Why We Should Respect Someone Else’s Conscience

The scene is from C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.  The callow young sociology professor, Mark Studdock, an atheist and a social climber, has been detained in a cubicle deliberately fashioned with odd annoying angles and not-quite-right pictures on the wall.  His detainers aim to break down in him any last sense of the inner harmony between beauty and the moral good, or even between ordinary presentability and decency.  The fight is for the man’s soul.

His instructor presents him with a crucifix and asks him to tread upon it.  It’s a meaningless act, he says.  It isn’t a man, only a cheap piece of carved wood.  There is no moral import to it.  But something in the young man recoils.  He does not believe there was anything special about Jesus.  As far as he knows, Jesus was only a man condemned to a shameful death by his enemies, on a trumped-up political charge.  And all of Jesus’ friends abandoned him on Calvary, and all of the intellectual people that matter to him in England have long abandoned him too.  But for that very reason, to tread upon the crucifix seems base.  Why add that last small act of shaming to all the rest?  The still small voice speaks to him, saying, “This would be foul, petty, ignoble.  You must not do this.”  If he complies, as far as he knows, his career is made.  If he refuses, his career is shot.  He’s a married man, and he’s ambitious, and he needs the money.  It’s only a piece of wood.  The meaning of his life hangs in the balance.  Nor can we ever be sure that a man who betrays so clear a prohibition issued by his conscience will be given that choice again, to undo the evil.

He refuses.

These days in our political and even ecclesiastical battles we hear a great deal about the primacy of the conscience, but almost nothing about what the conscience is and why we should care, not about our own conscience, but about someone else’s.  Robert George, in his new book Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism (ISI Books), aims to supply the lack.  He reminds us that conscience is, to use Newman’s words, a “stern monitor,” not, as David Hume asserts, much to the comfort of adolescents everywhere, the ratiocinative faculty by which we construct “justifications” for what we wanted to do (or to get out of doing) in the first place.  Rather, the conscience warns us of what we must do and of what we must not do.  “The duty to follow conscience,” George writes, “is a duty to do things or refrain from doing things not because one wants to follow one’s duty but even if one strongly does not want to follow it.  The right of conscience is a right to do what one judges oneself to be under obligation to do, whether one welcomes the obligation or must overcome strong aversion to fulfill it.”

Robert George covIn other words, as George notes, conscience is not a “permissions department.”   It commands and proscribes; and that’s why we spend so much effort trying to circumvent it, muddle it, or stifle it altogether.  Mark Twain gives us a humorous instance of it when Huck Finn must decide whether to rat on the runaway slave Jim or to protect him.  Huck “knows,” in an exterior way, from common chatter, that the “right” thing to do would be to betray his friend and profit by it, but something deep inside him tells him no, and so he too refuses, even though he figures that he’ll probably end up in hell for it.

When someone says, “I may do this, because my conscience doesn’t forbid me,” he is treating an absence as a presence.  He feels no command or proscription, and transmutes that insensibility into a proof that what he wants is permissible.  But that doesn’t follow.  It may be morally permissible; it may be downright virtuous; but it may be wicked.  Many an SS officer’s conscience was comfortably silent on the issue of slaughtering Jews.  People steeped in evil may even hug themselves for the benefits their evil confers upon mankind.  So it is that snuffing out the lives of unborn children, in the minds of some, is more than permissible: it is a great and glorious good, to be celebrated with cake and icing.  Conscience can be unformed or deformed; conscience does not determine what is good or evil, but must hearken to the truth of the matter, even if the person cannot articulate just why he must do what he would prefer to leave undone, or why he must not do what he would dearly like to do.

We are not obliged to respect a man’s permission slips.  We are not obliged to throw the hedonist his party.  We are not obliged to buy the adolescent’s toys, or even to stock our shelves with them.  Indeed, when someone asserts that he ought to be allowed to do something because he wants to do it, and because he doesn’t hear the voice of conscience warning against it—he wants to use cocaine, he and his enemy want to engage in a duel, he likes pornography—we needn’t give much standing to his feelings.  His permission slip puts the matter on the table, that’s all.  We need to ask about the nature of what he wants, whether it is indeed morally neutral, or virtuous, or vicious, whether allowing it conduces to the common good.  But it is a different matter entirely when that man’s monitor does speak, “Thou shalt!” and “Thou shalt not!”

Why is that?  Is it because then his preferences or repugnancies are especially strong?  Your dog may have a strong desire to snitch food from a guest’s plate, but we aren’t overriding his conscience when we keep him from doing it.  He may have a strong aversion against going outside in the pouring rain to do his business, but we aren’t shackling his moral sensibility when we make him go out anyway.  That’s because the dog is not a moral agent.  He does not apprehend the good and internalize it, making it his own, allowing it to inform his choices, to build his personality.  We might say that he knows “rules” but not law.

But man is a moral agent.  That isn’t just something accidental to man, as for instance that he has five fingers on a hand and not six.  It is essential to his being.  It isn’t just Christians who believe that.  All the great pagans did also.  It’s why the poet Hesiod says that the Muses, daughters of Zeus, grant to the man they favor the wisdom to craft straight judgments—we might say beautiful judgments, right verdicts—and the eloquence to persuade others of their rightness.

To forbid someone to do what his conscience commands him to do, or, worse still, to compel him to do what his conscience instructs him he must not do, is thus to work violence upon him at the core of his being.  It is not the same as when we restrain people from the evils that their consciences, dormant, silent, do not tell them they must not do, or when, more rarely and with a heavier burden of justification upon us, we compel them to do something which their consciences do not tell them they must do.  For then we are not violating an express decree of the conscience; we are supplying the lack of one.  We may even, but most rarely and with an extraordinarily heavy burden of justification, overrule another man’s conscience, not by compelling him, but by taking the reins ourselves and doing what he will not do; that’s the case when we give blood transfusions to infants in imminent danger of death, over the wishes of parents who object.

But no man has the right to require another to be less than a man, to demote him to the status of a non-moral agent, like a beast, or a cog in a machine.  No man may steal my humanity, by demanding treason against that stern monitor, my conscience.  But this is exactly what is happening before our eyes, in what used to be a free country.  We are demanding obeisance to and participation in things that until eleven o’clock last night almost everyone (and all Christians and observant Jews) believed to be evil, and believed it with strong reasons prescinding from the nature of man and from revelation.

The “enemies of conscience,” as Professor George calls them, simultaneously and incoherently deny the existence of moral truths that bind the conscience—other people’s consciences, while they reserve for themselves a moral right to bind and loose those other people, mechanically, pragmatically, to bring about some vague ideal society.  In such a world, everyone is a god or an ant, but not a man.  More to follow.

Editor’s note: The scene above shows Robert Shaw as Henry VIII and Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More in the 1966 film “A Man for All Seasons.”

