Recently I posted about the situation with Speaker Pelosi (finally) being denied communion, for her own and the Church’s spiritual good, by Bishop Cardileone. I also did an article some time back about conscience, so I thought I would share a few reflections on both of these topics.
From what she’s publicly stated, Nancy Pelosi has indicated that she has a “disagreement” with the Church on several matters, including abortion. She has stated that the Church teaches her to follow her conscience, which is exactly what she’s doing when she supports abortion and has rejected Church teaching in this and other moral matters.
While she’s technically correct that we are supposed to follow our consciences in making decisions, she’s left out a few important realities. First, we are supposed to properly form our consciences by learning as much as possible about a particular topic, including consulting official Church teaching such as our catechism. Second, even though we may disagree with a particular teaching, ultimately we are called to take up our cross and follow Christ and His church. God isn’t asking for our vote, nor is He asking us to agree with His teaching (although that of course is the goal.) He’s asking us to follow Him, trust Him, and love Him. Just as children are supposed to follow their parents’ teaching, even if they disagree since the parents have the best interests of the child in mind, so too are we to show our love for God by following Him. As Jesus stated, let the little children come to Him. Little children don’t question, don’t argue, don’t agree or disagree, but simply trust and love. While following my conscience is important, following Christ is the ultimate goal.
Let me share an example from my own life to illustrate this point.
For quite a while I didn’t understand the Church’s teachings on artificial contraception, and really didn’t see anything wrong with using birth control. Even though my (improperly formed) conscience told me it was my choice (all about me,) I obviously was not submitting to Church teaching due to my ignorance and some selfishness. Since I truly wanted to submit to Church teaching, once I found out the reasons the Church gave for its teaching, I was able to submit fully.
Obviously we are called to submit in humble obedience even if we don’t understand a teaching, but my point is that I knew I was going against Church teaching and using my conscience as an excuse. While Nancy Pelosi is technically correct when she states a woman needs to make a decision to end a child’s life herself, in consultation with her priest, doctor, and God, she is wrong by stating that we are making a morally correct decision simply because a priest, doctor, or our conscience tells us something is OK. Yes, our actions, sinful or not, are always our choice, but that doesn’t mean that our choice is OK with God or morally in agreement with God’s teaching through His Church.
While it’s great to follow your conscience, your conscience is no substitute for official Church teaching. IF you claim to be a faithful Catholic, then show it by your words and actions. I can no more be a “faithful husband” if my conscience tells me to look at pornography or have sex with another woman despite knowing the correct Church teaching than I or anyone can claim to be a “faithful Catholic” by refusing to submit to and follow Church teaching on abortion, premarital sex, transgenderism, artificial contraception, or any number of “hard teachings.” Like the disciples listening to Jesus tell us we must really eat His flesh and drink His blood, will we stay with Him and follow His ”hard teachings” or seek another God and walk away?