VATICAN CITY, FEB 6, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the participants in the biennial plenary assembly of the congregation. He noted that it is their "delicate duty to promote and defend the truth of the Catholic faith in service to the Magisterium of the Successor of Peter, . the Supreme Pastor," and for this reason their mission is eminently pastoral.
"Today's cultural context," affirmed the Pope, "which is marked by both a widespread relativism and the tendency to a facile pragmaticism, demands more than ever a courageous proclamation of the truth that saves man and a renewed evangelizing impetus." He added that "full adherence to the Catholic truth does not diminish, but rather exalts human freedom and draws it towards its fulfillment, in a love that is free and filled with concern for the good of all men."
John Paul II told the members of the congregation he wished to highlight three themes in his talk: the reception by the faithful of magisterial documents, the natural moral law, and the "notable increase" in the number of disciplinarian cases referred to the Congregation regarding sexual abuse by clerics.
He pointed out that he had spoken to them on other occasions of "the reception of magisterial documents on the part of Catholic faithful, who are often disorientated more than informed by immediate reactions to and interpretations by the media. In reality, reception of a document, . must be seen above all as an ecclesial event of welcoming the magisterium in the communion and most cordial sharing of the doctrine of the Church. It is a question in fact of an authoritative word that shines light on a truth of faith or on several aspects of Catholic doctrine that are contested or distorted by particular currents of thought or action."
In this regard the Pope asked the congregation to plan "opportune methods of transmission and diffusion of the document itself which allows for full awareness, above all, by the pastors of the Church."
On the second subject, the Holy Father stated that the natural moral law "belongs to the great patrimony of human wisdom that Revelation, with its light, has contributed to further purifying and developing. The natural law, accessible per se to every rational creature, indicates the first and essential norms that regulate moral life."
"Today, as a consequence of the crisis in metaphysics, many spheres do not recognize any longer that there is a truth inscribed in the heart of every human person. We see therefore, on the one hand, the spreading among believers of a morality of a fideistic character and, on the other hand, what is missing is an objective reference point for acts of legislation which often are based solely on social consensus." He asked the congregation "to promote opportune initiatives with the aim of contributing to a constructive renewal of the doctrine on the natural moral law, seeking convergence with representatives of different denominations, religions and cultures."
Lastly, the Pope referred to a "delicate and current question," the "noteworthy increase" in disciplinary cases of "delicta graviora," including "delicta contra mores." Canonical norms applied with justice and fairness "tend to guarantee the exercise of the right of defense of the accused as well as the needs of the common good. Once there is evidence of the crime," it is necessary to consider thoroughly the "just principle of proportionality between guilt and punishment, as well as the predominant need to protect the people of God."
"This," he continued, "does not depend solely on the application of the canonical penal law, but finds greater guarantee in the just and balanced formation of future priests called in an explicit way to embrace with joy and generosity the style of a humble, modest and chaste life which is the practical foundation of ecclesiastical celibacy. Therefore, I invite your congregation to collaborate with the other dicasteries of the Roman Curia responsible for the formation of seminarians and of the clergy to adopt the necessary measures to assure that priests live in conformity to their call and to their commitment to perfect and perpetual chastity for the Kingdom of God."
AC/MAGISTERIUM:MORAL LAW/CDF:RATZINGER VIS 20040206 (720)