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Dissenting Catholics and the Conscience‏

July 23, AD2013 55 Comments

\"Leila

A dissenting or \”cafeteria Catholic\” will often assert that as long as one follows his conscience, he is in good standing with the Church.

Well, not exactly.

Sometimes we come across anti-Catholic statements from anti-Catholic groups identifying as \”Catholic\”, which are riddled with errors such as this commonly accepted falsehood:

In any case, Catholic theology tells individuals to follow their personal conscience in moral matters, even when their conscience is in conflict with hierarchical views.

Again, not exactly.

Let\’s briefly discuss what the Catholic Church actually teaches about conscience, beginning with this statement about moral conscience from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which quotes the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes (16):

\”Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man\’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.\” [emphasis mine]

So, our conscience is where we hear the law of God that has been written on our hearts. Our conscience moves us to do good and avoid evil, and judges whether an act is moral or not.

Another Vatican II document says:

In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. Dignitatis Humanae (3)

Okay, so we must follow our conscience in all things. We must not be forced to act against our conscience, nor must we be stopped from acting according to the dictates of our conscience.

That sounds about right to me!

But wait… Then don\’t those dissenting Catholics who reject the moral teachings of the Church have a point? They claim that their conscience is the final authority, after all.

Well actually, the dissenting Catholics always leave something out. They like to talk about always following one\’s conscience, but they never talk about one\’s obligation to correctly form one\’s conscience in the first place. That\’s a pretty big omission!

In fact, when dissenters say that Catholicism teaches that Catholics may follow their consciences with impunity \”even when their conscience is in conflict with hierarchical views\”, they are actually ignoring Church teaching, which states explicitly that personal conscience \”should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church.\” (Catechism, 2039)

Pretty clear, no?

Now, what if someone (perhaps a dissenting Catholic) wants to be ignorant of the moral law? Well, willful ignorance is itself a sin:

This is the case when a man \”takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.\” In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits. (Catechism, 1791)

In other words, if one has a poorly formed conscience because he refuses to seek truth, or if he has deadened his own conscience by repeated sins, or if he willfully rejects what he knows to be legitimate Church authority — then he is culpable.

We are responsible for seeking truth. Then, once we have found truth, we are responsible for conforming our lives to it. To the extent that we decide not to seek truth in the first place, we are accountable for that unfortunate decision.

I have personally known Catholics who have declined to learn more about Catholic morality precisely because they don\’t want to be held accountable for their actions. But of course, God doesn\’t play games like that. He knows every human heart and its intentions. And a soul who is willfully clinging to \”ignorance\” is not truly ignorant at all.

If, on the other hand, a soul is invincibly ignorant of the moral law (i.e., their ignorance or their poorly formed conscience exists through no fault of their own), then they are not culpable for those sins, even though their actions are still objectively sinful.

One can only be responsible for what he knows or what he should know. He cannot be responsible for what he is incapable of knowing. That\’s justice. Wouldn\’t you agree?

From the Catechism (1793):

[If] the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

That last sentence is why we Catholics must learn and then teach our Faith.

So, to sum it up, there are really two parts to the discussion of conscience:

1) We are first obligated to form our consciences properly.
2) We are then obligated to follow our consciences.

Pretty simple, no?

© 2013. Leila Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Leila Miller is a wife and mother of eight children who has a penchant for writing and a passion for teaching the Catholic Faith in simple ways. This summa cum laude Boston College graduate also enjoys debating secularists, and in her spare time she fancies herself a bit of a Catholic matchmaker. She manages two blogs that accommodate those hobbies well: Little Catholic Bubble, and the invite-only Catholic Moms Matchmaking.

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  • Tom

    Hurrah Thank you and God bless and send his Angels to guard you and everyone you love.
    Tom

  • How can catholocism be trusted, when it’s been so wrong about a great many things? The Counsel of Trent and its canons on justification (Canon 30) teaches a dangerous heresy, straight from the Pit:

    “If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.”

