Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Correct Conscience

Vatican II, in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) No. 25, had this to say:

"This religious submission of will and of mind must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra. That is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known chiefly either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking."

Therefore, if we claim to be "Vatican II Catholics," we must acknowledge our duty, our serious and imperative obligation, to form a correct conscience, according to the Holy Father's directives and not according to our own subjective desires or wishes. This is the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings." (CCC, 1783).

Our conscience can only be correct when it conforms to God's Will. And God's Will can only be known with absolute certainty through the Catholic Church of which the Pope is the authentic interpreter. In his Encyclical Letter Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII taught that: "...If the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that the matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians....God has given to His Church a living Teaching Authority to elucidate and explain what is contained in the Deposit of Faith only obscurely and implicitly. This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church."

Do we accept this teaching, a teaching which was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council? Or do we consider ourselves to be "wiser" than Christ's Vicar? Do we really understand that obedience (and loyalty) to the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church are the hallmarks of true Catholics - as opposed to those who are such in name only?

Do we pretend, like the La Salette priest who said that he believes there is "wiggle room" on the subject of women's ordination, that the Pope or the Magisterium hasn't spoken clearly enough? If so, we should recall these words from Pope St. Pius X - the Pope of the Eucharist -

"When people love the pope, they do not discuss his orders; they do not question the extent of their obedience, nor in what matters they are to obey. When people love the pope, they do not pretend that he has not spoken clearly enough, as if he were obliged to whisper in each one's ear that which he has often expressed so clearly in words and encyclicals. They cannot cast doubt upon his order under the pretext so commonly adduced by those who are unwilling to obey, that it is not the pope who commands but those who surround him; they cannot limit the ground on which he may and ought to exercise his authority; in matters of authority, they cannot give preference to persons whose ideas clash with those of the pope, however learned these may be, for though they be learned, they are not saints."

Are we disobedient to the Pope? If so, we should realize that our disobedience is really against the loving Heart of Christ.

"In order that the Episcopate itself might be one and undivided, Christ placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and fellowship. All this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the force and reason for the Sacred Primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible teaching authority, this Sacred Synod again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful." (Lumen Gentium, Chap. 3, Sec. 18).

God love you,
Paul Anthony Melanson

2 comments:

Marie Cecile said...

Paul,
Thank you again for posting such marvelous reading. These documents are nothing like the legal writings for lawyers and such. These are excellent.

Susan said...

If only the Diocese of Manchester would crack down on dissent. There is just too much of it here.

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