Rorate Caeli

Interview with Polish Franciscan Theologian Maksym Adam Kopiec on Veritatis Splendor

Rorate is pleased to republish this interview, conducted by Aurelio Porfiri, which appeared today at O Clarim.

Interview with Polish Franciscan Theologian Maksym Adam Kopiec on Veritatis Splendor

by Aurelio Porfiri

We live in times of great relativism, times in which there seems to be no objective, firm, immutable truth. But it is not so and it is important that there are voices that try to confirm more and more this important truth: the truth exists, and for us it is called Jesus Christ. This is not simply an option in the landscape of thought, but it should be the alpha and the omega of our way of being in the world. If the truth is not solid and objective, then everything is really allowed, everything is possible, everything is justifiable. It does not matter that we are limited, sinful, fallible. What matters is knowing that there is a firm house on the rock to return to.

We cannot therefore be silent in the 25th anniversary of the publication of Veritatis Splendor by John Paul II. An important document precisely to reaffirm those truths that are so neglected today. Right at the beginning the document says: 

“Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, ‘the true light that enlightens everyone’ (Jn 1:9), people become ‘light in the Lord’ and ‘children of light’ (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by ‘obedience to the truth’ (1 Pt 1:22). 

This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging “the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:25). Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself. 

But no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it. This is eloquently proved by man’s tireless search for knowledge in all fields. It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life. The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the human capacity for understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask the ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience. 

No one can escape from the fundamental questions: What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil? The answer is only possible thanks to the splendour of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit, as the Psalmist bears witness: ‘There are many who say: “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord” (Ps 4:6).’ The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15), the ‘reflection of God’s glory’ (Heb 1:3), ‘full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14). Christ is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6).”

The publication of a beautiful book by the Polish Franciscan theologian Maksym Adam Kopiec, Non abbiate paura della verità. Giovanni Paolo II e la Veritatis Splendor (“Do not be afraid of the truth. John Paul II and the Veritatis Splendor,” 2018 Chorabooks), opens with a beautiful letter by Cardinal Joseph Zen in which the Cardinal exclaims:

“Dear Father Maksym Adam Kopiec, Peace in the splendor of the Risen Lord. He tells us, as then to the hesitant Apostles: do not be afraid! Often the darkness of confusion attempts to cloud the splendor of truth, today as it was 25 years ago. Please accept my congratulations for the splendid idea of commemorating the 25th anniversary of the immortal letter of the Holy Pope John Paul II. Then, I was teaching in the Seminary in Hong Kong I had to discuss with a priest in the diocesan weekly magazine because he spoke contemptuously of the Pope’s letter. A layman then wrote to me: ‘Thank you, Father, for dispelling the darkness that clouded the splendour of the precious letter.’”

Father Kopiec belongs to the Franciscan order and is a Professor at the Pontifical Universitas Antonianum. The author of several books on fundamental theology and spirituality, Father Kopiec, following the example of his compatriot John Paul II, never pulled back when he had the feeling that the rights of truth were trampled upon. That’s why I think this is an important book to spread and meditate on. I shared a lunch with father Kopiec in the refectory of the Professors of the Antonianum, where, with such fervor, he explained to me the importance of the battle, the issues that are at stake.

A.P.: Father Kopiec, why remember Veritatis Splendor after 25 years?

M.A.K.: Because it turns out to be a timeless encyclical, suited to the needs of today’s people and capable of giving answers to those problems that, after 25 years, have not only been resolved, but rather seem to lead more and more towards the existential drift and feed the confusion, relativism and even indifference.”

What made you write the book?

I am very disturbed by the fact that both in society and in the Church, there seems to be no longer any objective point, it seems that every decision, every choice is equal to the many others that could be made, that there is no longer distinction between good and evil, that everything can be justified, understood, forgiven, in the name of a mercy that forgets to have justice as a twin. I believe that the discernment, so much desired today is precious, that we should always ask questions before taking decisions, but only in the light of the objective points, of the teachings that the Mother Church has always handed down, respecting the Apostolic Tradition and the Depositum fidei. I have considered that bringing attention to the contents of the Veritatis Splendor, often criticized, put aside, if not forgotten, it can help everyone to get back on the road in the light of Truth, abandoning the confusion.

What are the points of Veritatis Splendor that seem most forgotten?

As I was saying a while ago, it seems to me that the whole encyclical has been bypassed, and certainly the most forgotten point today is the distinction between good and evil, between what is to be considered badly intrinsically, regardless of the concrete situations on which the act is accomplished, but the problem linked to freedom is not secondary, in the name of which today monstrous acts and monstrous violence are committed. It is necessary to return to reflect on the true meaning of freedom, to prevent it from becoming rampant libertinism and maybe even justified. Finally, it seems to me indispensable to address the issue of the role of the Church in society. The Church, as also affirmed by the Second Vatican Council, is “listening to the times,” but does not have to adapt to the trends, the fashions of the moment, to what of passing and deviant there is in society. The Church must continue to be the instrument par excellence that reflects the Light of Truth that belongs to His Lord Jesus.

In the title of your book and of the encyclical there is the word “truth.” Does not it seem a term today in great crisis?

Yes. Certainly the term “truth” is in great crisis. Relativism has definitely taken over, has swallowed all the certainties and left emptied not only the meaning of the term, but man himself. For example, the unnatural and immoral sexual act has always been called sodomitic; today it is justified and we try to make it pass as a “good thing,” while it is contrary to biblical teachings, or we continue to maintain that marriage is indissoluble, but we seek and validate an infinite number of reasons to make it “soluble,” not taking into account that the covenant between God and us in the sacrament of marriage, can also be dissolved in the eyes of men, but not of God who is always faithful. And then we would have to face the painful problem of the Eucharist. With the excuse that we use terms difficult to understand and pronounce, such as “consubstantiation” and “transubstantiation,” we end up confusing the real presence of Jesus in body and blood in the consecrated host, by the “ideal” presence, not as effective as the Protestants believe. This confusion is allowing people no longer know who should receive the Holy Eucharist. In any case, we can say that the term “truth” is in crisis, but not the “Truth” with the initial capital, which is a concrete person, Jesus and is indispensable.

Is it a book for specialists or is it accessible to everyone?

I think it is a book accessible to all those who want to know, to understand, to question — the encyclical Veritatis Splendor is accessible to everyone. The book has the only claim to be a kind of guide in reading the Encyclical. In some points, one can find a more technical language, more for experts, but understandable and, as I have already said, it can be read by everyone and can be a precious guide.