In this epoch of mercy, encounter and accompaniment, it seems that the categories of law, doctrine and conscience are becoming less and less meaningful.
Certain churchmen today are opining about, for example, conscience and the reception of Holy Communion. The thrust of their notion is that people can go to Communion pretty much no matter what they do, what their state is before the eyes of God and of the world, if they want to. That “want to” is spun out though the use of fancy language about “following their conscience”.
Furthermore, everyone has a “conscience” that gives them carte blanche to do as they please except, however, ministers of Communion. Ministers are not permitted to excercise their own consciences in a choice to stick to the Church’s doctrine and laws. As a matter of fact, if they exercise their consciences they are condemned as merciless, legalistic nitpickers lacking in compassion and, worse, nuance.
Thus, there is created a two tier membership in the Church: those who can do anything the hell they want and those who are simply there to facilitate doing whatever the hell the first group wants. Some people have a conscience that counts, and others don’t. In this era when no one can be condemned, unless they use air conditioning and/or maniples, we condemn the legalists who cling to their doctrines and tradition.
This exercise of the supreme factor of conscience that some churchmen support should be put to the test.
Let’s start with the base line that liberal, progressive churchmen have established, namely, people in publicly manifest sin (such as dicey sexual relationships, heterosexual divorced and remarried, homosexual legalized sodomy, those who aggressively promote abortion, etc.) cannot be denied Communion because, in the “internal forum” (after discussion with some spiritual director or other – and we all know that just about anyone can hang out a spiritual director shingle these days) they made a decision in their consciences. They get to, in fact have to, follow their consciences. Subsequently, the rest of us have to facilitate their choices.
Here’s a scenario.
Stan and Bruce, openly homosexual, civilly “married”, present themselves for Communion. They are wearing shiny rainbow sashes over their bustiers. The bishop, priest or deacon (Minister of Communion) smiles benignly on the couple and gives them Communion, as he does with Adam and Steve, Ashley and Megan… etc. It is an age of sophisticated compassion and nuance.
Fully cognizant of Godwin’s Law, immediately behind the homosexual contingent at the
Votive Mass Liturgy of Mercy, Accompaniment and Encounter there are lined up the “Heinrich Himmler” Neo-Philo-Nazi Youth Battalion, in their black shirts, armbands, boots and caps with those little skulls. Their chaplain and spiritual director is with them. He helps them with their moral dilemmas. The Battalion have made a decision, with the counsel of their spiritual director chaplain, to promote euthanasia of the mentally and physically challenged and stomp the life out of Jews, homosexuals and other inferior social deviants. They are following their consciences. Their knuckles are still stinging from beating up that old black guy at the newspaper stand for selling subversive literature, and they are going to Communion because… they want to. After all, for decades now everyone goes, all the time, no matter what, no confession or amendment of life involved. It must be okay. Right? They approach the minister who smiles benignly on them and… but wait! What’s this? The minister reels back in horror at the sight of the Neo-Nazi youths! He withholds Communion from them. They are not permitted to receive! The chaplain comes forward and asks “Why do you, who give Communion to politicians who actively promote the murder of babies by abortion, deny us Communion?” “Well,” the minister sputters with raised chin, “there’s canon 915…”.
A former-man working for an diocesan chancery has decided that she is underpaid. In conscience, and with the help of a spiritual director, she comes to the determination that she is justified to skim $5000 per month out of the diocesan bank accounts. This is brought to the attention of the bishop, who calls her in. “Why have you done this! This is theft!”, he says. She replies, “After hearing your words about the primacy of conscience, I determined that I had to do this. I had to follow my conscience. I knew you would understand and be accepting of my decision, just as you were about my self-mutilating surgeries, fourth marriage, and Communion everyday at daily worship.” “Ah!,” the bishop sighs, “You are right. My mistake. You can go back to your office now and… keep up the good work!”
Likely? I suspect that, for all the talk about primacy of conscience, nuance would end with embezzlement of money and that s/he would be mercilessly encountered by security and accompanied through chancery door to the police.
There’s conscience and then there’s conscience. Sometimes it counts and sometimes it doesn’t. When it counts and doesn’t count is determined by … whatever the hell liberals want, it seems, since it is no longer sufficiently nuanced or compassionate to follow the standards laid down by, reason, the natural law, and Holy Church in her laws and in her teachings on faith and morals.
The moderation queue is ON.
UPDATE: 16 Dec
Check out Canonist Ed Peters on clergy and conscience HERE!