Lecture Eleven: Chapter Two, Section 3: Fundamental Choice and Specific Kinds of Behavior


Study Questions

1. What courses does the Church recommend when one finds oneself with a dubious (doubtful) conscience?  What obligation does one have to obey an erroneous conscience?  How should one form one’s conscience?

2. Why does Veritatis splendor hold that fundamental option theory tends to ignore or misunderstand the authentic notion of “mortal sin”?  What is mortal sin?  What argument does fundamental option theorists offer in support of their view?  What objections does Veritatis splendor raise against this view?

3. What notion of “fundamental option” does Veritatis splendor find praiseworthy?  Why does it see this notion so important for providing the motivation that we need for making wise choices in life?  Why does the encyclical put so much stress on the need for determining the moral status of each specific choice of action and why does it resist the tendency within some contemporary theologians to urge that only one’s general orientation (not one’s specific acts) are moral significant?


Suggestions for further reading:

Brian V. Johnstone, “Erroneous Conscience in Veritatis splendor and the Theological Tradition” in The Splendor of Accuracy: An Examination of the Assertions Made by Veritatis Splendor, edited by Joseph A. Selling and Jan Jans. Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1994, pp. 114-35.

Pope John Paul II.  Reconciliatio et paenitentia (On Reconciliation And Penance), 1984.  Available at http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2RECON.HTM.   

Janet Smith. “Natural Law and Personalism” in Veritatis splendor: American Responses, edited by Michael E. Allsopp & John J. O’Keefe.  Kansas City KS: Sheed & War, 1995, pp. 194-207.