The answer to conscientious objections on settled matters of Catholic doctrine can typically be found in the confessional and the catechism.

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by Doug Lawrence

God’s laws require no man’s permission or acceptance. Divine law is dependent only on the will of God and his perfect system of divine justice, which is universally applicable and totally inescapable … even for non-Christians.

Under the Old Covenant, breaking any of the Ten Commandments, or even the most insignificant of the hundreds of statutes and ordinances that were tacked on, first by Moses, and later, by other designated religious authorities,  would result in condemnation … which always … sooner or later … resulted in death.

Agree with it or not … there was absolutely no way around it.

You sin – you die!

That was the extent of things … at least, until the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised messiah, and his all new system of things.

Unlike the ritual animal sacrifices of old, Jesus’ New Covenant sacrifice was perfect, with his holy blood poured out for many, so that sins might actually be forgiven. (Not just ritually covered up.)  Jesus was also gracious enough to offer retroactive salvation to all the faithful who had come before.

Jesus defines “the faithful” as those who love God … and who make every effort to keep his commandments … even if they don’t always succeed. Jesus never failed to show mercy to sinners who had a truly contrite heart and a genuinely repentant soul, and he promises to do the same for Catholics today … typically, through the great sacrament of reconciliation.

In light of this, how does our freedom of conscience actually work?
Do we get a “free pass” on all matters to which we conscientiously object?  
Not exactly!

There are a number of “settled” matters (dogmas and doctrines) essential to the practice of  the authentic Catholic faith, which have been universally understood and absolutely accepted since the earliest days of the church, even though some may not have been officially defined or set down in writing until later times.

Regarding settled matters of Catholic doctrine, no privilege of conscientious objection actually exists. You either accept such things as a matter of faith … or … you confess your sin of disbelief in the confessional, tell God you’re sorry, ask his  forgiveness, do your penance, and pray for the divine grace necessary to “cure” your unbelief. 

For example, what is a person to do about his/her conscientious objection to the Catholic teaching on artificial contraceptives? Here’s a few possibilities:

1) Rely solely on your own understanding and reason, without taking the time to investigate authentic Catholic Church teaching on the matter. Let Jesus Christ personally deal with it (and you) on Judgment Day. 

2) Take the time to investigate authentic Catholic Church teaching on the matter, but set all of that aside, since your personal “situation” is obviously “unique” and only you can decide what’s best for you and your family. Of course, you may also have some ‘splainin’ to do, come Judgment Day.

3) Investigate authentic Church teaching on the matter, pray about it, discuss it with other faithful Catholics who are in situations similar to your own, and make a firm decision to always follow Catholic teaching, to the best of your ability. If you occasionally fail in some way, make a good confession and carry on, with a clear conscience and nothing to worry about, come Judgment Day.

A similar approach can be applied to many other “hot button” issues of the day.

Living a thoroughly Catholic life has always been a matter of a properly informed conscience, grace and faith (not necessarily in that order) and it has never been particularly easy. But that’s OK, since God respects and typically rewards our good faith efforts and struggles.

Get to work “curing” any existing unbelief here:

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

1 Comment

  1. It is amazing how the Jews of the Old Testamwnt where under the “Ceremonial Law” , which included 613 ordinances. You sin, You die….what would happen today without the Son, redeeming the Sins of Believers through His “Precious Blood?”


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