Some Catholics are ‘unnerved’ by current events in the Church, says Cardinal Pell

The cardinal said that conscience must refer to revealed truth and the moral law
Cardinal George Pell at his office in the Vatican in 2014 (PA)

Cardinal George Pell at his office in the Vatican in 2014 (PA)

The following comes from a November 29 Catholic Herald article by Dan Hitchens:

Cardinal George Pell has said that “a number of regularly worshipping Catholics” are “unnerved by the turn of events” in the Church.

In a talk at St Patrick’s Church, London, Cardinal Pell said one cause for concern was false theories of conscience and the moral law.

Cardinal Pell was giving a talk on St Damien of Molokai as part of St Patrick’s series of talks for the Year of Mercy. But he also reflected on Catholicism today. He said that while Pope Francis has “a prestige and popularity outside the Church” greater than perhaps any previous Pope, some Catholics are currently uneasy.

Later in his talk, the Australian cardinal, who has been asked to lead Pope Francis’s financial reforms and is a member of the Pope’s “C9” group of advisors, criticised some of the ideas about conscience which are now current in the Church.

Cardinal Pell said that emphasising the “primacy of conscience” could have disastrous effects, if conscience did not always submit to revealed teaching and the moral law. For instance, “when a priest and penitent are trying to discern the best way forward in what is known as the internal forum”, they must refer to the moral law. Conscience is “not the last word in a number of ways”, the cardinal said. He added that it was always necessary to follow the Church’s moral teaching.

The cardinal told the story of a man who was sleeping with his girlfriend, and had asked his priest whether he was able to receive Communion. It was “misleading”, the cardinal said, to tell the man simply to follow his conscience.

He added that those emphasising “the primacy of conscience” only seemed to apply it to sexual morality and questions around the sanctity of life. People were rarely advised to follow their conscience if it told them to be racist, or slow in helping the poor and vulnerable, the cardinal said.

His comments come after three years of debate on the Church’s teaching regarding Communion for the divorced and remarried.

Cardinal Pell was among the senior figures who have publicly upheld the traditional doctrine repeated in Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio – that the remarried should not receive Communion unless they are living “as brother and sister”.

But some prominent Catholics have suggested a different approach. For instance, Cardinal Blase Cupich has argued that someone’s conscience might tell them to receive Communion, and that “conscience is inviolable”.

Cardinal Pell quoted Blessed John Henry Newman’s writings on conscience, in which Newman rejected a “miserable counterfeit” of conscience which defines it as “the right of self-will”. He noted that Newman was defending Popes Pius IX and Gregory XVI, who in Cardinal Pell’s words, “condemned a conscience which rejected God and rejected natural law.”

The cardinal also paid tribute to St John Paul II’s “two great encyclicals”, Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae, which present the moral law as something binding in all cases.

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  1. Michael McDermott says:

    Catholic Ties to the American Public Order Continue to Unravel
    http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/precarious-catholic-relationship-american-public-order

    It has been clear for quite some time that a new and different public order is taking shape in America in which Catholics (or at least Catholics faithful to the magisterium of the Church) will have serious difficulty finding a comfortable place

    The recent election does nothing to change this fact because it does not reverse the deep-seated social and cultural trends—above all, the ongoing de-Christianization of Western society—that have been driving this transformation.

    – Perhaps the central irony of American Catholic history is that the country American Catholics sought to be…

  2. “The cardinal also paid tribute to St John Paul II’s “two great encyclicals”, Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae, which present the moral law as something binding in all cases.” I fear that our present Holy Father must view JP II’s rigidity in these encyclicals as a sign of maladjustment or worse. If so he should say so plainly.

  3. Robert William says:

    “Some Catholics are unnerved by current events!” Yes indeed! Many Catholics have been unnerved for many years by St John Paul II’s and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s blatant mismanagement of the Church and attempts to block the Implementation of Vatican II. Consider the “Maciel” matter under JP2 and Vatileaks under Benedict!

    • david drewelow says:

      where vatican ii was allowed to be implemented at full throttle, the church rapidly decilned to non-existence( cf holland). the implementation protocols for the churches were somehow missing something, many things, that historians will never fully analyze. after all, when speaking honestly, they tell us that to some degree they are only guessing about the past as they present it to us as ‘the story’.

  4. St. Christopher says:

    One wonders how a man, such as Blaise Cupich, became a priest. The conscience is never, ever, considered “inviolable.” A Catholic can better trust and follow a “well formed” conscience, however, as this incorporates Church teachings and doctrine. Cardinal Pell — also increasingly an outlier to the Vatican — is good to point out the “unease” among actual — that is practicing — Catholics. The question, “what is going on,” is no longer rhetorical to many Catholics that really and truly go to Church regularly and pray regularly. To these, Pope Francis is seen, increasingly, as a failure, if not as an arrogant man, bent on changing everything to his image. One of these just died in Cuba.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      Seems you’ve never read the Catechsim or the Documents of Vatican II.

      • Anonymous Anselm says:

        So right, Your Fellow Catholic, because we have often heard you many, many times extol the graces of sacramental marriage between a man and a woman (n.50), as husband and wife, and the good of marriage being children, as Gaudium et Spes (V2), nn 48-52, clearly defines. Right, Your Fellow Catholic? Do I get an “Amen?”

  5. If people weren’t unnerved by the sex abuse scandal, they won’t be unnerved by this.

  6. Romulus Augustus says:

    Cardinal Pell, that is a huge understatement your Grace!

  7. FromThePew says:

    Be not afraid. God bless Cardinal Pell and all those that speak out about the confusing ‘current events’ in the church under P. Francis. God will not be mocked and His law rules the universe. All those bad shepherds (like C. B. Cupich) leading their flock astray will be asked for an accounting of every straying word against His law. Eternity waits to correct their self willed ways.

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