Primacy of conscience

It has been awhile, hasn’t it? No real reason, just time away! But I have returned, for today at least, so address an issue that is pressing heavily on many of us.

The election is about 54 days away at this point – it is close. Voting is important, it is an essential element of a democracy. I was raised in a household that held the right to vote high and it was impressed upon me at an early age that voting was a privilege – and not one to be squandered. Although a toddler at the time of his election, and one raised in a Republican family, I was often reminded that having a JFK as Catholic president was important. I’m pretty sure my parents voted for him because party politics were somewhat different at the time.

Anyway, here we are today during particularly fractious and divisive times. We are barraged with messages that tell us if we vote for this person, or do not vote for that person, terrible things will happen. Feelings and emotions run high, opinions are confused with facts, and we are faced with inordinate amounts of information.

As Catholics we may believe we must vote for one party over another, but that is simply not the case. We have a responsibility to vote for causes that support life, contribute to the common good, respect human dignity, and more. Beyond that we have a special call to not only help those less fortunate, but to be transformed by them. What one party can live up to that?

If you are struggling, I would simply like to share two links with you. One is to the USCCB website to help with voting called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The other is to a very well written article about conscience, originally published in America Magazine in 2015. Both links will offer you guidance and resources, but in the end, we have to pray, discern, choose wisely, and vote according to our understanding of our faith and the importance of our own conscience.

Fast forward to today’s fractious and combative environment, one in which we are regularly threatened

Clear conscience – updated

Lentz, Joan of ArcI think that it was Joan of Arc that got me thinking about this. She was burned at the stake after being condemned by an ecclesial court and not too long after, declared a saint by the same church that executed her.  (CORRECTION: It took a long time, my initial source was apparently incorrect. Joan was not beatified until 1909 and canonized in 1920.) She followed her conscience and the Church caught up to her, albeit late. That is conscience formation!

What is it to form our conscience? I’m not speaking in general, but rather as a Roman Catholic today. This is an important question and one that I fear is not well addressed in contemporary American Catholic circles. Like everything having to do with God, it is not a matter of transactional information, but Continue reading