Conscience and the Catholic Church

General discussions
CitizenPaine
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 462
Joined: Sun Oct 29, 2006 8:49 pm

Conscience and the Catholic Church

Post by CitizenPaine » Fri Jan 11, 2008 10:44 pm

There was a contributionin the Irish Times today from D. Vincent Twomey, Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology, Maynooth. He seems to be having a debate in the letters page with another priest, Fr. Sean Fagan, S.M., about Conscience and the Catholic Church.

For those of us who grew up under the burden of traditional Catholicism in Ireland, this is an interesting development. Two priests are debating openly and, in so doing, are providing an insight to the processes that shaped the repression we endured in the fifties and sixties and which, in turn, I would venture, motivates a large proportion of the people who contribute to www.atheist.ie.

Fr. Twomey points out that certain things that people were told by the church were never authoritative church teachings. They were promulgated by individual theologians and based on false assumptions. The tragedy is, of course, that throughout history that did not stop them having the power to dominate people’s lives. To hear now that they were “disputed questions” in the exalted realms of theology but knowing that they were beaten into children by their parents and local clergy, for countless generations, is more than a little hard to take.

Fathers Twomey and Fagan are, of course, to be thanked for allowing the fresh air of public debate to flourish. That one may feel it necessary to give thanks for this is a measure of the singularity of such a development among those who are, after all, officers in that historical monolith, the Catholic Church of Rome.

CitizenPaine

PS. The above is now on its way to the Editor of the Irish Times. CP
The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

From the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (FitzGerald version)
bipedalhumanoid
Posts: 2675
Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:55 pm

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Fri Jan 11, 2008 11:49 pm

I've been following this one closely. There have been other's involved int he debate but this is the letter Vincent Towmey was responding to...
Conscience and the church


Madam, - In recent years retired Maynooth professor Fr Vincent Twomey has been basking in the reflected glory of his former professor in Germany, Joseph Ratzinger, and even more so since his professor is now a higher eminence.

Speaking of the Catholic meaning of "informed conscience", he is quoted by Patsy McGarry as declaring that "for a Catholic to act against the clear teaching of the Church, once one knows what that teaching is, is to sin" ( The Irish Times , December 27th).

Apart from the arrogance of accusing a fellow-Christian of sin, Fr Twomey should explain whether or not the millions of Catholics are now in hell who for centuries were told by the Church that for married couples to have intercourse during menstruation was a mortal sin, or were told for 18 centuries that slavery was no a sin at all, until it was condemned as an abomination by the Second Vatican Council.

It is unlikely that Fr Twomey's former professor now has occasion to read The Irish Times , but surely he would be surprised that his former pupil seems not to have read his magisterial comment, as a highly respected and brilliant adviser to Cardinal Frings at the Second Vatican Council, when he summed up perfectly the teaching of the Catholic Church after the council.

He wrote: "Over the Pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.

"This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism." (Joseph Ratzinger in Herbert Vorgrimler, ed., Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, vol. V, p. 134).

If the Holy Father has told his former pupil that he has changed his mind, why has he not informed the rest of us? - Yours, etc,

Fr SEAN FAGAN SM,

Lower Leeson Street,

Dublin 2.

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/letter ... 54749.html
FXR
Posts: 3176
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 11:44 pm
Location: Dublin

Post by FXR » Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:04 pm

Its great to see them fighting but at the end of the day its a case of "this bit of the mumbo jumbo is correct and this bit of the mumbo jumbo is'int"

You might as well be arguing over what the original witch doctor wanted in the pot and who added in their own frogs after.


The first nut replied but I dont have a subscription so I cant post it. (its the third one down)
http://www.ireland.com/search/?filter=d ... mit=Search
Human communication is a very rickety rope bridge between minds. Its too narrow to allow but a few thoughts to cross at a time. Many are lost in the chasms of noise, suspicion, misinterpretation and shooting the message through dislike of the messenger.
lostexpectation
Posts: 1993
Joined: Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:28 pm

Post by lostexpectation » Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:13 pm

Conscience and the Catholic Church

Madam, - In a rather ill-tempered letter to your newspaper, Fr Sean Fagan SM (December 29th) takes issue with a statement of mine (in an article on informed conscience published in the January issue of The Word, as reported by Patsy McGarry on December 27th). This was to the effect that it would be a sin for a Catholic to act against the clear teaching of the Church (in the moral sphere).