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Sadly many in the Church have confused conscience with moral relativism. You can even catch dissident Catholics red-handed misquoting St. Thomas Aquinas on conscience. They will happily quote him saying, “Conscience is more to be obeyed than authority imposed from the outside.” but conveniently forgets that he distinguishes between a correct conscience and a false conscience. To wit: To approve of abortion because my conscience says it’s ok is like sitting in a living room engulfed in flames and saying that because the smoke alarm isn’t beeping, there’s no fire.

    • John200

      I was taught Thomism as the basis of RC philosophy. Since then, I have learnt that many people quote the saint, but few understand what he wrote. As my teachers said, Thomas “rewards careful study.” He is difficult, deep, systematic, and brilliant, but not impossible.

      A specific accomplishment: He destroyed moral relativism 750 years ago. And today it recurs. And needs to be re-destroyed. And it will be, in time, by the arguments Thomas provided.

      That ought to tell us something, eh?

    • Bono95

      Excellent sum-up and simile.

  • smokes

    Let’s praise the conscience formation of Timothy Cardinal Dolan and the American bishops with respect to Obama’s love of War and Death. Following the Pontiff’s lead, Dolan has said “No” to the planned Syrian War. Pope Francis is doing even more, consulting with world leaders, to opt for negotiations and Peace for the poor Syrian people. Now, if only “Catholics” like Kerry and General Dempsey could consult their consciences the way Saint Thomas More did with his blood-thirsty monarch.

    • Sean

      I think we’re all a little gun shy after being lied to about Iraq and WMD. We need to establish exactly what happened before taking any sort of action. We can’t rush in to another sovereign nation, with all the finesse of a rhinoceros, as we did in Iraq. If it is established that Assad indeed gassed his own people, than, yes, there needs to be a response — not necessarily a military one, and ideally one involving the EU and other nations — but some sort of response.

      • Art Deco

        We were not lied to. Stop trafficking in political fictions.

        • Sean

          Ask Colin Powell if he thinks he was lied to.

    • John O’Neill

      Calling Kerry, Dempsey or indeed Biden , Pelosi “Catholics” is a stretch of the imagination. They are democrats first, foremost and always. Their political mindset will always trump any Catholicism than lingers in their jaded souls.

  • Steven Jonathan

    Excellent essay Dr. Esolen! “Treating an absence as a presence” stunningly accurate! It seems that people do mistake that “rationalizing the appetites” for conscience these days. We are foolish to ignore the gift of the “witness” that accompanies each Imago Dei.

    Like the SS officer, many a Christian has a silent conscience on the sexual sins of sodomy because of a mistaken notion of “Love” and they do hug themselves for it!

    In Hesiod, the 9 muses were born from Zeus and Memory- We are suffering a self-inflicted amnesia. The self-appointed and self –anointed priests of forgetfulness are binding and loosing where angels fear to tread.

  • publiusnj

    I see little reason to respect politicians’ rather fickle consciences. Secretary of State Kerry and other Leftist spokespersons have been speaking about the need for the US to be the “moral” leader on Syria. We need to ask them, though: “what does morality have to do with US Policy?” If morality is raised on issues like Gay Marriage or Abortion, we are told to mind our own business given the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. How is morality any more licit to Foreign Relations than it is to domestic mores? Understandably, we might be reluctant to object when a governmental person says anything supportive about “moral” issues, but we need to do so because politicians consider it their right to speak out of both sides of their mouths on any issue.

    • smokes

      Massachusetts specializes in presenting “Catholic” pols who are essentially as ethical as that other noteworthy Bostonian, Whitey Bulger. It’s time for Cardinal O’Malley, himself, to reflect on thomas More’s life and take a moral stand against these “Catholic” mountebanks.

  • Thomas Banks

    If I may indulge for a moment in a bit of shameless advertisement (but of other people’s wares, at least), has anyone here read either Christopher Hollis’ or E.E. Reynolds’ biographies of St. Thomas More? Especially the former should be a mandatory read for any Catholic these days.

    • Bono95

      I’ve read the latter, but not the former. Yet. I’ve read William Roper’s biography, 1 by Gerard B. Wegemer, and any and ever other reference to or account of St. Thomas More, however brief or remote, that I can get my hands on.

  • Uuncle Max

    Our Holy Father has called for a day of fasting and prayer tomorrow for the Syrian people.

  • PaladinQB

    The distinction Dr. Esolen is drawing here between the way that silence of conscience and the commands of conscience ought to be treated in law is good and true, and is surely the right guide to follow in the internal forum. As such, it’s of critical importance for all of us who are interested in our salvation.

    With that said, I don’t see how this principle is of much use in establishing the rights of conscience in civil legislation (conceding, of course, that Dr. Esolen doesn’t claim otherwise). We have no objective way of differentiating between the silence of any given person’s conscience and the commands of their conscience and without that, establishing legislation is problematic.

    There’s no problem with that in and of itself, other than to point out the fact that making the case for religious liberty in the public square (which, I assume, is where Dr. Esolen is going with this) with this kind of argument really leaves you with only two options: an unlimited get out of jail free card for everyone, or it means nothing at all. I look forward to future installments of this discussion.

    • slainte

      The example provided by Prof. Esolen regarding when outside forces may overrule a moral agent’s conscience involved the welfare of an innocent third party who would likely have been injured or killed if the moral agent had acted (ie., the child who needs a blood transfusion).
      Perhaps abortion falls under this exception to ignore one’s duty to respect the conscience of another moral agent?
      How does one treat the conscience of a moral agent adjudged to be insane or otherwise mentally compromised? What exactly triggers a duty to ignore the conscience claims of another?

      • Tony

        These are good questions, and I believe I’ve shown how to begin to answer them. In the case of a madman, we must take care of him, regardless of the considerable inconvenience to ourselves.
        Let us suppose that we are dealing not with someone who presents a permission slip — I’ve dealt with that case — or with a negligence slip — I’ve dealt with that too, but with an express “Thou shalt!” That, to my mind, is the only case that presents a difficulty. If he says that his conscience says, “Thou shalt not!” — he is not proposing any action at all, and I can’t conceive of any justification for compulsion. But let’s suppose that his conscience commands him to do something evil — as far as he sees, he MUST do it, whether he wants to do it or not. Again, this is a commandment we are talking about, not a permission, nor even a recommendation. It is a commandment that the person believes it would be EVIL to refuse.
        Our options, as I see them, are these. We can, if the matter is serious and involves innocent third parties, take matters out of his hands. We are not then compelling or even forbidding; we are taking away the capacity. That does not compromise his conscience. We can attempt to persuade him that he is wrong, and bring him round to a better-formed conscience. We can allow him to do what his conscience says he must do, and then we do what our consciences say we must do.
        I believe that such cases will actually be rare; we might never meet one in all our lives. Even the thugs in the Punjab — the practicers of thugee — believed they had permissions and strong recommendations, not absolute commandments. They said to the British commander whose name I forget, “It is our custom to burn widows on the pyres of their husbands.” “I understand,” said the commander. “Far be it from me to interfere with your custom. But it is our custom to hang people who burn widows.” That put a stop to it.

