Saturday, July 23, 2011

Primacy of Conscience

A few discussions over the St. Cecilia's morass led to discussions about 'primacy of conscience'.

I have never understood why smart people opine that the teaching of the Church on 'primacy of conscience' grants license for us to use our own desires and emotions to lift prohibitions on immorality and sin.

The human spirit is pulled by many things. We may have intellectual flaws. We may have experiences that have wounded our libido and psyche. Our anger, lust, avarice, jealousy and other things can cause us to be impulsive or make rash decisions or to engage in activities that are sinful and hurt others and God.

Can we remind ourselves about something we need or want and use 'primacy of our conscience' to take somebody's wallet?

If somebody uses the primacy of their conscience to the conclusion their life would be better off without somebody else and they kill them, that doesn't take away the painful consequences of that murder to everyone involved, does it?

Of course not. Primacy of conscience does not mean our thoughts and desires trump Church teaching. We can't rely upon our own desires and thoughts because we are experts at making up excuses.

Christ Sacrificed to leave us The Source to guide our judgment.

If you want to use your 'primacy of conscience' to reject it, that's called free will.

But by rejecting it, we are choosing sin and by choosing sin we are rejecting Christ and our salvation.

A reminder of our baptismal promises is all we ever need to know about the malpractice of John Unni and the luminaries who enable him.

Do you reject Satan?
R. I do.
V. And all his works?
R. I do.
V. And all his empty promises?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do.
V. God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

Here's the 411 on the primacy of conscience: You have the free will to remain faithful or to be unfaithful. Knock yourself out. On the day of judgment, we'll all get our recompense in accordance with which choice we made.

I wouldn't follow John Unni out of a burning building.


Anonymous said...

Here is the section in the catechism about forming one's conscience:

Please note that *nowhere* does it use the word "primacy" when it speaks about properly forming one's conscience to the truths of the faith - see the following:


1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin."59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time "from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith."60

The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.61

God love you Carol!
Catechist Kevin

Jerry said...

A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.

This is, to me, a very unfortunate statement, one which weak men can use to overrule Church teaching and justify their sins. "My conscience tells me to use birth control," for example. I've even heard "conservative" Catholics opine that witch doctors had to follow their consciences in sacrificing people, and thereby saved their own souls!

St. Paul gives us the true teaching: "For I am not conscious to myself of anything. Yet am I not hereby justified." (1 Cor. 4:4) This statement is incompatible with the CCC quoted above. St. Paul says that having a clear conscience does not free one from judgment, yet the CCC says that violating conscience results in judgment. To see the incompatibility, consider the case of birth control. If your conscience says that BC is absolutely necessary, then you will sin in following it (St. Paul) and sin in not following it (CCC). How could this be?

No. The first rule is to follow Christ, for without Him your conscience will fail. For those who don't know Christ, if they follow the illumination that Our Lord gives to every man, God will surely send someone to teach them what to believe and how to live.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone else here that has the distinct "feeling" that the Catholic Church is about to explode?

I never thought I would say this, but the Church of today is actually worse than the Church after the Second Vatican Council when we all thought that the world was surely at an end.


Adrienne said...

When I was on the RCIA teaching team I belabored the "well-formed" part of conscience. And we still had people who would say, "I don't care what the Church teaches, I think "name your axe to grind" is ok."

It's the age we live in now...

Anonymous said...

This trap door was opened by Bishops who refused to assent to the teachings of Humana Vitae. We we all told to "follow your conscience", i.e., a conscience disobedient to the truths of Catholic doctrine. It was OK! Hence, all the the claptrap and ills that followed ever after: from contraception came abortion, from both contraception and abortion came homosexuality , and then came gay marriage and the destruction of the Catholic family .And the list goes on ad nauseam...

Turns out, the role of teaching in the life of a Bishop is pretty important. The abdication of this responsibility can end in loss of salvation.


Carol said...


Another pathetic indictment of priest running the place.

Maria - I think you're absolutely right. I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of prelates who started the rebellion.

Carol said...


Thanks for posting the citations from the Catechism. What a treasure the CCC is.

What are your thoughts on Jerry's observations about the first sentence?

It does seem to be the sentence taken out of context to confuse and misguide the lambs.

