Will Pope Allow Divorce and Remarriage for the Sake of Conscience?

Regarding the Conscience Kasperites™

The 2015 Roman Synod on the Family has come to a close and I’ve had a chance to review the document. As I stated back in July, the strategy of revisionist Kasperites (named after their proponent Cardinal Walter Kasper) in the Catholic Church will be to maintain official doctrine, but to change pastoral practice in the name of “mercy” so that the doctrine becomes de facto disregarded. We saw this play out during the Synod:

Cardinal Walter Kasper (age 82)

Cardinal Walter Kasper (age 82)

Thanks be to God, that the bishops at the Synod voted against the “Kasper Proposal.” If you need to catch up on what’s going down, you might read Father Z’s article on the Final Report Paragraphs 84-85. All the meat in this debate is found in those paragraphs.


In 1993 Cardinal Kapser signed a pastoral letter which requested that divorced and civilly remarried German Catholics be able to receive the Eucharist under pastoral review. Then Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope Saint John Paul II strongly disapproved. So this has been in the works for over 22 years!

At Synod of Bishops in 2014, Cardinal Kasper told reporters that since African, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries have a “taboo” against homosexuality, “they should not tell us too much what we have to do.” When the quote become public, Kasper denied having made the comment. The reporter Edward Pentin later produced a recording of the conversation, which verified that the Cardinal had made such a statement.

What is “Conscience” and How It Matters in This Debate

The “Conscience Kasperites”™ will use the slogan “conscience is inviolable” to license laymen, priests, and bishops (and popes?) to allow Catholics to openly disagree with Catholic teaching. Recently, Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago seems to serve as the American Apostle of “Conscience Kasperites”.

Archbishop Blase Cupich, age 66

Archbishop Blase Cupich, age 66

Archbishop Blase Cupich (pronounced SOO-Pitch) of Chicago (papal delegate to the Roman Synod on the Family) has said that civilly divorced and remarried Catholics should “come to a decision in good conscience” and that the Church should “help them move forward and to respect that.”

Thankfully, the Catholic Church didn’t allow King Henry VIII to “come to a decision in good conscience” and “respect that” with regard to his marriage(s). King Henry VIII, according to his own testimony, was 100% convinced that his union with Catherine of Aragon was not only null but contrary to God’s will. But the Catholic Church didn’t “help him move forward and respect that.” Schism followed but the Catholic Church stood firm for the teaching of Christ. It was the pastoral thing to do.

The Church and her bishops (and laity) don’t have magic goggles that allow them to inspect as to whether a person is living according to his or her conscience. Kasper and Cupich don’t know if a couple are living in accord with their conscience. This is why we Catholics have objective rules and tangible sacraments. Canon law and infallible magisterial teaching are the instruments of pastoral direction.

Father Z also spoke of the new doctrinal need for Catholics to get deep into the orthodox teaching on “conscience,” because the doctrine of conscience being advocated by the”Conscience Kasperites”™ is not the doctrine found in Saint John Paul II, nor in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Conscience is “con+scientia = “with knowledge”

Conscience is a word formed by two Latin words: con/cum (with) and scientia (knowledge). It is the judgment of reason by which we knowledgeably jude our moral actions. Here is what the Catechism says about conscience [with my comments in red]:

1796 Conscience is a judgment of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act. [conscience judges certain concrete acts – not tendencies or lifestyles]

1797 For the man who has committed evil, the verdict of his conscience remains a pledge of conversion and of hope. [conscience is a pledge toward conversion]

1798 A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. [conscience must be well-formed] It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. Everyone must avail himself of the means to form his conscience.

1799 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law [this is the part of the CCC that “Conscience Kasperites”™ reject] or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1800 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.

1801 Conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgments. Such ignorance and errors are not always free of guilt. [“Conscience Kasperites”™ also dismiss this truth that having a bad conscience does NOT necessarily remove moral guilt]

1802 The Word of God is a light for our path [the Word of God, the Bible is our path – so a pastor or bishop should read the word of God to us in each of these moral dilemmas so that we can make a right and true judgment]. We must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. This is how moral conscience is formed.

What’s the take home here? A conscience is well formed “with knowledge” based on the Word of God, prayer, and truth faith.

It is literally impossible for a Catholic to read the appropriate passages in Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and conclude in their conscience:

  • committing a homosexual act today is morally good.
  • today I can vote to fund abortion with tax-payer funds and not be guilty of grave sin.
  • if I’m still in a sacramental marriage “till death do us part,” I can have sex tonight with someone besides my living spouse.
  • to masturbate at this moment is morally permissible.
  • I can exploit my workers and not pay them because my conscience doesn’t bother me. It must not be a sin.
  • I am aware that the Catholic Church calls contraception an “intrinsic evil,” but my conscience tells me it’s a good thing for my marriage and well-being.

Please hold fast to the authentic Catholic teaching of Saint John Paul II. The conscience is “man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary.” Yet sanctuaries must be designed, decorated, and maintained.

