Monday, February 20, 2006

A real hoot! Cardinal Pell and the New Inquisitors

It has a certain logic.

You belong to the Catholic Church, but you believe orthodox Catholic doctrine allows you to dissent from the teachings of its magisterium on the basis of the “freedom of conscience”.

A prominent local bishop teaches that “freedom of conscience” does not excuse voluntary members of the Catholic Church from the obligation to conform their public life and teaching to Catholic doctrine.

You believe that such a position dissents from orthodox Catholic doctrine.

So you lodge a complaint about the said bishop’s “dissent” to the Catholic Church’s doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose responsibility it is to pull such dissenters into line.

To add even more charm to this logic, the bishop against whom you are complaining was for some time a member of the CDF.

And they wonder why they haven’t received a reply…

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a read of this article in today’s edition of THE AGE.

Frank Purcell says that “the issue was an important question of religious freedom”. I would suggest that one excercises one freedom in this regard by a choice of whether to belong to the Catholic Church or not. When I became a Catholic, there were a number of points on which my views differed from the views of the Church. My conscience, however, required that if I were embracing the Church because I recognised her teaching authority, I could not then pick and choose which of her teachings I would regard as authoritative.

I’m not going to go into all the questions of the primacy of conscience here at this point—it is not a simple argument. One of the main difficulties is that moderns tend to think of “conscience” to mean either “what I want” or “my opinion” or “what I feel”. When the Church talks about conscience, she means none of these things. Cardinal Pell knows that, but I don’t think his complainants do.

If you want to read what Cardinal Pell has written on conscience, have a look at: “The Inconvenient Conscience” (First Things). If you want to read the opposite view, have a look at: “A Catholic Social Conscience: Can it be reclaimed for our time” by Fr Frank Brennan SJ, who, at the launch of the ACBC Pastoral Letter on the Media, stated that it was possible for a Catholic in good conscience to support the RU486 bill.

As the good Cardinal himself has said: “This is a real hoot. Such well-known defenders of orthodoxy as Paul Collins, Veronica Brady and Max Charlesworth appealing to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

We too enjoy the joke.

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