Thursday, May 26, 2016

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Catholic Education Daily


Author Cites Blessed Cardinal Newman in Argument for Conscience

Author Stephanie A. Mann wrote an excellent piece on Catholic Exchange arguing for conscience protections against the HHS contraceptive mandate. Mann notes that both sides in the debate use the term "conscience." In her piece, she uses the words of Blessed John Henry Newman to show why a true understanding of conscience is imperative to this debate.
As any student in my class could tell you, the conscience can make mistakes and must be formed correctly. When your own conscience leads you to form a belief contrary to centuries of consistent teaching, it is at least worth a moment of self-doubt, prayer and reflection to examine that clash.”... Writing in 1875 in response to William Gladstone’s reaction to the First Vatican Council’s definition of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, Newman addressed one of the leading Catholic nobles in England publicly in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk. William Gladstone had warned that Catholics in England could not be trusted to be true citizens of their country because their loyalties would be split between England and Rome, between their country and their Church. In Section Five of that letter, Blessed John Henry Newman addressed the possibility of conflict between the teachings of the Church and the individual conscience. Newman begins by defining conscience as “the voice of God”, “a principle planted within us, before we have had any training, although training and experience are necessary for its strength, growth, and due formation” that is an “internal witness of both the existence and the law of God.” He goes on to proclaim conscience “the aboriginal Vicar of Christ”. Newman contrasts this view of conscience that reflects upon the objective truth of God and His laws to the modern notion of conscience as “a creation of man”. This view of conscience Newman calls “the right of self will.” It thinks of conscience as the individual’s “right of thinking, speaking, writing, and acting, according to their judgment or their humour, without any thought of God at all” so that everyone is “to be his own master in all things, and to profess what he pleases, asking no one’s leave”. Newman denies this view of conscience: “Conscience is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives.”
You can read Mann's entire piece here.

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