What some critics of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ are missing

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” has been accepted by most Catholics as a breath of fresh air. Its warm encouragement to families to place love at the center of their lives, its clear invitation to pastors to accompany Catholics in the “complexity” of their situations and its strong reminder that the church needs to recover an appreciation of the role of conscience have been welcomed by millions of Catholics as a sign that the church wants to meet them where they are.

But not by all Catholics. In a few quarters of the church it has not been received warmly at all. In fact, it was greeted with a vituperation that seemed to approach apoplexy.

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Many critics were frustrated, alarmed and angered by the same thing. They claimed that Francis had muddied the clear moral waters of the church by elevating a concept that had landed St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order to which the pope belongs, in jail: the notion that God can deal with people directly.

The way that this notion is framed in the document is primarily through the lens of “conscience.”

The role and primacy of conscience is an ancient Catholic tradition. St. Thomas Aquinas famously said that he would rather go against church teaching than against his conscience. “Absolutely speaking” every variance with conscience, “whether right or erring, is always evil (Summa Theologiae). The Second Vatican Council wrote, “Conscience is man's most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (“Gaudium et Spes,” No. 16).

But as most Catholics know, this must be a “formed conscience,” that is, one that knows and accepts the Gospels and church teaching, and is ready to put them into practice.

In that case, why was Pope Francis’ emphasis on conscience so alarming to critics? Why would a traditional teaching alarm so-called traditionalists?

Well, for the past few decades, the Catholic discourse on conscience has gone something like this: A person can make a good moral choice only with a formed conscience. (So far, so good.) But the sole test of a formed conscience is that it agrees with everything stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with no exceptions, no questions asked and no need to discern how to apply those rules to one’s life. If one didn’t accept everything in the Catechism without question, then one did not have a formed conscience.

Thus church teaching was often presented as a black-and-white, one-size-fits-all, set of rules. As a result, the space for allowing God to help people apply church teaching to their lives, or the room for discernment according to the “complexities” of one’s situation, was essentially removed.

In essence, you didn’t need conscience any longer. You needed only the Catechism.

In one of the most important passages in the exhortation Francis reminds us that this is not the Catholic tradition:

Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a cer­tain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal (No. 303).
 

That is, conscience doesn’t simply say, “This is the rule.” Conscience helps us say, “This is what the rule means in my situation, and this is how it is to be applied.”

Now, this presumes something that may be even harder for some critics to appreciate, and something that got St. Ignatius into hot water with the Inquisition: the idea, simply stated in the Spiritual Exercises, his manual for prayer, that the Creator can “deal immediately with the creature.”

That means that God deals with us directly, not only through the church, but one-on-one. God consoles us. God uplifts us. God invites us. God moves people’s hearts. And particularly in the decision-making process, God helps people.

Thus, it is not as simple as following a set of rules. Jesuit spirituality, in fact Christian spirituality, presumes that God will aid a person in making a good decision.

This idea landed St. Ignatius in jail several times, mainly because those leading the Inquisition were terrified that this insight might mean a lessening of the influence of the Catholic Church. So Ignatius was forced to explain, many times, that the church, to which he had committed his life, was in no way sidelined. After all, he asked his Jesuits to bind themselves to the pope by a special vow of obedience, “with regard to mission.”

By the same token, he was resolute: God could deal with people directly. And people could deal with God directly. For he had seen it—in his own life and in the lives of others.

In many critiques of “Amoris Laetitia” I hear a dismissal or denigration of that idea. And some critiques strike me as dismissive indeed. As if God couldn’t possibly be active in that person’s life. As if the People of God couldn’t be counted on to appreciate, much less understand, what this meant. Thus, some  of these critiques seem not only a dismissal of grace but a denigration of the faith lives of adult Catholics.

The key, then, to “Amoris Laetitia” is the belief that God is at work in people’s lives. This is what some critics of the document are either missing, downplaying or ignoring. Or they simply don’t believe it.

But I do.

