Tag: Pope Francis

Is It a Sin to Disobey Your Conscience?

Is It a Sin to Disobey Your Conscience?

How much are we meant to follow our conscience in making moral decisions? In a 2013 interview, Pope Francis  asserted that “there is sin, even for those who have no faith, when conscience is not followed. Listening to and obeying conscience means deciding in the face of what is understood to be good or evil.”

This led to no small amount of confusion, likely because many of us grew up hearing about conscience as a sort of “get-out-of-sin-free” card. If we could justify our action (however objectively morally evil it might be) as “following our conscience,” we couldn’t be maltreated.

So is Pope Francis right? Yes… but not in the way many people may assume.

Sometimes orthodox Catholics squirm when they hear “conscience” being talked about. Too often it’s invoked to claim that we can hold (and teach) error without any implications.

For instance, the case of the once-prominent Irish priest Tony Flannery, CSsR, founder of the Association of Catholic Priests. Fr. Flannery ran afoul of the Church by denying core elements of Catholic teaching—including not only the usual moral issues but the doctrine of the Trinity and even his own status as a priest, by declaring that the priesthood wasn’t instituted by Christ. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Church ordered him either to change his views or stop showing himself publicly as a Catholic priest.

A religion blogger for the Huffington Post was scandalized by this, and asked rhetorically, “How contradictory can the Church be? Firstly, the Church teaches people, and priests, to follow their conscience. When they do, they are threatened.” Fittingly, Fr. Flannery’s autobiography is called A Question of Conscience.

Did that blogger have a point? Is it hypocrisy for the Church to preach respect for conscience while at the same time ensuring that its priests promote only Catholic teaching?

One of the major problems in this whole conversation about conscience is that people don’t comprehend the term, and hardly anyone really bothers to define it.

Let’s start with what conscience isn’t. Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver puts the matter well: “Catholics today… have come to comprehend conscience as listening to their own voice, rather than listening to the voice of God as he has revealed himself in Scripture and in Tradition.” So conscience is not reducible simply to following your “inner voice.”

St. Thomas Aquinas defines conscience as “nothing else than the application of knowledge to some action,” and explores the ways that conscience

  • witnesses (when we “recognize that we have done or not done something”),
  • incites or binds (when “we judge that something should be done or not done”), and
  • excuses, accuses, and/or torments us (when “we judge that something done is well done or ill done”).

In the immortal words of Boston, this means that conscience is “more than a feeling.” , it’s more like, “Based on what you know, what’s the right or wrong course of action in this context?”

This is a crucial distinction. If you have been practicing a habitual sin for years, you may feel totally comfortable with it. In as much as it contradicts the law of God written in your heart, you may have learned a way to justify it in your mind, or just out of sheer repetition your conscience may no longer feel pricked when you do it. But once you come to understand that the Church teaches it’s immoral, and that this teaching is guided by the Holy Spirit, you’ve got more knowledge to apply to the act.

This is why the Church speaks of the need to “form” our conscience (see the Catechism 1783-1785). The more good and true knowledge our conscience has, the more it’s able to guide our feelings and keep them honest, the better it works.

So, the principle “follow your conscience” doesn’t mean that what we feel inside determines what’s “right” for us. But if you comprehend what conscience does mean, you can see why Pope Francis is right: we ought to always follow our conscience. Generally speaking, there are two reasons why:

  1. We often make moral judgments with the lights available to us. If you grab your roommate’s $20 bill from the kitchen counter, innocently and reasonably trusting it’s yours, you’re not guilty of theft.
  2. It’s always wrong to try to do something evil. To do something “against conscience” means to do something that you believe is morally wrong. And that is always wrong. If you’re trying to steal from your roommate, you’re sinning, even if the $20 bill you swiped turns out to have been yours in the first place. A priest I know gives the example of people who decide to skip Mass on Ash Wednesday, (falsely) believing it to be a holy day of obligation. There’s no actual obligation to go on Ash Wednesday, but if you thought there was and intentionally skipped, that’s a sin. As Pope Francis makes it clear, even an atheist knows it’s wrong to intend to do something wicked, whether or not the thing in question actually is wicked.

The Church also can (and does) teach all of us never to stop forming our conscience more rightly in submission to the truths of revelation and reason of which it is the divinely guided teacher. Then we can be sure that the inner voice of conscience is equally the voice of God.

Advent: The Season that requires a Journey of Conversion – Pope Francis

Advent: The Season that requires a Journey of Conversion – Pope Francis

Advent is a time of waiting and expectation, Pope Francis said Sunday, but this season also requires a “journey of conversion.”

The pope focused on the invitation of St. John the Baptist, who proclaimed a baptism of repentance as a voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his path.

To prepare the way for the Lord who comes, it is necessary to take into account the demands of conversion,” Pope Francis said. Conversion requires changing your attitude, Francis explained. “It leads to humbly recognizing our mistakes, our infidelities, and defaults.”