        • PaladinQB

          First I have to confess that I blew right past your discussion of the blood transfusion when I read this piece the first time; sorry.

          Also, thanks for engaging in the comments.

          I’m still not sure that we’re quite there. I will grant entirely that legitimate cases of conscience compelling people to do evil things are vanishingly rare — very few people are so deaf to the natural law. But, the day after you legislate exceptions in the law for people who say their conscience compels them to do something, lots of people who disdain the very notion of conscience will tell you that their conscience is commanding that they do whatever licentious thing they want to do, and who are you to tell me that my conscience is not issuing a legitimate demand?! And the day after you make a provisions to take license out of the hands of such people, the HHS tells you that your insistence on discriminating against the women who just want to be free from unwanted children is an evil their conscience won’t abide, and by the way the IRS is very interested in your taxes.

          I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not sure your argument helps deal with people who have so little respect for the conscience construct that they will lie to you about what theirs is telling them to do. Alas, there is no shortage of such people.

          • Tony

            Glad to continue the discussion. I do think that the cases are, as you say, vanishingly rare. So let’s take the case of the person who, hypocritically, claims that his conscience demands that he do something evil. We recognize it as evil; we take away the capacity. In this case, we do not actually compel him to participate in a violation of his conscience — he can still will to do the bad thing.
            The HHS isn’t a person and therefore can’t claim to have a conscience. No man can say to another, “I cannot abide your conscience,” because that’s like saying, “I cannot abide your humanity.” The same law that commands you to do the thing you’d prefer not to, tells me that I must not do it; not that I need not do it, but that I must not do it. Obviously one of us is wrong — but even so, it would be a violation of my humanity to require me to act when I view such action as evil. I can’t think of anything offhand that would justify such a thing. It would be as violent and as absurd, fundamentally, as if I demanded worship.

            • smokes

              “God said, “Thou shalt not kill” – does the theft of a little money make it quite all right for us to do so? If it’s said that this commandment applies only to illegal killing, what’s to prevent human beings from similarly agreeing among themselves to legalize certain types of rape, adultery, or perjury? Considering that God has forbidden us even to kill ourselves, can we really believe that purely human arrangements for the regulation of mutual slaughter are enough, without any divine authority, to exempt executioners from the sixth commandment? Isn’t that like saying that this particular commandment has no more validity than human laws allow it? – in which case the principle can be extended indefinitely, until in all spheres of life human beings decide just how far God’s commandments may conveniently be observed.”
              ― St.Thomas More

              • Bono95

                Where did you get this quote? It’s awesome!

        • txwava

          > They said to the British commander whose name I forget, “It is our custom to burn widows on the pyres of their husbands.”

          Wikipedia says it was Gen. Charles James Napier, who said:

          “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral
          pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang
          them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore
          erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed.
          Let us all act according to national customs.”

          • Neihan

            What a great story. I’m going to be laughing about this all night.

          • smokes

            thanks for the cite, tx. Napier had a fascinating life and also said, “The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed.” The council on foreign relations could learn something from this chap.

    • Tony

      Paladin — in the case of Christians who point to same-sex pseudogamous relations, all they need to do is to point to the publicly promulgated teachings of their church, as the Quakers did when they won the permission to refrain from military duties that would violate their pacifism.
      In what other cases besides those that promote and affirm the sexual revolution is anyone, these days, being compelled to violate the dictates of conscience? If Caesar taxes me, I know he’ll use some of those taxes for nefarious purposes, but that’s not in my control and it is not my direct business. If Caesar demanded that I send my children to the state schools, then that would be to ask me to violate my conscience, if I knew that I must not do that — not “should not”, not “might not,” but
      “must not.”
      Civil laws should more often prohibit than compel; and what they prohibit should be widely or almost universally recognized as bad; and what they compel should be recognized as absolutely necessary for the attainment of some common good. These are high bars to clear; but the first, the prohibition, will not usually violate anybody’s conscience. Let’s say we came to our senses and began to proscribe porn. You’d have to be insane to say that your conscience COMMANDS you to use porn, even though you’d prefer not to; what on earth could the DUTY to use porn be based upon? Prohibitions almost always restrict us in things about whose PERMISSIBILITY people disagree; but permissibility is not at issue. The bar for the second, the compulsion, is much higher. It is so high, in fact, that we in the USA have retained the long tradition of refusing to compel people with conscientious objections to fight in wars; and of refusing, so far anyway, to compel people to learn how to perform abortions. I cannot in fact think of a single case in which it would be justifiable to compel someone to take action which he claims he must not take because the action itself is evil — not “bad for me,” or “an injustice against me,” or “unnecessary,” but evil — an evil against God and man.

      • PaladinQB

        Sorry, I was writing a reply below while you posted. I think that argument applies as well to what you’ve written here: just because you’d have to be insane to claim a duty to use porn won’t stop people, and legislation has to be prepared to deal with those who will claim conscience demands in bad faith.

        My name’s Brian, by the way, I apologize for the pseudonym but this disqus account goes way back and I don’t really feel like getting a new one.

  • hombre111

    Excellent article. But it leaves me wondering. I am preparing this Sunday’s sermon, and one of the readings is from the Letter to Philemon. Paul sends Onesimus, a runaway slave, back to his master. He does not tell Philemon to set his slave free; he simply urges him to take him back with kindness. Soo…Paul accepted the legitimacy of slavery. A prudential judgment, perhaps?
    Earlier in the week, we celebrated the feast of Gregory the Great. He goes to visit a slave market, sees handsome blonde slaves from England, calls them “angels,” and sends missionaries off to convert their fellow tribesmen. What was a pope doing in a slave market, anyway? Was he there to gawk at the naked men and women chained and sold like animals? And since he was the greatest man in Rome, why didn’t he decree an end to slavery, at least in that city?
    Even in the 1800’s, a pope could still argue in behalf of some forms of slavery. And when I was studying theology in the 60’s, our manual still said that some forms of slavery might be acceptable.
    I guess all this reminds me that the formation of a conscience is a difficult thing and, sadly, the Church has not always led the way. Excuse me, then, if I am a little slow to follow some of the arguments about conscience today. If Natural Law could not tell a pope that slavery was wrong, or that women deserve a better place than the Church has given them, I am not sure it gets the sex and its purposes bit right, either.

