Quotes that Say Something

"Please, dad, get down and look. I think there's some kind of monster under my bed."

Life when seen in close-up often seems tragic, but in wide-angle it often seems comic. -- Charlie Chaplin

"And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear, you shout, but no one's there to hear. And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon." -- Roger Waters, "Brain Damage"

Oct 15, 2014

The Elevation of Conscience Over "Authority"

A midpoint report, from this month's headline making Synod of Bishops (in Rome), reveals that Catholic leaders are considering conciliatory language toward gays and lesbians, divorced and remarried Catholics, and couples who live together before getting married.
. . .  Pope Francis has deliberately engineered a lively discussion of issues. It will help shape the pontiff's legacy.
Reporters and commentators are producing a flurry of analyses mostly centered on the question of whether the synod portends a change in substance or merely a change in tone. Such is the abiding question of Francis' papacy.
 The Role of Individual Conscience
Conscience (versus) authority is the pre-eminent battle underlying the synod's debates. Even the dramatic turn from language such as "living in sin" and "intrinsically disordered" is a tacit nod to conscience over authority.
. . . Evangelicals have mostly accommodated birth control and divorce, but not premarital or gay sex. Mainline Protestants rarely enforce what weak prohibitions on premarital sex remain, and are more rapidly accepting gays and lesbians in the life and ministry of their churches.
The Catholic church, of course, is against all these things . . . But even the church's significant authority (in the sense of teaching, legislating, and ruling) is insufficient to bind its adherents' consciences to the fullness of its teaching.
. . . even for Catholics (who) put them in a perpetual state of mortal sin, individual conscience and church authority are often in fierce tension. 
Enforcement of sacramental exclusion tends to fall most frequently and publicly on divorced Catholics who have remarried without seeking an annulment. It seems uneven that perpetrators of heinous crimes -- including Catholic inmates on death row -- may receive Communion in prison (so long as they are not divorced and remarried) while civilly remarried Catholics are deemed unworthy to receive Communion for the rest of their lives regardless of how decently and ethically they live.
An Elevation of Conscience?
While homosexuality and remarriage are grabbing headlines, it is actually contraception that may be most relevant. Non-acceptance of teachings about contraception was decisive with most Catholics. . . . It largely explains the slow-but-sure Christian elevation of conscience over authority.
As a Protestant, I can live in the tensions.  . . . The Catholic church is a humane bulwark against a destructively permissive and pornographic culture where everything is commodified and nothing is sacred. To that end, perhaps it would be better if more Catholics submitted to church teaching.
But on some level, I remain grateful that Rome has no authority over my conscience. The trouble for the church is that a lot of Catholics think like I do.

Original article:  


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