Speeches 1995 - Katunayake International Airport (Colombo, Sri Lanka)
(Colombo, Sri Lanka)
Saturday, 21 January 1995
Distinguished Religious Leaders,
1. I am very pleased to have this opportunity during my visit to Sri Lanka to meet representatives of the various religions which have lived together in harmony for a very long time on this Island: especially Buddhism, present for over two thousand years, Hinduism, also of very long standing, along with Islam and Christianity. This simultaneous presence of great religious traditions is a source of enrichment for Sri Lankan society. At the same time it is a challenge to believers and especially to religious leaders, to ensure that religion itself always remains a force for harmony and peace. On the occasion of my Pastoral Visit to the Catholics of Sri Lanka, I wish to reaffirm the Church’s, and my own, deep and abiding respect for the spiritual and cultural values of which you are the guardians.
Especially since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been fully committed to pursuing the path of dialogue and cooperation with the members of other religions.Interreligious dialogue is a precious means by which the followers of the various religions discover shared points of contact in the spiritual life, while acknowledging the differences which exist between them. The Church respects the freedom of individuals to seek the truth and to embrace it according to the dictates of conscience, and in this light she firmly rejects proselytism and the use of unethical means to gain conversions.
2. The Catholic community hopes that through a continuing "dialogue of life" all believers will co–operate willingly in order to defend and promote moral values, social justice, liberty and peace. Like many modern societies, Sri Lanka is facing the spiritual threat represented by the growth of a materialistic outlook, which is more concerned with "having" than with "being". Experience makes it clear that mere technological progress does not satisfy man’s inner yearning for truth and communion. Deeper spiritual needs have to be met if individuals, families, and society itself are not to fall into a serious crisis of values. There is ample room for co–operation among the followers of the various religions in meeting this serious challenge.
For this reason, I appeal to you and encourage you, as the religious leaders of the Sri Lankan people, to consider the concerns which unite believers, rather than the things which divide them. The safeguarding of Sri Lanka’s spiritual heritage calls for strenuous efforts on the part of everyone to proclaim before the world the sacredness of human life, to defend the inalienable dignity and rights of every individual, to strengthen the family as the primary unit of society and the place where children learn humanity, generosity and love, and to encourage respect for the natural environment. Interreligious co–operation is also a powerful force for promoting ethically upright socio–economic and political standards. Democracy itself benefits greatly from the religiously motivated commitment of believers to the common good.
3. Perhaps nothing represents a greater threat to the spiritual fabric of Sri Lankan society than the continuing ethnic conflict. The religious resources of the entire nation must converge to bring an end to this tragic situation. I recently had occasion to say to an international group of religious leaders: "violence in any form is opposed not only to the respect which we owe to every fellow human being; it is opposed also to the true essence of religion. Whatever the conflicts of the past and even of the present, it is our common task and common duty to make better known the relation between religion and peace" (John Paul II, Address for the Opening of the Sixth World Assembly of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, 2) . The only struggle worthy of man is "the struggle against his own disordered passions, against every type of hatred and violence; in short against everything that is the exact opposite of peace and reconciliation" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1992, 7).
4. Very dear esteemed friends: I am certain that the principles of mercy and non–violence present in your traditions will be a source of inspiration to Sri Lankans in their efforts to build a peace which will be lasting because it is built upon justice and respect for every human being. I express once more my confidence that your country’s long tradition of religious harmony will grow ever stronger, for the peace and well–being of individuals, for the good of Sri Lanka and of all Asia.
[At the end of the meeting the Holy Father added the following words:]
And now I offer you a gift memorable of these days and of the meeting. I am very grateful for your presence and very grateful for this meeting with you that we are together... not against, but together!
Not to be together is dangerous. It is necessary to be together, to dialogue. I am very grateful for that. I see in your presence the signs of the goodwill and of the future, the good future, for Sri Lanka and for the whole world. And so I can return to Rome, more hopeful. Thank you.
