Conscience takes priority over church teaching, according to Catholic Catechism



Judging by their attitudes towards Yes voters in the referendum, it is clear that some priests, and perhaps even a bishop, need to consult the catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Whether it’s the wedding in their church, the location of a Vincent de Paul clothing bank, or attending confession, Catholics who voted yes in conscience need not consider of such a clergy. The weight of the church’s teaching over the past 50 years is on their side, not that of onlookers.

It is just not correct to say that people cannot be Catholic and support abortion. This is clearly the point of view of these 68% of Yes voters in the May 25 referendum who described themselves as Catholic, according to the RTÉ exit poll.

Most attend mass: 15% per week; another 15 percent per month; 32 percent less regularly. This represents more than half of the Catholics who voted yes. Should we conclude from this that Yes Catholics were irresponsible, immature? That the “responsible” Catholics voted no? There is no proof for this.

The Catholics of Yes did not act in haste either. When asked when they made their decision, RTÉ’s exit poll found that 75% of voters, including Yes Catholics, “always knew” how they would vote.

To underline this, five years ago, in June 2013, 75% of respondents in a Irish time/ The Ipsos MRBI poll supported abortion when a mother’s life and health, including mental health, was in danger, as the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill proposed at the time.


They have the catechism of the Catholic Church on their side. A 1992 volume dealt with the question of conscience: “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom in order to personally make moral decisions.

Quoting the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae, he continues: “He should not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. He should not be prevented from acting according to his conscience either, especially in religious matters.

In forming their conscience, “the faithful must pay close attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the church,” although few Catholics in Ireland can ignore it following six abortion referendums since 1983.

In exalting conscience, the Catechism quotes another document from Vatican II Gaudium et Spes. He declares: “In the depths of his conscience, man discovers a law which he has not imposed on himself but which he must obey.

“For man has in his heart a law written by God. . . His conscience is the most secret nucleus of man and his sanctuary, “the document continues,” there he is alone with God whose voice resonates in his depths.

In summary, it is possible for a good, bona fide Catholic to act contrary to the teachings of the church.

Such a view, of course, is odious to mainstream Catholics who believe that the teaching authority of the Church, its magisterium, must be followed without doubt.

Such people would have been happiest with the papalities of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Benedict is a follower of the writings of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Even here, however, there is flexibility, not dogma. Speaking of conscience, Newman wrote: “I will drink to the Pope, please, again, to conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.” “And this:” Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ [a Catholic title for the Pope]. “

Change job

The Catholic Church has changed its positions before. In 1986, Benoît, then dean of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, described homosexuality as “a more or less strong ordered tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil” and “an objective disorder”.

Eight years ago, Benedict declared that homosexuality “remains contrary to the essence of what God originally intended”, adding that homosexuality among the clergy was “one of the miseries of the church “and was” incompatible with the priestly vocation “.

Three years later, however, his successor, Pope Francis, said: “If a person is gay, seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person? You should not discriminate against or marginalize these people.

Last month, he told Chilean abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz: “It doesn’t matter whether you are gay. God made you like that and loves you like that and I don’t care. The Pope loves you like that. You have to be happy with who you are.

Francis did not change the church’s teaching on homosexuality. He just interpreted it differently. The same thing happened – if it’s backwards – on abortion. The Catholic Church had always said that abortion was a sin, but in 1969 it went further to call it homicide.

Prior to that, no homicide was involved if the abortion took place before the fetus was soul-infused and became a human. “Ensoulment” was the word used to describe it. This, he said, took place at “acceleration”, when there is the first movement in the womb.

In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV fixed “the soul” at 166 days of pregnancy, or nearly 24 weeks. In 1869, Pope Pius IX moved the clock at conception on pain of excommunication, influenced, it was said, by the scientific discoveries of the 1820s and 1830s.

Nevertheless, the question is still subject to debate in the Catholic Church. Even as recently as 1974, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recognized that the question of the soul was still an open question.



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