. The presentation will not proceed abstractly, but will instead confront the concrete reality in which human life, of both believers and non-believers, is immersed today and in which the fundamental knowledge of good and evil is immersed. The concrete reality of human life today often manifests itself as a radical deconstruction of the human being that reaches its culmination in the reign of instrumental reason and epistemological relativism concerning the good and the truth. In that sense, instead of the idea of transcendence of the human being, the reason separated from the transcendence dominates; instead of the dignity of the human being as a unique being composed of body and soul, a truncated anthropology reigns; instead of objective knowledge of good and evil, subjectivism and moral relativism dominate. Our study will, therefore, show how tragic radical separation of reason from faith created an atmosphere of epistemological relativism that denies the possibility of objective knowledge of the good and the truth. In order to show in which concrete sense our doctoral study presupposes the traditional moral-theological teaching, the second chapter will present a short overview of the development and understanding of the traditional theological-moral teaching on sources of moral knowledge. The method of presentation will rely more on synthetic than analytic approach, which might leave an impression of being incomplete. However, this chapter merely aims at demonstrating essential deficiencies of pre-conciliar moral theology, especially its casuistic and legalistic character and its understanding of sources of moral knowledge. These deficiencies will be demonstrated by using a number of examples of manuals of moral theology. When we talk about types and nature of moral knowledge we are presupposing moral good the human being faces as a demand. Moral knowledge is revealed in objective and subjective reality of moral good towards which the human being is at the same time open and directed through his/her reason and will. Knowledge of the good comes forth from the indicative demand, i.e. from within the human being and his/her freedom to do good and avoid evil. We will try to demonstrate that objective knowledge of moral good manifests itself in subjective knowledge in the way of objectivising plunging into the centre of the human person and his/her relatedness with the transcendence and not in the conflict between objective and subjective moral knowledge or in the supremacy of one over and at the expense of the other. In the third chapter we will, finally, focus on the study and presentation of the conciliar teaching on objective and supernatural sources of moral knowledge as these were, in our interpretation, exposed in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum on Divine Revelation, the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium on the Church, and in the Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium on Divine Liturgy. Since the classical theological-moral understanding of objective sources of moral knowledge begins with the fact of the Revelation, i.e. the Scripture and the Tradition, it will be of utmost importance to go beyond the preconciliar understanding of the Revelation as the transmission of decrees (decreta) and to recognise and accept renewed conciliar understanding of the Revelation in a fuller and comprehensive sacramental sense (sacramentum), i.e. as an act of God’s self-revelation and self-giving to the human being. The Revelation has reached its fullness and pinnacle in the event of the person of Jesus Christ, God-human being, who is the incarnated Word of God in whom shines forth the fullness of Christian knowledge of God and the human being. Hence, in the centre of Christian moral knowledge we ought to put the person of Jesus Christ in whom the mystery of God and the human being has been revealed to us perfectly and moral theology ought to be inspired by the person of Jesus Christ in whom the mystery of the Revelation as a supernatural and objective source of moral knowledge has been shown to us. On the basis of this we will be able to show more clearly and strongly the conciliar incentives for the renewal of moral theology that needs to be vivified and inspired by the written and transmitted Word of God from which it ought to draw its main orientation and inspiration for the renewal of Christian moral life. The Word of God has been entrusted to the Church for keeping, interpretation, and as the source of nourishment for the life of believers, because it is inspired by the Spirit of God. The understanding of the human being begins with the understanding of the Word of God as the objective source of moral knowledge that clarifies the mystery of the human being through knowledge of the mystery of Jesus Christ and knowledge of the Divine law. In order to understand moral knowledge it will be important to clarify the relation between faith and reason because reason is, in the conciliar understanding, the reflection of the image of God in the human being. An act of faith is a kind of moral knowledge of love through which the human being freely, with his/her whole being, adheres to God, who reveals Himself to him/her as love. Hence, knowledge of faith goes to the very centre of moral knowledge, because the latter ought to be formed according to the objective demands of knowledge of good and evil in the light of faith. In the continuation of this chapter, we will present the mutual relationship between the Church and the Word of God as the source from which deep moral knowledge and the transformation of Christian moral life and the life of