Saturday, 21 January 1995
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. My brief visit to Sri Lanka offers us this occasion to experience anew "the bonds of unity, charity and peace" which, since apostolic times, have constituted the relationship of the Church’s Bishops among themselves and with the Bishop of Rome (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 22). Our meeting is taking place in the atmosphere of joy brought to us by the Beatification of the Apostle of Sri Lanka, Father Joseph Vaz. Let us continue to give thanks to God through whom we too "have obtained access to this grace in which we stand" (Rm 5,2).
By the gift of the Holy Spirit received in episcopal ordination, you were made "successors of the Apostles, who together with the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ and the visible Head of the whole Church, govern the house of the living God" (Lumen Gentium LG 18). This happy occasion for the Church in your country is also an occasion for you the Bishops to recommit yourselves to the work of teaching, sanctifying and guiding that part of God’s people entrusted to your ministry.That ministry involves a grave personal responsibility to be guardians and authentic teachers of the Catholic faith (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 25). The exercise of your apostolic authority in ensuring sound teaching in matters of faith and morals and fostering observance of Church discipline is therefore an essential part of your ministry, even when it constitutes the "burden" which the Lord lays on your shoulders (cf. Mt 20,12). In the name of Jesus Christ "the chief Shepherd" (1P 5,4), I wish to encourage you to intensify your spiritual leadership and to be fully united among yourselves, so that you may be found faithful as "overseers, caring for the Church of God" (cf. Acts Ac 20,28).
2. Your responsibility for building up Christ’s Body demands that you should know the flock entrusted to you (cf. Jn. Jn 10,14). The faithful must be able to see their Bishop as "a true father who excels in the spirit of love and solicitude for all" (Christus Dominus CD 16). They rightly look to you to guard and defend their faith, to shepherd them and strengthen them in the midst of the challenges and trials of daily Christian living. Take Blessed Joseph Vaz as the model of your ministry. He travelled the length and breadth of this Island visiting the missions he had instituted. In this way he was able to guide, correct and confirm in the faith the "pusillus grex" which was struggling to survive in the midst of persecution.
There is no more effective way for you to show forth the Lord’s concern and his infinite love than to continue to meet your people personally on the occasion of your regular pastoral visits to parishes and other institutions. Your visitations will also foster closer contact and a spirit of trusting dialogue between yourselves and the clergy, Religious and laity. The enduring spiritual fruitfulness of your personal presence in the midst of your priests and faithful cannot be overestimated.
3. The outstanding challenge facing the Pastors of the Church in Sri Lanka is the renewal of evangelical zeal in all the baptized. The genuine renewal of the Church depends in the first place on the response of her members to the universal call to holiness. The witness of a joyful spiritual life is the best response both to secularization and to the spread of new religious sects, altogether distinct from the Catholic Church in their doctrines and methods. A spirituality based on God’s revealed word, nourished by the sacraments and exercised in all the Christian virtues, in no way detracts from attention to the world and the needs of the human family. Rather, as the Second Vatican Council states: "By this holiness a more human way of life is promoted even in this earthly society" (Lumen Gentium LG 40). It is my hope that the forthcoming National Pastoral Convention, by providing a clear picture of the state of the Church in each Diocese, will be able to indicate the priorities which the Catholic community should set itself in the coming years.
4. One concern which never changes is that of the spiritual and intellectual life of priests, "so that they can live holy and pious lives and fulfil their ministry faithfully and fruitfully" (Christus Dominus CD 16). The theme is vast and goes beyond the scope of these brief reflections. I would merely recall that since the Council there have been numerous interventions of the Magisterium, culminating in the Post–Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis" and recent documents of the Congregation for the Clergy. Continuing theological formation, and the permanent spiritual growth of priests, are urgent pastoral priorities for every diocesan Bishop. As Successors of the Apostles, you are likewise called to have a solicitude for the mission "ad gentes", acknowledging your responsibility for the Gospel outside the boundaries of your own Dioceses and nation, and sharing your resources generously with others (cf. Ad Gentes AGD 38).
