Writing about conscience again

September 24, 2016 · Posted in Blog 

Well I find myself writing a chapter on conscience for the first time in many years for the new Book 2 A Level for OCR witbook2h OUP which will be out in Spring 2016.

I did a quick search of my hard drive and realised I had written and presented on this four or five times, including a talk I gave at Stonyhurst school, in 2005 on Benedict and Conscience. After recovering from the shock of how long ago that was and just how much black hair I used to have.


Bob Bowie at a talk in 2005 at Stonyhurst College, still with dark hair and rather more of it.


Here are some quotes from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI that I used in that talk.


“Over the Pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.”

(p.134 in “Herbert Vorgrimler’s Commentary on the documents ofVatican II,” London, 1968)

And here are some words of his spoken twenty three years later:

“It is of course undisputed that one must follow a certain conscience or at least not act against it. But whether the judgment of conscience or what one takes to be such, is always right, indeed whether it is infallible, is another question.”

“When one “no longer seeing one’s guilt, the falling silent of conscience in so many areas, is an even more dangerous sickness of the soul than the guilt which one still recognizes as such. He who no longer notices that killing is a sin has fallen farther than the one who still recognizes the shamefulness of his actions, because the former is further removed from the truth and conversion.”

(CONSCIENCE AND TRUTH, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Presented at the 10th Workshop for Bishops February 1991 Dallas,Texas http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/ratzcons.htm)

And finally as Pope in 2005:

“But at that moment they are caught up in the crowd.They are shouting because everyone else is shouting, and they are shouting the same thing that everyone else is shouting. And in this way, justice is trampled underfoot by weakness, cowardice and fear of the diktat of the ruling mindset.The quiet voice of conscience is drowned out by the cries of the crowd. Evil draws its power from indecision and concern for what other people think.” (Benedict XVI Good Friday 2005 – Reflection on the Gospel – the Crowd condemn Jesus. I found a copy here http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2005/via_crucis/en/station_01.html).

I wonder how much has changed in my own thinking over the years. I’ll let you know once I have finished the chapter.


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