Ignorance does mitigate guilt and can exclude it altogether. But pastorally, a shepherd (bishop or pastor) should feed his flock with the truth, and work to form their consciences with knowledge. 

Hard truth: If a parish is full of people with “badly formed consciences,” then what’s the proper pastoral response?

If my children grow up thinking that lying is okay or stealing little pieces of candy from the pharmacy is “no big deal” – then that’s my bad as a parent. I failed them as a father if they say, “When Dad saw us stealing candy at Walmart, he simply said: ‘Follow your conscience on the matter.'” But if they steal candy and know, “My father taught me not to do this, but I’m going to do it any way,” then I did my job and that’s their guilt.

Reverend and Spiritual Fathers, do your spiritual children know right from wrong? If you’ve been Pastor for 10 years and 90% of your congregation honestly thinks contraception is morally permissible, then you’ve failed them as a spiritual father. The deserve to be taught the Catholic truth in a careful, patient, and loving way. Caritas in veritate.

If a layman says, “Yes, Father, I understand that the Church teaches that [fill in the blank] is an intrinsic evil and/or disordered but for me in my conscience it’s good…so I’m going to keep doing it anyway, and I’ll keep coming to Holy Communion,” then that pastor should pray and work so as to correct the erroneous conscience. He cannot say “I’m glad that you’ve come to a decision in good conscience…and I want to help you move forward and I respect that.”

That’s not how father’s speak with children that they love.

What Can You Do – 3 Step Program?

Step 1: Read the section in the Catechism on Conscience in full. It will take you less than 2 minutes to read. Here it is: This is your homework (CCC 1776-1802).

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the way that Conscience Kasperites™ are using the word “conscience” to promote relativism. Relativists say, “What’s right for me may not be right for you.” Conscience Kasperites™ also affirm this teaching but they attempt to Christianize it by appealing to malformed consciences: “What’s right for your conscience may not line up with Church teaching, and that’s okay.”

Step 3: Pray and be joyful. Don’t be stressed out over this. The theological enemies of the Catholic Church always fade away. The truth of God abides forever. They will lose this battle. Their disagreement will only create a great movement of truth against it.

Question: Have you met Conscience Kasperites™? Are you ready? Do you think “conscience” is being abused? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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  • Dear Marshall,

    I think we read a diferente Father Z´s article.

    I am not so optimist like you. And I think Father Z did not agree with you when you said that “bishops strongly voted against Kasper”. Because Father Z showed that most of the paragraphs is Kasper´s.

    They leave with the priests. Terrible, desptie some (blue) conservative words. See Father Z again.
    In the end, one cannonist says that Pope Francis can not go againts Christ. Yeah, but he will try any way.

    Let´s pray. It is a hard fight.

    • I’m an optimist because I’m certain that the Conscience Kasperites™ will go the way of the Arians. They appear to have the upper-hand (maybe even Roman support), but they are vanquished by orthodoxy.

    • Kasper did not get what he wanted after a 2 year fight. He got concessions, but not the outcome he wanted.

      • It’s the nose of the camel under the tent. Cardinal Nichols is already acting on that.

  • Donna Ruth

    I suspect more than a few would agree that paragraphs showed ambiguity – but the real concern for many faithful Catholics is the shocking Final Discourse to the Synod by HHPF. Those bishops and laity who might be termed the faithful orthodox were publicly chastised in this speech – but those who flouted Church doctrine were not. This is the elephant in the room.

  • kcthomas

    The Catholic Church exists because it holds on to the truth taught by Christ and His Church. The Pope or a Cardinal cannot change it. The Holy Spirit will always be with the Church,even if Pope or clergy become corrupt. Church is not a democratic institution to decide matters of morals by majority vote.

    • Mary Martha Pazos

      Perhaps we should not negate the role of the Holy Spirit. If the Pope issues a pronouncement ex cathedra I will feel obligated to obey. However, that is not yet the case.

  • Bill Rudolph

    Thank you Dr. Marshall. I just learned that I had been very fuzzy about the meaning of conscience. I had thought it meant something like the natural law. So how does conscience differ from one’s inner awareness of what the natural law says?

    • Natural law, according to St Thomas Aquinas (STh I-II q. 94) is the inclination toward the good. Natural law is objective: “One ought to seek good and avoid evil.”

      Conscience is particular to a person and must be formed. It engages with immutable natural law and immutable divine law (Scripture/Tradition) and mutable human law (canon law and political law).

      • Mary Martha Pazos

        Echoing Bill Rudolph’s opinion, this is a timely referral to the official catechism on the matter of conscience. And thank you for the additional clarification.

      • Hervé Villechaize

        Dr. Marshall, I’m still a little uncertain here. What are the qualitative differences between the moral law that is written on each everyone’s heart, natural law and conscience? For instance, what if I’ve tried to form my conscience according the Church’s teachings but I still object to it. Should I follow my rightly formed (attempted anyway) conscience – even though it disagrees with the Church – or should deny my conscience and follow the Church?

        • One may not form his conscience contrary to the teaching of the Church. That’s a malformed conscience and their is culpability for it.

          To be aware of Church teaching and to act against it is not “being true to conscience” but infidelity.

