Of Obedience and Conscience

Discussion in 'Positive Critique' started by Scolaire Bocht, Jul 7, 2015.

  1. Scolaire Bocht

    Scolaire Bocht Archangels

    It seems to this observer that one thing that Protestants do better than Catholics, and which we can learn from, is the matter of conscience and so I thought I would expound on some theories of same.

    What is conscience and obedience?
    Ok conscience in simple terms is that nagging voice in your head telling you such and such an act is 'wrong' somehow. It is the sense of right and wrong that is built into every human being. As a Catholic it is also hoped that you would have an 'informed conscience', meaning that your sense of right and wrong will have developed as you progress in your knowledge of Catholic theology. In any case I am sure most readers understand what it is and why its important to obey those feelings, usually at any rate.

    Then we have obedience which is the necessity to respond positively to legitimate Church authority. The theory here is that when Our Lord left us in biblical times he left us His Church which acts in His name since, and Catholics are bound to obey its rulings even when they are wrong. So for example when Padre Pio was saddled by Vatican punishments, which were entirely unwarranted, he exactly submitted to the orders given and was unsympathetic to those who criticized the Church at that time on his behalf. So the concept is clear enough, again there is no point is retelling the obvious here.

    When they conflict?
    The question we are getting at here is do they sometimes conflict, and if so what do you do? For example sometimes traditional minded priests and religious have been scandalized by some acts and instructions of the Church post Vat II, which conflict with their conscience but seem necessary to abide by from a sense of obedience?

    The answer I am going to put forward here is that these two concepts are subtly different in the way they should act within a person. Conscience, it seems to me, should always be the primary engine of a person's actions, its what motivates you. So you are happily going through life abiding by your conscience only - and of course keeping it informed by Catholic reading and properly in tune by prayer and the sacraments etc - and not by obedience, the latter isn't a motivation of yours as such. If obedience was your motivation then on all issues what you would do is hang around waiting for some instruction from the Church and then doing x or y only to the limits, as you see it, of that obedience.

    That approach, of having obedience motivate you, is completely wrong in my opinion. Because firstly the Church could never have such a perfectly complex set of instructions for every situation you face - because they need universal rules for everybody which is difficult because many situations are unique - and because you personally will face your maker when you die, you cannot hide behind the Church's position. In otherwords you cannot just say, like the German soldiers, that you were only following orders, you needed to have abided by your own conscience in the first instance. As a human being you act independently on earth, you are judged at the end by your use of your free will, not somebody else's, even the Church's, and remember God is also speaking to you through your conscience, as well as through the Church.

    Obedience is a different phenomenon, it simply means that if you hit a crunch and you have in front of you a very specific instruction from a legitimate Church authority: you abide by it, but only in that negative - its usually forbidding you doing something - and narrow sense - you abide by the exact prohibition narrowly interpreted, for anything else you revert back to your conscience.

    The simple analogy I would submit is that of a coach with six horses say. The horses are champing at the bit, they are moving around a little on their own, rearing up and swishing their heads and this independent action is their personal motivation, their conscience, but at the same time they all go ultimately in the same direction via the reins which we will say is the golden cord of Church authority, and which keeps them all going in roughly the one direction.

    I am sure thats as clear as mud to most people but in any case I will argue here about some mistakes that some Catholics are making in this conflict between conscience and Church authority, in my opinion:

    Marian Apparitions
    Take Marian apparitions for example. You seem to get some people who fold their arms and demand that the Church tells them what to think about this or that apparition. They seem to forget that God gave them personally human reason and learning to make up their own minds on most issues, including that one, and not to hang around for anybody to tell them what to do. Least of all the Church which faces an incredibly difficult task on those issues and which anyway it partly solves by seeing how the Catholic faithful view the apparitions, the sensus fidei. So if the Catholic faithful in turn don't have a mind of their own and are only waiting for the Church to rule on the matter then we end up literally with the blind following the blind!

    On the otherhand I would say if the Church gives a very specific instruction here, say the bishop orders that no sacraments are to be offered at the apparition site, then people should definitely abide by that to the letter, but even then it doesn't follow that they should abandon said site or assume from that that the seer is false etc. You just obey but continue to think for yourself, be guided by your informed conscience.