    It concludes with the false belief that the Catholic clergy have the authority to send a man to Hell (anathema teachings). In light of this, this only provides a sharper emphasis on the fact that Christendom and catholicism are very different, and bear very little resemblance to one another. Come out of the ungodly deception of catholicism, and come to Jesus, before it’s too late for you, please.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Please explain what you mean by “the false belief that the Catholic clergy have the authority to send a man to Hell”?

      I suspect you have a false belief about what the Catholic Church believes.

    •  “The 1914 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia has an article called ‘Anathema.’ It describes an anathema that the Fourth Council of Toledo (633 A.D.) said that any person who disagreed with a decision that the Council had made was to be ‘stricken’ with an anathema that included being ‘damned at the coming of the Lord.’ Another anathema formula (which is described in the same article) declares that the anathematized person (or people) are ‘condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels.’”

    • Kevin Aldrich

      VirusX, When you write, “Come out of the ungodly deception of catholicism, and come to Jesus, before it’s too late for you, please,” you are doing the same thing.

      In other words, you are saying that if Catholics persist in what *you* say are false beliefs, they will be damned. That is exactly what “Anathema” means. If someone who knows better remains in heresy he will be lost. No?

      So, the real question is, “Why are you correct and an Ecumenical Council is wrong”?

    • That’s funny, because I don’t see you decrying the same plaintiff made by a catholic, towards people that are Christian. In other words, its alright for catholics (presumably like yourself) to say Christians are apostates and heretics that must return to some mythological “mother” church, but when a Christian expresses the same sentiment, though reversed, it becomes a product of ungodly deception. That, right there, should show that you need to examine your thinking, about a lot of things.

      Furthermore, you’re telling a blatant lie about anathema. ONCE AGAIN, I will show you from the 1914 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA

      “The 1914 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia has an article called ‘Anathema.’ It describes an anathema that the Fourth Council of Toledo (633 A.D.) said that any person who disagreed with a decision that the Council had made was to be ‘stricken’ with an anathema that included being ‘damned at the coming of the Lord.’ Another anathema formula (which is described in the same article) declares that the anathematized person (or people) are ‘condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels.’”

      “Pope Innocent III ruled from 1198 to 1216. He anathematized Mark Ward of Anweiler. The statement of anathematization began with these words: ‘We excommunicate, anathematize, curse and damn him.’”(Paul Johnson, “A History of Christianity,” page 199.)

      You are clearly caught up in untruths, and things you do not understand. Come out of the deception and lies, and return to Jesus Christ, before it is too late for you.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      You’re all over the place, dude.

      This began when I observed that you and the Roman Catholic Church share the same belief, that unrepentant heresy will lose your soul.

      Let me repeat my question in different words. Until the year 1500, virtually all Christians, in both the east and west, agreed that the decisions of an ecumenical council are binding on Christians. How is it that you know better?

      And please, one issue at a time.

