Can moral law change?

Some theologians, who turn aside from the teaching of the Church, sustain that Christianism wouldn’t be  to follow a moral (it would be possible not to keep some of the ten commandments, mainly in sexual matter), but to follow a person, to follow Christ.

Immediately rises the question if it is possible to follow Jesus Christ, without keeping his commandments and the Scripture gives us the answer. Jesus says to the rich young man: “But if thou wilst enter into life, keep the commandments (thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, etc.)” (Matt 19, 17).

And, as Jean Paul II says  in his encyclical “Veritatis Splendor”: “One only can “remain” in love, on condition that the commandments are kept, as Jesus himself says: “If you keep my commandments you will stay in my love, as well as I  have kept my Father’s commandments and I’m staying in his love” (Jn. 15, 10).

“In this we learn that we know him: in that we keep his commandments. Who says: “I know him” and doesn’t keep his commandments is a liar and the truth dwells not in him. But who keeps his Word, love of God  has reached its plenitude in him.  In this we know that we  are in Him. Who says that  remains in Him, must live as He lived”

(1 Jn 1, 5-6; 2, 3-6)

Those who are supporters  of changing the Catholic Church’s moral of ever adduce that

“the legalism and the stone-wall resistance to change of the traditional moral  must be surmounted, by confronting  man face to face  with the requirements of faith and love (to follow Jesus Christ as opposed  to follow the moral which he taught). Therefore, it is necessary to built some ethics of responsibility, without formalisms, with  “age’ majority” “…

Apparently and in order to attain their targets, such innovators of the moral use a Christian terminology; but one can appreciate very soon that it has been emptied of any supernatural content and, in the most of the cases, also emptied of any content of plain language.

Before such doctrines, the inspired  words of Saint Paul to Timothy are highly topical: “But know this, that in the last days, dangerous times will come. Men will be lovers of selves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, criminal, heartless, faithless, slanderers, incontinent, merciless, unkind, treacherous, stubborn, puffed up with pride, loving pleasure more than God, having a semblance indeed of piety, but disowning its power. Avoid these ones. For of such are they who make their way into houses and captivate silly women who are sin-laden and led away by various lusts: ever learning yet never attaining knowledge of the truth. Just as  Jamnes  and Mambres  resisted Moses, so these men also resist the truth; for they are corrupt in mind, reprobate as regards the faith. But they will make no further progress, for their folly will be obvious to all, as was that of those others”.(II Timothy 3, 1-8)”[35]

Some false theologians try to change  Church’s moral in a different way. They say that the important to be saved is to have taken a firm resolution pro God, by choosing Him through  the so called “fundamental option”, which would suppose a compromise of faith-love to the other men, being such compromise over any “moral rank or category”. That would require a change in heart and not  to follow a code of standard rules.

Therefore, once fixed such fundamental option (transcendental norms), we can dodge round some concrete moral precepts (“categorical” norms) if these hinder our own happiness and the failing to fulfil them  doesn’t hurt anybody. That would be the case of some sins against the 6th and the 9thcommandment, which even if not fulfilled, wouldn’t break the friendship with God, granted by the positive “fundamental option”.

Against such attitude, in the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor”,  the Pope says:

“Thus, the mentioned theories are opposite to biblical teaching itself, which conceives the fundamental option as a true and own election  of freedom, binding hard such election to particular actions. With the fundamental option, man is able to give guidance to his life and -helped by the grace- to tend to his aim, following God’s call. But, in fact, such ability is performed  by the particular choices of concrete acts, through which  man deliberately conforms with God’s will, wisdom and law… That’s just why, the  fundamental option is revoked, when, in serious moral matter,  man compromises his freedom with conscious choices of opposite sign…Really, man goes not only to perdition because of the infidelity to the fundamental option, according to which he has entirely and freely given himself over to God. With every conscious committed deadly sin, man offends God, who has made the Law and, therefore, he becomes guilty before the whole law (cf. Saint James 2, 8-11); although he keeps faith, he looses “blessing grace”, “charity” and “eternal beatitude”. “The grace of justification, which man has received -teaches the Trento Council- is lost not only by infidelity, which even makes that faith get lost, but by any other deadly sin”.[36] 

It is a matter of fact, that nobody can say that loves God, if he disobeys him in serious matter. On the contrary, he who deliberately commits a deadly sin, who murders or commits adultery, goes aside from God’s friendship.

Other seriously erroneous theories (teleologism, proportionalism, consequencialism) “don’t accept that one can prescribe an absolute prohibition of specified behaviours which, in any circumstance or culture, are opposed to those values (moral values)”.