In over 25 years as a Jesuit I have seen God powerfully at work in the lives of countless people—men and women, young and old, rich and poor. In fact, being a spiritual director (someone who talks to people about their prayer and their experience of God in their spiritual lives) is an enormous aid to faith, because you see God actively at work. You see God dealing “immediately” with people.

How does this manifest itself?

In a myriad of beautiful, surprising and profound ways—all depending on the person. In some people, God’s activity manifests as a sharp goad to one’s conscience, reminding them that what they are doing is wrong. In others, it is an irresistible invitation to a new way of life. In another it is a comforting feeling of consolation that follows making a good decision. In others it is a vivid feeling of closeness to to the divine that comes in the midst of a powerful prayer experience. These experiences are hard to sum up, for they are so many, and so varied. Emotions, desires, insights, memories, feelings—all these are the ways of God’s working through our hearts.

Each of these experiences I have learned to reverence. There is an old saying among retreat directors. Often when a retreat begins they’ll say, “I’m not the real spiritual director. The Holy Spirit is.” It is a sign of the importance that we place on the supreme holiness of God’s activity, whose voice “echoes” in the hearts of people.

So what many critics of “Amoris Laetitia” are missing is this: God deals with people directly. God moves them, consoles them, urges them. God helps them to understand the Gospels and church teaching as they relate to their lives. God helps them to make good decisions.

This truth needs not to be denigrated or mocked.

It needs to be reverenced.

Take a deeper look at “Amoris Laetitia.”

