Politics, Law and Conscience

Jeff Mirus from Catholic Culture presents two interesting articles: one is the speech of Pope Benedict XVI to the German Parliament, and the other is a commentary on Fr. Herman Geissler’s understanding of Cardinal Newman’s concept of Conscience.

In the first, Pope Benedict XVI proposes “some thoughts on the foundations of a free state of law”. Said “proposal” begins and ends with a reflection on 1 Kgs. 3:9, Solomon’s decision to ask God for a “listening heart” that is able to discern good and evil.

In the second, Jeff Mirus basing himself on the observations made by Fr. Geissler, explains why claims to follow one’s conscience against the teaching authority of the Church is just a disguise for preferring one’s own opinion over and against the Church.

Politics: A Listening Heart Plus A Striving for Justice and Peace

How do we recognize what is right? In history, systems of law have almost always been based on religion: decisions regarding what was to be lawful among men were taken with reference to the divinity. Unlike other great religions, Christianity has never proposed a revealed law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation. Instead, it has pointed to nature and reason as the true sources of law – and to the harmony of objective and subjective reason, which naturally presupposes that both spheres are rooted in the creative reason of God. Christian theologians thereby aligned themselves with a philosophical and juridical movement that began to take shape in the second century B.C. In the first half of that century, the social natural law developed by the Stoic philosophers came into contact with leading teachers of Roman Law. Through this encounter, the juridical culture of the West was born, which was and is of key significance for the juridical culture of mankind.

More from P. Benedict XVI’s Address to the Bundestag and from J. Mirus’s Commentary on the same.

… and Conscience

At its best, then, conscience can take us only so far. Its purpose is to point us toward God and Revelation, and to keep us from going astray morally when situations (and temptations) arise to challenge our virtue. It draws its standards instinctively from the intellect’s fundamental apprehension of the natural law; it creates moral benchmarks from this apprehension and from whatever else we learn intellectually about goodness over time. When we fail to heed what we really know is right, conscience accuses us. But left unattended, it deteriorates, and fed on falsehood, it deceives. Therefore, while following conscience is an obligation, it is an obligation which presupposes a serious responsibility. Conscience works better and better as it is progressively informed and perfected by what we discover of the truth in other ways. Ultimately, it is a springboard to something deeper and more certain than itself.

More from Catholic Culture


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