    Protestant v. Catholic countries
    I would go further and say that this conflict can be seen in the differences between Catholic and Protestant countries. Speaking for myself I have spent half a lifetime going around libraries and archives doing research and one thing that is noticeable is the differences between the staff in Ireland, a traditional Catholic country, and the UK, traditionally Protestant. I am sure as people they are about the same but as regards getting staff to think outside the box even a little bit, in a way that would not be harmful to their work but would be very helpful to the researcher, you have no hope at all in the Irish institution but oftentimes the UK one would stretch a point to help your research. The Irish are only interested in obeying what can often be completely silly rules while the UK people can more easily see the common sense behind it and will give your request a fair hearing.

    I think a lot of people can see that in action in many ways in Catholic as opposed to Protestant countries and I would submit that this is a mistake that Catholics are making? They are human beings with free will etc, its a mistake to make yourself some kind of unthinking but obeying robot? You have to answer for your own actions, not hide behind any other parties 'rules' or even laws?

    So thats what I think we can learn from Protestants, the primacy of conscience. We have to inform and feed that conscience, by learning from good sources and by prayer and the sacraments, but then we need to let it rip and live life to the full under its guidance.

    I am sure many will disagree with this reasoning and so hopefully will argue back below!
     
  2. josephite

    josephite Powers

    This ia a very interesting thread.

    Conscience has to be firstly formed correctly.
    Conscience can be incorrectly formed and lead to sin.

    Obedience to rightful authority is paramount.
    That is; to authority that is morally correct.

    The Blessed Virgin Mary was obedient to the Bishop at Garabanal, and did not lead the children into the church, after the Bishop had forbade this due to a ruckus of spectators who entered the church following the seers, instead Our Lady lead them to the door of the church.


    A German soldier in the second WW would be obedient to his country by fighting the enemy, but when asked to kill innocent Jewish men, women, elderly, babies and children, than his conscience would be what he should follow as the authority to kill innocents is not rightful authority, as it is morally defunct.
     
  3. Mario

    Mario Powers

    Scolaire,

    I believe your conception of obedience is impoverished:

    Obedience is a different phenomenon, it simply means that if you hit a crunch and you have in front of you a very specific instruction from a legitimate Church authority: you abide by it, but only in that negative - its usually forbidding you doing something - and narrow sense - you abide by the exact prohibition narrowly interpreted, for anything else you revert back to your conscience.

    In the Pater Noster we pray "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Holy obedience originates in my decision to set aside my will in order to conform my thoughts and actions to the Divine Will. It is an act of humility rather than a bowing under the weight of exact prohibition narrowly interpreted. It is an act of entrusting myself to the wisdom of the Church (the keys) in order to more completely conform myself in love to Christ. The encyclical, Humanae Vitae, is a prime example. The vast majority of Catholics in the USA consider this discourse against contraception as an exact prohibition narrowly interpreted that violates their conscience; therefore, they ignore it. I see it as a pastoral invitation to conform myself to the Divine Will out of love for Jesus.

    In fact, if Catholics studied the reasonableness of Pope Paul VI's words, especially his prophetic outline near the end of the encyclical which foresaw the disastrous consequences of disobedience all around us, maybe they would repent for following their poorly formed consciences!

    Safe in the Barque of Peter!
     
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  4. padraig

    padraig New Member

    Obedience is to dance with God.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Scolaire Bocht

    Scolaire Bocht Archangels

    Mario of course people should abide by the prohibition listed in Humanae Vitae, and yes they should even enjoy doing so, as Padraig says. Because I use the word 'prohibtion' doesn't mean I am unappreciative of obedience at all.

    But we just need to dust down our personal conscience and work on that as well, which is also God speaking to us.

    You know in Ireland now we have endless - mostly unfair - criticism of Cardinal Brady who during the 70s participated in a Church enquiry into a paedophile priest. He was told to ask the witness he was interviewing to keep his statement confidential and he himself was also asked, by the Church, to retain secrecy. He obeyed this Church authority without question and now is much criticized for it.