Moreover, worthy candidates for the priesthood need to be encouraged, selected and trained; trained above all to a life of prayer and of willing self–oblation in union with Christ the High Priest. While recognizing the importance of the duties entrusted to Seminary authorities, the Bishop remains "the first representative of Christ in seminary formation" (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 65), and this serious personal responsibility, while it needs to be shared, must never be completely delegated. I confirm you in all that you are doing to ensure that your Seminaries respond to the clear guidelines contained in the Post–Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis", which resulted from the 1990 Synod of Bishops.
5. There is no need for me to speak at length about the place which Religious Communities have in the life of the Church in Sri Lanka. I simply wish to invite you to exercise your ministry in their regard with all the love and concern of genuine Pastors of souls. Help Religious to preserve and develop their specific charism, which is God’s gift to each particular Church in which they exercise their apostolate. Encourage them to be always outstanding in their example of fidelity to the evangelical counsels according to the mind of the Church, whose teaching and laws on the consecrated life can certainly never be a hindrance to the prophetic impulse which lies at the heart of every Religious vocation. In particular, I ask you to show fatherly concern and support for the many Religious Sisters, dedicated women who live their motherhood in the Spirit through total self–giving love for Christ the Spouse, whom they meet especially in the sick, the handicapped, the abandoned, the young, the elderly, and, in general, people on the edges of society (cf. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem MD 21).
I would also invite you to continue to meet with the Conference of Major Superiors in a spirit of unbounded love for Christ’s Church, in order to better coordinate the participation of Religious in the pastoral life of each Diocese and of the country as a whole, and to resolve matters of mutual concern.
6. The development of an ever more effective lay apostolate requires not only that priests and Religious work closely with the laity but also that they encourage and help them to assume fully their specific task of renewing the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. There is a need for continuing serious study of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the Post–Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Christifideles Laici" in order to foster the leadership of the laity in the spheres of business, education and civic life where they are present and competent. Likewise, every effort to teach and spread the Church’s social doctrine should be encouraged, so that the laity will have the vision and knowledge needed to face the many moral and ethical questions raised by an increasingly complex and technologically–based society.
7. Your efforts to uphold spiritual values and to apply the light of the Gospel to issues affecting the life of your nation are an immense service to the whole of Sri Lankan society. In the face of the ethnic tensions and conflicts affecting your country and the threats to human dignity and rights, you have a duty to speak out and to encourage all men and women of good will to seek the triumph of justice, truth and harmony.
In your multi–religious society, interreligious dialogue remains an important commitment for the Church at every level. Continue to "build bridges" of understanding and cooperation with the followers of other religions, especially in order to promote respect for human life and concern for honesty and integrity in all areas of socio–economic and political life, as well as in working for the cause of peace and solidarity between individuals and social groups. In this way too, the Church will bear effective witness to the Kingdom of God and the truth of the Gospel.
8. Dear Brother Bishops: as the Church in Sri Lanka moves towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, go forward with full trust in God’s Providence and build upon the pastoral achievements already attained. Support one another in fraternal solidarity and continue to work closely together in meeting your many pastoral challenges.
I will "thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the Gospel" (Ph 1,3-5).
Commending you and your people to the protection and intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, whom you love so dearly, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in Christ our Saviour.
Saturday, 21 January 1995
Madam Prime Minister,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. My visit to Sri Lanka has come to an end, and I say farewell with sentiments of deep gratitude to everyone who has taken part in the events of these last two days. I thank Her Excellency the President, and you Madam Prime Minister, the members of the Government, as well as my Brother Bishops, for all that you have done to make my pilgrimage possible. To all the people of Sri Lanka I express my heartfelt thanks for your great kindness and hospitality. As I return to Rome, I will carry with me unforgettable memories of your beautiful Island and its friendly sons and daughters.