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Crystal Watson
1 year 6 months ago
Two things: 1) it isn't only conservatives who are unhappy with the Pope's exhortation ... many liberals were dismayed by the way women's roles and the marriage of LGBT people were treated. The exhortation dismissed gender theory out of hand, though it's backed by the latest understanding in science (http://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943) and instead relied on JPII's complemetarianism and female genius ideas to define women's roles, it dismissed contraception even though almost every Catholic woman uses it, and it refused to even consider the possibility that the marriage of LGBT people could be similar to heterosexual marriage. 2) I *do* think God deals directly with people and that discernment and conscience are a good way to decide what's right. But the Pope doesn't seem to give that theory credit when it comes to subjects that he doesn't like, such as women being priests or LGBT people marrying. That's not consistent.
Mike Escril
1 year 6 months ago
Sorry, Crystal, what you want is for the Catholic Church to incorporate the values of left-wing deviants in Manhattan, Brookline Mass, and the Castro District. Not happening. Homosexuality is a disorder so any "marriage" is a sham. Gender theory has properly been called "demonic" by Francis. The so-called "marriage" of homosexuals is more akin to bestiality, polygamy, and adultery than the Christian ideal of marriage.
John Bosco
1 year 6 months ago
The superiority complex of the saints is a greater threat to God's kingdom of love than the imperfection of sinners. You underestimate God's love for sinners - a love so profligate that it extends to sinners - to the imperfect - to the unworthy - to the broken - to we who are damaged goods. The disdain you hold in your heart for sinners drives you to show them to the door of our Church. Jesus, however, has no such disdain for them. Jesus welcomed sinners. Who am I? Like Pope Francis, I am a sinner so I prefer Jesus's attitude to yours. Thank God that you are not my God and your attitude is not his attitude. The good news of great joy is that God loves us despite our wickedness! How lucky we are! What a break we caught! Wow! Where do I sign up? How do I join? How do I become a citizen the kingdom of this God who loves even sinners like me? We tortured and killed him. He suffered and died. Yet, he did not stay dead and he did not stop loving us. This is the crux of Christianity. This is our faith stated in 22 words. Can our faith be stated more succinctly than this? You seem to overlook the fact that he did not stop loving us despite the evil we did to him. Try to incorporate a modicum of God's love for sinners into your thinking and your comments. His love will do even you good.
Mike Escril
1 year 5 months ago
Why would the Catholic Church consider gender theory ("demonic") and SSM ("disordered, intrinsically evil") when the CCC has already spoken ? Why are you so-called 'progressives' so thick ?
Lisa Weber
1 year 6 months ago
I am puzzled that anyone would protest the idea that God deals directly with people. That God deals directly with people is obvious. The church is a guide and an assistant in one's journey to God, not the controller of it.
Crystal Watson
1 year 6 months ago
Forgot to add a link to an article on the exhortation at Religion Dispatches by Mary Hunt which is an example of the liberal take ... "Pope Francis’ Love Letter is an Opportunity Lost" ... http://religiondispatches.org/pope-francis-love-letter-is-an-opportunity-lost/
Lisa Weber
1 year 6 months ago
I read the article related to the above link. It merely expresses disappointment over what is seen as insufficient progress rather than some hope over the progress that was made. If the church is to move forward in unity, progress will necessarily be incremental rather than revolutionary. If you look at the Gospel stories, Jesus made sexuality a private matter. That sexuality is private has many consequences, one of which is to make it safe for women to be in public life. Another consequence is that family is private as well and therefore patriarchal and matriarchal leadership are not the proper models for church leadership. Considering sexuality a private matter would be a relief to everyone because it would put an end to the discussion about contraception, gay marriage, and a host of other contentious issues for the Catholic community.
Crystal Watson
1 year 6 months ago
*** If the church is to move forward in unity, progress will necessarily be incremental rather than revolutionary. *** There are more important things than unity. If Jesus had thought unity was more important than anything else, there'd be no Christian church.
Lisa Weber
1 year 6 months ago
What is more important than unity? And why?
Crystal Watson
1 year 6 months ago
Justice is more important, love is, fairness is, doing the right thing is. In that article by Mary Hunt, she writes near the end ... "Leadership requires both intellectual creativity and raw courage. You don’t need to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but you do need to have the gumption to “throw your life as far as it will go,” as feminist philosopher Mary Daly advised." It takes courage to act on the principles on which one's organization is based, rather than protecting the organization at the cost of the individuals within it.
Mike Escril
1 year 5 months ago
And the Catholic Church should listen to a feminist -- someone who denies the core teachings of the Catholic Church -- why exactly ?
Mike Escril
1 year 6 months ago