    In my opinion he ought to have also exercised his personal conscience more than he did though. He should have been able to see that the enquiry was going nowhere and that his silence was inadvertently assisting a coverup. Hence he should have looked at the exact words of whatever Church instruction he had and saw if there was some way to raise the matter with the boys parents, media, police whatever. But I would say he was content to do what the Church asked and that was it. He suppressed his personal conscience on the matter.

    I think we do that too much in Ireland and in Catholic countries in general. It's something Protestants do better than us I'd say. I think it's an approach that we can learn from them while of course not actually breaching the golden cord of Church authority.
     
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  6. josephite

    josephite Powers

    I dont know if protestants do it better as everyone looks for an easy way out.

    St Mary McKillop, the first Saint of Australia and foundress of the Josephites:love:, here in Australia was excommunicated for about two years for the reason of not following her Bishops directives in regard to the rule of the Josephites, but Mary had got her permission from Rome, the Pope, to live the rule that she had instigated,
    Her name was besmurched by a number of priests in the Bishops ear, because she had in the 1800's brought to the authorities notice the activity of one priest that had been sexually molesting some of the children in her charge.

    She was reinstated as the head of the Josephites after 2 years and much suffering and all charges from the church dropped. I think the Bishop apologised to her in the end.

    She is a great saint as St JP11 stated at her canonisation, as she stood for truth and let her conscience lead her, much to her dimise and suffering at the time.

    God Bless
    Carolyn
     
  7. padraig

    padraig New Member

    I think Protestantism as and off its very nature has a problem with obedience. It goes with the territory.

    Look at the name, 'To protest' ...Protestantism.
     
  8. Andy3

    Andy3 Powers

    If I were a Protestant, I would hate to be called a Protestant. It is such an awful name to identify with when you really think about it. It is one thing to protest against the church when they did but to remain being called one shows such an arrogance and pride for what occurred 500 years ago and what continues to occur as more and more "protestant" groups splinter.
     
  9. miker

    miker Powers

    Interesting to read this update on a major Protestant pastor who converted last year. The entire interview is very revealing, but in particular I think this statement is most powerful:

    For us, the great, beautiful and exciting discovery was the historicity, authenticity, authority and sacramental life of the Church. It overwhelmed us! To cradle Catholics, we would say, “Please don’t get used to the Mass; see the great gift the Lord has given us in the Church — our God coming to us on the altar. What amazing love: that he gives himself to us continually!” Father Raniero Cantalamessa [who has served as preacher to the papal household] said: “To love Jesus is to love his Church.”

    https://www.ncregister.com/daily-ne...eat-gift-the-lord-has-given-us-in-the-church/
     
  10. Scolaire Bocht

    Scolaire Bocht Archangels

    Should you sometimes break Secular Law? The example of Kim Davis
    While its slightly off topic for this thread I thought I would expand the point by bringing in the question of secular law. We are also told to abide by that, as Catholics, and to pay taxes etc.

    But again as I see it there are limits here and you cannot allow a blind obedience to secular law to develop because if you do it means you are dimming your conscience, again your conscience has to be working overtime in all your decision making and if you have become a kind of law abiding automaton you clearly don't have a conscience or aren't using it?

    Anyway the point is that Pope Francis has just weighed into this particular debate in a big way with his meeting with Kim Davis. To clarify again: she is the Kentucky clerk who refused to sign off on gay marriage certificates, was sent to jail but is currently released and who met Pope Francis in the Vatican embassy for about 15 minutes during his recent visit.

    Some people are spinning this that its not hugely significant, the Pope meets lots of people, like for example Fidel Castro, and hence its not a great sign of his approval of that person? I disagree though, his timetable for the US visit must have been very tight and you just don't organise such a meeting as this on a whim and as well the Pope passionately defended the right of government employees to conscienciously object like this in an interview he gave on the plane on the way home. He is clearly backing Kim Davis which is amazing considering she isn't even Catholic (but is a sincere Christian).

