. . . That conscience must rule is consistent with what all of us former priests learned in seminary. It is also consistent with what I taught college students in social justice classes during the '60s at the archdiocesan minor seminary. When discussing human rights, I included Pope John XXIII's teaching that every person possesses the right to honor God "according to the sincere dictates of his own conscience." The rule is also consistent with the teachings of Pope John Paul II. He wrote that "People are obliged to follow their conscience in all circumstances and cannot be forced to act against it."
That conscience must rule is also consistent with the current Pope Benedict XVI – who taught, while still Father Joseph Ratzinger, that "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, even if necessary against the requirements of ecclesiastical authority."
Some Minnesota Catholics are conflicted on how to vote on the marriage amendment. This results from many Catholic leaders instructing Catholics that the church's religious values bind the conscience to support the amendment, in effect making support a non-negotiable moral imperative.
These Catholic leaders are wrong. They have converted a political tenet into church dogma. Catholic readers should know that. They are being led astray.
There is no official Catholic teaching that dictates how one must vote on the marriage amendment. Catholics are free to vote their conscience on Nov. 6, regardless of what they may hear from the pulpit or read in their diocesan paper.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"Conscience Is the Highest Norm"
Ascertaining the Common Good
The Question of an "Informed" Catholic Conscience
Reflections on the Primacy of Conscience
John Cornwell on the "Pontifical Hijacking" of Cardinal Newman
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality (Part 3)
Recommended Off-site Links:
Catholic Q&A on the Minnesota 'Marriage Amendment' – Michael Bayly and Florence Steichen (Sensus Fidelium, August 7, 2012).
Gay Marriage, Bishops and the Crisis of Leadership – National Catholic Reporter (July 5, 2011).
Can 'True' Catholics Support Marriage Equality? – Chris Welch (CNN, June 20, 2012).
Conflicted Consciences Wrestle with Church Actions on Marriage Amendment – Beth Hawkins (MinnPost, April 18, 2012).
A Catholic Case for Same-Sex Marriage – Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo (Washington Post, February 14, 2012).
Amendment Campaign Contrary to Church Moral Teaching – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, March 3, 2011).