How about making racism, poverty, spousal abuse, etc....all private matters ? If libs like you don't like the Church's moral teachings, then leave. Go become Episcopalians, which most of you are anyway. These aren't contentious issues for the Catholic Church or Catholics. It's only a problem for liberals like you who think deviant fornication has a place in being a good Catholic. Sorry, it doesn't.
Joe Kash
1 year 6 months ago
I personally have not seen much criticism of the document. People like Bishop Barron, Jimmy Akin, and even Cardinal Burke have said very nice things about the document. The criticism is of the liberal interpretation, the ignoring of some very plain language about some truths of the faith and the reading between the lines.
Mike Escril
1 year 6 months ago
Liberalism and Catholicism are incompatible. If liberals would recognize this and leave the Church, both sides would be better off. Garbage needs to be removed from a home once in a while.
Andrew Di Liddo
1 year 6 months ago
Jesus was radically liberal. Pharisees were conservatives, maintainers of the status quo. The fact that you speak of two sides rather than unity is proof positive that you are unlearned in the faith.
Richard C Cowart
1 year 6 months ago
Is the Pope solely addressing to meeting catholics where they are? Or is he speaking to all God's children? Is the church interested in bringing only her own home?
Mike Escril
1 year 6 months ago
Nobody knows, Rich...that's the problem. This apastolic exhortation is all Seinfeldian: a paper about nothing.
John Walton
1 year 6 months ago
Thanks for writing this. The issue of a well formed conscience was certainly drilled into us "boomers" by fortunate happenstance of nuns and scholastics. As readers of America in both digital and print media are the choir to be preached to, I would like to emphasize how important and incumbent it is upon all of us to support the programs which reach out to young Catholics.
Mike Evans
1 year 6 months ago
Those so-called programs reaching out to the young are non-existent in most parishes.
John Bosco
1 year 6 months ago
Great article!
Michael Malak
1 year 6 months ago
Dear Father Martin, Thanks for the beautifully written explanation of the role of conscience in Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia.” The sometimes vituperate responses to your article, nay the exhortation itself, ignore one important consideration. Divergent theological interpretations of teachings have always been a part of Christianity. As long as there has been a church there has been squabbling over who possesses the “truth,” as each man and woman perceives it. Paul tired to quell fights over doctrine in his Letters to the Corinthians. Emperors have called councils, like Trent, to stay competing bishops from rending religious, as well as social fabrics caused by doctrinal turmoil in the church. The reaction to Vatican II, particularly among traditional Catholics, is a modern example of the faithful discord among Christians. Jesus described this phenomenon and predicted the cognitive dissonance he was causing: “For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. Those who seek unity of thought in matters of faith and moral, including some popes, might consider this fact. No one has a monopoly on truth, hence the role of conscience. What one man thinks may not accord with another’s thoughts but the one unifier, among all others, is the belief in the risen Lord. That’s how it’s supposed to work, something Francis seems to understand better than most.
Colin Donovan
1 year 6 months ago
I'm not sure what "set of rules" Fr. Martin is saying can be set aside in favor of the particular conscience with its variety of knowledge, motives and circumstances. If he means those which constitute positive law, for which a wise application of epikaeia, or the recognition of moral or physical impossibility, would be possible in keeping with the Catholic tradition, no one could reasonably object. The issue, however, may in many cases be Divine negative law, those things which God forbids and we humans nonetheless in our own wisdom judge we can do. Some clarification of what "set of rules" can be set aside is needed to properly understand what Father is saying. I can't imagine Jesuit spirituality affirming the right to judge contrary to God's will, as it seems St. Ignatius was all about discerning God's will, and then doing it.
Jeanne Kalvar
1 year 6 months ago
When God provides a signed document certifying what his will is then we will know God's will for sure. All else is a determination by man based on the best rulings of their consciences at the time that those rulings are written. The Holy Spirit has the power to enlighten the great and mighty, adding its blessing to the fire of their conscience...but the Holy Spirit also has the power to enlighten the humble and powerless.The insight it gives to the powerful of the church is no more important or bound out of time than the insight that another might give. This doesn't mean that the insight it gives the church is meaningless! Those that have dedicated their lives to the faith have a greater understanding than those who have not...they are better informed. Like science, we are fortunate to stand on the shoulders of giants, and that should not be mocked. But, those giants might not interpret everything 100% the way the Holy Spirit intended. Maybe they got 99% right. Maybe they got 100% of the revelation right, but the extrapolation they took from that revelation may have been a teeny bit wrong. The writers are only human, and we don't do perfection well. Jesus knew that and shared himself entirely with us anyway. If the Church gets it wrong, he's still with us to support us. However, we need to discern for ourselves God's will and do it, informed by Church teaching but not enslaved by it, in order to let Jesus lead us the right way. How to do that? Live your life like, if it were all completely true, every rule and stricture, you could stand up at the end of your life and not be ashamed. And Live your life like, if it were all completely false, every rule and stricture were a complete lie, you could /still/ stand up at the end of your life and not be ashamed. Only your own conscience could guide you to that.