Fr Fagan asks me to explain "whether or not millions of Catholics are now in hell who for centuries were told by the Church that for couples to have intercourse during menstruation was a mortal sin or were told for 18 centuries that slavery was no sin at all, until it was condemned as an abomination by the Second Vatican Council". In neither of these two questions, however, is authoritative Church teaching involved.

Basing their teaching on the (false medical) assumption that intercourse during the menses might endanger the well-being of the child, individual theologians in the Middle Ages considered such intercourse sinful, though how gravely sinful remained among them a disputed question; others later came to allow it, if menstruation was abnormally prolonged.

With regard to slavery, the early Church tolerated an institution that, like the pagan state itself, was part of the world it entered, while at the same time undermining it by the Gospel message of equality before God (cf. Gal 3:28). The Church did not officially teach that slavery was "no sin at all".

Some theologians, such as Augustine, saw slavery as one of the effects of original sin. But more significant is the fact that, beginning with St Paul, the Church "strove to imbue both masters and slaves with a new Christian spirit of charity which was finally to abolish the institution itself" (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1997, p.1507).

With the discovery of America, a new and more cruel form of slavery was introduced, this time among Christians, and was condemned by successive popes, e.g. Paul III in 1537, Pius V in 1567, and Urban VIII in 1639 (ibid.), long before the Second Vatican Council!

Furthermore, Fr Fagan's attempt to quote my former professor, now Pope Benedict XVI, against me may be rhetorically effective, but again it is based on error. He quotes from Ratzinger's commentary on Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution on the Modern World, but fails to inform us that there Ratzinger was paraphrasing Newman's teaching on conscience, which according to Ratzinger influenced the council text. Fr Fagan also fails to inform us of Ratzinger's critical assessment of the way the council used Newman.

More significantly, he fails to point out that Ratzinger in the same context is at pains to stress what the conciliar text does imply, namely "that obedience to conscience means an end to subjectivism, a turning aside from blind arbitrariness, and produces conformity with objective norms of moral action". It is these objective norms that are taught by the Church's magisterium, as Ratzinger points out in his other writings. In the same commentary, Ratzinger also notes the council's inadequate treatment of the so-called doctrine of an erroneous conscience, which, as he makes clear in his most developed writing on the topic (On Conscience, San Francisco, 2007), has had a negative effect on 20th-century moral theology.

Under the influence of this so-called doctrine of erroneous conscience, many modern theologians have embraced a subjectivist notion of conscience and falsely quote Newman in their support. This is what makes Fr Fagan's quotation so rhetorically effective. But it is not ad rem.

What Fr Fagan quoted (out of context) was written in 1969. In the meantime, Ratzinger has developed further his understanding of the primacy of conscience in both politics and within the Church, as well as clarifying the true meaning of conscience against the background of the various misunderstandings of the concept found among moral theologians today. All of this I discuss in my recent publication, Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age. A Theological Portrait (San Francisco, 2007). - Yours, etc,

D. VINCENT TWOMEY SVD, Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology, Maynooth, Co Kildare.

he says they were misquoted

Conscience and the Catholic Church
Madam, - I am surprised that Fr Sean Fagan (December 29th) appears to think there is a conflict between Fr Vincent Twomey's statement on conscience and that of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Catholic Church consistently teaches two basic principles concerning conscience. First, that one is always bound to follow one's own conscience and that no authority, ecclesiastical or civil, can make it lawful for one to do that which one's conscience unhesitatingly condemns as morally wrong. Secondly, that one is bound to form one's conscience - that is, one's judgments on the moral character of one's actions - with great care.