          • Hervé Villechaize

            This is the way I’ve understood it from conservative Catholics but it’s never made much sense to me. It’s like saying:

            Rule #1 Your conscience must always conform to the Church in matters of faith and morals
            Rule #2 If your conscience does not conform to the Church in matters of faith and morals refer back to rule #1.

            What is the use in even talking about conscience in this context if what you personally inuit from your conscience – if in contradiction with the Church’s moral teachings – ultimately does not matter?

          • David Chacko

            Pope Benedict XVI wrote an excellent essay (as Cardinal Ratzinger) about conscience and truth that can be found in his book ‘Values in a Time of Upheaval’ in which he discusses the problem of an “erring conscience.” I highly recommend it. I will do my best to answer your question in light of what Benedict says in this essay. I do urge you to read the essay yourself, however, since I may not do the best or even a completely correct job of expressing his thoughts.

            He quotes St. Augustine on the fact that “we would not be able to formulate the judgment that one thing is better than another unless a basic understanding of the good were imprinted upon us.” Benedict calls this “primal remembrance of the good and the true … [and] capacity for recognition” the first ‘level’ of conscience. This is what you referred to above as ‘the moral law written on everyone’s heart’ and also ‘the natural law.’

            The second ‘level’ of conscience is Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of the “act of conscience” where one actually applies (i.e., puts into practice in a specific event) one’s recognition of and orientation toward the good.

            Thus, our innate recognition of goodness (the first ‘level’ of conscience), should compel us to respond when we “encounter the word of the Gospel.” This is why I think Dr. Marshall stated that ‘one may not form his conscience contrary to the teaching of the Church.’ Because doing so would be a rejection of that which we have already recognized as truth.

            As a final thought, with regard to man in general (i.e., not necessarily a Catholic or a Christian), Benedict does acknowledge “that an erring conscience obligates,” or to put another way “no one may act against his own convictions.” However, he does insist that conscience is still in no way a mere subjective criterion: one can incur guilt by “arriving at … perverse convictions by trampling down the protest made by the anamnesis of one’s true being” (i.e., one’s innate capacity to recognize truth/goodness).

            Hope this helps!

          • Hervé Villechaize

            Thanks, David! I appreciate the attempt to help me understand. I wonder if maybe I don’t know what the Church means by conscience…and I’m not sure I can go along with Benedict’s assertion that there is such a thing as “primal remembrance” to justify a natural law.

          • David Chacko

            I think Benedict’s words are primarily in reference to Augustine’s assertion in the sentence preceding that quote.

          • Hervé Villechaize

            I checked the sections in the catechism that you recommended. Even though I’ve read the CoC twice cover-to-cover it was good to review. It’s still isn’t clear to me what exactly a conscience is or why it matters, especially if it must conform to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church to be exercised correctly.

          • Patrick Riley

            David Chacko, I, too, have wrestled with conscience and here is how I deal with it. Look at the word itself. It means ‘with knowledge.’ Knowledge of what — the truth. Say you are going to build a house. Each piece of that house must be a specific length or nothing will fit. To accomplish that you have a ruler. Knowing of the existence of the ruler and how to use it you have a well formed material conscience. Choosing to use it is proceeding with knowledge. You are using your material conscience. However, if you choose to not use the ruler you are going against your conscience.
            When you choose to not understand the church’s teaching and definition of a spiritual conscience, you are simply choosing to reject the truth. Time for prayer, humility and repentance.

          • Hervé Villechaize

            I hear you, Patrick, but my problem is epistemological, or how we know this “truth”. For instance, without fallacious appeals to authority, how do we know if the ruler we are measuring with is the correct one? There are many religions, personal experiences, cultures, etc. that claim (or at least inform) how we view the truth about morality or what we might consider a “rightly formed conscience” or not. What I don’t understand is that given this reality what drives your’s, David Chacko’s and Dr. Marshall’s certainty that the Catholic Church knows what is rightly formed and what isn’t? What I’m wondering is if what you guys are claiming to “know” about conscience is really just “motivated belief” or if you have some insight or knowledge that is not accessible to me. I guess it’s possible that after nearly 40 years living as a Christian/Catholic, attending traditional Latin Mass and having access to all the sacraments, and trying fervently and earnestly to live like Jesus, that I really don’t know Him, but something is telling me that that’s not the issue here.

          • Leilita Foxie Monica

            If it is true that Jesus Christ was prophesized by Jewish prophets, born miraculously, founded a church based on Apostles and Peter the first of them, died for our sins and resurrected, if you believe all this, then follows, that all other religions are true only in those qualities that they share with the wisdom Christ taught because He has shown he is a true God. If you accept that He decided to found a single Church and to let her guide the treasure of His Word until the end of this world, then it follows at least for me that I cannot pick but have to accept the whole teaching. If I did not believe that fullness of Christ’s Church was in this one, I would be obliged to search for the one that is then, if I believed at all in His words that he will be with His flock until the end. However, which other church has Peter’s keys of heaven and all the signs of the one, holy. apostolic, catholic Church? Even with all her faults, she is the Bride of Christ.

