Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Catholic Vote 2008

Excellent video at

This video ends with "Vote you conscience" - and to understand what that means, Fr. Phillip Neri Powell O.P. has written a Dick and Jane explanation for us; PAY ATTENTION!

ON Conscience (and Pecan Pies)

On Conscience

During a presidential election year there is perhaps no concept invoked more or less understood among Catholics than “conscience.”

Rather than bore you with long quotes from the Catechism, theologians, Thomas Aquinas, etc., I will show you a rather simple distinction that captures what I would argue is the most important difference between conscience as it is generally understood among post-Vatican Two Catholics and the way in which the Church’s magisterial tradition has authentically defined it.

Since I am a Dominican, we will use pecan pie as our example.

What is the fundamental difference between these two statements?:

1). While visiting my mom and dad in Mississippi, I made a pecan pie in the kitchen.


2). While visiting my mom and dad in Mississippi, I discovered a pecan pie in the kitchen.

(HINT: the difference is highlighted in red)

What is the commonly understood difference between making something and discovering something? Let’s tease it out:

a. Something I make does not exist until I make it. Something I discover does exist before I discover it.

b. My primary relationship with something I make is Maker/Made. My primary relationship with something I discover is Discoverer/Discovered.

c. A Maker is necessary for the Made to exist, i.e. no Maker, no Made thing. A Discoverer is necessary for the Discovered to be discovered but not for the Discovered thing to exist, i.e. that which is discovered exists whether the Discoverer discovers it or not.

d. Given C above, the Maker can make the Made thing anyway he/she chooses. The discoverer simply finds that which already exists undiscovered.

There are a few more differences, but these will do.

Now, replace the Made Pecan Pie with conscience as it is generally understood. And replace the Discovered Pecan Pie with conscience as the Church teaches it.

Some would have us believe that conscience is that human faculty that makes a true moral judgment from the available ingredients.

However, the Church teaches that conscience never makes truth from the available ingredients but rather discovers an already existing truth and assents to it.

Do we really need to tease out the differences between an invented truth and a discovered truth?

Conscience, then, in the sense authentically taught by the Church for all Catholics to believe, is our God-given ability to seek out, discover, and assent to an already existing truth. The magisterial right and duty of the Church is to seek out, discover, assent to, and map already existing truths. In other words, as a body we have already found a great number of moral truths that are in no way subject to the “inventing mind and hands” of the believer. These truths exist whether we seek them out or not; whether we discover them or not; and whether we assent to them or not.

So, when a Catholic reports that he or she must dissent from an idea or practice that the Church has already sought out, discovered, etc. and does so using the familiar formula, “In good conscience, I must dissent from X,” you can be assured that he or she has misunderstood the Church’s teaching on conscience and, by speaking so, has given public testimony to a poorly formed conscience.

It is safe to report that the Church has sought out, discovered, etc. at least five Pecan Pies opposition to which must form the good conscience of every Catholic.

1. Abortion (direct killing of innocent life is always evil)
2. Euthanasia (ditto)
3. Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ditto)
4. Human Cloning (denies God's providence, ultimate hubris)
5. Same-sex “Marriage” (denies God's providence)

Please keep in mind here that I am simply offering one important distinction between two notions of conscience, one false and one true. There are many other distinctions to be made and many other shady areas to brighten.

hat tip to Roger who passed along the link

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