Reproductive Health Bill Debate: What the Catechism of the Catholic Church really say regarding primacy of conscience

The faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila University who supported the Reproductive Health Bill 5043 appealed to the primacy of conscience over the authoritative teachings of the Church. They may have in mind the following statement from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”

But the Catechism continues:

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.

1789 Some rules apply in every case: —One may never do evil so that good may result from it. (c.f. Humanae Vitae, sec. 14)

The conscience can also be ignorant and make erroneous judgment, according to the Catechism:

1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. I he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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