Letter: How the encyclical is like a BR timetable

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Sir: One point that I cannot understand in the discussion of the Pope's encyclical, Veritatis Splendor (report, 6 October), is this: why, if the moral standards said to be reaffirmed in the document are absolute and universal, do we see so little evidence of their persistence even in European history, let alone anywhere further afield?

For instance, in classical Greece, especially in the splendidly literate and alive society of fifth-century BC Athens, there was permanent and intense discussion of moral issues, but nobody saw the need to proclaim or impose absolute standards (except perhaps Plato in his Republic). In the sphere of sexual ethics, the classical Greeks would have laughed at the silly prudishness and guilt-ridden sinnishness of it all, and they would have continued to mingle art and sex in a manner both passionate and playful - realising, if they were sensible, that their actions had consequences in the human sphere.

If there are such things as 'absolute moral standards', where was their presence in what was one of the most morally articulate societies of all, that of ancient Greece? Or is the desire of the present Pope to stifle that very articulacy among the doctrinally heterodox of his own flock a signal that the issue today is not so much one of morality but of seeking the power to impose a bleak and tyrannical moral code?

Yours sincerely,


London, W14