            Dear Herve, thank you for your open questions, may God bless you and let Him give you the wisdom that you seek. I am no theologian and am not exactly sure what conscience is myself. I think it is a mystery because it touches on matters of how God communicates with us. I accept that and try to follow Christ in what he has shown me yet and trying to understand the rest – but most importantly, to love in a degree that I can.

  • Taylor Marshall’s comments are very, very fine – very true and very good. And for someone like me, someone who lives in Germany (Cardinal Kasper’s country, where he has VAST amounts of influence), Dr. Marshall’s comments are a source of strength and encouragement. These comments also allow me to pass on that strength and encouragement to others here who could so easily feel confused and isolated in what is in some ways the original land – the homeland – of the “Conscience Kasperites.”

  • James Bond

    The grass withers and flowers fade, but the word of God will abide forever! Holding to a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof. The Kasperites simply want to confuse the truth of God and exchange it for a lie and do what they want regardless of what our Lord says.

  • Gregory Smith

    This is the same argument used to condone the Holocaust. Those men followed their consciences (no matter how wrongly formed they may have been). If everyone simply follows their own conscience then ANYTHING is permissible. Conscience quickly turns to rationalization. It’s ok because I think it is!? Pope Benedict called relativism this centuries greatest enemy of the Church and how prophetic that is turning out to be. Conscience is not the arbitrator of objective truth. Nor is it the arbitrator of Biblical truth. Nor is it the arbitrator of Church teaching. It is being used as a “foot in the door” to try and change foundational Church teaching. It is a move in the direction most of the other Christian denominations have already taken. The ONE thing my Protestant friends begrudgingly admire is the Church’s unwavering stand on the moral issues of our time.

    • Cardinal Kasper’s writings and statements were opposed to the writings and statements of Pope Benedict XVI. Perhaps Ratzinger’s homily against the Dictatorship of Relativism at JP2’s funeral was an early trumpet cry against the Jericho of false conscience.

    • Gallibus

      Kasper needs to be sent on permanent retreat in prayer and reflection on the Word of God before he passes on in more ways than one.

    • Hervé Villechaize

      Absolutely! I also respect how the Church has never wavered on moral issues – especially usury.

  • Vincent Geffroy

    I do not think the Pope’s intention is to change any of the teachings of the church. going though various comments I could not help thinking of Noah and Ninevah. I would like to think of Pope Francis as some modern Noah, we are in a culture which needs divine mercy or divine wrath. we are being given the opportunity to repent. That’a the way I see the present situation and let’s pray for repentance so as to escape the worse.

    • Do you mean Jonah? Didn’t Jonah preach Penance and didn’t the Ninevites repent in sackcloth and ashes? That’s the key to mercy.

  • Renato C. Valdellon

    My understanding on the concluded Synod, and my personal reading into the mind of Pope Francis is that the lee way being given to divorced and remarried couples is a one time act of mercy during this Year of Mercy in order to open up the Church to the millions of Church unsettled believers, who want to finally be able to participate in the table of the Lord. After this sort of amnesty break the normal procedure will be implemented like before, ie, apply for annulment, continue not to be allowed yet the Communion till after Annulment takes effect, and promise to abstain from the marital act also until Annulment takes effect.

    • They have ALWAYS been invited to the table the Lord. ALWAYS. However, it is Catholic teaching that sacramental confession of mortal sin is necessary before Eucharistic reception.

  • Paul Boer

    I don’t think Pope Francis will intentionally go against Church teaching. After all he has said as much. However, I do fear that his talent at being quite ambiguous will give even more daylight for the heterodox to thrive. So what are we to do if he is so ambiguous? Maybe take a page from the history books and follow the example of our ancestors in dealing with the Arians?

  • Juana Oner

    I can’t express how distressed I still am that these proposals were even put forth, and that they were even debated. There is no debate–the proposals are simply gravely wrong. They should not have been given the time of day. We educated orthodox lay Catholics know full well that it will not be Catholic to allow these things.

    The only right thing to do is to put forth a clear and strong reaffirmation of
    the unchanging doctrine AND unchanging practice that follows from that
    doctrine. There is nothing merciful about allowing people to continue in
    objective adultery, and to furthermore commit sacrilege. Making the annulment process easier is something we could debate about it, especially if there really are hordes of people who are so ignorant that they weren’t able to contract a valid marriage. But affirming the relationships of souls living in adultery, and giving them Communion, is totally unacceptable! No recourse to “conscience” can ever make objective adultery and sacrilege ok. The Church is to correct erroneous consciences, not facilitate them!

