Primacy of the conscience and non-biblical morality

First, I am aware that primacy of the conscience DOES NOT mean that one can divert from Catholic teaching whenever one sees fit. I read a few articles regarding conscience primacy a couple days ago and it merely confirmed what I already knew about it. Catholics should ultimately follow their honest conscience before church teaching. If your conscience tells you a certain behavior is intrinsically wrong, you must follow your conscience, even if you’re incorrect with regards to what it is telling you. However, this usually if not always applies to situations where behaving in a way your conscience tells you you should often comes in conflict with church teaching.

That said, this is my question.

So, as far as I’m concerned, the Catholic church does not forbid eating meat (except on certain occasions) like other Christian faiths (such as Seventh-Day Adventism) or other religions althogether (such as Jainism). That said, a Catholic may eat animals if it isn’t Friday or Lent. However, if a Catholic eventually comes to the conclusion, for example, that animals can feel both emotional and physical pain and therefore humans shouldn’t eat them, does that mean that the Catholic necessarily must follow his or her conscience and become an ethical vegetarian, even if the church isn’t opposed to meat-eating?

Of course, this could apply to virtually any other non-Christian social issue; I just feel as if ethical vegetarianism is the best example.

Yes, that would be a good example.

Exercising your conscience does not necessarily release you from culpability to sin. It is entirely possible to have an erroneously formed conscience.

Therefore, acting on your conscience should always be undertaken in a manner that is unlikely to cause you to sin.

In other words, **doing **something the Church teaches is wrong, is going to likely be sinful, even if your conscience tells you otherwise.

Not doing something the Church teaches is acceptable (such as eating meat) would not lead you into sin.

[quote=HardRockGTR]Catholics should ultimately follow their honest conscience before church teaching. If your conscience tells you a certain behavior is intrinsically wrong, you must follow your conscience, even if you’re incorrect with regards to what it is telling you.
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That is not precise. :slight_smile: Catholics are allowed to follow their well formed conscience – but a conscience is only well-formed if it conforms to what the church teaches. If your conscience is at odds with the church’s teaching, then it is not well-formed, so you cannot follow it. Kind of like the old saying from Henry Ford: “you can have a car of ANY color, provided that you want a black one”. One should almost admire the deceptive trickery of giving with one hand and immediately taking it back with the other…

I do not believe this is a well formed definition of Church teaching.

CCC

1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin."59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

Maybe, you should rethink this statement, as it could lead you to sin in other areas of Church teaching (assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience - CCC 1792).

Did you really expect the Catholic Church, or any other church, to say that you can do whatever you want as long as you firmly believe it is right? That would be a deliberate misreading of the teaching on conscience, not merely a naive misunderstanding. There is nothing deceptive about the primacy of conscience principle. It says exactly what it means. There are many issues on which the Church does not teach a definitive position - issues that nevertheless can have great importance to some people. On these issues we are bound to follow our certain conscience, just like in the scenario described by the OP.

The originator of this thread is in serious error, if for no other reason that people are weak and can use a non well formed conscience as a cop out to justify almost anything!
That is why it is incumbent upon all Catholics to learn about their religion.
Justification by Faith alone, which is another way of saying this, is what Luther promulgated and is against the teaching of our Church.

I don’t understand. Are you saying that a person who decides to avoid meat for ethical reasons even though the Church allows it would be sinning? How?

The same principle applied back in the day when the Church did not condemn slavery. If a Catholic, citing conscience, chose not to own slaves, he would not be sinning, would he?

Reread what I wrote.

That’s not what I said. A person would not be sinning should they avoid meat for an ethical reason. The sin could come when this person believes that they are more ethical then the Church or those who follow Church teaching and starts to believe that someone who chooses to eat meat is being unethical.

Slavery “back in the day” was not slavery as we know it today. This would be an example of taking “little trouble to find out what is true”(CCC1791).

You misunderstood my original post, big time. Sola fide is quite honestly unbiblical, and not at all what Luther promulgated (that would be sola scriptura).

I did say that primacy of the conscience does not justify what is convenient to you if it goes against church teaching.

