The Pope’s Crisis of Conscience

Chris Castaldo | September 30, 2017

Ever since August 11, when 40 Roman Catholic leaders presented a 25-page letter to Pope Francis (a “Filial Correction”), the issue of Christian conscience has generated discussion. Conscience is recognized as the inner core of a person that identifies morally good and evil choices in accord with right reason and God’s Word.

The discussion, however, has opened a can of worms.

The word “conscience” appears several times in the document, which seeks to correct the pope’s recent statements on divorced Catholics. But it mostly does so in quoting Francis himself, who uses it to justify greater latitude regarding “irregular” situations in the church (“mortal sins,” and “heresies” according to other Catholics). Therefore, rather than merely evoking conscience as a means of inspiring obedience, the pope also claims it as a way of recognizing “what for now is the most generous response.”

The Issue

The specific issue is whether divorced and remarried persons are welcome to the Catholic communion table. Catholic teaching has long been clear that they are not, but Francis seems to be edging away from this view. And both his position and also his justification for it are mirrored by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, recently elevated by…

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