“conscience truly so called”

His Hermeneuticalness as a great entry on the proper understanding and function of a person’s conscience in case of possible conflict with the, for example, teaching of a Pope or of the Church.

You will want to read the whole thing, which starts with a look at the most recent rubbish from John Cornwell.

Fr. Finigan’s post takes up the "toast quote" of Ven. John Henry Newman.

Here is an excerpt from the entry:

It is from this point that Newman discusses conscience since he has admitted that "there are extreme cases in which Conscience may come into collision with the word of a Pope." He says that conscience is the apprehension of the divine law which is the supreme rule of conduct. He points out that this Christian understanding of conscience is opposed to the subjective view of conscience which sees it as a creation of ourselves rather than the voice of God. Newman describes the popular understanding which is familiar to us today, though sadly now within the Church as well as outside of it:

When men advocate the rights of conscience, they in no sense mean the rights of the Creator, nor the duty to Him, in thought and deed, of the creature; but the right of thinking, speaking, writing, and acting, according to their judgment or their humour, without any thought of God at all. They do not even pretend to go by any moral rule, but they demand, what they think is an Englishman’s prerogative, for each to be his own master in all things, and to profess what he pleases, asking no one’s leave, and accounting priest or preacher, speaker or writer, unutterably impertinent, who dares to say a word against his going to perdition, if he like it, in his own way.

Go see the rest at Fr. Finigan’s place!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Oneros says:

    People often bring up the situation of what would happen “if” a Pope tried to teach heresy ex cathedra, and the usual answer is that he would cease to be Pope.

    This explanation, however, is faulty. The whole point of the dogma of papal infallibility is that the Holy Spirit GUARANTEES that the Pope NEVER will, in fact, attempt such a thing. It CANNOT happen.

    Otherwise, someone who thought that the Immaculate Conception was a heresy could just say, “Well, that one doesn’t count because he was teaching a heresy and so ceased to be Pope.” Papal Infallibility then would be of no help in deciding questions, as people would be once again left to their own judgment of what was heresy (and who was really Pope).

    The whole point of infallibility is not some self-fulfilling circle whereby “The Pope cannot teach heresy, because if he tried to teach heresy he’d cease to be Pope.” That gives us no certainty.

    The doctrine is not a semantical trick like that, whereby the Pope is infallible because saying something wrong would cause him to (potentially invisibly) lose the papacy (thereby preventing a Pope from ever saying anything wrong, but only in a trivially technical way, as he would remain the Apparent Pope).

    No, Infallibility is real guarantee that the Pope WILL NOT ever attempt to teach heresy ex cathedra. There is total certainty, there is never a question of “Maybe what he just said was heresy, and thus he wasn’t really Pope, and thus we don’t have to believe it.” It simply WONT happen.

    It is a true charism of the Holy Spirit we must trust, NOT a word game merely defined into existence whereby the Pope is “by definition” infallible, because someone who says something wrong is “by definition” not Pope.

    People need to understand this; there is no “fail-safe” like that, we must trust the Holy Spirit.

    Yes, the other theory existed (and Bellarmine held it), but Vatican I’s decision was against such a theory. It taught that infallibility is a true charism of the Holy Spirit whereby a Pope never WILL teach heresy ex cathedra. If he wanted to, he’d die before he was able to carry it out. An “automatic removal” for the Pope (who would, presumably, still claim to be Pope) would simply be too hard to judge (who would judge?)

    No, rather, it simply CAN’T happen.

  2. Oneros says:

    As for conscience, the difference is between the objective general principles in the abstract and their subjective specific application for the individual in the concrete.

    No one is free to reject the objective general principles. But conscience may disagree with human authorities about the correct way for that person to apply them to their own life. The Pope is not infallible in such prudential questions.

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