    So I think he is by this step quietly pointing out to people that sometimes not following the secular law is the right thing to do, and maybe in practice we will find more of that as time goes on. I am sure that most people on this forum don't make the mistake of making the following of secular law a kind of religion of itself, but some outside these cyber walls certainly do and I think that is definitely a mistake. I suspect a lot of bad stuff is done by good people in that spirit, because they give no heed to what their conscience tells them is right or wrong in a given situation, they only want to know what the law, the regulations, the rules, state so they can blindly follow them and suppress their conscience. And unfortunately we live in a time when we have a lot of dishonest political leaders who are making these laws so we cannot be so blind in following them?

    But don't get me wrong I am not suggesting that people go out and break laws now for the sake of it, certainly normally you should abide by the law, but not elevate it to a religion of its own? Where you have no opinion on whats right or wrong except what is or isn't the law, because that I think is going too far and is a mistake a lot are making?
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
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  11. josephite

    josephite Powers

    When Jesus was asked about paying tax (I think) and then He was handed a coin with Caesars head on the coin; He said 'Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's'.

    Therefore Our Lord is clearly saying that we must abide by the laws of the land, however He tempers/clarifies/adjusts this and adds, 'give to God what is His'.

    In the vernacular; He tells us that we are not to break the law of the land but the Higher law of God is to be set apart from this law of the land, The laws of God, therefore have a greater value.
     
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  12. hope

    hope Guest

    ST. Peter in Acts 5:29 said We must obey God rather than men. The first Christians disobeyed the Roman government and wouldn't take that pinch of incense and put it in a bowl to worship false gods and went to their death. The Supreme Court of the U.S. once declared that blacks were subhuman and therefore whites had the right to enslave them. Look at what Ghandi and Martin Luther King accomplished in their civil disobedience against their respective governments.
    "An unjust law is no law at all and has no authority." St. Thomas Aquinas

    12072711_10204638521193374_8192638089753684257_n.jpg
     
  13. Bartimaeus

    Bartimaeus Archangels

    I'm very glad you started this thread as the whole matter of the Catholic teaching on conscience troubles me. (Padraig please don't throw me off the forum for my stance;))
    I often think that if the teachings are literally true, then the biggest favour i could do my kids is to not form their conscience- take damnation for myself but give them an easier ride through life. It's an issue i can't quite get my head around.

    As a lay person this whole conundrum is much more complex than fora religious. I can completely understand Sean Brady taking his orders and trusting God to bring a greater good from the situation.
    In a current situation in my own life I see many people now who are in mandatory reporting positions but they are like the three monkeys - they see nothing, they hear nothing and they say nothing. We just swap one imperfect system for another imperfect system.
     
  14. Scolaire Bocht

    Scolaire Bocht Archangels

    Yes you see thats one of the reasons I was thinking about this issue, the question of why so many Irish Catholics did very little to stop the abuse when the scandals were occurring.

    Of course that stuff is massively exaggerated, I don't think there were more than 20 paedophile priests which in Ireland from c.1950-2000 means that we are only talking about a fraction of one per cent. But nonetheless some of those priests were really notorious and did an unbelievable amount of damage even with those limited numbers. So in fact it is true that quite a number of senior Irish Church figures - and ordinary Catholics - knew about serious wrong doing and really did very little about it.

    There are a number of reasons why but I think this question of suppressed consciences, in the name of either secural or religous obedience, is partly the answer. For so many good people it was a question of doing what they were told and thats it, they didn't have to think about it, wasn't anything to do with them. Thats the attitude we have too much of, we have to let loose the conscience which should drive people to uncover the truth, to seek justice, to comfort the afflicted etc etc but because the laws these days cover everything we just suppress that instinct too much.
     
  15. Jackie

    Jackie Archangels

    quote[​IMG]="Scolaire Bocht, post: 102455, member: 1393"]Should you sometimes break Secular Law? The example of Kim Davis
    While its slightly off topic for this thread I thought I would expand the point by bringing in the question of secular law. We are also told to abide by that, as Catholics, and to pay taxes etc.

    But again as I see it there are limits here and you cannot allow a blind obedience to secular law to develop because if you do it means you are dimming your conscience, again your conscience has to be working overtime in all your decision making and if you have become a kind of law abiding automaton you clearly don't have a conscience or aren't using it?