  • Feed the Hungry

    I really hate to say it, but conservative Catholic blogger Ross Douthat makes a fairly compelling case that it is actually Pope Francis who is pushing communion for the divorced and remarried (see Douthat’s New York Times blogs from today and 10/17/15 for more). Thus I don’t know that it’s fair for us conservatives to keep vilifying Cardinal Kasper just to avoid appearing at odds with Pope Francis (Cardinal Kasper is certainly off, but he wouldn’t even be in the spotlight without Pope Francis’ support). To be clear, I like much of what Pope Francis has done, but I wonder if he hasn’t pushed his mercy theme so far that he no longer maintains an appropriate balance between mercy and truth. He’s not infallible in all he says and does, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if a “reformer pope” like him got too carried away at some point. Maybe it is time for those of us who are loyal to Rome to admit that he has gone too far and speak out against him on this matter. Maybe he needs to be rebuked, just as St. Paul rebuked St. Peter. Please share your thoughts with me on this because the thought of rebuking the pope is something that I wouldn’t dare consider without much fear and trepidation!

    • Proverbia 10:19
      in multiloquio peccatum non deerit
      qui autem moderatur labia sua prudentissimus est.

      • Feed the Hungry

        Domine, dirige nos.

    • thedeacon

      Msgr. Charles Pope wrote an excellent article on the website blog of the Archdiocese of Washington: If no one is Pope, everyone is pope. Patience and time will tell the tale.

      • Feed the Hungry

        I’m definitely not saying Pope Francis is not the valid pope, nor I am I saying that he cannot speak infallibly should he choose to do so. But I am mourning that I feel betrayed and no longer trust Pope Francis. I stood up for him when he subtly threw the pro-life activists under the bus. Then I stood up for him again when he subtly threw under the bus those who were fighting hardest to uphold the church’s teaching on one-man one-woman. Now I feel like his closing speech was an attempt to throw under the bus all of us who have fought to uphold the church’s ancient teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. And what should be especially insulting to everyone is that he personally selected Cardinal Danneels to be a member of the synod – a man who has openly opposed church teaching and admits to having worked against Pope Benedict behind the scenes (oh, I forgot to mention that Cardinal Danneels was guilty of attempting to cover up a case of a Belgian bishop molesting his own nephew, which leaves me absolutely puzzled to as to why anyone – **especially** Pope Francis who claims to be so horrified by the sexual abuse scandal – would think Cardinal Danneels could possibly be qualified to be part of a synod on the **family**). What’s going on with Pope Francis? He doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who likes having boundaries placed on him, so maybe he thinks he can say whatever he feels and do whatever he wants and no one can stop him. Or maybe his humble gestures have kept us from suspecting that Pope Francis is far more politically motivated than any of us would have thought. I pray that I’m wrong, but I can no longer deny what I see. And I pray more than ever that the Holy Spirit shows Pope Francis the effects of his actions, because as wonderful I think Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy is, there is no mercy if you abandon the truth.

        • Gallibus

          From what you have said in your comment above, you do not understand Pope Francis; you do not have his sources of information about what is going on in the church. You are playing back-seat driver with dark judgmental glasses on. Let the driver drive!

          • Feed the Hungry

            Do you are to explain how/why I do not understand Pope Francis, or are you just accusing me of something while providing no reasoning for your position?

        • JC

          “And what should be especially insulting to everyone is that he personally selected Cardinal Danneels”…

          Jesus selected Judas Iscariot to be one of the Twelve and gave him the “curial” position of treasurer. Hmmmmmm. His first “Pope” publically denied knowing Christ three times. Hmmm..
          I think God knew what He was doing then and that He also knows what He is doing now. Trust in Him, work on perfecting yourself and if all of us do that, we’ll have a perfect church.
          Blessings and peace.

          • Feed the Hungry

            “…but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
            Matthew 26:24

    • Patrick Riley

      It is certainly proper to ‘rebuke’ someone for acting improperly. It does not matter the person’s position. However, we had better be sure of our position before the rebuke. Rebuking the Pope is difficult though, since the only recourse is a letter to him at the Vatican. Personally, I think it is unlikely he would ever see it, but give it a try. I would avoid the use of the word rebuke as it is pretty aggressive.

  • Reverend Lawrence Farley


    I am saddened by the confusion surrounding this synod; and on what constitutes mercy towards the divorced and remarried; keeping in mind the impact on the family and society.

    Can “TRUTH” actually be reduced or subject to my personal experiences and my personal choices. Is “TRUTH” based on my free will and my personal conscience – a type of “sola conscientia”?

    I remember “Humanae Vitae”, the great and prophetic 1968 document by Pope Paul VI. At that time as well the confusion seemed to reign supreme. Many clergy resorted to the over simplified notion that personal conscience trumped the Tradition and Teaching of the Church. They were wrong then and now, they are still wrong.

    The value given to the freedom of will and freedom of conscience of individual
    human beings were never intended to be used to equate the “human will” with the “Divine Will”. The individual may freely choose either good or evil. The consequences of choosing good or evil are profoundly different.

    Keeping in mind the freedom of choice given to the intellectually superior angelic beings, I understand that whereas some two-thirds of these heavenly creatures choose the good by choosing the Divine Will – there was one-third who chose the path of evil by asserting their own angelic will over God’s.

    Leap forward to our troubled times where many clergy adopt an over simplified notion that personal conscience trumps God, the Tradition, and the Teaching of the Church.

