Can a Catholic who violates Church teaching be in good conscience?

Conscience is the inherent ability of reason and free will to seek, find, and understand moral truths, and to comprehend the good and evil in acts of the person. But when fallen sinners exercise reason and free will, concupiscence and personal sins and the sins of society and other individuals all may have a negative effect on the search for moral truth. Therefore, conscience can err, without losing its dignity, through invincible ignorance.

Many Catholics ask how it is possible that a Catholic might violate a clear teaching of the Church, and still be in good conscience? If the teaching of the Church is clear, why doesn’t their conscience comprehend that certain acts are gravely immoral? That’s a difficult question. It does seem to be the case that a Catholic can care about Church teaching, and yet, somehow disagree or perhaps adhere to a reinterpretation of that teaching. Some Catholics unfortunately consider every teaching or moral rule to be subject to exceptions. Others think that the Church can be mistaken on the rule itself.

I can’t be the judge of anyone’s conscience. But it does seem, from the Gospel teaching, that some persons in religion, such as the Pharisees or Sadducees, are not in good conscience. So I would not apply the various factors that can mitigate culpability to every person and every sin, so much so that everyone would be in good conscience. Some persons are not in good conscience. May they humble themselves, pray, repent, and confess.

How can a Catholic who is divorced and remarried think himself or herself to be in good conscience, and therefore decide to receive Communion without repentance and Confession?

Ask the same question of the many conservative Catholics who go online to teach grave errors on faith and morals, and then receive Communion without repenting or confessing that type of sin. Ask the same question of the many conservative Catholics who hold and teach heresy. Ask the same question of the many conservative Catholics who use contraception, including abortifacients, and who commit grave sexual sins — all on the basis of various theological rationalizations.

Wait, I’ll ask. Are you in good conscience, you teachers of heresy? Are you in good conscience, you promoters of abortifacients and grave sexual sins? How is it that you receive Communion, without repentance and Confession, and yet you rail in indignation at the divorced and remarried who do the same? Hypocrites.

[John]
{8:3} Now the scribes and Pharisees brought forward a woman caught in adultery, and they stood her in front of them.
{8:4} And they said to him: “Teacher, this woman was just now caught in adultery.
{8:5} And in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such a one. Therefore, what do you say?”
{8:6} But they were saying this to test him, so that they might be able to accuse him. Then Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the earth.
{8:7} And then, when they persevered in questioning him, he stood upright and said to them, “Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”

How is it that the Pharisees of today do not notice that this passage applies to them? They wish to figuratively stone the divorced and remarried, because they wish to receive Communion, despite their struggles with grave sin. And they themselves are unrepentant from the grave sins of teaching heresy, promoting schism, and treating the Roman Pontiff with contempt and derision.

Canon 915 does not apply only to the divorced and remarried, you hypocrites!

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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3 Responses to Can a Catholic who violates Church teaching be in good conscience?

  1. Matt Z. says:

    Just to add. Conscience is not a faculty of the soul but an act of the intellect where one judges good from evil, right from wrong.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I disagree. Conscience is exercised in acts, but it is an inherent ability (or faculty) of persons who have free will, reason, and an immortal soul. And there are no pure acts of intellect, apart from free will. The will acts based on an understanding in the intellect.

  2. DD&S says:

    There was a time that some people felt oppressed by their priest, and he would be difficult like a Pharisee. Then a Sadducee priest (probably gay) would tell people it’s only a matter of time until the antiquated church catches up with modern life. Take your pick, even today. A priest can chase your bad conscience away.

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