Colin Donovan
1 year 6 months ago
Yes, I understand. God's Ten Suggestions, may they ever be pliable.
Jeanne Kalvar
1 year 6 months ago
Please share your opinions of the simplest and most concrete of the 10 commandments..."Thou shalt not kill." with regards to the professions of our US military personnel and drone operators combating ISIS, the issue of gun ownership in the United States, and capital punishment.
Mike Evans
1 year 6 months ago
From Jesus to St. Paul, it is clear that rules do not "rule." The true test of love and pastoral care is in the mercy extended to the penitent and the encouragement in spiritual life and participation in the "hospital" of the church. By the way, "hospital" is a derivative of "hospitality" not an imposition of medical 'rules.'
Andrew Di Liddo
1 year 6 months ago
Pastoral care for families is abysmal in my family's parish. I received a phone call last evening from a fellow parishioner that the Deputy Grand Knight of our Knights of Columbus Council had shot and killed himself. He had had major medical bills and liens on home and property were piling on. Ironically, in the midst of his own personal crisis, he was chairing one of our major fund raisers and we were all sending proceeds from our raffle ticket sales to his home. It must have been horribly conflicting for him to receive monies for our charity work when he could find no charity for his own family.
Jeanne Kalvar
1 year 6 months ago
That is so sad...for him, for his family, and for the rest of your community of faith. I pray there's healing at the end of this tragedy. We should, as a church family, be able to do better than that, shouldn't we?
Mike Escril
1 year 5 months ago
Yes, we Catholics need to look out for our own FIRST like everybody else does.
Nicholas Clifford
1 year 6 months ago
“These aren't contentious issues for the Catholic Church or Catholics. It's only a problem for liberals like you who think deviant fornication has a place in being a good Catholic. Sorry, it doesn't.” Might it not seem a bit inapposite for someone, writing from a position of presumed Catholic orthodoxy, to come down quite so hard on “deviant fornication?” Although DF may not be part of Catholic teaching, unfortunately too many Church leaders appear to believe that it should be at least protected behavior, and have done their best to hide it, cover it up, deny that it is a problem, and though they wish it would silently steal away, do little or nothing to root out the practice -- certainly not reporting it to the child protection authorities. Is it any wonder that because of DF and its protection many Catholics have left the Church, and that those beyond the Church are confused? (I’m not quite sure what liberalism has to do with it but I’m probably being thick-headed.)
Mike Escril
1 year 5 months ago
The biggest protectors of pedophiles and homosexuals in the Catholic Church were liberals: Mahony, Weakland, Bernadin, etc. It's the 'social justice' crowd who want to de-emphasize moral issues and basically run the Gospels According To The New York Times.
Luis Gutierrez
1 year 6 months ago
It should be mentioned that Amoris Laetitia does not support the rigid patriarchal model of the family. In fact, it recognizes that sex and gender cannot be separated but can be distinguished (#56). In other words, it recognizes that sex and gender are not identical realities. This is a significant doctrinal development, and recognizes that rigid patriarchalism is the cause of many family problems. See AL # 54, 56, 154, 172, 215, 286 for some signs of hope. Since the Church is a family, wonder if there are any implications for ecclesiastical patriarchy. If the domestic church should not be a rigid patriarchy, why should the universal church be a rigid patriarchy? Hope the primacy of conscience extends to those of us who believe that ecclesiastical patriarchy is an obstacle to grace.
Mike Escril
1 year 5 months ago
You basically want the Catholic Church to incorporate gender ideology, feminism, and homosexuality into family structure. You may as well be honest and say that. And no, it's not happening.
Mike Evans
1 year 6 months ago
For juveniles in the faith, adherence to "rules" is comforting. No heavy lifting, no resolution of sticky situations. Our local chanceries are full of staff well-trained in just saying no. The typical delays in processing tribunal business are designed to discourage people early in the first stages. Rules, rules and more interrogation than can be tolerated. The attitude is that by putting up enough roadblocks, mysterious letters full of Latineze, slow processing and by hamstringing local parish advocates, they can somehow assuage their consciences about the huge backlog of cases that clog up the system. The former appeal process to a nearby archdiocese was another huge dam - delay, delay, and nitpick. While moral certainty is pretty clear after about a half hour speaking to an applicant, the ensuing 18 months of paperwork, written confessions, witness testimonies and tribunal debating pretend to find some kind of "absolute" guarantee. It is no surprise that many people simply resolve the issue by themselves or in conjunction with an understanding confessor. The typical newly ordained priest seldom has a clue. I remember my associate pastor saying he always had to look things up in his 'canon law.' Nothing about the human condition, situations of abandonment or abuse, conditions surrounding lack of due discretion or due competence. Unbelievable. Most of our imported priests from other cultures have virtually no understanding whatever, either of the annulment process itself, or listening with empathy to potential petitioners. We sure do hope that the recent papal letter treats people with far more church humility and compassion.
