Thursday 20th September 2018

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Can We Use Our Consciences On Contraception?”

April 16, 2015 Featured Today No Comments

By BRIAN CLOWES

(Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 21 of The Facts of Life, “Contraception,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.)

+ + +

“Surveys in many countries consistently show that most Catholics believe that decisions of conscience about contraception rightfully belong with those who must bear and rear children. The legitimacy of teaching requires that it be embraced by the faithful. Your teaching has no such legitimacy. It is a marginalized minority view in our church, defended largely by a male celibate hierarchy” — “An Open Letter to Pope John Paul II on the Question of Contraception,” The New York Times, September 6, 1994.
Published as an advertisement funded by Catholics for [a Free] Choice (CFFC) and other dissenting groups, this letter claims that most Catholics use birth control. So, they say, it should be embraced and promoted by the Church. This attitude is a reflection of the curious belief that the Roman Catholic Church is a democracy, and thus should be subject to “morality and ethics by popular vote,” a concept which has mortally wounded most of the mainstream Protestant churches in the United States.
Many Catholics are closer to the view of CFFC on the role of conscience than they are to the Pope and the Magisterium, and would agree with CFFC’s false assertion that “Church law affirms both the right and the responsibility of a Catholic to follow his or her conscience, even when it conflicts with church teaching.”
The root of many of the problems in the Catholic Church today is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the human conscience. In fact, many Catholics are quick to use their consciences as a defense for mortal sin — but cannot define what it actually is. They see the conscience is a teacher, not a pupil; and they believe that it is the source of morality, instead of a witness to the moral law authored by God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses this fatal and fundamental error: “Objective rules of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience. . . . It is by the judgment of conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law” (nn. 1751, 1778).
This fundamental misconception leads to many people saying, “If I think birth control is the best choice in my own personal situation, then it’s all right.”
A dead giveaway that a person’s conscience is improperly formed is when he or she says something like “I respect the teachings of the Church, but I follow my own conscience in matters of sexual morality.” Nancy Pelosi recently gave us a classic example when she said that she is a “practicing and respectful Catholic,” but, regarding the Church’s teachings on abortion and contraception, “My faith isn’t about what their position is.”
This statement is evidence that Pelosi’s conscience has become disconnected from objective truth. The causes are: “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” (CCC, n. 1792).
This type of erroneous thinking has led to the tragic situation where most Catholic married couples in this country use contraception and, in fact, cannot imagine living without it. Only about two percent of married Catholic women of childbearing age use natural family planning (NFP).
This statistic is depressing, but should not be surprising. After all, people tend to uncritically imitate their society’s characteristics, especially in the absence of proper moral and religious formation. The Catholic Church in the United States is in a state of disarray, where most of her members observe those rules that they find easy to comply with, and ignore all the rest.
These people attend Mass when it is convenient, use contraception and abort at the same rate as the general population, and generally ignore what the Church has to say on moral issues. These people are Catholic in name only, not in spirit. They look at public opinion as the yardstick against which to measure their own behavior, and are therefore doomed to failure in their spiritual lives.
Once again, the opinion of the majority is not the valid guide for morals. For all Christians, the will of God is the guide. When a couple uses contraception, they are directly interfering with God’s design for their lives.
Catholics have a further guide: the Church’s Magisterium. Catholics must follow the word of God in Scripture and the word of God as interpreted by the Pope under the teaching authority of the Church. It does not matter what dissident priests or Catholic lay people say; Catholics of good (not just convenient) conscience must follow God and the Magisterium — even if they are in the minority.
Authority vs. Conscience. The question of conscience vs. authority must be answered on two levels, the most basic being from the standpoint of “natural law.” As defined in Romans 2:12 16 and Jer. 31:33, God imprints the natural law on the heart and soul of man, and this leads him to know whether or not an act is moral or evil. This means that the “natural law” is man’s instinctual knowledge of what is right and what is wrong — his “conscience.” People who have poorly formed or unformed consciences have great difficulty in distinguishing right from wrong.
Those who refuse to follow Church teachings in sexual matters are the most likely to claim they are only following their own consciences. But they leave out a vital part of the equation: It is only licit to follow one’s conscience when that conscience is properly formed and the conclusions reached are in accord with the teachings of the Church.
Many appeal to an ill-defined “spirit of Vatican II” to support their concept of the human conscience. They use vague terms such as “renewal,” “reinvigoration,” and “rejuvenation” of the Church, while misrepresenting what the documents of the council actually say. They often quote Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae (Declaration on Religious Freedom) in support of their contention that people should be able to do anything their consciences do not object to.
However, the same document notes that “not a few can be found who seem inclined to use the name of freedom as the pretext for refusing to submit to authority and for making light of the duty of obedience.” Fr. John Courtney Murray, SJ, acknowledged by many as principal author of Dignitatis Humanae, described how an unformed conscience can lead to the moral anarchy of subjectivism:
“The Declaration [on Religious Freedom] does not base the right to the free exercise of religion on ‘freedom of conscience.’ Nowhere does this phrase occur. And the Declaration nowhere lends its authority to the theory for which the phrase frequently stands, namely, that I have the right to do what my conscience tells me to do, simply because my conscience tells me to do it. This is a perilous theory. Its particular peril is subjectivism — the notion that, in the end, it is my conscience, and not the objective truth, which determines what is right and wrong, true or false.”
The document confirms that the conscience must submit itself to the authority of the Church:
“In forming their consciences the Christian faithful must give careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church. For the Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher of truth. Her charge is to announce and teach authentically that truth which is Christ, and at the same time with her authority to declare and confirm the principles of the moral order which derive from human nature itself” (n. 14).
The conscience is a precious and sacred gift, and it must be cared for by continually forming it with prayer and education. It must be trained in the same manner that one who cares for his body would exercise it vigorously.
The Catechism states: “The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings” (n. 1783).