    • Tony

      Dear Hombre: Some historical context is necessary. It was Christianity, after all, that rid the west of the plague of slavery. But what was a poor man to do in the days of Saint Paul? There was no safety net. He had only his labor to sell, and so it was natural for him to want to submit himself to a master — and his children. There wasn’t anywhere for the man to go. Presumably, Philemon is being urged not to set Onesimus free like a castaway, to go and do what he wanted, for instance to starve; but to set him free and return him to the bosom of the household where he had served. The arrangement in question was not like the chattel slavery of the American south; we can see this, for example, from rules regarding servitude in the Old Testament (and liberation, too). Saint Paul is not terribly interested in politics, but in the regeneration of a human soul.
      The commandment of Jesus, that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and that we should love them as ourselves, rules out oppression of every sort, but it is hard for thick-headed people to learn these things. And it is not clear that when a Greek took a slave for a household servant (who might otherwise starve or hire himself out to crime or prostitution) he necessarily thought he was doing something to someone that he would not have wanted done to himself. He might well say, “If I were in that position, I sure hope that a kindly master would take me as a servant.” But the Old Testament forbids extending servitude into the next generation, and the whole thrust of the Bible is toward the freedom of love. Saint Paul has his eyes set fixedly upon that.
      I don’t believe that Gregory was pope when he saw the prisoners of war in the market in Rome. When he became pope, he sent the missionaries to England. I’m not sure what more we could reasonably have expected from him.
      As for sex: Jesus’ teachings on the one-flesh union of man and wife are pretty clear. They rule out fornication, adultery, and remarriage. Sodomy is ruled out a fortiori.

      • hombre111

        Dear Dr. Esolen, Thanks for taking time. I believe the Old Testament forbids extending the servitude of Jews into the next generation, but not Gentiles. Pope Gregory saw only prisoners of war being sold as slaves? In the story I learned, he was looking at boys and girls. But whatever, he had no instinct that all of this was wrong? And how in the world could a pope in the 1800’s be justifying slavery? Or the theological manual I studied from in the 1960’s? Today, the horror is obvious. No Catholic in his right mind would try to justify slavery. Why was the Church so slow to understand? We try to use historical context. That excuse might be used one day to explain the Church’s attitude toward gays, and its attitude toward women.

        • John200

          It won’t. Sorry, Padre Hombre.

          No one needs to explain the Church’s “attitude” toward

          – homo”sex”uals (loves them, but wants them to wake up so they can come into full communion), and

          – women (loves them dearly, females are half of the human race, persons cannot live without women, each of us was born of a woman).

          You need not thank me for the help, Fr. Hombre, but I am surprised that you need it.

          Come on, Fr. H., man to me, tell me, just exactly what did you study in seminary and during all those years as a priest (well, you say you are a priest)? How could you miss simple Catholic truth? And miss it repeatedly? Over and over and over and over…?

          • Morrie Chamberlain

            I read Hombre’s comments “read it and shut up”, he says in one combox and I shutter to think he is preparing a sermon. He is an “old man that was born on the 40th chapter of a 60 chapter book”. He believes we fought the Cold War to be number 1. Get over yourself hombre.

            • hombre111

              Actually, I am famous in my diocese for preaching kind and thoughtful sermons. Tomorrow, for instance, I will build my sermon on the reading in Wisdom, help people discern their next step in their journey to God, and then invite people to join me in my prison ministry.

          • hombre111

            To Morrie Chamberlain: Since I was responding to a man who was lecturing me about a time in history in which I was a passionate participant, I felt I had the right to tell him to read one of the best books published on how we got into Vietnam, and invite him to shut up. I mean it does weary an old man to witness all the willful ignorance stuffed into threads like this.

            • Art Deco

              I recognize someone who understands neither personal nor collective agency and makes use of political fictions in lieu of actual history.

              It is quite regrettable your bishop never exercise the trash removal solution with you. Another episcopal failure.

              • slainte


                • Art Deco

                  So what? If the man is who he presents himself as, he has been a disaster for every parish to which he has ever been posted and to civic life wherever he has participated. And you are worried that I am ‘unkind’?

                  • Slainte

                    Being a Catholic means living the faith and imitating Christ. If you disagree with Hombre’s positions, you can offer counter arguments, but you do not have to attack him personally.

                    He is a priest and for that alone, he deserves respect.

                    • Art Deco

                      I actually have offered counter-arguments to the various political statements he has made, as well as his remarks on intramural matters You can read them if you care to.

                      What he teaches has implications for the care of communicants and the life of parishes. How he views himself does as well. That he has been permitted to do this for more than fifty years speaks against his bishop. If pointing these things out constitutes a ‘personal attack’, so be it.

                      And your pluperfect posturing is offensive.

                    • slainte

                      What I have stated is from my heart; it is not posturing.
                      However, I will not respond to any more of your postings to avoid further offense.

                    • Art Deco

                      Whether it is from your heart or not, it is glurge.

        • smokes

          In context, it’s worth noting that Islam, Hinduism and communism all retain slavery to this day. That’s half the world…in 2013 A.D… and no one ever discusses it. Let’s.

          • Art Deco

            There is de facto slavery in Mauritania. That’s about it.

            • smokes

              Communist gulags hwre you saw wood until you die aren’t a form of slavery? India has plenty of it and Muslims employ it in Africa. then, there are the child slaves. In sum, there are more slaves…from Chinatown(NYC) to Mumbai than at any time in world history.


              • Art Deco

                China is a troublesome place in many ways, but it is not a set of loci where people are chattels. Communist regimes evaporated in Europe in 1989 and the Afro-Marxist regimes followed not long after. There likely is something like slavery in North Korea, but North Korea has long been an extreme outlier.

      • nannon31

        You are way too sunny on the whole slavery history. Catholicism countenanced slavery despite about 7 papal documents that seemed to denounce it…ie check the Canary Island document which protected only the baptized; check the 1537 document which was about new natives mainly. The Catholic Universities always had exceptions to the no slavery position…born to a slave mother, captured in a just war and several others. These continued in Catholic moral theology books til 1960.
        Noonan’s “The Church that Can and Cannot Change” gives all the details.
        Also the Bible releases only Jews not foreigners in Leviticus 24: 39-46

        “When, then, your countryman becomes so impoverished beside you that he sells you his services, do not make him work as a slave.
        Rather, let him be like a hired servant or like your tenant, working with you until the jubilee year,
        when he, together with his children, shall be released from your service and return to his kindred and to the property of his ancestors.
        Since those whom I brought out of the land of Egypt are servants of mine, they shall not be sold as slaves to any man.
        Do not lord it over them harshly, but stand in fear of your God.
        “Slaves, male and female, you may indeed possess, provided you buy them from among the neighboring nations.
        You may also buy them from among the aliens who reside with you and from their children who are born and reared in your land. Such slaves you may own as chattels,
        and leave to your sons as their hereditary property, making them perpetual slaves. But you shall not lord it harshly over any of the Israelites, your kinsmen.

      • Bono95

        Right on, Mr. Esolen. And further for St. Gregory, how do we know he was specifically and exclusively in a SLAVE market? Wouldn’t it be more likely that he was in the general marketplace where everything was sold, and just happened to be near the slave section where he saw the 2 Anglo-Saxon youths?

    • smokes

      Why are you wringing your hands about the plight of American Woman?
      1. She voted obama into office and can’t wait for Rodham
      2. She has more jobs than man.
      3. She has more degrees than a thermometer.
      4. she leads the world in illegitimacy, and
      5. She still has time to murder tens of millions of unborn babies.