  • bill bannon

    Leila,
    CCC #2039 is simply incorrect in the ending phrase when it says conscience should not go against
    the Magisterium. The catechism is not an inerrant document as though it were a second Bible. Historically the Church needed consciences to oppose the Magisterium particularly on burning c.6000 heretics and on slavery…both now condemned as intrinsic evils in section 80 of ” Splendor of the Truth”. See newadvent “Inquisition” for papal mandating …mandating of secular princes burning heretics in 1253 AD….under pain of the secular princes being excommunicated if they did not.
    While there were Popes who seemed to oppose all slavery in their bulls, scholarship has shown that those same Popes simultaneously permitted usually four exceptions to be taught by Catholic universities (simultaneous to the bulls) some of which bulls were not as far reaching as was first thought ( the Canary Island bull sought only to protect ” baptised” natives from slavery not unbaptised.)
    Exceptions for slavery existed in imprimatured Catholic books up til 1960 ( Iorio’s 5th edition of his “Moral Theology”).
    Catholicism needed dissenting consciences in 1253 on the magisterium’s burning heretics and it needed dissenting consciences for centuries on the magisterium’s exceptions for slavery….one of which Aquinas agrees to in the Summa and gives you the decretals or old canon law that backed them here: Supplement of ST on marriage of a slave under Matrimony:
    ” I answer that, According to civil law (XIX, ff. De statu hom. vii, cap. De rei vendit.) the offspring follows the womb: and this is reasonable since the offspring derives its formal complement from the father, but the substance of the body from the mother. Now slavery is a condition of the body, since a slave is to the master a kind of instrument in working; wherefore children follow the mother in freedom and bondage; whereas in matters pertaining to dignity as proceeding from a thing’s form, they follow the father, for instance in honors, franchise, inheritance and so forth. The canons are in agreement with this (cap. Liberi, 32, qu. iv, in gloss.: cap. Inducens, De natis ex libero ventre) as also the law of Moses (Exodus 21).
    So 6 centuries later you had Bishop England arguing for slavery right after a papal bull against slavery and he was permitted because he was not supporting the slave trade but was supporting the existent slaves who followed their mother’s state which was slave and he could point to Aquinas for support and the canons and the university teaching on the exceptions.
    CCC 2039 is simplistic therefore and incorrect morally.

    • Leila Miller

      Bill, you have taken a whole lot of stuff, thrown most of it out of context (and added a straw man or two), and I don’t have endless hours (or space in the combox) to refute and straighten it out. So, I will just ask you a couple of foundational questions if you don’t mind:

      1) The Catechism has been out for quite a few years. Why has no one yet caught that mistake in #2039?

      2) As to your last statement, what is your authority for that, to state what is morally correct or incorrect? Serious question.

      (Also, remind me, are you a Protestant?)

      Thanks!

    • bill bannon

      Number one….you’ll notice that no one who makes a living or career within paid Catholicism ( that includes clergy) seems to catch any mistakes in the catechism. Survival understandably comes first to most human beings. But then flattery of Popes becomes de rigeur next. The most absurd example is ccc 2267 on the death penalty. According to UN figures the two largest Catholic populations, Brazil and Mexico, have murder rates above 20 per 100,000 and have no death penalty and porous prisons. Shinto Japan has a .4 per 100,000 murder rate and a death penalty. Your family is thus fifty times safer touring unbelieving Japan than touring the two largest Catholic populations. The two worst countries on earth for murder are El Salvador 69.2 per 100,000 and Honduras 91.6 per 100,000… neither has a death penalty…the first is 79% Catholic, the second is 97% Catholic. We have six countries in the 20 top worst murder rate countries on earth…they have no death penalty and a Pope in 1999 publically denounces the death penalty as “cruel” while the Bible he represents has God..God…God give 36 death penalties to Jews and one for murder to the gentiles in Genesis 9:5-6 repeated in Romans 13:4 which John Paul nor the catechism ever quote.
      #2039 would have had Catholics obey directives to burn 6000 people largely from 1253 into the 17th century…for heresy…people who now loan us their rakes in Autumn. #2039 would have had Catholics obey Pope Nicholas V’s grant of enslavement of new natives by Portuguese ( Romanus Pontifex, mid 4 th large par.)…then the Borgia Pope’s repeat of same to Spain. You’re an asset to the Church and probably an above 140 IQ but the Church needs you to read Her history without the help of whitewashing Catholic writers who like demons are legion….gee…Protestants burnt people too and worse….gee secular school teachers sodomize children worse than we do. We’ve become a moron culture of comparative excuses. Try that in confession….”I cheated on my taxes….but others on my block do it too.”