I came to Sri Lanka above all to honour Blessed Joseph Vaz, whom Catholics revere for his outstanding charity and his complete devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel. Like a star shining in the Asian sky, this great spiritual guide teaches us many lessons about the goodness of the human person and the nobility of our destiny as human beings. Father Vaz loved Sri Lanka and its people.From his place in heaven may he continue to watch over this Nation and its citizens.
2. As I leave Asia I confirm my profound esteem for the strong religious sense which marks many Asian societies. I am fully convinced that the time is ripe in human history for the followers of the various religions to seek a new respect for one another. In a world that is increasingly interdependent, there is great need for dialogue and cooperation among believers in order to build the future of the human family on the solid ground of respect for each person’s inalienable dignity, equal justice for all, tolerance and solidarity in human relations. All men and women of good will must work together to advance just such a civilization, recognizing the link between genuine democracy, respect for human rights and development. It is my ardent hope that Sri Lanka will continue to pursue this path, which surely is the one most in accord with its history and the genius of its people.
3. I appeal to all Sri Lankans, in the name of our common humanity, to work for reconciliation and harmony. I encourage the Government and all other parties involved to persevere in negotiating a just end to the conflict which has marred Sri Lankan life in recent years, to create the conditions for the return of refugees to their homes, and to continue resolutely in their efforts to promote the integral development of Sri Lankan society.
4. We Christians have recently celebrated the great Feast of Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the time when we repeat the angels’ hymn: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Lc 2,14). Peace is in fact a divine gift, but it is also a task, a challenge, a moral responsibility of the men and women of our time. It has always to be forged step by step. My parting wish for all Sri Lankans is that, like your Manel flower which, no matter its surroundings, opens up and blooms into its full glory in the light of the sun, true good and true peace will blossom on this beautiful Island because they flourish in the heart of each and every one of you.
God bless Sri Lanka! May peace be his gift to you!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to meet once again the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee. Your visit to Rome this year coincides with the thirtieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Declaration "Nostra Aetate" by the Second Vatican Council. It thus offers us an opportunity to look back with gratitude on the progress made in relations between Jews and Christians, and at the same time to commit ourselves to facing the challenges of the future with confidence and hope.
As a result of dialogue and cooperation carried out with patience and in an atmosphere of respect and good will, the last three decades have indeed witnessed profound changes in the relationships between us. The misunderstandings and difficulties of former times are gradually being replaced by trust and mutual esteem. Who can deny that these positive changes are the work of the Almighty, who is able to create all things anew and to turn our gaze from the things of the past (cf. Is 65,176)?
2. As we look to the future, there is an urgent need for us to continue building on the foundations already laid. One of our greatest mutual challenges remains at the level of education and information, where the results of our cooperation must ultimately be implemented. If it is to be fruitful, dialogue between Christians and Jews must find eloquent expression in the life of both our communities. What is more, we must work to make our mutual respect increasingly evident in a world where voices of polarization, confrontation and violence seem all too often to distract attention from the quiet but effective accomplishments being made on behalf of solidarity in the service of justice and peace.
3. At this time, fifty years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we cannot fail to remember together the horrors of the Shoah. Last year, at the concert held in the Vatican to commemorate this genocide decreed against your people, we – Jews and Catholics together – experienced how different voices blending in a unison of sounds and harmonies can move us deeply and bring us closer together in common resolve. The memory of the Shoah should impel us to renew our commitment to work together in harmony to satisfy the hunger and thirst for justice innate in every human being created in the divine image (cf. Gen. Gn 1,26-27).
4. I willingly invoke upon each one of you and your families the divine gift of peace. May this precious gift dwell in the hearts of all men and women of good will. Let us never cease to pray and to work, together and with others, in order to foster peace in the Holy Land, which is so dear to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
Thank you for your visit. Shalom!
Thursday, 9 February 1995
I am pleased once again to welcome the professors and students of the Graduate School of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey on the occasion of your annual visit to Rome. I greet you with the words of the Apostle Paul to the first Christians of this City: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7).