      Shouldn’t she be indicted?

      • hombre111

        Apples and oranges. She also has no role in the Church except to serve the will of men.

        • smokes

          Reduced to the Big Lie, now. Sad, hombre.

        • slainte

          I am a “She” with worldly degrees after my name.
          I support the celibate male priesthood and the entire tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. I attend the Latin Mass as well as the Novus Ordo and am grateful that God recognizes me as an important member of the body of Christ, made in His Image, just as my male counterparts are made in His Image.
          I do not view myself, or any other woman, as less than a fully Equal member of the Church because of the traditional teachings of the Church. Indeed I am fully cognizant of God’s having made us perfectly different and perfectly Equal.
          Vive la difference and Pax Christi, Padre Hombre.

        • Bono95

          “She has no role in the Church except to serve the will of men.”

          If that’s so, then why was it a woman who led the French to liberate their country from the English (St. Joan of Arc), a woman whose prayers, sacrifices, and letters brought the Pope from Avignon back to Rome (St. Catherine of Siena), a woman whose great humility and “Little Way of the Cross” made her one of the most beloved of all saints (St. Therese of the Child Jesus), a woman whose charity, humility, compassion, and prayers were the corporal and spiritual aid consolation of untold numbers of people around the world and made her too one of the most beloved saints (to be) of modern times (Bl. Mother Teresa), 2 women who were the first to hear of Jesus’s Resurrection (St.s Mary Magdalene and Mary of Cleophas), and a woman who was conceived without sin, the Mother of Jesus Christ, was assumed body and soul into heaven, and is the Queen of Heaven and Earth, Angels and Saints (The Blessed Mother)?

          • hombre111

            Good points, Bono. All the more reason that a woman should rise to some leadership position in the institutional Church.

            • Art Deco

              Ain’t gonna happen, nor should it. Just live with it.

            • Bono95

              Thank you, Hombre, but that wasn’t quite the point I was trying to make. I was pointing out several famous examples of holy women whom God granted the privileges of playing important and sometimes leading roles in Church history to show that women do indeed have a broader role in the Catholic Church than simply serving men. My post was not intended as an advocation of female clergy, and even if it was, and even if female clergy were allowable, it would not quite solve the issue here. A woman “priest” or “bishop” would still be subordinate to all of her male superiors, and (the blatant unorthodoxy, nay heresy, of this thought, though only hypothetical and not one I hold, pains me), a female (anti)”pope” would still need a lower-ranking and quite possibly male confessor, and would be subject to God’s authority, and God, while neither male nor female, is Our Father, and all Catholics, men and women, serve his will.

              The women I mentioned were in many ways leaders, but they were also followers of God, of certain men (the Pope, bishops, confessors, etc.), and sometimes of other women. And let’s not forget how countless men have served the Church in ways that were not elevated, i.e. the answered to several superiors, and that those who held higher stations, like Popes, served God, as did and do all lower-ranking Catholics. Irrespective of gender, we are all called to serve the will of God, sometimes through service to others who outrank or have authority over us.

      • slainte

        “She” is the product of the same society you were raised in; “She” might be your sister, your wife, your girlfriend.
        Who told the young girl that her ability to stay in a relationship with a man depended upon her having pre-marital sex?
        Who made her pregant and convinced her that marriage was irrelevant and just a piece pf paper?
        Who drove her to the abortuary and financed the act of violence against their baby a/k/a an inconvenient mistake?
        Who checked out of a marital relationship and left her without finances to raise their children?
        Look at the society that produced these values and condemn it. It has severely wounded both men and women. It has turned men against women and women against men, and both against their unborn babies. It is a culture of death and relativism.
        Pray that God will once again allow Catholicism to flourish in our wounded worrld so that both men and women may once again become honorable imbued with Christ’s ways, not the world’s ways.
        Pray for the American Woman and the American Man.

        • smokes

          American Woman has to take responsibility for her actions: past, present and future. Each is an individual with a conscience that seems to be in the “off” position for almost 60% of them. (Over 40% of males are in the same moral thicket. I don’t aim to let them off the hook.)

          Even if the government, educational establishments and EEO dictatorships continue to offer American Woman her 30 pieces of silver, what’s her endgame? It increasingly appears to be the destruction of Western Civilization. She’s breaking it so she owns it.

          The indictment might start with crimes against humanity based on the Nuremberg Principles with this warning: If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

          • slainte

            American Woman and American Man have walked away from God.
            Both must consciously and intentionally return to Him. Only through Him will we recognize the luminous spark of the Divine in the other. In the litany of He’s and She’s in your post and mine, we characterize each other as something akin to chattel, not partakers of the Divine Christ in whose image we are made.

            • smokes

              Men ain’t gettin’ the abortions and demanding preferences and set asides. The “single mom” phenomenon is a disaster. spreading the blame to a whole society for each act of meglect and malpractice is a cop out. American woman owns it. All the rest is talk, sprinkled with blarney.

              • Slainte

                An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind. We have lost our moral virtue by turning away from Christ; we can recover it by turning back toward Christ. Our God is a loving and forgiving God. He would help women in need, not castigate them or turn away from them. Christian manhood must uplift women, not condemn them. Likewise, women must do the same for men. Both must reject the culture.

              • Bono95

                “Men ain’t gettin’ the abortions”
                True enough, but neither are all women, and you seem to have forgotten about the men who perform the murders and those who coerce their sometimes very unwilling wives and girlfriends into killing the baby. Remember Gosnell? The “Bro-choicers”? Barrack Obama?

        • Art Deco

          “She” is the product of the same society you were raised in; “She” might be your sister, your wife, your girlfriend.

          Yeah, and some in those categories have led interesting lives, and not because I told them to (or any of their transient squeezes, while we are at it).

          Who told the young girl that her ability to stay in a relationship with a man depended upon her having pre-marital sex?

          Who said she cared not to (and who threatened him with gay rumors if he did not perform)?

          Who made her pregant and convinced her that marriage was irrelevant and just a piece pf paper?

          Who got pregnant through her own carelessness? Who made it a point to lie down with seedy characters because they excited her?

          (Mr. Badger offers this on the writer Julie Klausner: “Klausner says “we are sick of hooking up with guys,” but like
          Hymowitz, acts as if these men passed through a membrane into her bed and that she had nothing to do with who she chooses to date and who she decides to screw. Amazingly, one woman’s decade of slutting it up indicates a crisis of American masculinity.
          Klausner is an idiot, and unfortunately all too typical in today’s
          SMP, falling in with the strangest of characters for the slightest of
          reasons and apparently expecting they will magically transform into suburban family men on her whim. (You didn’t have to buy Klausner’s book, though – a good review of field reports from game websites will tell you the same thing.)”

          Who drove her to the abortuary and financed the act of violence against their baby a/k/a an inconvenient mistake?

          Her mother, or one of her gal pals.