    In the Book of Genesis, we recall the freedom of choice given to Adam and Eve. However, we also discern the influence of Satan, an angelic being, on Adam and Eve, human beings, by a temptation designed to subvert their human freedom by the use of manipulation and suggestion to create doubt about what God “really” said and about what the Divine Will “really” intended.

    I see the traces of that same insidious and perverse temptation operating in the human affaires today. Humanae Vitae was one of these occasions and this present Synod presents another opportunity to subvert the Divine Will by the notion under that God’s mercy requires altering God’s Word, i.e., “Did God really say…” (Genesis)

    Then there’s the “pastoral plum”, which automatically refers the fate of souls, who no longer have a Catholic worldview, into the care and influence of too many poorly formed parish priests, who for decades have become part of the problem and not the solution – blind guides!

    A properly formed conscience is not at all the same as a conscience that is lacking in clarity: wisdom understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and a holy fear.

    Jesus used metaphors to convey important concepts. One such concept can be applied to “conscience” as seeing the light of TRUTH:

    “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness”! (Matthew 6:22-23)

    Were we also not forewarned that there would come a time when people would not endure sound doctrine? (2 Timothy 4:3)

    These are times for trusting that God will turn all things for our good. These are times for prayer, for sacrifice, and for discernment.

    • Gallibus

      Re: ‘The consequences of choosing good or evil are profoundly different.’

      Well said! This is the bit that most gloss over. Free Will is necessary so that we can approach God out of love and not duress – love cannot be forced. But the consequences are not free for us to choose – that is God’s prerogative.

  • mjbenke

    Dr. Marshall, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Once again you informed us in your usual down-to-earth manner of speaking in the” average Joe’s”
    language! I intend to place your explanation (and the fine comments of the other viewers) in a “folder” on my lap top so that I will have it to refer back to if necessary, when the subject of this part of the Synod comes up in conversation with others.

  • Eve

    thank you. will definetly do the homework

  • PAV

    I attended RCIA just three years ago. Of the many complex and diverse discussions held in those classes… it was a discussion about conscience that nearly derailed me. Our priest taught a very traditional, catechism – based interpretation of conscience. However, the other clergy member responsible for the majority of the classes seemed to advocate a sort of “buffet” of choices of conscience. This person very much represented the “what’s right for your conscience may not be in line with church doctrine, and that’s ok” theory. This individual was never challenged by the other 5 teachers on the RCIA team, and I think many of the students left class believing there was a freedom to pick and choose the doctrines they wanted to live by. One of my classmates was baptized and confirmed, believing whole-heartedly, that abortion was not a sin… as long as the woman gave it a lot of thought and examined her conscience, first. I shudder to think how many church doctrines are disregarded and tossed aside because of a reluctance to challenge persons in positions of authority within the church. And now, when some of the highest officiates in our church (!) indicate that we are lacking in mercy… yikes.

    • This incorrect teaching of conscience (placing it in the emotions and not the intellect) is not just among laity, but being taught by cardinals and bishops. We need to pray, stay calm, and be ready to defend the truth of God. Jesus told us that there would be wolves among, and now we are aware of a pack.

      • PAV

        Amen. And I agree with the advice to pray and remain calm. Rise above the fray with prayer in our hearts, doctrine on our minds, and mercy in our actions… what could be more Christ-like?

  • Renato C. Valdellon

    I pray we do not foment any type of atmosphere or potential seeds of contemporary schism! I would like to quote that military adage, “Obey, first, before you complain!” From the diary of Sr. Faustina, the Lord constantly advised Sr. Faustina to relegate her own personal ideas and beliefs to her Superiors, whether her Confessor/Spiritual Director, or Convent Superior. It was always to humbly consider and defer her personal thinking to someone higher than her.
    Scriptures repeatedly warns us of God’s true pleasure: “obedience rather than sacrifice (eg. personal initiative …) Pope Francis clearly excoriates those who did not subscribe to his often stressed Pastoral approach and mindset re: issues of the Synod specifically those millions who continue to be absent in the “table of the Lord” for varied and complex reasons of marital status.
    The Lord Jesus often reprimanded and scorned them Pharisees and Scribes who were so law/regulations conscious but apathetic in real concern to the actual needs of the people.
    St. Paul and Newman have warned ‘zealots’ about missing the ‘spirit of the law’ in overly emphasizing the ‘letter of the law’. He has suggested tolerating, eg. untying one’s ox on Sabbath Day out of concern to water the ox; he has kind of approved of David’s allowing his hungry men eat of the food set aside for the Priests, etc.. Then, he did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, so adamantly and publicly demanded by the legalistic Pharisees to be put to death, (of course, Jesus told her to, ‘Sin no more!’; and Pope Francis I’m sure would admonish the same to them divorced couples wanting to be in with the Church except for those ‘varied and complex reasons’ I had referred to earlier.)
    A last word: Christ’s mindset on top of other things, on top of them ‘letters of the law’, he said, “I did not come for the just, but for the sinners”. Or, “I come to look for the lost sheep!” This is the essence and primordial command of charity, of love: the Pastoral compassion for the lost people of God.

