…the most destructive mistaken interpretation of the Second Vatican Council (one that we’ve lived with for 50 years) is the misinterpretation of the teaching on conscience. Certain forces in the Church took the occasion of the newly stated teaching on conscience, in the Declaration on Religious Liberty, to mislead people.
Now why they did that and what that’s all about is between them and the Lord . . . as the quote that has become so famous says, “Who am I to judge?” (which itself has been so outrageously misinterpreted by the mass media, and so-called Catholic elected officials).
But it was done; the Church’s teaching on conscience was misinterpreted, and the people were led astray on a very, very important matter — a matter that is destroying lives, leading to tremendous unhappiness, tremendous “un-blessedness.”
The current of philosophical thought that is at the root of all this confusion about conscience in the world and in the Church is that existence depends on the mind: “I think therefore I am.” Knowing, in fact, begins with reality, which exists and which is to be known by the knower.
The knower doesn’t make up what he or she claims to know; the knower needs to know reality. The knower needs to know the Truth, which is presented to the knower as a choice, as it said in the first reading of this past Sunday (Sir 15:15-20).
God presents what is good and bad to the knower, just as it says. And the knower, with his or her conscience, is to choose the good. The knower is not to choose what he or she would like; the knower is to choose the good.
And conscience is that truth-seeking radar that scans the horizon of reality, looking for Truth so that it can lock on to it, be changed by it, and be made heroic.
Editor’s note: Perhaps we should ask, “Precisely which part of Vatican II’s teachings has not suffered similar, ‘serious misinterpretations’?”
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