For a Catholic this means that one ought to pray for God's guidance, to consult others, and to take account of the teachings of the Church. Fr Twomey makes the latter point, Pope Benedict the former. No conflict arises. - Yours, etc,

JOHN SKELLY, Diswellstown, Castleknock, Dublin 15.
Madam, - It was interesting to read in Fr Fagan's letter (December 29th) about Prof Ratzinger's balanced approach, at the time of the Second Vatican Council, to "informed conscience". However, I don't think I was dreaming when I read the more recent stern warning from Pope Benedict that Catholics should rely on the church's teaching and not on personalised beliefs. As pope rather than professor he sounds more like Fr Twomey than Fr Fagan, thereby reflecting the inevitable tension between dogma and reason.

Unconditional faith is a perversion of the thinking faculty that is the distinguishing feature of our species, and by demanding it the church offers us a disservice. - Yours, etc,

St C. DOWNEY, Dublin 8.
© 2008 The Irish Times
bipedalhumanoid
Posts: 2675
Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:55 pm

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Thu Jan 17, 2008 10:18 am

CP was published today in the Irish Times...
CP - Letters, Irish Times 17/01/2007 wrote: Madam, - The debate in your Letters page between Frs Twomey and Fagan is an interesting development for those of us who grew up under the burden of traditional Catholicism in Ireland. Two Catholic priests are debating openly and, in so doing, are providing an insight to the processes that shaped the repression we endured in the middle decades of the last century and which, in turn, I would venture, motivates many of the people who post on the website www.atheist.ie.

Fr Twomey points out that certain things that people were told by the church were never authoritative church teachings. They were promulgated by individual theologians and based on false assumptions. The tragedy, of course, is that throughout history that did not stop them having the power to dominate people's lives.

To hear now that they were "disputed questions" in the exalted realms of theology, knowing that they were beaten into children by their parents and local clergy, and held to be applicable to adults under the reprehensible psychological threat of eternal damnation, is more than a little hard to take.

Frs Twomey and Fagan are, of course, to be thanked for allowing the fresh air of public debate to blow about these issues. That one may feel it necessary to give thanks for this is a measure of the singularity of such a development among those who are, after all, officers in that bastion of obfuscation, the Catholic Church of Rome.

- Yours, etc,
Well said!
micfur
Posts: 171
Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:17 am

Post by micfur » Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:22 am

bipedalhumanoid wrote:CP was published today in the Irish Times...
CP - Letters, Irish Times 17/01/2007 wrote: Madam, - The debate in your Letters page between Frs Twomey and Fagan is an interesting development for those of us who grew up under the burden of traditional Catholicism in Ireland. Two Catholic priests are debating openly and, in so doing, are providing an insight to the processes that shaped the repression we endured in the middle decades of the last century and which, in turn, I would venture, motivates many of the people who post on the website www.atheist.ie.

Fr Twomey points out that certain things that people were told by the church were never authoritative church teachings. They were promulgated by individual theologians and based on false assumptions. The tragedy, of course, is that throughout history that did not stop them having the power to dominate people's lives.

To hear now that they were "disputed questions" in the exalted realms of theology, knowing that they were beaten into children by their parents and local clergy, and held to be applicable to adults under the reprehensible psychological threat of eternal damnation, is more than a little hard to take.

Frs Twomey and Fagan are, of course, to be thanked for allowing the fresh air of public debate to blow about these issues. That one may feel it necessary to give thanks for this is a measure of the singularity of such a development among those who are, after all, officers in that bastion of obfuscation, the Catholic Church of Rome.