The theme of your programme of studies – "Education for Koinonia" – recalls the communion uniting all who, through baptism and faith, share the dignity of belonging to God’s People, "a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Lumen Gentium LG 4). This communion is first and foremost a gift of God. By its very nature it calls for visible expression; indeed, the visible unity of Christ’s followers constitutes the Church as the sacrament of salvation, the living sign of the reconciliation and peace won for us by the blood of the Cross. At the Last Supper Christ prayed for this unity precisely "so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21).
It is therefore my hope and prayer, dear friends, that God will give you the help you need to be instruments of the unity willed by Christ. In the next few years, as we prepare for the dawn of the Third Christian Millennium, we must implore ever more ardently the grace of unity among all the Lord’s followers (cf. John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 34). Only in this way, will we be able to respond to the pressing challenge facing all Christians, that of bearing witness before the world to God "whose power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. To him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen" (Ep 3,20-21).
Upon all of you I cordially invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace.
10 February 1995
1. I am deeply grateful to you Monsignor the Dean for expressing the best wishes of the College of Prelate Auditors and the officials of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, as well as of the members of the Studio Rotale and the rotal advocates. I greet everyone with affection.
I am always very pleased to welcome you at the opening of the judicial year, which affords me the welcome opportunity first to meet you and express to you my grateful appreciation, and then to encourage you in your particular ecclesial service.
The reflections developed in your address prompt me to dwell, almost as a continuation of what I said last year, on two topics that are in some ways complementary. I am referring, on the one hand, to the urgent need to put the human person at the center of your office, more properly, of your “ministerium iustitiae”; and on the other, to the duty to keep in mind the demands stemming from a unified vision that embraces both justice and the individual conscience.
2. Without doubt, the Church’s whole work of evangelization, and thus canonical legislation itself, is directed towards human beings, created in the image of God, redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ and made his brothers and sisters. Rightly then in affirming their noble calling, the Second Vatican Council did not hesitate to recognize “the existence within humans of a divine seed” (Gaudium et Spes GS 3). The Catechism of the Catholic Church also reminds us: “The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the union of the divine, persons themselves” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1702 Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1702; cf. nn. 27, 1701, 1703), so that—to return to the Council’s teaching “everything on earth is to be referred to humanity as its center and culmination” (Gaudium et Spes GS 12).
“But what is humanity itself?” the Council immediately asks. The question is not an idle one. There are, in fact, divergent opinions on the nature of the human being. Aware of this fact, the Council took pains to offer an answer in which “the true state of man may be outlined, his weakness explained, in such a way that at the same time his dignity and his vocation may be perceived in their true light” (Gaudium et Spes GS 12).
3. It is not enough, then, to appeal to the human person and the person’s dignity without first endeavoring to form an adequate anthropological vision, which, on the basis of reliable scientific findings, remains anchored in the fundamental, principles of the perennial philosophy and is illumined by the vivid light of Christian Revelation.
This is why at a previous meeting with this Tribunal I referred to “a truly complete vision of the person.” and warned against certain trends of contemporary psychology that, “going beyond their own specific competence, are carried into such territory and are introduced under the thrust of anthropological presuppositions which cannot be reconciled with Christian anthropology” (John Paul II, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, 2 [5 Feb. 1987]). These presuppositions, in fact, offer a view of nature and human existence that is “closed to values and meaning which transcend the immanent factor and which allow human beings to tend towards the love of God and of their neighbor as their final vocation (Ibid., 4).
4. Thus it is helpful once again to call the attention of ecclesiastical tribunals to the unacceptable consequences resulting from—erroneous doctrinal approaches, which have negative repercussions on the administration of justice and, in a particular and even more serious way, on the handling of cases of marital nullity. Moreover, for many years specific canonical legislation dealing with the consultation of medical specialists and experts in psychiatric science and practice has expressly warned that “care must be taken to exclude those who do not adhere to sound [Catholic] teaching in this matter” (Pius XI, Provida Mater Ecclesia, 15 Aug. 1936, in AAS, 28 , p. 343, art. 151).
