PODCAzT 130: Ratzinger on Conscience and Truth – Part 1

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In 1991 Joseph Card. Ratzinger gave a talk to American Bishops called “Conscience and Truth”.  This talk is useful today, especially in the context of two major controversies that are going on as I write, namely, the defense of the proper definition of marriage and, of course, the attacks on the consciences of Catholics and others by the Obama Administration, which is trying to undermine the our first liberties.

The talk is longish, so I will break this into three parts. The first PODCAzT will include my preliminary comments and the first part of the talk, “A Conversation On The Erroneous Conscience And First Inferences”.

In my preliminary comments I contextualizes one of my motives for giving you these audio projects.  An openly homosexual priest (HERE and HERE and HERE)  from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, Fr. Robert Pierson, OSB, was inexplicably allowed to give a talk at a parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, in which he gave a distorted vision of conscience that was designed to justify for his audience voting against the amendment to the state’s constitution which would define marriage as being between one man and one woman.  Several things bothered me about that talk, including his cherry picking of quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to support his false view of primacy of conscience over and against the Magisterium, all the while ignoring subsequent paragraphs that directly contradicted his position.  He also quoted Joseph Ratzinger from back in 1967 when he said

“Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.”

Here is the video of the mendacious talk:


His facebook page.

Sadly, people like Pierson can toss those errors out in a few words and it takes many more words to correct the errors.

What is so mendacious about quoting the 1967 Ratzinger is that, afterwards, Ratzinger entirely reversed and clarified his understanding of conscience. Honest people think things through, grow up, and, when wrong, change their minds. It might have been Pierson’s smarmy smugness as he tried to elicit giggles from the willing crowd that spurred me to dig out the well known 1991 talk Ratzinger gave in 1991. In any event, that was one of my motivations for making this.

Another motivation is obviously the attacks on our first liberties by the administration of The First Gay President, Barack Hussein Obama and his minion the pro-abortion catholic Kathleen Sebelius, HHS Secretary and issuer of the infamous HHS mandate, which runs rough-shod over the 1st amendment and the consciences of American citizens. The Obama Adminstration is trying to violate us through denial of freedom of conscience. If we are going to fight against this violation as Catholics with voices raised in the public square, we should have some firm ideas about what conscience is and what it isn’t and how conscience and external authority of any kind interact.

Therefore, my three-part PODCAzT on Joseph Ratzinger’s 1991 talk on “Conscience and Truth”.

NOTE: In my podcast I say that Pierson gave his talk at a Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  That was an assumption I made.  I am not sure where he gave it, but it seems to have been organized for Catholics at a Methodist church in the Twin Cities suburb Edina.  But the video (above) clearly shows him, dressed as a priest, saying absurd things and bringing down derision on the Church from his audience.  Those who posted the video and text seem to have been purposely cagey about where the talk took place, which led me to suspect that it was at a Catholic parish in defiance of Archbishop Nienstedt.

To listen, click the arrow thingy, below.


My PODCAzT feed is HERE.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Benedict XVI, Our Catholic Identity, PODCAzT, Religious Liberty, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Joseph-Mary says:

    28 years as a priest? I hope this has not meant 28 years of dissention and leading souls astray! We must pray for his conversion and that he will be repentant. What a scandal he is!

  2. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    “As a Catholic priest I am not here to criticize the Church’s teaching.”

    …funny, cuz that’s basically what he does throughout the 10min video.

    Also, I noticed that with the exception of a few people, the median age of the audience is definitely 50s or 60s. Oh aging hippies…

  3. Joe Magarac says:

    What is so mendacious about quoting the 1967 Ratzinger is that, afterwards, Ratzinger entirely reversed and clarified his understanding of conscience.

    When and how did Ratzinger reverse and clarify his understanding of conscience? I’m perfectly willing to believe that he did, but I’d like to read what he wrote. Could you please paste the quote or cite the source?

    [?!? Did you actually read the top entry? If not try listening to the podcast.]

  4. pberginjr says:

    Interesting that whenever he quotes the CCC by number everyone laughs. Oh what a quaint thing to quote our Church’s catechism…ignorance and silliness

  5. asophist says:

    An openly homosexual priest? Do our bishops allow this?
    Why does Abp. Nienstadt allow this priest to be anywhere but laicized? [He is a BENEDICTINE. Not a diocesan priest.]

  6. acardnal says:

    I watched this sad and disturbing video last night when I got my daily email update from LifeSiteNews. I wonder if AB Nienstedt will do anything about him. [He is a Benedictine of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, which is not in the Archdiocese.]

  7. Mary Jane says:

    I got 3 minutes into the video and had to stop…sickening and sad. I can’t believe people stayed around to listen to him finish his talk!

  8. BillyHW says:

    For every priest like this that was ordained, 10 good men were frightened away from the priesthood.

  9. acardnal says:

    “My bad” Fr. Z: I didn’t note the “OSB” nor the location of Collegeville. I guess this means status quo for Fr. Pierson. He probably has another gig already scheduled. Maybe a White House visit. . . .

  10. dominic1955 says:

    Good ol’ Collegeville, probably the most notorious monasteries in the country. This priest is bucking Church teaching and proclaiming he’s gay, one of his confreres runs a blog and spouts unadulterated Modernism openly, and just think of all the garbage that came out of there to help along the ruin of the liturgy. Its too bad, obviously it wasn’t always like this.

  11. Andrew says:

    Freedom is not the power to do whatever I please, but the power to do that which is rational, which corresponds to my nature. Freedom is the power to avoid sin, to avoid my submission to something that is alien to my rational human nature. In that sense, conscience is liberating. But in the sense of absolute autonomy and detachment from rational behavior (in a sense of an erroneous understanding) it makes myself my worst enemy for it demands that I become irrational.

    Pope Leo XIII put it simply as:

    Est enim ius facultas moralis, quam, ut diximus saepiusque est dicendum, absurdum est existimare, veritati et mendacio, honestati et turpitudini promiscue et communiter a natura datam. (Allocutiones).

    That is: The concept of a “right” is a moral one. As it has been said, and as it should be repeated often, it is absurd to think that “rights” pertain equally and naturally to truths and to lies, to things that are honest and to things that are base.

    All of this goes back to the “tyranny of relativism”. And it is nothing else but a tyranny. By definition. It is an effort to subvert all order: personal and social.

  12. Michael_Thoma says:

    Conssscienssse, Consscienssse, Conssciensse.

    If my corrupt “conssscienssse” says I should physically assault another person, and my violent nature (after all, I am born with higher levels of testosterone than the clergyman in the video, don’t forget ‘God made me this way’) overtook what I was taught in ethics, religion, law, etc. does this absolve me from fault, both criminally and morally?

    If so – let the anarchy begin. [I am sure you listened.]

  13. OK, now how about Fr. Abbot or is he of one mind with this “monk”?

  14. irishgirl says:

    Wow-that was quite a talk by our future Pope!
    Wish that this errant son of St. Benedict would have listened to it, instead of spouting off the drivel he certainly did in HIS talk! (No, I didn’t listen to that one; I have enough ‘agita’ in my life right now without any more added to it)
    Liked your use of the music from the TV miniseries ‘John Adams’, Father Z; I borrowed the DVD of that from the library last year. Great story! Cried at the end though, when both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other, on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1826).

  15. Pingback: Fr. Pierson, Conscience and Truth | Unique for A Reason - Minnesota Catholic Conference - Minnesota Marriage Amendment - Catholic Teaching on Marriage

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