          Who checked out of a marital relationship and left her without finances to raise their children?

          No one. She sued him for divorce, had him ejected from the family home, alienated him from his children, and got a family court judge to throw him jail when he lost his job and was in arrears on child support.

          • slainte

            You forgot the last part of what I wrote:

            “Look at the society that produced these values and condemn it. It has severely wounded both men and women. It has turned men against women and women against men, and both against their unborn babies. It is a culture of death and relativism.”

            When we turn away from God, we turned toward that which is destructive to men and to women….I pray for the women who have hurt you, and the men who have hurt some women.
            And I pray most of all that God will intervene and save us from ourselves.

            • Art Deco

              I did not forget a bloody thing. I saw the subtext of your post and thought I would critique.

              There is a large fraction of the population (the majority, really) who do not make a habit of attributing personal agency and accountability to the distaff side. That is stupid and asinine, because the other 49% of the population is in their minds held responsible for the acts and omissions of others.

              Dr. Helen Smith offered a while back a summary of the attitude of contemporary girl culture: women have options, men have obligations. This applies pretty well across the board among the vociferous element, with only a scatter of libertarian publicists objecting. (Mr. Badger’s description of what is trafficked in by Kay S. Hymowitz: “obligation masculinity…collective nagging as social policy”). Social conservatives diverge in this by objecting to abortion and the culture of sexual license this buttresses, but they are generally obedient to a certain ettiquette and send the bill for these phenomena to young men and perverted gynecologists.

              • Slainte

                The culture informs and shapes us; our culture has stealthily and subtlety parted many of us from our Catholicism. We are all (men and women) compromised by it. If we were properly catechized, we might be better able to resist it. I try to remember this when women mistreat men and men mistreat women. Yes we are all individually responsible, but we are also deeply wounded.

                We should pray for each other and try to forgive even when it would be much easier to lash out in anger.

            • hombre111

              Amen, Slainte.

          • Facile1

            And why should women love their bodies? The Koran calls them ‘chattel’. Hindus burn their widows. The Chinese kill ‘live births’ if the woman cannot present a license to give birth to more than one child. Under Shariah Law, a woman is stoned to death for adultery and her lover is flogged. The western press tell young girls daily that she is “equal” in rights ONLY when she exposes her perfectly healthy body to the risks of contraceptive drugs; when she aborts; or when she indulges in homosexual acts.

            And where is the man in all of this? Where is her father, her brother, her husband, her lover, her nephews, her sons?

            • Art Deco

              Her father, ignored.
              Her brothers, ignored if they say much at all.
              Her husband, the defendant in a divorce suit.
              Her lovers, as disposable as old shoes.
              Her nephews, people with whom she is unacquainted
              Her sons, miseducated and subject to her shticks and mood swings.

              • smokes

                For 140 years, American woman couldn’t vote and america flourishes with an anti-socialist motif. Increasing, over the last 90 years, American woman wants the government to absorb each of us into the collective. Big Brother and Big Sista decide everything for everyone and finances through extravagant debt and oppressive taxation. This demented gynarchy is a …disaster and at base, atheistic communism. Let’s repeal the 19th Amendment. It’s the direct cause of America’s recent affinity for Death.

                • Art Deco

                  I think you’ve gone off the rails here.

                  • smokes

                    Deco, think of what the franchise for American woman has wrought:
                    1. When the doughboys went off to war, A.W. pushed Prohibition on to the land. i twas a disaster.
                    2. Forty years after prohibition, they brought us abortion rights and tens of millions of dead babies.
                    3. AW now wants socialism, leaning towards communism to finish us off.

                    It’s not exactly a great record. One can see why women didn’t have the vote for the previous 3,000 years! They’ve made a mess of the former Western Civilization. It’s now off the rails after 90 years of silly voters. It’s not going to change, of course.

                    • Sean

                      A lot of American men want the same thing as women do. Women and men are on the same page about many issues. If you want to take the vote away from women, you’re living in the wrong century.

                    • Art Deco

                      Smokes, unpleasant social phenomena generally do not have a discrete set of causes you can readily identify and for which you can parse responsibility. You are trafficking in a logical fallacy so distinct it has an ancient proper name. It is not even a particularly plausible hypothesis. You should stop it before you make any more of an ass of yourself than you have already.

                • Slainte

                  You make a compelling argument against a culture of death and destruction.

              • Slainte

                She wants and needs you to love her; she wants and needs to lean on you no matter how many degrees she has after her name. She wants and gravitates toward your masculinity even when the world tells her she can do it all on her own. She is made for you, just as you are made for her. You were made to protect her and provide for the children you created from your mutual love. She wants and needs you to guide her and protect her from this culture of death. She needs you to be a truly Catholic man who will go to Church with her and your children, and who will model for the family true Catholic manliness.

                • Facile1

                  Slainte, a woman does not need a man to love her. She is loved by God.

                  It is GOD who desires us to love all His children — our neighbor and our enemy.

                  • slainte

                    Facile, I think women need both…God’s love through Grace, and the love of a good man.
                    I thought this needed to be said given that some men seem to believe that militant feminism defines most women. It doesn’t.

                    • Facile1

                      Human love (whether man or woman, good and not) is a gift from GOD. But it is not necessary (like air and water or GRACE.) And I am not being a ‘militant feminist’ for saying so.

                      Women need men to love GOD and men need women to love GOD in a marriage. Otherwise, love becomes an insupportable and merciless burden of expectations. While it is difficult to be happy alone, it is more so in a marriage — where there is a constant need for forgiveness.

                      Marriage is a vocation and like all vocations, it is impossible to see it to its conclusion without God’s help. I don’t recommend that atheists marry (like I did.)

                    • slainte

                      Your response is a balanced one. Thanks.

              • Facile1

                All of them?

                • Art Deco

                  Re: Hindus burning widows. The practice (“suttee”) was suppressed in India by British authorities in 1829.

                  Re: stoning for sexual misbehavior: I believe common only in Saudi Arabia.

                  • Facile1

                    My Hindu friends tell me the ‘burning of widows’ is still done privately.

                    Philippine Law accommodates Shariah Law. So, yes, they stone Muslim adulteresses. Christian adulteresses are imprisoned for at least two years.

                    What do you have to say about the Chinese practice? More importantly, how do you defend the Western Press?

                    • Art Deco

                      My point is that one should not refer to odd events not characteristic of the ordinary rhythms of life or to peculiar local practices as if they were highly generalized an manifest across a continent. There is enough trouble in this world without the manufacture of fictions. The notion that widows are routinely burned to death in India is a fiction. Women are mistreated in muslim countries in various ways, but murder is not particularly common. Some of the muslim countries in tropical and southern Africa have high homicide rates, but tropical and southern African countries in general have high homicide rates. Outside of Africa, elevated homicide rates in muslim countries are modally places like Iraq with high levels of political violence. Indonesia has an elevated homicide rate; the sort of Islam practiced in most of Indonesia is lax and syncretistic.