  • Renato C. Valdellon

    Re: critiquing Pope Francis
    Nowhere does Pope Francis say what was sinful before is no longer sinful now. And, hence, he should not be thought of sort of straying away from the propagating of the Teachings of the Church. His acts all manifest his great zeal for loving others; the way the Lord did not hesitate being in the company of them ‘drunkards’, ‘gluttons’, ‘harlots’, and tax collectors. In the words of St. Paul, I think he is trying very hard to be ‘All things to all men.’; thus maximizing all the means and venues to reach out to his flock.

  • Renato C. Valdellon

    in case anyone was unclear what the pope was after, he told the synod as it closed:​

    Francis concluded the synod after the voting Saturday afternoon with remarks that spoke eloquently about the journey the bishops had traversed in their days together, and emphasized anew his call for prelates to refrain from being “doctors of the law.” “The Synod experience … made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness,” the pontiff told the bishops. “This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae, laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy,” said the pope.

    • thedeacon

      Yes, contradictions abound… but they also abounded when a young rabbi named Jeshua began His ministry in the most surprising ways. He seemed to be far from the norm and quickly became a threat – even as He was fulfilling prophecy long misunderstood. What a stir He caused! He extended the mercy of God to the most disenfranchised, much to the ire of those who long saw themselves as the keepers of the Law of Moses. He was maliciously accused and savagely removed.

      Eventually, during the persecution, a caution of restraint was sounded by Gamaliel who understood that discernment was necessary because they might end up by fighting against God. From a certain perspective… the evidence (according to what is seen and understand) seems to point in a certain direction. However, there may be much more at play here than what can be perceived at the present moment.

      When we recite the “Creed” of our faith, we begin with, “I believe in God…” and so it goes…. We believe even when we cannot help but notice or participate in the great passion and purification of the Church of the twenty-first century. We believe… even amidst the dark and terrors of a night, which seems to suggest that all is lost.

      We believe… because we know in Whom we believe. We believe… because we trust. We believe… because we hope. We believe… because a divine charity drives us – as it does the tattered and torn “bride of Christ”. We believe that, in the end, we will have seen sinners fall from grace… and then rise again… and eventually become saints. Why? Because it is through God’s grace that the miracle happens; because it happens through God’s divine Wisdom, which “surpasses human understanding”; and because it has happened before, and will happen again, in its own time.

      The Church, in her great predicament, falls into a deep and death-like sleep; and then, she, like the little girl in the Gospel, will arise at the voice of Her divine Master: “Talitha cumi”!

      On a human level, we already know that a skilled surgeon must bring his deft fingers and scalpel (or laser) into close contact with the tumours in order to get at their roots. Here and now is no different! Do not lose hope! Be not afraid! The Father owns the operating theatre; the Son is the surgeon in charge, at whose word is carried out the procedures; the Holy Spirit is the cutting edge of the laser-blade that reaches to where the flesh and spirit are joined. MAGNIFICENT.

      Watch and wait for it. All will come to light. Has God not already promised us?

      In the meanwhile, three things abide: Faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is LOVE.

      All the qualities of love… invite believers to love and pray for the vicar of Christ. Pope Francis holds the keys to the household of God. Our respect for Pope Francis does not constitute a betrayal of Jesus Christ. Let us not assume that we are the Holy Father’s judge and jury. Let us demonstrate our willingness to support the cross he must carry. Believers are not called to blindly cast stones. Believers are called to engage the battle for souls with Pope Francis… not against him.

      • Renato C. Valdellon

        I like everything you said; but I specially love your beginning paragraph: “Yes, contradictions abound… but they also abounded when a young rabbi named Jeshua began His ministry in the most surprising ways. He seemed to be far from the norm and quickly became a threat – even as He was fulfilling prophecy long misunderstood. What a stir He caused! He extended the mercy of God to the most disenfranchised, much to the ire of those who long saw themselves as the keepers of the Law of Moses. He was maliciously accused and savagely removed….. “

  • Feed the Hungry

    Here is the first report I have seen (as quoted from the National Catholic Register) indicating that Cardinal Kasper sees the synod as having advanced his proposal:

    And despite the synod fathers’ rejection of his proposal, Cardinal Walter Kasper continues to see an opening. “I’m satisfied; the door has been opened to the possibility of the divorced and remarried being granted Communion,” he told Il Giornale. “There has been somewhat of an opening, but the consequences were not discussed.”
    (Source: Article in National Catholic Register on 10/27 titled “Synod’s Final Report Rests With Pope Francis”)

    I fear that the “opening” he refers to is like having a tiny crack in a submarine deep within the ocean. As small as the crack may be, the pressure on it is so strong that a massive amount of water can enter through it.

    Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

    • When they pierced the venerable hand of Jesus Christ with the first nail, I’m sure the devil thought the same thing: “Aha. We are about to win!”

      Oh how wrong he was.

      Jesus Christ is going to use this to close the mouths of his enemies and bring about the light of truth to the nations. The apparent set back is a set up for strong magisterial teaching in the future on Holy Matrimony. Take heart. Be not afraid.