Only a Christian anthropology, enriched by the contribution of indisputable scientific data, including that of modern psychology and psychiatry, can offer a complete and thus realistic vision of humans. Ignorance of the fact that they “have a wounded nature inclined to evil,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church warns,” gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals” (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 407 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 407; cf. no. 410 ff.). It would be equally misleading to forget that human beings have been gratuitously redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ and enabled, despite the influences of the world outside and within him, to do good and to, make life-long commitments.
5. All this can only lead to an ever greater esteem for humans’ sublime nobility, their inviolable rights, the respect owed to them even when their actions and behavior become the object of judicial investigation on the part of legitimate authority in general or of ecclesial authority in particular.
Everyone knows of the contribution that the development of the Roman Rota’s jurisprudence has made, particularly in recent decades, to, an ever more satisfactory knowledge of that interior homo which is the origin as their driving force, of conscious and free acts. Here recourse to the humanities in the broad sense and to the medical-biological and even psychiatric-psychological disciplines in the strict sense is altogether praiseworthy. However, a purely experimental psychology, unaided by metaphysics, and unenlightened by Christian moral teaching, would lead to a reductive concept of humans that would ultimately expose them to decidedly degrading treatment.
Humans, aided and strengthened by supernatural grace, are in fact capable of surpassing themselves, hence certain demands of the Gospel, which from a purely earthly and temporal viewpoint could seem too hard, are not only possible but can even result in bringing essential benefits to their personal growth in Christ.
6. This attitude of reverent respect for man must be maintained even in the conduct of trials.To this end the Apostolic See has not failed, in accordance with the times and circumstances, to issue appropriate directives. This was the case, for example, when it was a question of having to make use of the investigations of experts, which in some ways could have impaired a sense of understandable and necessary confidentiality (cf. Holy Office, Response, 2 Aug.1929, AAS 21 , p. 490; Pius XI, Provida Mater Ecclesia, in AAS, , p. 343, art. 150; Holy Office, Decree, 12 June 1942, in AAS, 34 , pp. 200–202; Pius XII, Allocution, 8 Oct. 1953, in AAS, 45 , pp. 673–679).
Likewise, when the mental condition of one party does not allow for his or her responsible, valid participation in the trial, canon law provides for that party to be represented by a guardian or a procurator (cf. Code of Canon Law [CIC], cc. 1478–1479; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches [CCEO], cc.1136–1137).
This is also true for the laws regarding defense. The effective presence of the latter is first of all guaranteed by both the personal choice and the ex officio appointment of competent legal representatives (cf. CIC, c. 1481; CCEO, c. 1139); furthermore, its free exercise is safeguarded even to the point of providing for the possible nullity of judicial decisions in which this freedom was impaired (cf. CIC, c. 1620; CCEO, c. 1303). All this goes to show the concrete respect for human dignity that pervades canonical discipline.
7. In this regard, I would like to call your attention to a procedural issue: it concerns the discipline in force regarding the criteria for evaluating declarations made in a trial by the parties (cf. CIC, cc. 1536–1538, 1679; CCEO, cc. 1217–1219).
Undoubtedly, the chief demands of true justice, which are certainty of the law and the attainment of truth, must be reflected in procedural norms that provide protection from the arbitrariness and carelessness which cannot be allowed in any juridical system, much less in canonical legislation. However, the fact that Church law places the ultimate criterion and the decisive element of the judgment itself precisely in the judge’s conscience, i.e., thus in his free conviction, albeit derived from the acts and proofs (CIC, c. 1608, §3; CCEO, c. 1291, §3), demonstrates that a useless and unjustified formalism should never prevail to the point of suppressing the clear dictates of the natural law.
8. This brings us to a direct discussion of the other topic I referred to at the beginning: the relationship between true justice and the individual conscience.
In the encyclical Veritatis Splendor I wrote: “The way in which one conceives the relationship between freedom and law is thus intimately bound up with one’s understanding of the moral conscience” (John Paul II , Veritatis Splendor VS 54).