      Number two….any very well read Catholic has a Catholic obligation to go against the Catholic moral mistakes of his or her time if they supply evidence…unless you want Catholicism in its active segment to be all robots 24/7. Few Catholics including saints objected to Catholicism burning to death people we now trust with our brake jobs and heart transplants even though they’re wrong on sola scriptura. Hell, our Popes if you read them closely …have problems with believing the first Person mandates on violence which came from God in scripture ( Evangelium Vitae sect.40, Verbum Domini sect.42). So if Protestants err through sola scriptura, maybe we need a tad of sola scriptura because evangelicals vote better than Catholics AGAINST abortion and for the death penalty.

    • Leila Miller

      Honestly, bill, now you are just making me glaze over. I only skimmed this. I don’t think you are going to win anyone over with this type of hodge-podge. When you want to make a clear statement or ask a clear and principled question, let me know. Many blessings!

    • johnnyc

      It’s amazing how many catholics practice their faith as if it were tax time and they were looking for loopholes. And then they use that supposed loophole to make the Church into what they want it to be. Really no different from protestantism.

    • bill bannon

      johnnyc,
      Actually John Paul II calling the death penalty ” cruel” in public ( a penalty God gave repeatedly in Scripture) is an abrupt development and Cardinal Newman said abruptness was a sign of a faux development in the Church. Likewise when Pope Innocent IV introduced burning heretics, it was an abupt break with the first millenium saints most of whom wrote against it. There are regressions throughout Catholic history. But thanks for a broad generalization against Protestants….how can you possibly believe Mary is pleased with such talk since Evangelicals vote better against abortion candidates than Catholics in the US…and there were Protestants who resisted Hitler…unlike you and I by the chance of birthday.

    • Leila Miller

      The death penalty, as the Church has always taught and continues to teach, is not intrinsically (of its very nature) evil. Its application over the years has been subject to many different understandings and standards, and today we are at a point that it should be rarely if ever used as a line of defense.

      How does that have anything to do with dissenting from the Deposit of Faith?

    • bill bannon

      What does the Deposit of Faith have to do with the final sentence of #2039 as you cited it above? Your notes on the death penalty are scripted for orthodoxy ratings and avoid the real problems of a Pope calling it “cruel” to the world press and you avoid the miserable record of the two largest Catholic populations one of which has seen possibly 60,000 murdered in the cartel wars in six years with no death penalty and with the head of the Sinaloa cartel, Pablo Guzman, escaping maximum security prison months ago and still living within Mexico…while the catechism description of penology as sufficiently protecting people is obviously based on Malta or Luxembourg or Andorra…tiny Catholic countries with few criminals. Adieu. I think you are restricted by some audience watching you perhaps and a real honest interchange never occurs with that pressure.

    • Leila Miller

      Bill, you are not making sense to me. #2039 is about not setting one’s conscience against the teachings of the Magisterium (in other words, the Deposit of Faith, revelation, and any “binding and loosing”, i.e., discipline, canon law). That sentence in the Catechism is truth, and it is binding on Catholics.

      “scripted for orthodoxy ratings” …???? What on earth? Who rates me and why would I need a script? If you are talking about war crimes, I assure you, no one escapes the justice of God. Honestly, I have no idea what you are talking about… I’m just going to go ahead and admit that. Hey, maybe it’s me. Blessings!

    • So what do you think of catechism #841, pg 223 in the Catholic Church 2nd Ed., which was revised in accordance with the official Latin text pushed by Pope John Paul II?

      “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”
      Do you believe this?

    • Leila Miller

      Sorry, could you clarify? Do I believe what? That Muslims can be saved? If that’s what you are asking, then of course it’s possible:

      http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/12/can-non-catholics-be-saved.html

  • Gary Adrian

    James, I understand that this is a difficult issue. I know lovely Catholics with kind hearts that disagree with the Catholic Church when it comes to say, birth control. That is how they put it, the disagree with God mouthpiece. There was another lovely woman known for her kindness and closeness to God. She decided that she disagreed with God on just one rule that he had, her name was Eve and now we are all paying for it.

    When it comes to Church teaching, we don’t have the right to ‘have your eyes opened, so that you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ (Genesis 3:4) It goes on to tell us that ‘the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.’