“The Baptist invited the people of his time to conversion with force, vigor, and severity,” Francis said. “Yet he knew how to listen, he knew how to perform gestures of tenderness, gestures of forgiveness towards the multitude of men and women who came to him to confess their sins and be baptized.”

“Even today, the disciples of Jesus are called to be his humble, but courageous witnesses to rekindle hope,” the pope said. The pope suggested that each person asks, “How can I change something in my attitude to prepare the way for the Lord?” 

One necessary step is making concrete gestures of reconciliation with our brothers, asking for forgiveness of our faults,” he explained. The Lord helps us in this if we have good will.

Christians are called to help people understand that “despite everything, the kingdom of God continues to be built day by day with the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “May the Virgin Mary help us to prepare the way of the Lord day by day, beginning with ourselves,” Pope Francis prayed.

Pope Francis Speaks on Homosexuality: Read What He Has To Say

Pope Francis Speaks on Homosexuality: Read What He Has To Say

In a book-length interview recently published, Pope Francis addressed gifts and problems for clerical and religious vocations, among them the issues of homosexuality in the clergy.

“The problem of homosexuality is a very critical issue that must be sufficiently discerned from the beginning with the candidates if that is the case. We have to be exacting. In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church,” the pope says in the book “The Strength of a Vocation,” set to be released in ten languages.

In an excerpt from the book, the pope said he is concerned about the issue of evaluating and forming people with homosexual tendencies in the clergy and holy life.

“This is something I am interested in, because perhaps at one time it did not receive much attention,” he said.

Francis said that with candidates for the priesthood or religious life “we have to take great care during formation in the human and affective maturity. We have to seriously detect, and listen to the voice of experience that the Church also has. When care is not taken in detecting all of this, problems increase. As I said before, it can occur that at the time perhaps they didn’t show [that tendency],  but afterward, it comes out.”

“The problem of homosexuality is a very critical issue that must be adequately discerned from the starting with the candidates if that is the case,” the pope reiterated.

Francis recalled that one time “I had a somewhat scandalized bishop here who told me that he had found out that in his diocese, a very large diocese, there were different homosexual priests and that he had to deal with all that, intervening, above all, in the structuring process, to form a different group of clergy.”

“It’s an actuality we can’t deny. There is no absence of cases in the consecrated life either. A religious told me that, on a canonical visit to one of the provinces in his congregation, he was surprised. He saw that there were good young students and even some already declared religious who were gay,” he described.

The pope said that the religious “wondered if it were a challenge and asked me if there was something wrong with that. Francis said he was told by one religious superior that the issue was not “that serious, it’s just an expression of love.”

“That’s a mistake,” Francis warned. “It’s not just an expression of fondness. In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of love. Therefore, the Church suggests that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or holy life. The ministry or the consecrated life is not his place.”

We “have to persuade homosexual priests, and men and women religious to live celibacy with honesty, and above all, that they are impeccably answerable, trying to never shock either their communities or the faithful holy people of God by living a double life. It’s better for them to leave the ministry or the holy life rather than to live a pretentious life.”

The pope was asked in the book if there are limits to what can be tolerated information.

“Of course. When there are candidates with neurosis, marked imbalances, difficult to channel remedial assistance, they shouldn’t be accepted to either the priesthood or the religious life, They should be assisted to take another direction (but they should not be permitted. They should be guided, but they should not be asserted. Let us always bear in mind that they are persons who are going to live in the service of the Church, of the Christian community, of the people of God. Let’s not overlook that outlook. We have to care for them so they are psychologically and efficiently healthy,” the pope replied.

“Worthy Of Imitation” – Pope Francis Declares 15 Year Old ‘Computer Geek’ Venerable 

“Worthy Of Imitation” – Pope Francis Declares 15 Year Old ‘Computer Geek’ Venerable 

Vatican finds this Italian boy “worthy of imitation,” as well as a young girl from Opus Dei and a seminarian.

On Thursday July 5th, Pope Francis authorized the recognition of the “heroic virtue” of young Carlo Acutis, an Italian boy who died October 12, 2006, at age 15, of leukemia.

Acutis was a “computer geek,” who loved all things technological, such that some of the adults who knew him and had studied computer engineering thought he was a genius.

One of his most significant computer ventures was cataloguing all the Eucharistic miracles of the world. He started the project when he was 11 years old and wrote at the time:

The more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of Heaven.”

He then asked his parents to start taking him to all the places of the Eucharistic miracles, and two and half years later the project was completed.

In addition to the advance in Acutis’ cause for canonization, Pope Francis also recognized the heroic virtue of two other young people.

Pietro di Vitale was a young seminarian. Born in 1916, he died in 1940 at age 24, just some years after entering seminary. At his death, he told his mother, “Mama, long live Jesus and Mary.”

As well, Alexia Gonzalez-Barros was recognized on the of 5th July as Venerable.

Born in 1971 in Spain to a family involved with Opus Dei, Alexia suffered from illness from the time she was very young. In 1979, she went to Rome for her First Communion and was able to greet Pope John Paul II. When she was 13, a tumor left her paralyzed. She died a few months later, on December 5, 1985, showing exemplary courage.

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