Examination of Conscience

As Catholics, we are expected to develop a well-formed conscience. What does that mean, especially in light of revelations that many bishops covered up clegy abuse of children? What does it mean in light of numerous surveys showing, for example, that many Catholics reject Church teachings on birth control?

Voice of the Faithful has prepared a study package that considers this dilemma. The package is suitable for use in personal reviews or – even better – as a VOTF-led discussion group at your affiliate or in your parish. It includes materials for examining the Church’s teachings about conscience, brief citations of Canon Law, and VOTF's response to the Vatican claim that unless he recanted Fr. Bourgeois would face excommunication.

Background: Conscience, Obedience and Roy Bourgeois

An excerpt on Conscience, from Understanding Catholicism by Monika Hellwig:

" ... just as universal is the discovery of God revealed in the inner depths of our own conscience and consciousness. This happens in the emergence of a moral exigence that demands that we seek what is right above self-interest -- the moral exigence that leaves us discontent with all that is not truthful, not authentic, not just, with all that is unmerciful or evasive..." [page 17]

An excerpt on Obedience and Conscience, from Understanding Catholicism by Monika Hellwig:

"... obedience to Church authority is not always simple and obvious but may be a matter of careful reflection and judgment. It is not intended as a childish atttitude of abstaining from the use of personal intelligence and judgment. From the inevitable dependence of childhood one moves into the use of one's own faculties with a certain degree, often an exaggerated degree, of independence. The Catholic ideal of oberdience is not that the indiividual should regress from this stage of growth but that there should be a further movement forward to greater maturity in which people are able to make a genuine community commitment ..." [page 133]

The Threat of Excommunication for Fr. Roy Bourgeois:

On Aug. 9, 2008, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest for 36 years, preached the homily at an ordination Mass for a women priest in Lexington, Ky. On Oct. 21, 2008, Fr. Bourgeois was given 30 days to recant his position on women’s ordination or suffer the ultimate penalty of excommunication.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) issued this threat although Fr. Bourgeois was in good standing as a priest and has for 19 years exemplified Catholic support for social justice by organizing an annual protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, which reportedly teaches terror and torture tactics to military of other nations.

Fr. Bourgeois responded two weeks later, in a letter to the Vatican, that he believes his position to be a matter of justice and of conscience and cannot change it. He also traveled to Italy in an effort to meet and discuss his situation with officials there.

VOTF study package