- Yours, etc,
Well said!
Well done, yet again CP. Especially well done on the website mention. Hopefully it will drive more members and traffic.
eamonnm79
Posts: 248
Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:20 pm

Post by eamonnm79 » Thu Jan 17, 2008 5:44 pm

Well Done CP
I was listening to the Ray Darcy show this morning, (I will open this a a new topic but it is related as well)
A listener wrote an email saying that up to 50 years ago parish priests acted as sperm doners for married men who were infertile. They were used as they were educated and not likely to have polio or other diseases associted with poor nutrition or health. Also the local match makers were supposed to ensure theat the "Bastard Children" did not marry twenty years later and would have kept a record of the fruits of the priests labour.
They called a trendy priest FR Iggy.
He said there was probobly some truth in it but that it was most probobly exagerated and a bit of an urban legend.
The Priest then went on to highly critisize the the "higher echilons" in Rome. Say it was hard enough for them to do their jobs without the rubbish that they spout.

I think the minor revolution of the ordinary priests against rome is both heartening and a clear sign of how removed from reality the vatican is. Even from catholic priests!

The bishops are loosing control of their priests me thinks!
FXR
Posts: 3176
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 11:44 pm
Location: Dublin

Post by FXR » Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:19 pm

(cue music: Wagners Ride of the Valkeries)
Sterling stuff CP, outstanding, I'll get you a case of beer for that one!

I love the smell of incence in the moring wafting out the door of an almost empty chruch! It smells like......victory! :twisted:
Human communication is a very rickety rope bridge between minds. Its too narrow to allow but a few thoughts to cross at a time. Many are lost in the chasms of noise, suspicion, misinterpretation and shooting the message through dislike of the messenger.
FXR
Posts: 3176
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 11:44 pm
Location: Dublin

Post by FXR » Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:41 pm

eamonnm79 wrote:Well Done CP
I was listening to the Ray Darcy show this morning, (I will open this a a new topic but it is related as well)
A listener wrote an email saying that up to 50 years ago parish priests acted as sperm doners for married men who were infertile. They were used as they were educated and not likely to have polio or other diseases associted with poor nutrition or health. Also the local match makers were supposed to ensure theat the "Bastard Children" did not marry twenty years later and would have kept a record of the fruits of the priests labour.
They called a trendy priest FR Iggy.
He said there was probobly some truth in it but that it was most probobly exagerated and a bit of an urban legend.
The Priest then went on to highly critisize the the "higher echilons" in Rome. Say it was hard enough for them to do their jobs without the rubbish that they spout.

I think the minor revolution of the ordinary priests against rome is both heartening and a clear sign of how removed from reality the vatican is. Even from catholic priests!

The bishops are loosing control of their priests me thinks!
Which again brings to mind my theroy that an Irish Catholic Church sans Rome would be something that in time would be what Christianity purports to be and isn't by a long shot. I even floated the idea with that whacky priest who puts out Alive catlick newspaper.

This is what he wrote back:
Hi, RW,

I think that most of my readers already realise that it was the
rejection of Catholic teaching, not the teaching itself, that led those guys to abuse young people. Only extremists think otherwise, and they wouldn't be converted!
I'm glad to hear you have been reading up a bit on the Irish monks, but
it sounds like you have picked up an odd notion of them. Columbanus, for example, had no easy time of it. None of them ever thought of breaking with Rome, and certainly their austerities would not go down well today!
Is your reading about them due to interest, research or just looking
for ammunition?
I haven't an email address for Bishop Walsh, but if you google him he
should turn up.
We're always debating my stance but your own is safe from attack since
I'm not sure what exactly you stand for.
Anyway, best wishes and God bless,
Fr Brian McKevitt OP
(Editor)
He's not exactly what you'd call a visionary is he?
Human communication is a very rickety rope bridge between minds. Its too narrow to allow but a few thoughts to cross at a time. Many are lost in the chasms of noise, suspicion, misinterpretation and shooting the message through dislike of the messenger.
CatHerder
Atheist Ireland Member
Atheist Ireland Member
Posts: 1261
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 8:57 pm

Post by CatHerder » Fri Jan 18, 2008 1:26 am

micfur wrote:Well done, yet again CP. Especially well done on the website mention. Hopefully it will drive more members and traffic.
Yes, well done on getting published and great work dropping the link. It hard to get papers to publish a web link in letters, even when it's in context.

We usually have about 80 visitors per day, today we had 180 and 8 new members, Good job :)
Post Reply