    When it comes to a man doing it for his wife or a wife doing it because or her husband, we can go on in the story ‘She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.’ God did not give them a break because one wanted to make the other happy.

    Are we doing this when we ‘disagree’ with the Church. God takes this very seriously. I don’t know many Catholics who are ignorant of the Churches teaching on birth control. But just as we are influenced by our friends and neighbors, priests could go a long way toward changing the minds of these Catholics.

    Sadly, many if not most of the Catholics who use birth control meet all three criteria for a mortal sin. I know from experience. We humans are very prone to changing our beliefs to meet our desires. That is part of the reason the Church is bleeding members every year. We are too influenced by the culture.

  • Anabelle Hazard

    Excellent article Leila. Loved it on my first reading and still do. I have a question though: a mother who will not call attention to her adult child’s sin on the basis that she doesn’t want her daughter to be fully aware of the seriousness of the sin and thereby be in mortal sin, what’s the Church’s take on that?

    • johnnyc

      Maybe these from the Catechism might address your question…..

      1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin
      committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest……

      1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:

      – by participating directly and voluntarily in them;

      – by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;

      – by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;

      – by protecting evil-doers.

    • bill bannon

      In addition to johnnyc’s post, check newadvent’s fraternal correction entry…and notice that timing is a factor also at the interpersonal level whereas institutionally, timing may be ignored…ie the Bishop must always denounce abortion but weaning another person away from abortion is not done interpersonally when they are in an especially selfish mood that week…timing and looking for the wisest moment…OT…” the heart of the wise man discerneth the time and the judgement”:

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04394a.htm

    • Leila Miller

      Anabelle, I know in the past there have been some rare provisions for not informing folks (in the confessional, for example) that they are in serious sin, if there is no chance that the penitent will understand or reasonably be able to change things. However, as johnnyc stated, the moral law is written on our hearts, and so most will be able to understand (even if they don’t like it or if they reject it). One of the hardest parts of teaching RCIA was knowing that we had set up the foundation (belief in Christ and His Church) well enough to realize that the day we taught on something like contraception, everyone in the room at that point would be culpable. They would now know and have to make a choice. Heady stuff.

      I remember the story of JPII speaking to some western bishops who were telling him how their flocks just did not know certain truths of the moral law, so the flock could not be culpable, etc., and JPII nodded slowly and then said to them, (paraphrase) “But you know the truth; you are culpable.” That must have seared their consciences! The people may not be culpable, but the people who keep the truth from others (esp. in a position of authority or responsibility) are.

      Not sure if that helps! I’d need to know more about the circumstances.

  • johnnyc

    Great article. The Church has some work to do to overcome the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II crowd. Modernist and liberals looked to the protestants as a way to disassociate the Church from Jesus when in fact if you adhere to Church teaching you are in fact following Jesus. You hear many dissenters echoing the protestant mantra..’.where is that in the Bible?’ and ‘Jesus loves everyone’. The Catholic Church is not sola scriptura as it looks to Sacred Tradition as well as Sacred Scripture and Jesus does love everyone…..’And Jesus said to her, I will not condemn thee either (compassion). Go, and do not sin again henceforward (conversion). John 8:11 …..but Jesus called sin a sin also. Out of love btw. Many liked to looked at the first part and ignore that messy second part.

  • W Meyer

    As you point out, the conscience which has not been properly formed is not what the Church teaches us to follow. As I find necessary to point out almost daily, we are suffering from 45+ years of absent or failed catechesis. This is one of the reasons that we see so many converts who are better versed in their faith than cradle Catholics.

    Have you read the Catechism? No? Then your conscience is almost certainly not well formed. You do not know what the Church teaches.

    Are you aware of the Catechism, and have not read it or even acquired a copy? Then I assert that not only have you an insufficiently formed conscience, but you do not qualify as invincibly ignorant.