(That means that they don’t accept that God’s Law is always compulsory. Thus, in consequencialism, for instance, if the consequences to obey God’s Law could be negative or painful, one could not obey it, without committing sin)[37]

“Over the moral specification of the acts, in other words, over their qualification as “good” or “bad”, would exclusively decide the person’s fidelity to higher values such as charity and prudence, not being necessarily the mentioned fidelity uncongenial with contrary decisions to some particular moral precepts. Even in serious matter, particular moral precepts must be considered as always relative operative norms, always admitting exceptions. With such scope, the consent  given to some behaviours declared as illicit by the traditional moral, wouldn’t imply  an objective moral artfulness…”

“Nevertheless, such theories are not loyal  to Church’s doctrine, since they think to be able to justify as morally good conscious behaviour choices, which are opposed  to the commandments of divine and natural law…Love to God and love to the neighbour are inseparable from the observance of the Alliance’s commandments, renewed by Jesus Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit’s gift. It is an honour for Christian people to obey better God then men (cf. Act 4, 19; 5, 29) even to accept martyrdom, as so many men and women of the Old and the New Testament did, having become saints because they preferred  to give their life as to act contrarily to faith or to virtue”.[38]

Certainly, “we cannot do evil that good may come from it” (Rom 3, 8) and martyrs accepted  the worse terrestrial event, to loose life, before disobeying  God, before loosing God’s friendship and eternal beatitude.

Against such indubitable truths, the supporters of a changing of the law aduce sometimes that the norms  given by the Ten Commandments were sound for the time they were made, as if human nature had substantially changed:

“When they bump into natural law, these new moralists sustain that it certainly exist but that it isn’t immutable… The Decalogue was a valid inspiration for every man  in what it has of transcendental norm; but in its specific decisions, it collects usages and customs  of that time; one has to construe it  and to make it alive, of the present times: with the knowledge that man has about History or Ethnology, it would be ridiculous  “to pretend that there are immutable moral norms”[39].

Yet natural Law, compiled in the Ten Commandments, is for every time and for every man. In the already mentioned work of  Maria Valtorta, one can read God’s words (I quote by heart):  “even if man attained to tread underfoot far distants planets, even if he had discovered lethal rays which allowed to kill by remote control, it would be still true that wouldn’t be licit  to kill, or to commit adultery…”

In the same sense the Pope exhorts us in the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor”, by ratifying the Ten Commandments and the natural Law as  immutable for every time and for every man, in order to cut such pernicious doctrines. Natural law would be the men’s co-partnership in the eternal law of God and , therefore, it cannot change.

To say that man’s nature is historical and changing doesn’t withstand the most elemental analysis: we clearly understand what Moses says in the Bible and particularly his report about the proclamation of the Ten Commandments. We understand what  these men of the Old Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit, say to us, we shake with their emotions and we feel their joys and their sorrows: that would be not possible if  their nature was different from ours.

At last, another feature  of such pernicious attitudes, which  want to change moral law is its backing from statistics or from sciences that are based on statistics. It seems as they say: “tell me how majority acts and I shall tell you that what is good”.

They forget, for instance, that it was the majority of voters, who lifted to the power the big murder who was Hitler. When majority says that God doesn’t exist or that two plus two are five, it doesn’t alter the truth  that God exists and that two plus two are four.

There were times, in which the majority of men believed in idols and that doesn’t mean that gods of stone are true. There were times, in which a big majority had depraved customs and it was a deviated moral, even if majority practised it.

The Pope pays attention at these pernicious  doctrines, which have spread out even  inside the Church: Particularly, we must underline the discrepancy between the traditional answer of the Church  and some theological attitudes, which  are divulged even in Seminaries and Theology Schools, in most important questions for the Church and for Christian people to live in Faith, as well  as for the human coexistence in itself”[40]

He quotes further the words of prophet Isaias:“Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light , and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter“(Is 5, 20)[41]

We finish this chapter with the prayer to the Blessed Virgin Merry, which ends the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor”:

Mother of mercifulness,
Take care of us  in order that Jesus Christ’s cross
Doesn’t become useless,
In order that man
Doesn’t  loose the way of good,
Doesn’t loose the sin’s consciousness
And grows up with hope in God,
“rich in mercifulness” (Ef 2, 4)
In order that he freely fulfils the good deeds
Which He assigned him (cf. Ef 2, 29) and,
In such a way, all his life is
“an hymn to His glory” (Ef 1, 12).

[35]   “Questions and Answers” (II) (Diagrams on doctrinal Documentation), Orientación Bibliográfica, Madrid, 1975. Article: “Can moral law change?” 

[36]Jean Paul II, “Veritatis Splendor”, Nº 67

[37]Ibidem, Nº 75

[38]Veritatis Splendor, Nº 75 and 76

[39]“Questions and Answers”, Band II, Madrid, 1975, Orientación Bibliográfica, Pg. 99

[40]“Veritas Splendor”, Nº 4

[41]“Veritatis Splendor, Nº 93