Friday, September 13, 2013

Pope Francis: God will forgive atheists who obey their conscience

Pope Francis, referring to atheists who refuse to believe in God, His Commandments and His Church, recently said, "God forgives those who obey their conscience."  See here.

 Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, explains that: "Conscience, as the judgment of an act, is not exempt from the possibility of error. As the Council [Vatican II] puts it, 'not infrequently conscience can be mistaken as a result of invincible ignorance, although it does not on that account forfeit its dignity; but this cannot be said when a man shows little concern for seeking what is true and good, and conscience gradually becomes almost blind from being accustomed to sin.'" (Veritatis Splendor, No. 62, citing Gaudium et Spes, 16).

Pope John Paul II continues: "Conscience is not an infallible judge; it can make mistakes....Conscience, as the ultimate concrete judgment, compromises its dignity when it is culpably erroneous, that is to say, 'when man shows little concern for seeking what is true and good.." (VS, Nos. 62, 63, citing Gaudium et Spes, 16).

How then can Pope Francis issue a blanket statement declaring that God will forgive all atheists who obey their conscience?

Some years ago, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, during his Keynote Address of the Fourth Bishops' Workshop of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, on "Moral Theology Today: Certitudes and Doubts," which was delivered in February of 1984, had this to say: "In the Psalms we meet from time to time the prayer that God should free man from his hidden sins. The Psalmist sees as his greatest danger the fact that he no longer recognizes them as sins and thus falls into them in apparently good conscience. Not being able to have a guilty conscience is a sickness...And thus one cannot aprove the maxim that everyone may always do what his conscience allows him to do: In that case the person without a conscience would be permitted to do anything. In truth it is his fault that his conscience is so broken that he no longer sees what he as a man should see. In other words, included in the concept of conscience is an obligation, namely, the obligation to care for it, to form it and educate it. Conscience has a right to respect and obedience in the measure in which the person himself respects it and gives it the care which its dignity deserves. The right of conscience is the obligation of the formation of conscience. Just as we try to develop our use of language and we try to rule our use of rules, so must we also seek the true measure of conscience so that finally the inner word of conscience can arrive at its validity. For us this means that the Church's magisterium bears the responsibility for correct formation. It makes an appeal, one can say, to the inner vibrations its word causes in the process of the maturing of conscience. It is thus an oversimplification to put a statement of the magisterium in opposition to conscience. In such a case I must ask myself much more. What is it in me that contradicts this word of the magisterium? Is it perhaps only my comfort? My obstinacy? Or is it an estrangement through some way of life that allows me something which the magisterium forbids and that appears to me to be better motivated or more suitable simply because society considers it reasonable? It is only in the context of this kind of struggle that the conscience can be trained, and the magisterium has the right to expect that the conscience will be open to it in a manner befitting the seriousness of the matter. If I believe that the Church has its origins in the Lord, then the teaching office in the Church has a right to expect that it, as it authentically develops, will be accepted as a priority factor in the formation of conscience."

In the same address, Cardinal Ratzinger explains that, "Conscience is understood by many as a sort of deification of subjectivity, a rock of bronze on which even the magisterium is shattered....Conscience appears finally as subjectivity raised to the ultimate standard."

If forgiveness will be extended to all who reject the Gospel in favor of their own erroneous conscience, how then do we explain the words of Our Lord in Matthew 10: 14: "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city."


Jonathan said...

Such a statement is absolutely heretical.

Michael Cole said...

Deacon Nick Donnelly has said that, "His [Pope Francis'] courageous leadership while bishop and archbishop give us hope that he will be in continuity with Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI."

I disagree. Because of some of his comments this year, I remain gravely concerned about his orthodoxy!

Eric Levan said...

In the end times, even some of the elect will be deceived. We are now in the throes of the Great Apostasy, the Falling Away prophesied in Sacred Scripture just prior to the advent of Antichrist.

Siobhan said...

For anyone who loves traditional, Christian America, Obama for these past 5 years has been a nightmare. When Benedict announced his resignation, I was hoping and praying that Cardinal Raymond Burke would follow him as Pope. He would have been a great counter-balance to what we faithful Catholics in America have been suffering. So what happens – we get Francis who is looking more and more like he belongs on the opposite side of the same coin as Obama! Oh, what times we live in –our faith and trust is truly being tried. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us. Our Lady of America, pray for us.

Peter Walsh said...

Anyone who seeks the Truth with all his heart mind and soul will find it.

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