    For a person to qualify as invincibly ignorant requires that:
    – he has received no instruction
    – he is ignorant of all Church teachings
    – he is unaware of the existence of the Catechism

    I think there are few living in North America or Europe who could properly claim to be invincibly ignorant. In fact, even to know the phrase would tend to disqualify you.

  • spudnik

    As a former Protestant (sort of evangelical) one of the biggest factors in my entrance into the Catholic Church was what St. Paul had to say in 1 Cor. 12 about the Body of Christ. We are all members of one Body, connected and interdependent. God did not call us to be a collection of self-sufficient Lone Rangers. When the individual is the final arbiter of truth, the result if followed to logical conclusions is either unthinking fundamentalism or else relativism and skepticism. Jesus gave the authority to bind and loose to the Apostles and their successors. He does not give it to individuals on the basis of their great self-assurance. Those who are comfortable with having their conscience “in conflict with hierarchical views” should have the intellectual honesty to stop calling themselves Catholic. They might truly be Protestant, or relativist, or skeptic, or the self-appointed pope of a church of one, but they are not Catholic. Conscience needs to have a basis in something external to itself or else it is nothing more than pseudo-spiritual navel gazing.

    conflict with hierarchical views
    conflict with hierarchical views

    • Leila Miller

      Fabulous comment, and this line is excellent: “He does not give it to individuals on the basis of their great self-assurance.” So, so true!

    • james

      Yes, Spud and I’m sure if you were pope all us cradle Catholics would be thrown out ; but we’re not going. The Church in fact is getting very chummy
      with it’s Orthodox brothers and sisters and their view of sin falls into seven categories :Pardonable, Near the pardonable, Non-mortal, Near non-mortal, Between the mortal and the non-mortal, Near the mortal and Mortal. And
      when the great homecoming takes place, when all are one, I think Leila
      will see that the second requirement of a mortal sin is totally subjective and
      not within her power to judge. Meanwhile, as a volunteer hospice worker
      I have a dying patient to see and touch and share the last of life with. I’m
      sure Francis would approve.

    • Leila Miller

      James, you are absolutely right that I cannot judge any particular soul, including yours. You are spot on. However, when your Church says (the Church you profess to believe, and which was founded by Christ), that it is a mortal sin to miss mass on Sunday, then you have been properly taught. You have received the information you need, from the Church, to know what is required. It’s not rocket science, this “knowing”. So you can claim to not understand, and that your conscience is not formed on this, but it seems more of an obstinate rejection of what the Church teaches, not an invincible ignorance, since again, Church teaching is crystal clear and you know what it is.

      But if you want to insist that you are right and the Church is wrong, and that you don’t have to go to Church even if the Church makes it clear that you do (on pain of mortal sin), then God be with you (and don’t imply that Francis would approve of your missing mass, just because you volunteer with the dying). I have to be honest, you sound like my teens and tweens when they don’t get their way and dig their heels in.

      One last question that I always ask dissenters: How much do you love the Church, James?

      God bless!

    • james

      Leila, at 65 I have witnessed more change within our church
      than can be absorbed. I grew up in an era when it ruled the faithful by fear, sort of a throwback to a time when it ruled by power and fear. The Inquisition, sanctioned by the church was not something you would have approved but never-the-less it is part of Catholic history. The church fathers who once deduced that unbaptized babies could never see God were
      replaced by ones who now see how rash a judgment that was and have revised their take as Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was revealed in them. It was the same for eating meat on Friday, once mortal, now not. The church even dispensed Irish Catholics from eating meat during a Friday
      in Lent because it would be hard to abstain corned beef on
      Saint Patrick’s day. This is what maturity is about: rethinking absolutes. It defies logic and reason to equate killing ones neighbor and missing mass as worthy of spiritual death. A future church will bear this out and I can’t imagine just how perturbed it would have made you and W there, had it been possible to reveal it today.
      Now I’m done with this thread so you’ll have to discuss any addendums amongst yourselves.