the whole Christian community develop. The complete transformation of the human being is possible only when one keeps in sight supernatural objective sources of moral knowledge. In the light of these the true value of subjective moral sources that are discovered in the human being as the bearer of moral good is revealed. In the fourth chapter we will present the conciliar teaching on natural and subjective sources of moral knowledge. Although the Council does not expound, expressis verbis, the teaching on the natural moral law that the traditional teaching presents as the natural and objective source of moral knowledge, we will still try to sketch the conciliar vision of the natural moral law found in the conciliar teaching on the human being in general and conscience in particular. In the conciliar renewal of source of moral knowledge conscience and the law written in the human heart, knowledge, freedom, and the dignity of the human person are key concepts around which the whole discourse on natural sources of moral knowledge is structured. The Council begins with the renewed vision of the human being within which it points out the fundamental Christian truth about the human being created in the image of God. Next to this fundamental truth, the Council did not fail to mention the truth about sin that has wounded the human being and, consequently, his/her moral knowledge. The human being as a rational and free being is capable to know God despite the fact of sin. In Jesus Christ the human dignity has been renewed and raised up to new heights and this includes the human being’s moral knowledge. In this chapter we will try to present the integral conciliar vision of the human being that includes the vision of natural and subjective sources of moral knowledge. In the fifth and last chapter of this study we will present a synthesis of the conciliar teaching on objective and subjective and supernatural and natural sources of moral knowledge. We will show that the person of Jesus Christ, as the universal concrete norm of Christian morality, is at the centre of Christian moral knowledge. Next to this important truth expounded in the conciliar teaching, we will also point out the truth on the dignity of the human being and the dignity of conscience and freedom in the light of Christian understanding of the human being. Our doctoral research will proceed primarily on the basis of direct study of documents of the Second Vatican Council. For the purpose of better understanding of the conciliar teaching we will also utilise relevant theological and moral literature that will be fully listed at the end of the dissertation. That list certainly does not include all relevant literature, but we believe the consulted literature was sufficient for the purposes of our study. At the end of this study on sources of moral knowledge in the light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, we are able to conclude that the Council is truly a wealthy and fertile source of inspiration, contents, and orientation for the integral renewal of these sources that are, at the same time, sources of moral theology. This renewal is, therefore, not external or cosmetic, but the renewal of the very identity of moral theology. Our study has revealed the drama of contemporary crisis of morality whose causes are theoretical and practical demands of the modern anthropocentrism. The Council initiated a dialogue with the modern world by admitting that modern developments were not just bad and wrong, but that they also had positive aspects such as the dignity of the human person, autonomy, human rights, historicity, dialogue, solidarity, interdependency, and the common good. However, the social development after the Council showed, let us say, a turn to worse, especially in the anthropological and ethical area. Hence, in the first chapter of our study we identified some dimensions of the contemporary moral crisis and especially its causes related to the radical anthropocentrism that separates the human being from transcendence and interprets him/her in a purely subjectivist sense. Such social developments were not known before the Council, but we saw that the Church and moral theology can respond to contemporary challenges of the moral crisis only through the power of inspiration, contents, and renewing guidelines of the Second Vatican Council. The second chapter of our doctoral thesis brought forth deficiencies of pre-conciliar moral theology. These deficiencies did not concern so much sources of moral knowledge in terms of essential inspirations and emphases of theological-moral expressions. We determined that pre-conciliar moral theology was structured in an overly casuistic and juridical way. However, we also determined that there was a whole line of individual attempts to renew moral theology on different grounds than casuistic and juridical, starting from the second half of the 19th century. Therefore, at the end of this historical process the Council sealed and legitimised these attempts by accepting what was valuable and positive in them and by integrating these in its integral teaching on the Revelation, Church, liturgy, theology, and Christian life in general. The Council left us with a heritage of letter and spirit that demand formation of moral knowledge and moral practice in accordance with essential contents of the Christian teaching. In the third and fourth chapter of this doctoral thesis we have demonstrated that the renewal of sources of moral knowledge needs to find inspiration in the conciliar teaching expounded in the Constitution Dei verbum as the objective supernatural source of moral knowledge, the