There is a grave problem in Roman Catholic moral theology today, and it is about to cause a great Schism in the Church. The problem is two-fold: (1) many Catholic theologians, priests, and lay leaders are teaching false doctrine on morality, and (2) a majority of the laity do not follow the clear and definitive teaching of the Church on morals. I predict that, within the space of a few years, most Catholics will leave the one true Church, and many of them will next try to establish their own new Church, one that allows women priests, approves of homosexuality, approves of contraception, broadens the cases when abortion is permitted, approves of various sexual sins, etc.
Pope John Paul II described the root problem:
“Today, however, it seems necessary to reflect on the whole of the Church’s moral teaching, with the precise goal of recalling certain fundamental truths of Catholic doctrine which, in the present circumstances, risk being distorted or denied. In fact, a new situation has come about within the Christian community itself, which has experienced the spread of numerous doubts and objections of a human and psychological, social and cultural, religious and even properly theological nature, with regard to the Church’s moral teachings. It is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions. At the root of these presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth. Thus the traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and the permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church’s moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to “exhort consciences” and to “propose values”, in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices.
“In particular, note should be taken of the lack of harmony between the traditional response of the Church and certain theological positions, encountered even in Seminaries and in Faculties of Theology, with regard to questions of the greatest importance for the Church and for the life of faith of Christians, as well as for the life of society itself.”
He wrote the encyclical Veritatis Splendor in order to address that problem. (I wrote The Catechism of Catholic Ethics to address the same problem.) If priests, theologians and lay leaders had incorporated its teachings into their understanding and teaching of morality, perhaps the crisis would have been averted or at least lessened. But the rejection of this encyclical has been astounding.
Many dioceses and parishes have formal programs teaching Christopher West’s distorted version of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body. Few have any programs teaching Veritatis Splendor. The Pontiff’s theology of the body lecture series is his own speculative private theology. His encyclical Veritatis Splendor is definitive magisterial teaching. Yet the one is widely accepted (only in its distorted form), and the other is widely rejected.
Many moral theologians completely ignore the teachings of Veritatis Splendor, the preeminent magisterial document on morality. Instead, they invent new approaches to ethics (such as so-called ‘virtue ethics’), which ignore magisterial teaching and traditional moral theology. Some moral theologians openly reject magisterial teaching (such as the 143 German theologians). Others continually undermine, and cast doubt and confusion upon, the most basic principle in ethics (such as the re-definition of intrinsic evil in Martin Rhonheimer’s work).
The other problem is that very many Catholics reject the moral teachings of the Church. Many use contraception. Many have sexual relations outside of marriage. Many approve of same-sex marriage. Many approve of direct abortion in certain cases. Many commit various grave sexual sins, even within marriage. Many have little regard for the teachings of their own Church, especially when it is a matter of morality.
This situation cannot continue indefinitely. The branches not firmly attached to the Vine have already withered, and they will soon fall away entirely. The result will be the great apostasy, when most Catholics, along with many priests and religious and more than a few Bishops, will depart from the one true Church, and even try to found their own false Church. In my opinion, this event is only a few years away.
When the great Schism occurs, it will be interesting to see how many persons, who formerly claimed to be teachers of true Catholic doctrine and sound moral theology, promptly go over to the false Church devised by heretics and schismatic.