    Anyway the point is that Pope Francis has just weighed into this particular debate in a big way with his meeting with Kim Davis. To clarify again: she is the Kentucky clerk who refused to sign off on gay marriage certificates[​IMG], was sent to jail but is currently released and who met Pope Francis in the Vatican embassy for about 15 minutes during his recent visit.

    Some people are spinning this that its not hugely significant, the Pope meets lots of people, like for example Fidel Castro, and hence its not a great sign of his approval of that person? I disagree though, his timetable for the US visit must have been very tight and you just don't organise such a meeting as this on a whim and as well the Pope passionately defended the right of government employees to conscienciously object like this in an interview he gave on the plane on the way home. He is clearly backing Kim Davis which is amazing considering she isn't even Catholic (but is a sincere Christian).

    So I think he is by this step quietly pointing out to people that sometimes not following the secular law is the right thing to do, and maybe in practice we will find more of that as time goes on. I am sure that most people on this forum don't make the mistake of making the following of secular law a kind of religion of itself, but some outside these cyber walls certainly do and I think that is definitely a mistake. I suspect a lot of bad stuff is done by good people in that spirit, because they give no heed to what their conscience tells them is right or wrong in a given situation, they only want to know what the law, the regulations, the rules, state so they can blindly follow them and suppress their conscience. And unfortunately we live in a time when we have a lot of dishonest political leaders who are making these laws so we cannot be so blind in following them?

    But don't get me wrong I am not suggesting that people go out and break laws now for the sake of it, certainly normally you should abide by the law, but not elevate it to a religion of its own? Where you have no opinion on whats right or wrong except what is or isn't the law, because that I think is going too far and is a mistake a lot are making?[ quote[​IMG]]

    I read, Kim Davis' parents are Catholic. Kim's fortitude is extraordinary. She is no longer Catholic, if this is a fact, her courage in a major way comes from the grace of the Sacraments she received.
     
  16. Jackie

    Jackie Archangels

    Scolaire Bocht,

    I don't understand, help me. We want to help our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters come to the Faith. When you share the testimony of Christian history, they deny most of it ( because it is Catholic). Doesn't this make their conscience disordered?

    Example, a Protestant friend who receives messages, absolutely believes no matter what I share with him, the written Word is superior to Tradition.
     
  17. Scolaire Bocht

    Scolaire Bocht Archangels

    I suppose their conscience may be a bit disordered but possibly on the big stuff they are more ordered than yours on mine? It all depends on the person, there is way more that unites Protestants to Catholics than divides them.

    Although some things that they miss out on, like the role of Mary, are a big loss alright. Of course the traditional knowledge and learning of the Catholic Church is superior to anything else but possibly quite a few Catholics aren't living up to it well anyway?
     
  18. Scolaire Bocht

    Scolaire Bocht Archangels

    It seems the Pope himself initiated the Davis meeting, which I think was predictable: http://www.breitbart.com/big-govern...ive-pope-francis-initiated-meeting-kim-davis/ .

    You see on some matters, including the synod I think, this Pope is cleverer than people give him credit for. He talked all the time in his address to Congress about how the US was blessed by God because it allowed religious liberty and then he makes clear in his plane press conference that this liberty must include the right of conscientious objection, then we get the Davis meeting revealed.

    It's the classic case of speaking softly but carrying a big stick!
     
  19. Bartimaeus

    Bartimaeus Archangels

    An
    A good old fashioned out-pouring of the Holy Spirit - that's what we need!

    Thomas More - a saint - informed and followed his conscience.
    What about those at his time who followed their conscience into Protestantism... any saints????
    Have to wait to be one ourselves to find out I think!
     
  20. Jackie

    Jackie Archangels

    The "big stuff", two we should keep defending, explaining, are first, the Real Presence and Mary's help, her place in God's plan to our brothers and sisters. Specially in these end times. The second, they aren't going to get (some Catholics too) if we don't, is the Fifth and Final Marian Dogma when it is proclaimed.

    A positive, its beautiful how much our brothers and sisters in Christ love Our Lord with only their belief in the written Word.

    Sad though and wrong, look what following their conscience has brought about, the acceptance of contraception. Search Contraception, Conscience and Church Authority by George Sim Johnton. A March 31, 2015 writing.
     

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