Jerry - I don't hold a candle to our resident expert on Catechesis, but here's my crack at it:

It starts off with entire premise that teachings of the Catholic Church have formed your conscience. In situations where people and things are trying to persuade you - or you are trying to persuade yourself - and the Catechism isn't under your nose - it is a reminder that God has designed a place to store information, and to refer to it for discernment.

From there, the ignorance exceptions are spelled out so clearly. It closes the loop.

We have to work hard to mitigate sin to grant ourselves permission to do it. It is impossible to be swimming in the river of denial and sin and not feel the distance you have placed between God and that fantasy world we live in.

When I was there, there were plenty of prelates and priests living with us on the island of misfits. We sought them out, knowing they had compelling and clever arguments against Church teaching. We consciously pursue them to snuff out the last flickers of our internal flame. But through God's design, even the most stubborn, hardened sinner, our wicks smolder. At any time, it can turn into a flame. We're all living proof.

Jerry said...

It starts off with the entire premise that teachings of the Catholic Church have formed your conscience.

I never heard that before! Just kidding. But that's the problem; folks selectively don't hear that part. The CCC's authors seem to be talking to theologians and not the average Joe. They obviously never had kids.

I like to turn this primacy-of-conscience stuff back onto its promulgators. You know, the folks who chastise us hateful bloggers? Well, what about our consciences? Our consciences are telling us to scream out from the housetops. Aren't we supposed to obey them and scream away? If we don't, we'll end up in Hell, too. Right?

Carol said...

LOL - did I oversimplify? I'm sorry..see? I should have left it for Kev.

"Who" started the urban legends of 'primacy of conscience' to license giving in to temptation?

Anonymous said...

Carol & Jerry,

A great Sonday to you both!

Jerry says:

"But that's the problem; folks selectively don't hear that part. The CCC's authors seem to be talking to theologians and not the average Joe. They obviously never had kids."

(The general editor was Vienna's Cardinal Schonborn(sp?) - and the translator from French to English was Msgr. Michael J. Wrenn (+RIP) who was an excellent catechist and was the head of catechesis for the A-diocese of New York.)

Keep in mind that we have Sacred Tradition on our side - nevermind the sometimes convoluted and ambiguous statements that appear in the CCC or - sadly - even in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. (I won't go there - too long of another thread, that)

Throughout the entire history of the Church she has not changed any doctrine of the faith (see Jude 3). Now, having said that, she has changed the way she *teaches* the faith (and about other things, Protestantism, other religions, for example).

With both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture to guide our consciences (as illumined and properly taught by the Magisterium) - nowhere in the Church's history has she held a so-called "primacy of conscience" that one (a *Catholic*) can hold or believe a doctrine of the faith (either a faith issue or moral issue) contrary to Divine Revelation - aka - The Deposit of Faith (see CCC 1814 abd 2518).

It matters not if a Joe or Mary Sixpack says, "My conscience tells me to use birth control" - they then have an *improperly formed* conscience to that moral Truth - which *is* infallible (see Humanae Vitae 14 and CCC 835).

Does this mean that suddenly (i.e. erroneously) if a Catholic person (be they bishop, priest, deacon, religious or layman) suddenly says, "Well, my conscience tells me that abortion, embryonic and fetal stem cell research, bestiality, same-sex acts and mass genocide are okay" - this makes their "properly formed conscience" correct? No!

Some Catholics may feel that they are "sincere" in some of the above examples - but they would be sincerely wrong!

We must, must, must properly form our consciences to the Truths of the faith as guided by the God-given authority of the Church (see CCC 85).

While it is true to say that the Catechism of the Catholic Church *is not* infallible (it was not released as such) - the CCC still contains infallible teachings *within* those pages! (i.e. Church Council documentation, Papal encyclicals, Sacred Scripture and Tradition).

Divine Revelation is infallible (see CCC 891-2) - *this* is what we are to properly form our consciences to.

I know this was long, Carol & Jerry. Sorry.

Well, I'm off to watrch my Cardinals (St. Louis, that is!).

Catechist Kevin

Jerry said...

... nowhere in the Church's history has she held a so-called "primacy of conscience" that one (a *Catholic*) can hold or believe a doctrine of the faith (either a faith issue or moral issue) contrary to Divine Revelation

Well said, Kevin, along with the rest of your reply. In an age where Catholics are itching to find ways to justify their sins, we need all the more diligence and care in catechetics. Folks who want to do what's right, will do what's right; it's the weaker ones who benefit from the old-style black-and-white teachings.