A Fatally Flawed Concept

Ignorance is certainly no excuse for committing sin. As we have seen, every Catholic has the duty to know what is evil and what is not, and, further, they should know why certain activities are evil. A person is culpable for the evil he commits when he “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.”
By contrast, a properly formed Catholic conscience has been rigorously educated, is fully aware of the intrinsically evil nature of contraception, and is led by this knowledge to vigorously oppose it.
Tragically, many Catholics possess a fatally flawed concept of conscience, denying the need for formation in the truth, and treating mere desire as an absolute. Conscience is indeed a decision-maker, but it must be freely submitted to the law of God, which is authentically interpreted and taught by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, to which Christ entrusted His authority to teach in His Name.
The gravest error lies not in affirming the freedom of conscience to decide, but in misinterpreting the nature of such freedom. Freedom of conscience must be at the service of moral truth, but can never be its determinant.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Here's a thing about silence: it's only "holy" when it is properly-ordered. Silence in the face of personal insults is laudable. Silence in the face of injustice is not.

Our Lord was silent when confronted with mockery, but He was quite vocal when confronted with scandal.

Edward Pentin on Twitter

“Pope at Mass today: People yelled “crucify him” but Jesus remained silent because “the people were deceived by the powerful.&...

twitter.com

@MCITLFrAphorism @TheWandererNews Virtus ‘training’ was a joke from the start. ANYONE could pass the Virtus courses without having to read their articles. It was/IS a waste of time. A baby bandaid on a deadly wound. #Fail

Load More...

Yet another US bishop calls for Youth Synod to be canceled so Church can ‘deal with abuse crisis’

TYLER, Texas, September 10, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A Texas bishop has called for the Youth Synod to be canceled in light of the ongoing scandal regarding the cover-up of episcopal sexual abuse of minors and seminarians. On September 8, Bishop…Continue Reading

ATLANTA ARCHBISHOP WILTON GREGORY INVITES HOMOSEXUALIST FR. JAMES MARTIN TO SPEAK

ATLANTA (ChurchMilitant.com) – Celebrity Jesuit Fr. James Martin is heading to Georgia, courtesy of pro-gay Abp. Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Georgia. On Friday, Martin announced on Twitter that Abp. Gregory has invited him to speak in October at two Atlanta-area locations.…Continue Reading

Leaked sex abuse report rocks German church, 3,677 victims

September 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Two German major media outlets – Der Spiegel and Die Zeit – leaked today the findings of a sexual abuse commission funded by the German Bishops’ Conference and which Cardinal Reinhard Marx had planned to present to the public…Continue Reading