    • Leila Miller

      Sad (but not surprised) that you choose to throw out a comment with a lot of misconceptions and straw men, then leave without continuing the dialogue. I will continue as if you are reading. You speak of “rethinking absolutes” when you were not speaking of absolutes. As far as eating meat on Fridays, that is a changeable discipline, not an unchanging part of the moral law — not an “absolute”. I wrote a post on the difference, and I pray that you will take the time to learn this very essential part of the Catholic Faith, i.e., the difference between discipline and doctrine:

      http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/09/catholics-you-must-understand-this.html

      As for what happens to upbaptized babies, we have the same official teaching now as we always have: We simply do not ultimately know, as it was not revealed. Can we hope for their salvation? Yes! We should! But we don’t have that bit of revelation, which should actually reinforce that the Church is no mere human institution, or she would have spoken definitively on that long, long ago. The ideas of Limbo and other postulations were simply theological constructs, wonderings, not doctrinal in nature.

      I hope you can see from just this short response that perhaps you were the recipient of some bad catchesis, as I was. Thankfully, there are many resources to learn the faith, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sites like Catholic.com, etc. Many blessings on your journey!

    • Bobby

      I find it funny that those of us that went through our Catechism classes(as CCD used to be called) and ‘graduated’ at confirmation seem to think that our education in the faith ended then and there. If we never took the time to educate ourselves further than when we were confirmed in our early teens thinking we know it all now, we are sadly mistaken. Yes, the Church teaches, our parents teach us also, but WE, upon reaching our age of maturity have the duty and responsiblility to grow in our faith by furthering our own education in the Faith. We can kick and scream all we want about the failures of proper Catechesis of the last 40 or so years, but if we didn’t or don’t lift a finger to educate ourselves then we are as much of the problem.

      There is absolutely NO excuse for ignorance about what the Church teaches Catholics today. Everything you need to know is in the Catechism and on the internet. Trying to find all this information 40 years ago was a struggle without computers. We depended on the clergy to know this stuff and teach us. Not so today. Want to know more about YOUR Church and faith? Get off your backsides and start researching. It’s all there IF you have an inclination to learn more. This wasn’t directed at you Leila. It was a fantastic post. Thank you.

    • Leila Miller

      Bobby, excellent points! Thank you!

    • johnnyc

      Ah…..65……that explains it. The ‘spirit’ of Vatican II. Talk about being perturbed. I imagine he holds a grudge because the Church did not listen to him and his ilk and change with the times man. We need to pray for them because I just read about an 80 year old priest who left the Church because the Church refuses to consider ordination of women and marry homosexuals.

    • Leila Miller

      johnnyc, you are right, it’s a huge segment of that generation that seriously wishes the Church had changed with the zeitgeist. When one attends a Call To Action meeting or Women’s Ordination conference, you can bet that most of the heads are gray. They don’t even being to understand the beef (and the crisis) of my generation, which was largely caused by their generation’s dissidence and rebellion):

      http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2012/11/this-is-my-story-it-might-be-your-story.html

    • James

      The “spirit of Vatican II” was a reaction to what came before it. There was a LOT wrong in the Church before. Religious life was all too often the “closet” of the Church with all the problems that come a long with that. There is a reason why the sexual abuse cases peaked in the 1970s and a reason why a disproportionate number of the victims were teenage boys.

      The people responsible for the “spirit of Vatican II” were all formed before the council. Today’s sixty-somethings were only in their teens and twenties.

      My mother is about the same age and had pretty much the same strict, poorly informed nuns as james did. Her younger sisters got the full “spirit of Vatican II”. Major change.

      To someone of that age, it seemed like the Church’s rules were arbitrary and changed suddenly. Why WOULDN’T they change with the zeitgeist?

    • James

      …and this is the consequence of legalistic, pre-Vatican II, Irish Catholic moral rigor. Many of those nuns were well-meaning, but poorly educated in the faith, and misled a lot of young Catholics.

