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25th of February 2018

Moral Values



Francis and the Idolatry of Conscience

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“God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to [the] gospel” (Rom 2:16)

Francis and the Idolatry of Conscience

We have long gotten used to the fact that “Pope” Francis (Jorge Bergoglio) never denounces the grave sin of idolatry in its proper literal sense, such as is committed by Hindus and Voodooists, for example. On the contrary, he is very much enamored with Paganism and its “traditions.” He does, however, love to rail against metaphorical “idolatries”, such as what he calls the idolatry of money, of immanence, of ideas, of oneself, of space being greater than time, of false philanthropy, etc.

At the same time, there is one metaphorical idolatry that he never denounces but in fact actively promotes. It is the idolatry of conscience.

Although in a recent address to the tribunal of the Roman Rota, one of the appellate courts of the Vatican judicial system that deals with marriage annulments, Francis placed emphasis on forming correct consciences in accordance with the teaching of the church (well, his church, that is), this accomplishes precious little when in the end that very church itself teaches the effective permissibility of adultery and fornication, or, in any case, the primacy of conscience over God’s Law and Catholic doctrine. In his infernal exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which he has taken great pains to point out is part of his “authentic Magisterium”, Francis teaches precisely that:

We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them. (n. 37)

There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid.” (n. 298)

Naturally, every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace. 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. (n. 303)

Examples could be multiplied, but you get the idea.

The method these Modernists use is always the same: Extol the subjective conscience into the high heavens; idolize it, divinize it, especially in practice; but throw a little bit of plausible deniability into the mix by not forgetting to mention somewhere that conscience should be be properly formed. This will get the Jimmy Akins and Tim Staples’ of the world the necessary wiggle room to exonerate you from the charge of misleading the people, while everyone else gets the intended message loud and clear: Do whatever you think (or “feel”) is right, no matter what God’s Law or the Church says.

We remember Francis’ reported phone call to a woman telling her that if her own pastor won’t let her receive the Novus Ordo sacraments because she lives in an adulterous relationship, then she should just go to a different parish. This is Novus Ordo conscience doctrine in action!

In contrast to all this, Pope Pius XII condemned the so-called “New Morality”, more commonly known as situation ethics, in an address that is refreshingly lucid:

The distinctive mark of this morality is that it is not based in effect on universal moral laws, such as, for example, the Ten Commandments, but on the real and concrete conditions or circumstances in which men must act, and according to which the conscience of the individual must judge and choose. Such a state of things is unique, and is applicable only once for every human action. That is why the decision of conscience, as the advocates of this ethic assert, cannot be commanded by ideas, principles and universal laws.

…[Situation ethics] does not deny outright general moral concepts and principles (although at times it comes very close to such denial). It may happen often that the decision of conscience will be in harmony with them. Yet they are not, so to speak, a body of premises, from which conscience draws logical conclusions. In a particular case, the case which “happens only once.” Not at all! At the center is found the good, which must be actuated or preserved, in its real and individual value—as, for example, in the domain of faith, the personal bond which links us with God. If a seriously trained conscience decided that abandoning the Catholic faith and joining another religion brings it closer to God, then such a step would be “justified,” even though it is generally classified as “giving up the faith.” Or again, in the domain of morality, another example is the corporal and spiritual gift of one’s self among young people. Here, a seriously trained conscience could decide that, because of a sincere inclination, physical and sensual intimacies are in order, and these, although allowed only between married persons, would become allowable expressions of this inclination. The open conscience of today would decide in this way because from the hierarchy of values it draws the principle that personality values, being the highest, could either make use of lower bodily or sensual values, or rule them out, according to the suggestions of each individual situation. It has been insistently claimed that, precisely in virtue of this principle, in what concern, the rights of married person, it would be necessary, in case of conflict, to leave to the serious and upright conscience of the parties, according to the demands of concrete situations, the power to frustrate directly the realization of biological values, for the benefit of personality values.

Such judgments of conscience, howsoever contrary they may seem at first sight to divine precepts, would be valid before God, because, they say, in the eyes of God a seriously formed conscience takes precedence over “precept” and “law.”

The new ethic (adapted to circumstances), say its authors, is eminently “individual.” In this determination of conscience, each individual finds himself in direct relationship with God and decides before Him, without the slightest trace of intervention by any law, any authority, any community, any cult or religion. Here there is simply the “I” of man and the “I” of the personal God, not the God of the law, but of God the Father, with whom man must unite himself in filial love. Viewed thus, the decision of conscience is a personal “risk,” according to one’s own knowledge and evaluation, in all sincerity before God. These two things, right intention and sincere response, are what God considers! He is not concerned with the action. Hence the answer may be to exchange that Catholic faith for other principles, to seek divorce, to interrupt gestation, to refuse obedience to competent authority in the family, the Church, the State, and so forth.

All this would be perfectly fitting for man’s status as one who has come “of age” and, in the Christian order, it would be in harmony with the relation of sonship which, according to the teaching of Christ, makes us pray to God as “Our Father.”