                    • Facile1

                      An event can no longer be considered “odd” after two millenniums or more of occurrence (Muslims trace their beliefs to the Bible.)

                      I wish the “notion that widows are routinely burned to death in India” is a fiction. But if the choice is between believing a disembodied voice out in the internet or my living, breathing Hindu friends, the answer will not be YOU.

                      Perhaps you should read again the initial commentary you posted that provoked this discussion in the first place and try reconciling it to this last commentary of yours when you examine your conscience tonight. You do DO an examination of conscience “routinely”, yes? Or is this also an “odd” occurrence?

                    • Art Deco

                      The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates the intentional homicide rate in India at 3.5 per 100,000. The death rate in India is around 750 per 100,000. All homicides account for < 0.5% of all deaths in India. The notion that suttee is routinely practiced in India is nonsense.

                      The capital punishment obsessives at Amnesty International report that in 2010, 1,500+ capital sentences were handed down in modally Muslim countries. Collectively, these places have about 1.2 billion people living in them, so capital sentences are about 3 or 4 x as common as they are in the United States in these countries. However, about half of these death sentences were handed down in countries which have had some severe internal political disorders of one sort or another (Iraq, for one). Saudi Arabia, which has not been handling an insurrection or terror campaign but where shariah law is assiduously practiced, handed down 14 capital sentences. About 29 million people live in Saudi Arabia. The comparative frequency with which the Saudi courts handed down death sentences did not much exceed the frequency with which American courts did.

                      I would not deny you have some wretched problems in the Muslim world. The notion that it is at all common to execute women for sexual misbehavior outside of some odd local areas is simply incredible.

                    • Facile1

                      The notion that even ONE woman is executed for sexual misbehavior (whether legal or NOT) outside of some odd local areas is simply incredible.

                    • Art Deco

                      Sorry, you are not going to contrive a society more complex than an agricultural village that has no violent crime.

                    • Facile1

                      Are you saying that misogyny is an inevitable and unavoidable consequence of an advanced and affluent society?

                    • Bono95

                      Well, it’s good to know that the horrendous examples of violence against women aren’t everyday occurrences, but the fact that they do still occasionally occur is still extremely tragic, and is no less so for it’s being unroutine. I think I’m misunderstanding you here, but the way you’ve characterized your summary of Muslim, etc. mistreatment of women sounds a bit cavalier, insensitive even. I’m sure you don’t mean it that way, but could you please try to express your points a little better? Thank you.

                    • Art Deco

                      There is a world of hurt out there. I see no point in ignoring the actual hurt in favor of fictions. I also see no point in mischaracterizing people. The trouble in these places is bad enough as it is.

                    • Bono95

                      I agree that the number of these tragic occurrences is exaggerated, but unfortunately they don’t appear to be fictitious, and you yourself have acknowledged the existence and occurrences while also pointing out that they are not widespread.

                      And yes, there is so much hurting, and much of it has been caused by women, but I think you generalize too much in your assertions. Not every woman has had premarital sex, an abortion, a divorce, been unfaithful, or used contraception, and not all men are innocent here either (neither are they all guilty). All sexual predators are male, and so are many (not all) abortionists, and that men can and have been unfaithful to their wives, sued for divorce over the objections of their wives, and have forced abortion upon them where they wouldn’t do it voluntarily. Someone else here noted that our generation’s sins form a vicious circle, women against their natures and men, men against their natures and women, and both against their children. Both sexes contain some who are guilty, some who are innocent, and some who are hurting, and both sexes need to beg for forgiveness and to sin no more.

              • Sean

                We have some serious women haters in this forum.

        • smokes

          p.s. All parsing of prayer and sociology aside, you must admit, at base, that American Woman is, literally, killing us! that’s hard to gloss over with an attempt at a collective guilt defense.

          • Art Deco

            Men and women form a dyad.

            • slainte

              Agreed, and we are most perfect when we are united physically, spiritually, and mentally.
              God made us in love to be perfectly united with and in Him, as one flesh, from which flows all new immortal life. Only the Enemy seeks to divide and destroy us (man from woman and woman from man), and ultimately to separate us from Him.

          • Slainte

            The culture eventually destroys those men and women who have embraced its false promises. We must become more of what God wants us to be….truly and counter-culturally Catholic. God’s ways and God’s laws must guide us, not man’s.

          • Sean

            Where would we be without women? If you hate women so much, maybe you should enter a monastery. I don’t for one moment imagine that you are in any way, shape, or form a positive influence on any woman you know.

            • Facile1

              I would prefer he live alone than enter a monastery. Monasteries should be reserved for people who love GOD.

      • Facile1

        1. He is Obama.
        2. She has more jobs than a man and the cumulative sum of her pay is less than one man’s pay plus benefits.
        3. She has more degrees than a thermometer, but still lacks a penis.
        4. She is the Mother of God.
        5. He had the time to enjoy an orgasm and she has the lifetime to destroy the evidence.

        Why should she be indicted while the man is credited?

        • smokes

          40% of the men are just as facile, to be sure. Who’s letting each of them, each man and each American Woman, off the hook in the collective destruction of Western Civilization? Each time one votes Democrat, you’re re-enforcing this negative behavior and sin. It’s unconscionable.

          • Facile1

            What vote is conscionable when the choice is between evil and the lesser evil?

            Therefore, I do not vote.

    • Arthur

      Paul does not say to treat him only with kindness,he says to treat him in the same way as if he would treat Paul .-As he Paul was no slave he then meant Philemon search your conscience treat him as he would have treated Paul. Maybe better to base your sermon on the Gospel after all possesions enslave us more than anything else. Also am not sure about your dig at the Church if you think the Church should go in another direction -well thats up to your conscience-?

  • Joane

    Yes! As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “2108 The right to religious liberty is neither
    a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but
    rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e.,
    immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious
    matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be
    acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it
    constitutes a civil right.”

    • smokes

      You’re right, but the concept was blown out of the water in 1973. with Roe.

      American Woman eagerly supports the eradication of the “natural law”.

      So, she’s gonna love Hillary.

  • M Patrick L

    This is part of the progressive effort, the attack on conscience. We can trace it back to William James who argued that the vindication of religion in an enlightened society should be in accordance with its experiential (translate:evolutionary) value and no more. Freedom of religion has now been defined for us as we see in the contraception mandate of the Obama administration.

    • smokes

      Let’s add John Dewey, friend of Leon Trotsky, to the mix. Like Obama, he’s tied into Rockefellers’ University of Chicago, too.

  • Facile1

    I agree with the author.

    One MUST begin at the beginning and the beginning begins with the TRUTH.

    So how does one know what is the TRUTH?

    There are three measures of ‘truthfulness’. Conscience is one.

    The first measure is ‘discernment’ (ie the evaluation of evidence with the use of human senses and human reason.) BUT human senses and human reason are subject to human error and manipulation.