      • thedeacon

        How true Dr. Marshall. Thank you for affirming that faith actually has sight and insight.

        DIVINE MERCY –
        Jesus of Divine Mercy, by forgiving the Magdalene, was far from abandoning the Divine Will of the Eternal Father; far from overturning the unfathomable Wisdom foreseen in the Creation, the Fall, and the Restoration of Mankind. How blind the over-simplified and erroneous condemnation that Jesus was condoning “sin” by forgiving and restoring the Magdalene! “Go and sin no more” indicates that “Mercy and Justice have met”. Magdalene became a disciple.

        Justice does not ignore the causes or origins of what must be resolved. Jesus addressed sin on both levels – mercy and Justice. He was contending against “sin and division”. He was contending against the “domination and powers in the high places”, as St. Paul would later assert. However, within the human family, is it not still fashionable to take up arms against flesh and blood, and to deny the existence of God?

        It is not only scientists but also believers fail to see or accept the big picture! How persistent is the refusal to acknowledge or accept anything other than what can be seen and measured. How persistent is the refusal to acknowledge or to accept the “Light of Faith”! How persistent is the refusal to place faith and reason side-by-side.

        And yet, we have the evidence and testimony of a converted sinner who also asserts, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” – Romans 8:39.

        In the big picture, mercy does not cancel out justice; nor does justice cancel out mercy – two sides of the same coin, so to speak. However, let us be slow to call down justice for the sins of others while crying out for mercy upon our own transgression. To divide justice from mercy is not at all prudent.

      • Feed the Hungry

        Thank you, Dr. Marshall!

  • Ed

    Thank you for this Dr Taylor.

    Would it be possible for you to go into a bit more detail on para 1797. That was quite a new idea for me.

    My conscience feels like anything but a source of hope. It’s always bringing my past sins before me. Even when I remind myself of my forgiveness in Christ and am somewhat calmed, it reminds me of all the temporal evils, actual or potential that my sins lead to (both for me and for the people around me).

    Maybe I’m missing something, but my conscience is probably my greatest day to day source of pain and sadness. This teaching suggests it could be something so much more b

    • Conscience is not a feeling, emotion, or sentiment. It is a rational judgment of the intellect on concrete moral acts (as taught in Catechism).

      Conscience convicts of wrong doing and moves us to conversion (repentance, baptism, confession). Once we receive forgiveness we are to forget the sins. If you recall them and feel guilt, that not your conscience, that is the devil pulling you down. Resist the devil and He will flee from you. Holy water (a reminder of baptism) is a sacramental to help in this way.

      You might also want to say aloud, “I am forgiven by the infinitely Precious Blood of Jesus Christ and I am no longer under condemnation.”

      “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

      Take heart. You are forgiven and washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Your conscience is clean. But the evil ones don’t want you to experience the joy of justification.

      • Renato C. Valdellon

        I listened to your elaborate Church Teaching on Conscience review/reminder. Thank you!

  • Katherine

    From your article, Conscience Kasperites sound like the equivalent of French Postmodernist Philosophers, who believe that there is no truth, no structure, no beauty in anything, but only in each person’s perceptions of everything. The French Pomos are the serial to the Modernist movement created in the 1700s by European aristocratic Freemasons. The Blessed Mother has said in numerous messages given throughout the world that “the smoke of Satan has entered the Church”. I think the Masons have infiltrated the church on all levels, including the Vatican, unfortunately. Perhaps the Catholic prophecies are true, and the Church will need to be crucified and seem to disappear or go underground for a few years, and then arise renewed again in Traditionalism. Maybe that will happen with wars; we don’t know yet.
    But one thing is true; the word of God. His commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. That is what the rules of the Church regarding marriage, divorce, and receiving the Eucharist are based on. To receive the sacraments, a person must be in a state of grace. For that to be, they must go to confession or follow the rules of the Church to avoid sin. There are no compromises regarding God’s Commandments. I’ve read that Pope Francis phoned a female friend of his in Argentina who was divorced and remarried, and told her that she could receive the Eucharist. It’s hard to believe, but an eye opener if so, about the state of the Church today. Stay awake, was what Jesus warned regarding the end times.
    My mother remained faithful to the teaching of the Catholic church right up to her death in March this year at the age of 89 years. My father left her with four kids (one deceased) to live the high life of an international CEO in 1961, and divorced her ten years later. She died with the sacrament of Holy Unction. She had the hardest life as a single mother, with little money, raising four kids in a Catholic community. But she did it, heroically. Her faith was her strongest and most steadfast asset. She was the sweetest person, and sadly missed. That was her vocation. She certainly ran the good race to the very last breath.

  • Hervé Villechaize

    I’m sorry David but those lines are clear as mud to me. What is a natural conscience and how is that distinct from just a conscience? What does it mean to say the conscience is not distinct from the intellect (is intellect the brain? Mind? Both?) and why make the distinction? It looks like there’e will, emotions and practical experience that make up this so called natural conscience. This definition includes so much that I can’t make heads or tails of what it is.