US bishops’ president accused of allowing reported sex abuser access to kids

September 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, has been accused of allowing a priest who confessed to sex abuse of a minor to function as a pastor of a parish,…Continue Reading

Cdl. Cupich on abuse crisis: We shouldn’t be ‘distracted’ by this, Church has ‘bigger agenda’

CHICAGO, September 10, 2018, (LifeSiteNews) – When challenged about the clergy sexual abuse scandal now facing the Church, Cardinal Blase Cupich told a large gathering of seminarians that the Church’s agenda is “bigger” than the sexual corruption now facing the…Continue Reading

Catholic prelates must speak out, now, as the faithful are attacked by their own shepherds

September 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The following reflection is the result of a couple of days of my reading and thinking about the last five years, but then also about the last fifty years. Trying to get an interview with…Continue Reading

Oklahoma archbishop: I’ve ‘deepest respect’ for Viganó. His claims demand ‘deeper examination’

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma, August 31, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley has issued a statement saying he has the “deepest respect” for Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó and his “integrity.” Some on the left have attempted to cast doubt…Continue Reading

One Mad Mom . . . Martin’s Cozy with Proximate Occasions of Sin

Let me say this, I am a mom of a multitude of kids and have spent their lives trying to ensure their safety and well-being.  I have THE biggest stake with what’s been going on in the Church for decades. …Continue Reading

Thousands of Catholic women ask Pope: Did you cover-up for McCarrick, as Viganò claims?

August 30, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A group of prominent Catholic women have written an open letter to Pope Francis imploring him to provide clarity on the “escalating” sex abuse crisis currently “engulfing” the Church. Expressing anger, betrayal, and heartbreak, the women bluntly…Continue Reading

Ave Maria University president slams Viganò, Cardinal Burke

AVE MARIA, Florida, August 30, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Citing the “God of Surprises,” the president of a Roman Catholic University once known for its orthodoxy has slammed two faithful prelates for their challenges to the Pope, particularly in regard to…Continue Reading

Pope handpicks US cardinal enmeshed in McCarrick scandal as youth synod delegate

August 28, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis has named Cardinal Joseph Tobin, a prelate who former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganò has testified owes his rise to power to disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, as a delegate to the October synod on…Continue Reading

U.S. bishop disappointed with Pope’s ‘no comment’ answer on sex-abuse cover-up

MADISON, Wisconsin, August 28, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Robert Morlino vouched for the integrity of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, joining a growing chorus of faithful prelates who have expressed support for the former papal nuncio’s astounding testimony pointing to Pope Francis and other high-ranking…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

US bishops’ silence on meeting with Pope could put their credibility on sex abuse at risk

ROME, September 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Have the jocular images and low-key statements of US Bishops following their meeting with Pope Francis last week set back their attempts to address the grave situation in the Church, especially the handling of sexual abuse cases by bishops? The details that have been revealed of the bishops’ meeting with Francis last Thursday give no indication that they addressed the extent of the McCarrick coverup or the need for…Continue Reading

Cardinal Maradiaga rebukes papal critics: McCarrick abuse scandal ‘of a private order’

September 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The scandal of ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s homosexual abuse of young priests and seminarians and Pope Francis’ alleged cover-up are “of a private order,” and a merely “administrative affair,” according to one of the Pope’s top advisers, Cardinal Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga. He made these remarks in a recent interview in one of the most revealing statements to date on the Viganò testimony. In an interview published on Wednesday evening by Religion Digital, the religious portal…Continue Reading

Dutch Catholic church accused of widespread sexual abuse cover-up

More than half of the Netherlands’ senior clerics were involved in covering up sexual assault of children between 1945 and 2010, a press report claimed on Saturday, further engulfing the Catholic church in a global abuse scandal. Over the course of 65 years, 20 of 39 Dutch cardinals, bishops and their auxiliaries “covered up sexual abuse, allowing the perpetrators to cause many more victims”, the daily NRC reported. “Four abused children and 16 oth

Steve Bannon Drafting Curriculum for Right-Wing Catholic Institute in Italy

(Reuters) – Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon is helping to craft the curriculum for a leadership course at a right-wing Roman Catholic institute in Italy, stepping up his efforts to influence conservative thinking in the church. Benjamin Harnwell, director of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute based in a mountaintop monastery not far from Rome, told Reuters Bannon had been helping to build up the institute for about half of its eight-year life. Cardinal Raymond…Continue Reading

