Thursday, May 29, 2008

Litany of Heresies #4

Claiming that the sole arbiter of sin is one’s conscience and that no one else can claim that a person has sinned in a particular action, whether it be a neighbor, the priest, the Church, or the Pope.

Dissent having been legitimized according to the prior section, it follows that sin only arises from a violation of one’s own conscience. After all, the logical extension of permissible dissent is that all Church teachings are open to debate. The primacy of conscience above all else is a very imperfect picture of the applicable doctrine on this subject. A conscience must be properly formed by the teachings of the Church. The Second Vatican Council demands nothing less:

In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church. For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself.[1]

Of course, for this to be possible, it must be fully within the Church’s authority to declare a person’s actions as sinful.

Please consider also that the Spiritual Works of Mercy, which have a lineage stretching at least from the Angelic Doctor[2] to the modern Catechism,[3] include the act of Admonishing the Sinner. The very act of admonishment presupposes that the party in question be able to declare the offending individual as behaving sinfully.

Even if the above is stressed and emphasized, it is rendered meaningless due to the legitimization of dissent, as any teachings which are “inconvenient” may be shelved in favor of the individual’s personal preference in an action. We are then left with the conundrum of how a person can claim, in good conscience, to legitimately dissent from that very teaching which is to form his/her conscience in the first place.

[1] Id., Dignitatis Humanae (Declaration on Religious Liberty) §14. See also Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church and the Modern World) §27; Catechism of the Catholic Church 2447.
[2] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 32, Article 2.
[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church 1783-1785.

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