Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Eight Commandments of the Natural Law: Bishop Fisher on Conscience and Magisterium

My one-time catechist, Bishop Anthony Fisher, has written an incredibly useful paper on the whole question of the relationship between "conscience" and "magisterium". Read, learn and inwardly digest, as they say.

Having been reading on natural law lately, I was particularly struck by the list of "The 8 Natural Law Commandments", which he draws out from John Paul II's Veritatis Splendor, which in turn is taken from St Thomas Aquinas, namely:
1. transmit and preserve life
2. refine and develop the material world
3. cultivate social life
4. seek truth
5. do good and avoid evil
6. contemplate beauty
7. serve God
8. honor parents
As Bishop Anthony points out, God's Revealed Law "inevitably colors the application of these "natural" principles and brings some new norms", nevertheless, as JPII said in his encyclical, precisely because the natural law is objectively true it
involves universality. Inasmuch as it is inscribed in the rational nature of the person, it makes itself felt to all beings endowed with reason and living in history.
I would therefore be very keen to be involved in an Interfaith Dialogue that took these "8 Commandments" as a starting point. I think such a conversation would really go places.

Here are two other little snippets from his Lordship's paper that I rather enjoyed:
Thus the faith and morals of the Church are normative for the individual who wishes to belong to it. Once a person has chosen (and been chosen) to belong, certain practices "come with the package," so to speak. If you are pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia and pro-cloning the Catholic Church is not for you; or -- better -- since the Catholic Church is for you, you should convert to being anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-cloning and pro-life and love, pro-the sick and disabled, and pro-the theology of the body.

...That there could still be Catholic institutions in some places performing or collaborating in abortion, IVF, sterilization or euthanasia beggars belief. That there are still Catholic theologians and pastors supporting these or similar practices means we are yet to recover a sense of the ecclesial vocations of theologian and pastor. That there are still Catholic politicians and voters willing to cooperate in those evils means there are faulty connections between conscience, truth and authority whether ecclesial or civil. Wrong views of conscience have also been pastorally ruinous, resulting in diffidence about evangelization and catechesis, a decline of the practice of Confession and the abuse of Holy Communion.

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