by Ralph Martin | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
Why aren’t we more concerned about how even many of our fellow Catholics are engaging in behaviors (“lifestyles”), or accepting, or even approving them, in others, that scripture says will exclude them from the kingdom?
Right after Vatican II, there was an explosion of interest in moral theology. The “fundamental option” theory gained wide notice in both scholarly journals and in popular Catholic culture. Many people got the impression—and many still have it—that if one’s overall life is pointed in a good direction, particular sinful acts may not exclude us from the kingdom. This interpretation was definitively rejected in Blessed John Paul II’s important encyclical on the moral life, Veritatis Splendor.(Henceforth, VS)
The Pope definitively taught, in continuity with the Church’s tradition, that particular acts can change our fundamental option, and that we can’t dissociate a fundamental option “for God” from particular acts of the body that contradict such an option. The Pope reaffirmed the teaching of the Council of Trent and of Scripture, that our salvation can be lost, not only by acts of apostasy by which faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin. The Pope repeats the usual teaching that mortal sin involves grave matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will. (VS 49, 67- 68)
Another source of confusion after Vatican II were trends in moral theology that exalted the role of individual conscience in making moral choices, without sufficiently stressing that we have an obligation to seek out the truth about what is right and wrong, and act in accordance with it, as opposed to “deciding for ourselves” what we think is right and wrong.
Again, (soon to be “Saint”) John Paul II taught that the moral law is to be recognized, discovered in the reflection of reason and attention to Divine Revelation, and that conscience is the application of this natural—embedded in human nature and susceptible to discovery by the intellect—and divine—explicitly and fully revealed in the Sacred Scripture—moral law in particular circumstances. The moral law is to be discovered and obeyed, with the help of grace, not “thought up” or “made up,” or “received” from a post-Christian culture, or determined by what is legal, or by what the majority think is right or wrong, or a by pastiche of personal opinions and preferences. (VS 36, 40, 58-60)
And like Vatican II, Veritatis Splendor called for a greater attention to Sacred Scripture in the grounding of moral theology. Let’s look now at some particular texts of Scripture that spell out in some detail what acts will exclude us from the kingdom of God, if not repented from. Before we do so, let’s recall the way the Catholic Church views the authority and reliability of Scripture.
Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should be affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Sacred Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures. (Dei Verbum 11).
And now some important texts (I’m bolding some sentences for emphasis):