There is little question that promulgation of the Universal Catechism is one of the greatest events of this century — and perhaps for several centuries. It is a great privilege and honor to be here to comment on the moral vision of the catechism and to be in such distinguished company. I hardly feel myself worthy of the great honor of sharing the podium with such distinguished Churchmen and scholars, but as a philosopher I am accustomed to being the handmaiden of theology and am pleased to render what humble service I can.
An important feature of the moral vision of the catechism is revealed initially by its title: it is titled “Life in Christ.” Indeed, all of Christian morality can be summed up in those words for the moral life for the Christian is quite simply to “imitate Christ.” So what more needs to be said? Why did the authors of the Catechism create so much work for themselves — and so much reading for us — by devoting the longest portion of the Catechism or nearly 300 pages in the English edition to the subject of morality?
Reality is complicated and rich and although Christ Himself is the fullness of revelation, we, not being angels, need to work our way step by step through the many layers of meaning in life. No truth is revealed whole and simple to the human mind. Morality is a very complicated portion of reality because it is involves not only eternal truths but also the individual particular; it involves human character and choice and the daily mess of life. Thus it is appropriate that the human person have more help in the living of the good life than the true statement “imitate Christ.” The human person needs many aids, needs many sources of moral truth. The Catechism identifies the major sources of moral truth; it speaks of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of grace, of the beatitudes, of natural law, of human and Christian virtues, and of the Church itself. It teaches extensively about the commandments. These are all traditional themes in the Church’s moral vision. The presentation of them in the Catechism, however, reflects not only the role of these themes in the tradition but also reflects developments in the Catholic moral vision.
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