This personal view of things spares man the necessity of having to ask himself, at every instant, whether the decision to be taken corresponds with the paragraphs of the law or to the canons of abstract standards and rules. It preserves man from the hypocrisy of pharisaical fidelity to laws; it preserves him both from pathological scruples as well at from the flippancy or lack of conscience, because it puts the responsibility before God on the Christian personally. Thus speak those who preach the “new morality.”

(Pope Pius XII, Address Soyez Les Bienvenues, nn. 4,6-7)

This reads almost as if Pius XII was rebuking Francis and his entire theological madhouse directly!

But let no one think that Bergoglio is the one who started it all. In a blog post on the upshot of Amoris Laetitia, sedevacantist Bp. Donald Sanborn hit the nail on the head when he located the origin of the “primacy of conscience” doctrine in the abominable Second Vatican Council:

Vatican II’s fundamental error is the primacy of conscience over the teaching of the Church. This wicked and dogma-destroying doctrine is contained in the principle of ecumenism. To say that heretical sects are means of salvation is to say that God has no care of truth, and that what counts is your experience of God, and not the truth about God….

In the Modernist system, what gives a religion “value” is that it is the product of your interior encounter with God. The objective dogmas count for nothing; they are merely expressions of people’s religious experiences. Ecumenism, therefore, is the doctrine which flows from the principle that conscience has precedence over doctrine.

Amoris Lætitia is loaded with this principle. Is it not through a “discernment” that fornicatory couples or adulterous couples realize that they are doing nothing wrong? It is pure conscience over law. The true notion of conscience is that it applies the law. It does not make up the law. The law comes from God. The conscience applies it: Thou shalt not commit adultery.

The Novus Ordo conservatives, therefore, are completely missing the boat if they fail to see that the doctrinal deviations of Bergoglio are merely an application of the fundamental principle of Vatican II.

(Bp. Donald J. Sanborn, “Correctio Filialis”, In Veritate, Oct. 18, 2017; italics given.)

Premises are dangerous things. They inevitably lead to conclusions, and even if those conclusions are not drawn immediately, they always can be, and Francis has made it his job to conclude more and more from what is contained in the Novus Ordo religion’s principles.

Not surprisingly, there are others still who are quite happy to develop the Bergoglian conclusions further, and that’s why we’ve now heard it argued within Vatican circles that the mortal sin of contraception may sometimes not only be permissible but in fact obligatory, and that there is no such thing as an intrinsically evil act (an act that is wrong in and of itself and therefore can under no circumstance ever be justified). Welcome to Novus Ordo development of doctrine. The prophet Isaias must have had a vision of Vatican II and its aftermath when he thundered: “Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Is 5:20).

The true Catholic teaching on conscience is a lot less mystical and “exciting” as the Vatican II Sect would have you believe:

[Conscience] is an act of the intellect, judging that an action must be performed as obligatory, or must be omitted as sinful, or may be performed as lawful, or is advisable as the better course of action. Thus, we have four types of conscience — commanding, forbidding, permitting, counseling.

Conscience is not, therefore, in the strict sense, habitual knowledge of right and wrong. This is moral science. Neither is conscience in the strict sense an habitual attitude toward moral problems, although we use the term sometimes in this sense, as when we speak of a scrupulous conscience or a lax conscience. But in the true sense, conscience is an act of the practical intellect, concerned with a particular action which one is contemplating doing or omitting in the future. (Many people, particularly non-Catholics, regard conscience as an emotional faculty. They “feel” that something is right or wrong, and are guided in their conduct by this feeling. Of course, this norm is entirely unreliable. The more intelligence and the less feeling enter into conscience, the more likely it is to be correct.)

(Rev. Francis J. Connell, Outlines of Moral Theology, 2nd ed. [Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing, 1958], p. 38; italics given.)

It is true that conscience is a norm of morality, since it is a dictate of the practical intellect: “The voice of conscience is the authoritative guide of man’s moral conduct” (Rev. Thomas Slater, A Manual of Moral Theology, vol. 1, 5th ed. [London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1925], p. 29). However, a man’s conscience is not the ultimate norm of moral conduct by any stretch: “Not that the individual conscience is independent of all authority…” (ibid.). It is, rather, what is called the “proximate subjective norm” of morality. By contrast, the remote objective norm “is the eternal law of God [and] the proximate objective norm is the natural law…” (Connell, Outlines of Moral Theology, p. 20).

Since it is the divine mission of the Church to facilitate the salvation of souls, part of her duty as the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15) and recipient of Divine Revelation is to teach men the moral law, which people would otherwise be able to discern through the use of unaided reason only with great difficulty. It is for this reason that conscience can never be invoked against Church teaching, for the Church is the very authority which, by divine appointment, has the right and duty to guide and enlighten conscience in the first place: “And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican” (Mt 18:17). The individual conscience is not the source of morality, it is merely its application.

Beware, then, of incessant Vatican talk about personal conscience in our times. It is a mask for trying to inculcate situation ethics by exaggerating the true notion and role of conscience, making it in effect into people’s very own individualized source of right and wrong.

Image source: Flickr

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