If this is true with regard to the so-called “internal forum,” doubtless a correlation also exists between canon law and the subject’s conscience with regard to the “external forum.” Here the relationship is established between the judgment of someone who authentically and legitimately interprets the law, even in an individual, concrete case, and the conscience of someone who has appealed to canonical authority: that is between the ecclesiastical judge and the parties to a case in the canonical process.
In this regard I wrote in the encyclical letter Dominum et Vivificantem: “Conscience therefore is not an independent and exclusive capacity to decide what is good and what is evil. Rather there is profoundly imprinted upon it a principle of obedience vis-a-vis the objective norm which establishes and conditions the correspondence of its decisions, with the commands and prohibitions which are the basis of human behavior” (John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem, DEV 43). And in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor I added: “The authority of the Church, when she pronounces on moral questions, in no way undermines the freedom of conscience of Christians ... also because the Magisterium does not bring to the Christian conscience truths which are extraneous to it; rather it brings to fight the truths which it ought already to possess, developing them from the starting point of the primordial act of faith. The Church puts herself always and only at the service of conscience, helping it to avoid being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine proposed by human deceit (cf. Eph Ep 4,14), and helping it not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it” (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, VS 64).
An action deviating from the objective norm or law is thus morally reprehensible and must be considered as such: while it is true that humans must act in conformity with the judgment of their own conscience, it is equally true that the judgment of conscience cannot claim to establish the law it can only recognize it and make it its own.
9. While maintaining the distinction between the magisterial and jurisdictional functions, certainly in ecclesial society the judicial power also emanates from the more general “potestas regiminis,” which in fact belongs to the Church by divine institution” (CIC, c. 129, §1), and is divided into three, namely, the “legislative, executive and judicial” (CIC, c. 135, §1). Therefore, whenever doubts arise as to the conformity of an act—for example, in the specific case of a marriage—with the objective norm, and consequently, the lawfulness or even the validity itself of such an act is called into question, reference must be made to the judgment correctly emanating from legitimate authority (cf. CIC, c. 135, §3), and not to an alleged private judgment, and still less to the individual’s arbitrary conviction. This principle, also formally safeguarded by canon law, establishes: “Even though the previous marriage is invalid or for any reason dissolved, it is not thereby lawful to contract another marriage before the nullity or the dissolution of the previous one has been established lawfully and with certainty” (CIC, c. 1085, §2).
Whoever would presume to transgress the legislative provisions concerning the declaration of marital nullity would thus put himself outside, and indeed in a position antithetical to the Church’s authentic magisterium and to canonical legislation itself—a unifying and in some ways irreplaceable element for the unity of the Church. This principle applies to whatever involves not only substantive law, but also procedural legislation. This fact must be kept in mind in concrete cases and care should be taken to avoid answers and solutions “in foro interno,” as it were, to situations that are perhaps difficult but which can be dealt with and resolved only by respecting the canonical norms in force. This must be kept in mind particularly by pastors who may be tempted to distance themselves in substance from the established and approved procedures of the Code.Everyone should be reminded of the principle that, although the diocesan bishop has been granted the faculty to dispense, under specific conditions, from disciplinary laws, he is not permitted however to dispense “from procedural laws” (CIC, c. 87, §1).
10. These are the doctrinal points I wish to recall today. By working in the juridical field thus outlined, judges on ecclesiastical tribunals, and first of all you, the Prelate Auditors of this apostolic forum, will succeed in bringing great benefit to the People of God. I urge you to carry out your work with that precise knowledge of human beings and with that attitude of proper respect for their dignity which I have discussed with you today.
Trusting in your sincere openness to the guidance of the magisterium and convinced of your great sense of responsibility in fulfilling the lofty role entrusted to you for the good of ecclesial and human society, I warmly extend to you my best wishes and cordially impart my apostolic blessing.
Speeches 1995 - Katunayake International Airport (Colombo, Sri Lanka)