China, Vatican ‘May Sign Deal’ on Chinese Catholics, Bishops: Taiwan

Beijing and the Vatican are on the verge of an agreement on the status of China’s Catholic Church and the controversial appointment of bishops by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, reports indicate. A report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday cited two people close to negotiations as saying that a deal was very close. In Taipei, Taiwan foreign affairs spokesman Li Hsien-chang said the democratic island’s officials had a similar understanding of the situation.…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic . . . Skewed Ideas About Education And Minority Groups

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly]. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society…Continue Reading

Is Trump Going Neocon In Syria?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Is President Donald Trump about to intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war? For that is what he and his advisers seem to be signaling. The past week, Trump said of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s campaign to recapture the last stronghold of the rebellion, Idlib province: “If it’s a slaughter, the…Continue Reading

Pro-Lifer… Arizona Governor Names Successor To Fill McCain’s Seat

By DEXTER DUGGAN PHOENIX — With its own strange brand of politics, Arizona acquired a new U.S. senator who agreed to fill the upper-chamber seat for at least a few months. Huh? With the late John McCain’s health slipping away for more than a year to an aggressive brain cancer, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey had…Continue Reading

A Book Review… GKC: The Wonder Of The Child And The Mysteries Of Faith

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2006), 336 pp. $16.95. Available through www.ignatius.com or 1-800-651-1531. A great writer’s past, family background, and the formative influences of childhood always evoke great human interest. In narrating the story of his life, Chesterton naturally begins with his family background and the lives…Continue Reading

The Triumph Of The Cross Over Evil

By JAMES MONTI It is in mid-September each year, and with particular urgency in this year of 2018, that the Church suddenly makes us revisit for two days the mystery of Good Friday with the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and its immediate sequel, the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (September…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

HLI’s Mission To Mongolia… There Are Setbacks, But The Church Continues

By FR. SHENAN BOQUET (Editor’s Note: Fr. Shenan Boquet is the president of Human Life International. This commentary first appeared September 3 at HLI.org and was reprinted by LifeSiteNews.com. All rights reserved.) + + + “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in…Continue Reading

True Wisdom From Above

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20 James 3:16-4:3 Mark 9:30-37 In the second reading today, St. James tells us that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. As we look around, we can certainly see an abundance of disorder and foul practices. To eliminate these…Continue Reading

A Book Review… Why Evangelists Need An Interior Life

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Spiritual Handbook for Catholic Evangelists: How to Win Souls Without Losing Your Own, by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard (Sophia Institute Press, 192 pages, Amazon paperback and Kindle). This is a new version of an old spiritual classic, originally written about a century ago, but still valid for today’s Church, and particularly for those involved in evangelization. The…Continue Reading

The Sacrament Of Confession… Confession Among The Early Christians

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 4 Here are some more testimonies from the Early Christians about the Sacrament of Confession, how they understood the sacrament and how it was administered by the priests to the people when they sinned. Those writers are known in history as the Fathers of the Early Church, the theologians and Bible scholars of the…Continue Reading

The Cardinal Virtues — Prudence

By DON FIER In beginning our consideration of the virtues last week, we saw that the word virtue, in general, can be defined as “a firm and habitual disposition to do good. It allows a person not only to perform good actions,” explains Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, “but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Our Lady Of Mount Carmel

By CAROLE BRESLIN In northern Israel between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea, a mountain range stretches inland. This range, although named Mount Carmel, is really a series of mountains stretching inland. The main site of the Mount, the Stella Maris monastery of the Discalced Carmelites, sits on a limestone bluff overlooking the city of Haifa. The view…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . Blessed Thomas Tsuji

By CAROLE BRESLIN Kyoto, Tokyo, Fukushima, Hiroshima, and Mount Fuji are among the most well-known places in the island nation of Japan. From a Catholic perspective, the best known would be Nagasaki, capital of the Nagasaki Prefecture located on the southwestern-most area of Japan. It was the first part of Japan to be colonized by the Portuguese and Dutch after…Continue Reading