      Moral rigor inevitably backfires.

      When you tell people that eating meat on Friday is as bad as having an abortion, don’t be surprised when they conclude that having an abortion is no worse than eating meat on Friday.

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  • james

    You cannot understand something with a 2000 year history that is in continuous subtle transition from now until the end of time.

    • Leila Miller

      Sorry, which part of the Deposit of Faith are you unclear about? I get Protestants who argue that one can “never know” what the Catholic Church ever teaches. Are you of that mindset? If so, what teaching are you unclear about? I never get an answer, but maybe you will be the first.

    • james

      Deposit of faith aside, I started off at a tangent, my fault. You upped the ante by dragging in mortal sin – this vis a vis Catholic moral law which encompasses things like contraception, abortion, euthanasia and pre-
      marital sex, ect. I’m not sure if all these are mortal sins but it’s obvious some are. I’m not sure what constitutes moral parameters. Does that
      include skipping mass ? I probably wrongly assumed it did and that you
      might have linked it with serious sin which I then invoked the catch-22. comment. It’s a men-mars, woman-venus thing I’m sure. Anyway, I find
      it interesting that if Leila intentionally misses mass it would be a mortal
      sin for her, and if I do, it’s not for me. Talk about relativism. The church,
      in its wisdom, leaves that to God. Pretty simple, yes. Peace.

    • Leila Miller

      Willfully missing mass (when one is not sick or performing an act of charity that makes Sunday mass obligation impossible) is a mortal sin for me and for you. If you are Catholic, it is a mortal sin to miss Sunday mass (or the Saturday vigil) as well as any Holy Days of Obligation. Those days and obligations are part of Church discipline, or the “binding and loosing” authority that Christ gave his Apostles and their successors. Contraception, abortion, euthanasia, fornication — all those are mortal sins, too, as violations of the moral law. As far as culpability? That’s where the three conditions come in. Now that you know that they are all serious sins, you are culpable if you still continue to sin. I suggest confession. It’s an amazing sacrament, one that I neglected myself for over 15 years. God bless!

    • james

      Well, I’m glad we got that over with. God bless you too.

  • Joe

    Is it possible for someone to fully understand the Catholic faith and the rationale underlying it, but still have a conscience in opposition to the Church?

    • Leila Miller

      Joe, only God can judge that. It’s why He reads hearts and souls and we are not allowed to.

  • james

    I’m not here to tango with you laidies – it’s called cuting to the quick.
    We’re talking serious sin here so lets take it from there. And I’m not
    an ‘ex’ and those nuns taught me well.

    • Leila Miller

      Well then you are being very, very unclear. Please ask a question and stop talking in statements and riddles. Thanks!

  • james

    Linear, like 5th grade, when we learned that skipping mass was as serious
    as killing ones neighbor. Sort of like the abhorant practice of chopping off
    a hand for stealing bread.

    • Leila Miller

      Way to change the subject. You said it’s catch-22, I said it’s linear. You couldn’t dispute that, so you jump to the “how are they both a mortal sin!!” (pout).

      Do you really care for the answer, or are you just a bitter ex-Catholic who is still mad at Sr. Rose from the 2nd grade, or Sr. Mary Margaret from the 5th? Let me know if you truly want to know, or if you are just blowing smoke. If you want to know, we can continue. Blessings!

    • JoAnna Wahlund

      Do you know what the word “linear” means? Your response indicates that you don’t. You may want to look it up before continuing the discussion.

  • Robbe Sebesta

    Awesome Leila.

  • james

    sounds like 3 catch-22’s to me

    • Leila Miller

      Not at all. Very linear.

  • james

    It takes 4 things to make a sin. It must be wrong, you must know it is wrong, you
    must think about it and then you must do it. Sr. Rose SND 2nd grade.

    • Leila Miller

      And, three requirements for a sin to be mortal:

      It must be a serious sin.
      You must know it is a serious sin.
      You must act with full consent of the will.