    The second measure, therefore, is conscience (or self-examination.) To arrive at the TRUTH, it is necessary to reconcile one’s speech and one’s actions to one’s desires, one’s dreams, one’s goals, one’s failings, one’s failures, one’s sins.

    The last measure of the TRUTH are acts of faith or obedience to authority (secular or otherwise) because all human action is predicated on one’s vision of the future and no one knows the future. It is said “Faith without works is dead.” (Read James 2:17) One’s choice of words is meaningless also if action does not follow.

    Forcing one to act against one’s discernment and one’s conscience does great violence to one’s dignity and integrity — even if one does not believe in God. Forcing one to act against one’s discernment and one’s conscience is forcing one into a LIE.

    If one is a liar, can one trust the evidence of one’s senses and one’s reason?

    If one is a liar, can one trust one’s self, one’s neighbor or one’s god?

    If one is a liar, can one be trusted to cover another’s back with a gun in hand?

    When forcing one to act against one’s discernment and one’s conscience becomes state policy, how does one tell the good from the liars?

    Language is a human invention. But the TRUTH is NOT. And the TRUTH begins with GOD.

    • smokes

      Let’s start at the very beginning: Cogito ergo sum. Look around. Our Left(D) has seized the school systems from pre-K to the PhD level and teaches people NOT to think. Most are brainless to begin with…supported at the public trough….as the level of humanity turns towards the great apes, again. It’s reverse evolution, quite the opposite of what Teilhard suggested. It ain’t good.

      • Facile1

        ‘Faith Formation’ is the sole responsibility of the parents.

        BUT the responsibility for our own discernment and our own conscience remains ours alone always.

        Fortunately, one does not need much of a brain to act on FAITH faithfully. Otherwise, who can be saved?

        • smokes

          Much of a brain? A 79 IQ can’t do much byway of discernment. That’s where America’s heading as the collective IQ plummets.

          Think of the Orcs from the Middle Earth, as the former Western Civilization devolves. There’s no cause for optimism for the next few centuries, absent a massive religious revival in the former Christian lands.

          • Sean

            The collective IQ is increasing by 3 to 4 points per decade. It’s called the Flynn effect.

          • Facile1

            “Orcs from the Middle Earth”?

            Can you come up with a better example to support your argument?

            If it must be a fictional account, how about more science and less fantasy?

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    A intriguing and well-known case of conscience involves M. Emery, Supérieur of St. Sulpice and a noted moral theologian, and Cardinal della Somaglia.

    Napoléon was about to marry Marie Louise of Austria and the Cardinal told M. Emory that he believed his attendance would be illicit. M. Emery told him that, if he were really of that opinion [ persuasion], then he could not assist at the ceremony, for it is never permissible to act against conscience.

    Several of the other 24 cardinals then in Paris consulted M. Emery and he appeared to give them directly contrary advice, assuring them that he could see no obstacle to their attending. Cardinal Fesch, the Emperor’s uncle, wrote to M. Emery, asking him to clarify his position. M. Emery replied that, although he thought Cardinal della Somaglia was wrong, one ought never to act against conscience, even an erroneous one. He added that, whilst inconvenience is never a ground for going against conscience, it is a very strong reason carefully to examine whether one’s conscience is not, perhaps, erroneous. That is plainly right; first thoughts are not always best.

    In the event the Cardinal kept to his view, contrary to M. Emery’s, and did not attend the marriage ceremony and who, after all, can say which of them was right? It is pleasant to recall that from 1814 until his death in 1830, the Cardinal served as Secretary of the Roman Inquisition.

  • ColdStanding

    Mindful of the maxim about judging books by the cover, I am always find it frustrating to see Catholic authors adopt the derisive usage the enemies of the Church have put some of our precious concepts to. Dogma is the one that stands out especially in my mind (and I can’t think of another, Hoc est corpus, maybe). To my ear, it sounds like the author, or any who, describes the tenants their opponents adhere to as “dogmas”, subconsciously agrees with the disparagement: Dogmas of the Catholic Church are the forced believing in nonsensical ideas. It also smells of tacitly agreeing that religious appraisals of fact are specious.

    Perhaps it was the prompting of his publisher, but it’s a sour note.

  • Pingback: A Word a Day and Other Things from Anthony Esolen()

  • Richard T.

    “The “enemies of conscience,” as Professor George calls them, simultaneously and incoherently deny the existence of moral truths that bind the conscience—other people’s consciences, while they reserve for themselves a moral right to bind and loose those other people, mechanically, pragmatically, to bring about some vague ideal society.”

    Beneath the florid prose, this is exactly what Esolen is doing. He claims nobody can “demand treason against my conscience,” but “we” (by which he means himself) can “restrain people from the evils that their consciences, dormant, silent, do not tell them they must not do.” In other words, primacy of conscience is a God-given right when it applies to him, but he also has the God-given right to override the conscience of another if he doesn’t agree with it. He reserves for himself the right to identify “moral truths that bind the conscience” and clearly does not respect the right of others to disagree. How can anyone lack self-awareness to the extent that he could make such an absurd and contradictory argument?!

    • Pay

      Conscience is never above truth. Conscience is not a god.

      • Sean

        Your “truth” and my “truth” may be at odds. Our consciences are what determine what we believe truth to be.

        • Pay

          That is relativism. There is only one truth, If your conscience determines robbing banks is good does that make it so?

          • Sean

            Robbing a bank is such a no-brainer that virtually everyone agrees it’s wrong, which is why we have laws against robbing banks. There are many issues far more subtle than bank-robbing, which is why many people of good intent disagree on many issues.

            • Pay

              Agreement does not determine truth. We are back to moral relativism.

  • Jcar

    Excellent writing. Fast paced and compelling. “Treating absence as a presence” is a powerful phrase that puts it all in perspective for me and it’s scary when one thinks about how it can all end. It seems that it’s all so predictable. We haven seen this twisted behavior over and over again since antiquity. Abortion, slavery, open and socially acceptable gay lifestyle being imposed by a well educated and wealthy gay citizenship. It has always been the beginning of the end in great societies. How can we stop this?

  • crakpot

    We should not confuse one’s faculty to hear the voice of God with the voice itself, nor should we forget that all men are created with an equal ability to hear Him.

    As Cardinal Newman said, conscience has been superseded by a counterfeit, self-will. There is no “my” conscience or “your” conscience, just One voice.

    It’s fascinating that conscience cannot be ignored – it must be replaced. Even the Nazi death camp guards had to get a speech on having the “courage of the devil” (I read that speech in an article on this website).

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  • Gabriella

    Conscience! It needs to be nourished in order to be informed, to be a good conscience – and only then can be defended.
    Yes, the devil is fighting for our souls and he is having quite a good time, especially in the ‘higher’ circles of our governments.
    We need to pray for those who make and change laws and we need to be active in times of elections, ask questions, demand answers. Had we done that, Obama would have never made it to the White House! Neither his cronies and likes.
    Lord, keep us strong and unwavering.

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