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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 49

How the Catholic Conscience is Formed

How the Catholic Conscience is Formed.

On the natural law, and on the law divinely revealed, and presented to him by God's chosen agent—the Church—does the Catholic form his conscience. He page 10 does not expect that his conscientious convictions in matters of religion will please others : no more is he pleased with the professed creeds of the majority of his fellow-citizens. These form their conscience on grounds satisfactory to them; he forms his on grounds still more satisfactory to him. "The divine law," says Newman, "is the rule of ethical truth, the standard of right and wrong; a sovereign, irreversible, absolute authority in the presence of men and angels." "The divine law," says Cardinal Gousset, "is the supreme rule of actions; our thoughts, desires, words, acts, all that man is, is subject to the domain of the law of God; and this law is the rule, of our conduct by means of our conscience. Hence it is never lawful to go against our conscience."

"Conscience," says Newman, "is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with one's self; but it is a messenger from Him, who, in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas; and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have sway."

The theory of freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution as a right is conceded to the Catholic by Secularist and Evangelical. The wording of the Constitution, and our loud boasting, at home and abroad, of liberty of conscience as a special privilege of democratic government, demand this concession. Theory and practice clash. The Constitution rules that all shall be free to follow the dictates of conscience, provided there is no encroachment on the freedom of others. The majority of the people rule, by the power of numbers, that a large minority shall not be free to educate their children according to their conscience.