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Matters of Conscience

4 Oct

When it comes to controversial moral teachings like contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, why can’t I just follow my conscience? In fact, I was taught that we were always supposed to follow our conscience.

I’m sure many of us have heard this sort of objection to the Church’s moral teachings on hot button issues. People either disagree with the Church on these issues and/or have chosen a lifestyle incompatible with this teaching and are looking for a little wiggle room. But how does the Church herself understand such objection to established moral norms?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies the “assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience” as a source of error of judgment in moral conduct (no. 1792). It is true that one should not be forced to act against one’s conscience. But it’s quite another to assert that a Catholic with a well-formed conscience may put the Church’s teachings in the areas of faith and morals through his or her own “approval process.”

Some Catholic commentators assert that a well-formed conscience and official Catholic teaching may come to opposite conclusions in moral matters. This opinion directly contradicts paragraph 2039 of the Catechism: “Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church.”

A Catholic simply cannot claim to have a well-formed and well-informed conscience if he is ignorant of, misunderstands, or rejects outright God’s law and thus commits acts that the Church considers gravely disordered. Continue reading