by Viviane Hewitt
VATICAN sources confirmed reports this week that Pope John Paul Il was preparing not one but two new encyclicals on moral issues.
The first would be "theoretical". of a "philosophical and theological nature" in contrast to Paul VI's 1968 milestone encyclical, Humane Vitae, which amounted to a Church response to the specific question of contraception, and the contraceptive pill in particular.
One title suggested is Splendor Veritatis Splendor of the Truth.
Reports also indicated that a second encyclical, expected to have been published last December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, would not now be promulgated until late autumn or winter.
This encyclical is reported to deal specifically with the abortion issue and defence of human life with special additional references to bio-ethics and euthanasia.
Other sources confirmed for
the Catholic Herald that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had already prepared a rough draft of the pro-life encyclical.
According to one Catholic news weekly in Italy. the encyclical will feature five chapters and is the result of extensive consultations with cardinals and other members of the hierarchy.
Before going ahead with preparations for the document, cardinals were asked if they agreed that the time was ripe for normal intervention on defence of life.
They were also consulted on the form the intervention should take, if it should make "special reference to abortion" and on the document's promotion before and after its eventual publication.
Cardinal Ratzinger is reported to have told cardinals that in the encyclical " various threats on human iife could be tackled from four points of view the cultural. legislative, political and practical".
The guardian of Catholic orthodoxy went on to say that the encyclical could demonstrate how national laws reflect a social agenda and how the agenda implicit in anti-life legislation was often "totalitarian".
The document is also expected to stress the "evil" inherent in associations which promote euthanasia, with an additional section on the role of the press and political parties.