Bruce Snowden
1 year 6 months ago
It strikes me as strange to try and pin God down to any one way to speak! God speaks to us all the time through material agencies, the sun, moon, stars, all creation. St. Francis of Assisi famously even gave personality to all creation, as in “Brother Sun and Sister Moon” having no problem finding personal relationships with God and having a prayerful back-and-forth. . Again and again in the Gospels Jesus made good use of natural creation through which to converse with God showing that God can speak “outside” himself. See the NT’s “medicinal” treatment as Jesus’ saliva mixed with remnant stardust called “soil” imparts healing. Or in the OT Abraham’s insightful discovery of God passing by in the gentle whisper of the wind. Also,someone looking at a starry sky and in awesome wonder utters a prayerful, “Wow!” Creation is holy because God touched it, making creation worthy agents of his Word. True, the Church is his principal, way to speak, but not always. But God continually speaks to everyone through the agencies of materiality. Its superabundant fling throughout our Common Home attracts him! Something can “attract” God? Yes, goodness does and we know that he called the creative works of his hand, “Good!” So what’s the problem? “Amoris Laetitia” addresses the benign goodness of God to willingly speak to his children, through persons, places, things in surprising ways. How can this be questioned? When God prepared the potpourri of materiality to achieve precise purposes, he magnanimously included himself in the swirl, when Mary replied to the Angel, “O.K., do it!” Again, Holy Father Francis has hit the bull’s eye! So it seems to me.
Joseph Kalwinski
1 year 6 months ago
Thank you, Ashley, for a most incisive commentary. It's obvious that you have read the document which based upon many of the negative comments I've read is unique. I've pledged my troth to Francis for years now and accept his thoughts and comments without question. I've also stopped reading the comments here and elsewhere from the many mini-popes who, of course, always know better. So have at me guys. I'll never know what you say.
L J
1 year 6 months ago
Love it! Good for you Joseph! Comments made by perfect strangers who often fail to practice what they "preach" in their own personal lives, their marriages, their childrens upbringing and missing works of charity are the greatest testament of all. . It is easy to scream from a keyboard and denigrate another. Pope Francis shows us a better way: do or do not. there is no try.
E.Patrick Mosman
1 year 6 months ago
"That is, conscience doesn’t simply say, “This is the rule.” Conscience helps us say, “This is what the rule means in my situation, and this is how it is to be applied.” So why have a rule in the first place if in the same or similar situations two persons can arrive at different decisions based on their own informed conscience? On one's next visit to the Sistene Chapel will Michaelangelo's "Last Judgment" be plastered over as who is Jesus to judge or override each individual's actions based on his/her conscience. Cardinal Ratzinger addressed "Conscience and Truth",his 1991 presentation to the American Bishops in Dallas Texas. The full address can be found at: http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/ratzcons.htm The following summarizes the conclusions; Cardinal Ratzinger touched on the correct understanding of conscience," "Conscience is understood by many to be sort of deification of subjectivity, a rock on which even the magisterium can founder. It claimed that in the light of conscience no other reason applies. Finally, conscience appears as the supreme level of subjectivity; but conscience is an organ, not an oracle; it requires growth, exercise and development." For those who hold that one's own subjective conscience is infallible, superior to all others and that the Church Authority cannot impose restrictions on those whose conscience brings them to decisions contrary to the Church's teachings, Cardinal Ratzinger points out the obvious error in this rationalization by the following "It is of course undisputed that one must follow a certain conscience or at least not act against it. But whether the judgment of conscience or what one takes to be such, is always right, indeed whether it is infallible, is another question. For if this were the case, it would mean that there is no truth - at least not in moral and religious matters, which is to say, in the areas which constitute the very pillars of our existence. For judgments of conscience can contradict each other. Thus there could be at best the subject's own truth, which would be reduced to the subject's sincerity." Cardinal Ratzinger describes the concept of the erroneous conscience as follows: "The erroneous conscience, by sheltering the person from the exacting demands of truth, saves him ... - thus went the argument. Conscience appeared here not as a window through which one can