Constitution Lumen gentium for its understanding of ecclesial and social dimension of morality, the Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium for its mysterious and sacramental dimension of Christian life, and in the Constitution Gaudium et spes for its Christian anthropology, the dignity of human person and individual and social dimension of human life. The presentation of the teaching of these constitutions and some other documents, such as the Declaration Dignitatis humanae, brought forth renewed approaches in the interpretation of fundamental Christian truths. The Council, therefore, did not expound some new teaching, but instead it made possible new views and new approaches to the millennia-old teaching of the Church. Precisely in this we recognised important and precious incentives for the renewal of source of moral knowledge. Reading and interpreting the conciliar teaching in the key of renewal of sources of moral knowledge allowed us to recognise the wealth of the moral teaching of the Council, although we are aware that the Second Vatican Council was not a “moral Council”. The statement that the Council was pastoral needs to be understood in terms of its orientation and approach, insofar as it aimed at expounding the Deposit of Faith in a pastorally reflected and directed way. This directedness of the Council to what is concrete allowed it to have a greater influence on the renewal of sources of moral knowledge or moral theology that needs to be in a more profound contact with the life of concrete people. The wealth of the conciliar moral teaching or its inspiring and orientating influence of the formation of the moral teaching and on the building up of Christian moral life has been, to an extent, presented and deepened in the third and the fourth chapter of this doctoral thesis. In the fifth chapter we proceeded with a synthesis of results of our study of the conciliar teaching on the renewal of sources of moral knowledge in the usual schematic way: a synthesis of the conciliar teaching on objective sources of moral knowledge; a synthesis of the conciliar teaching on subjective sources of moral knowledge. The conciliar renewal of sources of moral knowledge presupposes the transformation of and liberation from casuistic and juridical conceptions of moral theology. The Council abandoned casuistic and juridical paradigms and tried to deepen the Christian moral life that is faithful to the message of the Gospel, i.e. to the person of Jesus Christ. Our study also showed the wealth and beauty of the conciliar teaching, as well as how far the renewal of moral theology came until now. The conciliar renewal of moral theology has initiated fruitful research efforts among moralists in the interdisciplinary perspective. On the basis of this we can conclude that the Council allowed fruitful and multifarious development of moral theology that ought to be positively evaluated. The balance-sheet of the post-conciliar development of moral theology is, as Marciano Vidal points out, positive, because the crucial transformation in self understanding of moral-theological work took place and this opened up a possibility to take up new topics, new approaches, new goals, and new perspectives.1 The Council initiated a fruitful dialogue with the modern world. Moral theology accepted that dialogue with the modern society by calling upon all people of good faith to join their efforts in common building up of a better and more humane society. Without doubt, the conciliar renewal of sources of moral knowledge needs to get back to authentic theological sources and this means, primarily, to the Word of God, which needs to be the soul of all moral theology. In that sense, it is necessary to continue deepening moral knowledge in relation to Biblical and theological sources, as well as in relation to interdisciplinary research. The conciliar renewal of sources of moral knowledge has re-initiated the process of bringing closer together moral and dogmatic theology, since pre-conciliar moral theology relied too heavily on juridical and canonical conceptions. These certainly diminished the presence of rich Biblical and dogmatic contents in moral theology. The renewal of sources of moral knowledge as presented here, needs to continue developing in accordance with the principles of the living Church Tradition. In that sense, the post-conciliar renewal of sources of moral knowledge has a responsible task of building up further and developing authentic theological identity of moral theology. The conciliar renewal of sources of moral knowledge needs to be put in the perspective of meaning that takes up the whole existence of the human being; i.e., in all its vertical and horizontal dimensions: the human being’s relation towards God and transcendence and the human being’s relation towards himself/herself and the community. In that sense, Christian faith needs to be presented in the way that will be crucial for the formation of moral life of believers. Faith needs to be presented as the horizon of meaning and as the fundamental motivation for life and for reflection on the moral dimension of Christian life. At the end of this relatively long and arduous journey of doctoral research and in accordance with its contents, we would like to point out still that every human deed has its limitations and its imperfections and we gladly confess that this doctoral thesis is certainly not an exception. After years of research we can state that with the passage of time its fruits have started to appear and if we would not need to bring it to its completion in this thesis, it would certainly bring even more valuable fruits.