Conscience, heresy, Amoris Laetitia and Pope Francis

Developing and using your conscience is of prime importance when working your way around moral questions, Pope Francis told the Italian Bishops Conference on Saturday.

His comments aimed to help the bishops explore their conference theme: “The Gospel of Love between Conscience”.

Drawing on Amoris Laetitia (AL), his 2015 post-synodial document, Francis defended AL’s stance on conscience-based decisions.

This is the first time Francis publicly defended AL, which has been called “heretical” by some of the church heirarchy and faithful.

“The family born of marriage creates fruitful bonds which reveal themselves to be the most effective antidote against the individualism that currently runs rampant; however, along the journey … there are situations that require arduous choices, which must be made with rectitude,” he said.

Citing AL37, Francis stressed the distinction between conscience, where God reveals himself, and ego, that thinks it can do as it pleases.

“The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which is always to be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of the individual with respect to the relations that he entertains in life,” Francis explained.

“In the very depths of each one of us, there is a place wherein the Mystery reveals itself and illuminates the person, making the person the protagonist of his story.

“Conscience, as the II Vatican Council recalls, is this ‘most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.’

“To the Christian falls the task of being vigilant, so that in this sort of tabernacle is no want of divine grace which illuminates and strengthens married love and parental mission.

“Grace fills the amphorae of human hearts with an extraordinary capacity for gift, renewing for the families of today the miracle of the wedding feast at Cana.”

Francis told the bishops that priests must inform Catholic consciences “but not replace them, so Christian faithful are capable of ‘full moral agency'”.

In making these statements, Francis aimed to help the bishops decide how to respond to the desire for family that emerges in the soul of the young generations.

He also sought to help the Conference find ways to help the faithful assimilate and develop AL’s content and style, as well as the means to contribute to pastoral outreach to families and support them on their journey through life.

This includes helping all families to live the joy of the Gospel and be active in the community.


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