see outward to that common truth which founds and sustains us all, and so makes possible through the common recognition of truth, the community of needs and responsibilities. Conscience here does not mean man's openness to the ground of his being, the power of perception for what is highest and most essential. Rather, it appears as subjectivity's protective shell into which man can escape and there hide from reality. Liberalism's idea of conscience was in fact presupposed here. Conscience does not open the way to the redemptive road to truth which either does not exist or, if it does, is too demanding. It is the faculty which dispenses from truth. It thereby becomes the justification for subjectivity, which should not like to have itself called into question. Similarly, it becomes the justification for social conformity. As mediating value between the different subjectivities, social conformity is intended to make living together possible. The obligation to seek the truth ceases, as do any doubts about the general inclination of society and what it has become accustomed to. Being convinced of oneself, as well as conforming to others, are sufficient. Man is reduced to his superficial conviction and the less depth he has, the better for him." The erroneous conscience also would allow the false and utterly despicable conclusion, "Nazi SS would be justified and we should seek them in heaven since they carried out all their atrocities with fanatic conviction and complete certainty of conscience. There is no doubting the fact that Hitler and his accomplices who were deeply convinced of their cause, could not have acted otherwise. Therefore, the objective terribleness of their deeds notwithstanding, they acted morally, subjectively speaking. Since they followed their albeit mistaken consciences, one would have to recognize their conduct as moral and, as a result, should not doubt their eternal salvation." Cardinal Ratzinger concludes this section by writing "Since that conversation, I knew with complete certainty that something was wrong with the theory of justifying power of the subjective conscience, that, in other words, a concept of conscience which leads to such conclusions must be false. For, subjective conviction and the lack of doubts and scruples which follow therefrom do not justify man.
Patrick Murtha
1 year 6 months ago
You confuse Christ's attitude towards sinners. Christ did not eat with sinners because He loved the state of sin but because He loved the state of sanctity and wanted all men to saints. A doctor, to which Christ compared Himself, does not treat the sick because he loves dealing with disease but because he loves spreading health. The shepherd seeks the lost lamb precisely because the lamb is lost and needs to be returned to the fold. And so, it must be said that He does not come that sinners find comfort in their sins but that sinners return to the Father in sanctity, that all men become saints. Remember that he says over and over again, "Go and sin no more." Furthermore, it is not being self-righteous or Pharisaical to assist others, to correct others, to instruct others. That is Christ, the great Teacher, the great Educator, who said, "Go forth and teach all nations..." In fact, that is the first work of the Church and that is the great "work of mercy" as it is done to save a sinner and make a saint. You will note that Christ does not change the meaning of lost in order to make the lost lamb feel found; nor does He change the definition of health so that the sick do not seem unhealthy; nor will He change the meaning of sin simply so that the sinners can feel like a saint. True mercy is about diagnosing and not defending the disease, is about finding and not forsaking the lost lamb, is about sanctifying and not excusing the sinner. That is true mercy and true charity.
Carl Kuss
1 year 3 months ago
What many people do not understand about the Catholic teaching on formed conscience is that conscience is formed internally, that the formation of conscience is not a mere accident accruing to conscience. This is closely related to what you are saying about God acting directly in our lives. Morality cannot do without conscience.
Henry George
3 months 1 week ago

Fr. Martin, S.J.,

Are you a moral theologian of note.

Are you even a theologian of note ?

Of course God speaks to people, when has the Church ever denied this ?

Ignatius got himself in trouble, and he admitted it so by returning to school and learning theology, because though he meant well, what he
said was easily misunderstood.

You have misrepresented what Aquinas meant and to follow out what you
have said to its natural conclusions would mean that we only have to listen to our consciences as they are guided directly by the Holy Spirit,
and thus cannot err, and even if they did, we are not morally responsible or reprehensible as we must follow our consciences. Part of being a mature
soul is recognising that your conscience can err and err in terrible ways.

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It is astonishing to think that God would choose to enter the world this way: as a fragile newborn who could not even hold up his own head without help.
Ginny Kubitz MoyerOctober 20, 2017
Protestors rally to support Temporary Protected Status near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sept. 26. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Around 200,000 Salvadorans and 57,000 Hondurans have been residing in the United States for more than 15 years under Temporary Protected Status. But that status is set to expire in early 2018.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 20, 2017