Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Martin Sheen: the Church is not God, man is... is reporting that actor Martin Sheen is defending his position in favor of redefining marriage despite his Catholic faith, saying that "my religion's highest standard is conscience."  Apparently the long-time actor hasn't spent as much time studying Catholic teaching as he has with his other endeavors.  If he had taken the time to actually read Pope John Paul II's Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, for example, he would have read that: "Conscience, as the judgment of an act, is not exempt from the possibility of error.  As the Council [Vatican II, which, sadly, Sheen is also not familar with] 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).

Can anyone honestly say that Martin Sheen isn't aware of the Church's teaching or that he does not have the resources to seek what is true and good? 

The actor is quoted as having said that, "The Church is a conduit, and it is a spiritual journey, but it is not the end of the journey," said Sheen. "The church is an institution, primarily of men, at least they are the major authorities. And so they are flawed, obviously. And so they are not authorized from preventing any member from following their conscience no matter what that is. You can’t get between a person’s conscience and their God. Nobody can do that."

Martin Sheen suffers from that sickness described by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger now Pope Benedict XVI during his Keynote Address of the Fourth Bishops' Workshop of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, on "Moral Theology Today: Certitudes and Doubts," delivered in February of 1984 , "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."

This is precisely what Martin Sheen is advancing: subjectivity raised to the ultimate standard.  For the confused actor, the Church, which teaches in Jesus’ name and with His authority, “is not God.”  But by advancing a subjectivist conscience over and above the teaching Church, he is suggesting that man is God.


Stewart said...

So when Dei Verbum of Vatican II says that, " the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed," (10), how does Sheen read this?

Another ignorant Hollywood type makes a fool out of himself.

I wonder if he's been reading The Catholic Free Press or Father Catoir?

ACatholicinClinton said...

For Sheen then, every man is his own Pope and interprets the Church's teaching for himself.


Mark Lanter said...

Isn't it amazing how celebrities believe that their fame qualifies them to speak on any issue, no matter how ignorant they are on the subject?

Mr. Sheen may have a good understanding of acting and the cinema in general. But he is not suited to discuss (intelligently) Catholic theology.

Kathy Bachman said...

Our conscience has to be properly formed and that is the duty of the church to teach us the truth as revealed by Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life!

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