The Pope and the Primacy of the Conscience


VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday reaffirmed the “primacy” of using one’s conscience to navigate tough moral questions in his first comments since he was publicly accused of spreading heresy by emphasizing conscience over hard and fast Catholic rules.

Francis told the conference that priests must inform Catholic consciences “but not replace them.” And he stressed the distinction between one’s conscience — where God reveals himself — and one’s ego that thinks it can do as it pleases.

“The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which must always be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of an individual with respect to his or her relations,” Francis said.

The phrase the primacy of using one’s conscience is curious to me as one who has come into the sufficiency of identification with and participation in the inshining Light itself in itself to guide and inform my conscience. In this witness, it is not that the conscience is primary but that the inshining Light is primary in the conscience. But then, it is reported, he speaks of the conscience as the place where God reveals himself. Which matches up nicely with that of immanent Presence within me and the witness of many early Quakers like James Naylor who testify to the conscience as the Throne of God or Christ.

The Pope’s testimony that priests must inform Catholic consciences ‘but not replace them’ is also curious to me in the Light. If the Light (immanent Presence or God) reveals himself in the conscience, why interpose an intermediary like the Priest or Doctrine to inform the conscience when immanent Presence itself in itself is right there in the conscience? Priests must inform the Conscience but not replace it? This is a very slippery slope. History has proven without a doubt, it is the very act of people looking to Priests to inform their conscience that overshadows the prerogative of immanent Presence in the conscience to rule and inform. Once the inshrining Spirit manifests within the conscience, the function and actions of the Priest to intermediate in the conscience becomes a hindrance rather than a help. The intermediary function is of no value and contributes to a form of idolatry wherein people and religiopolitical institutions outside or without the conscience become the focus of guidance rather than inshining immanent Presence itself in itself within the conscience.

With all this said, it is clear the Pope is navigating some very treacherous waters here. The mere affirmation or suggestion of God revealing himself in the conscience and that revelation within the conscience is primary in itself, opens him to a number of direct and frontal assaults from the majority in the Catholic Church who participate in and are identified with the intermediary function and process of the Church and it’s priests, hierarchy, and bureaucracy.

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Comment by James C Schultz on 11th mo. 12, 2017 at 11:25pm

You are right to be curious as the conscience is formed by upbringing, such as in any church environment, and must be purified by the light of Christ.  Paul constantly refers to a "pure" conscience and warns against a weak conscience corrupted by "good works" - the favorite tool of enslaving the soul used most adroitly by the Catholic Church.  I'm not sure the Pope is on as dangerous ground as you might think as what is put out for public consumption is generally understood to be just that by those in power and a little controversy only furthers the Roman Church's goals of getting as many people as possible to believe the Pope is on their side and we can all be one happy family with him as Holy Father.

See:Heb_9:14  How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Comment by David McKay on 11th mo. 13, 2017 at 7:21am

The importance of conscience has always been a part of the Catholic faith/doctrine (but not always the practice). I nun I met (admittedly somewhat left leaning) advised me when a Catholic priest baptizes a child, he baptizes her into the faith of the parents and not the faith of the priest.

So I'm willing to see the Pope simply affirming a Catholic teaching and encouraging the faithful to align practice with it. 

Comment by James C Schultz on 11th mo. 13, 2017 at 10:24am

An old Catholic position that was a strong basis for the creation of Catholic Schools was the belief that if they could have a child through 10 they would have him or her to the grave.  That's the formative period of a person's conscience.


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