No. What I asked in the OP is whether eating meat, if your conscience tells you it is immoral, even if the church assures you it is not, is considered sin, because you are going against your own conscience, which has primacy.

True, but that would be another sin entirely. If one denies the authority of the Church, that would be sinful as would their judgement on others who are following the Church’s teaching. But it wouldn’t make their choice to refrain from meat sinful.

Slavery “back in the day” was not slavery as we know it today. This would be an example of taking “little trouble to find out what is true”(CCC1791)

But today we would still find the “back in the day” version of slavery to be immoral. And “back in the day” there were many who thought it was immoral and who chose not to get involved with slavery of any kind in spite of the Church’s tolerance of the practice.

So, do you understand now, that not doing something the Church teaches as acceptable can lead someone into sin? It doesn’t mean it will, only that it can. Thus, your first statement that it “would not lead you into sin” would not be true.

Again, I never said this.

Only because our conscience is tainted by what others have decided slavery is.

By the way. if you are a baptised Catholic you are not “previously” a Catholic. There is no such thing as a former or ex-Catholic.
Once baptised a Catholic you remain that forever, even if you walk away.

I can see why it may appear that way if you have a relativist view of morality. But as catholics, we understand that good and evil are objective realities, not social constructs. We believe that God has endowed us with consciences that tend towards identification with these objective definitions of good and evil, but we also recognize that we are fallen and that that fallen-ness also afflicts our consciences. We are thus obliged to seek Grace and form our consciences to those things God has revealed to us. Especially where we don’t understand or have issues with revelation we are called to prayer, fasting and learning to identify and resolve the source of that conflict.

Thus the Ford example is not really accurate. Conscience is NOT the same as the will. Our wills want sinful things all the time. That’s why we needed a Redeemer and Savior. A better example is the difference in definition between freedom and license. Our culture today has forgotten the difference. But freedom is the ability to do that which is GOOD. License is the ability to do whatever we will. We say America is a free country, but nobody accuses her of “deceptive trickery” because we imprison rapists, murderers, thieves, etc. We simply comprehend (or used to) the difference between freedom and license.

[quote=manualman]I can see why it may appear that way if you have a relativist view of morality. But as catholics, we understand that good and evil are objective realities, not social constructs.
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That is a matter of opinion, where we differ. Anyhow, I would like to see a “litmus test” to separate the “moral” issues from the social customs. Catholics consider an innocent “masturbation” a mortal sin “worthy” of eternal damnation. For non-Catholics it is an act not even worth to mention.

But the church’s standing on morality is self-contradictory. On one hand it teaches (correctly) that in order to decide if an act is moral or not, one MUST consider 1) the intent, 2) the means and 3) the outcome. Which is perfectly fine, rational AND relativistic. But then the church contradicts itself, when it also teaches that there are “intrinsically evil” actions, regardless of the intent and the outcome. You can’t have both.

[quote=manualman]Thus the Ford example is not really accurate. Conscience is NOT the same as the will.
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Conscience is something we all learn in our formative years. If you hear time and time again that blacks are inferior, you will learn to despise blacks. If you hear that sex aimed at pleasure seeking only – is “mortally sinful”, then you will develop an attitude of shame when having sex for pleasure only. (And the number of threads in this forum attest that this attitude is very destructive.)

[quote=manualman]A better example is the difference in definition between freedom and license. Our culture today has forgotten the difference. But freedom is the ability to do that which is GOOD.
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I recall the definition from a Marxist philosophy class where the professor said: “freedom is a recognized necessity”. Please forgive me, if I laugh at both this and your definition equally. I will quote the definition from 1984, where Winston Smith says: “Freedom is the freedom to say two and two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows”. Freedom is what you call “license”. Not all exercises of freedom are “good”, but that is a different issue.

The process of evaluating an act through the three standards of intent, means and outcome ONLY applies if the act is morally neutral or morally good. A good action can be bad if done for the wrong reasons or in order to create a bad outcome.

If the act is itself morally bad (intrinsically evil) the three prong test does not apply. No good intent or outcome can change a morally evil action into a morally good one.

Yes, you can have both because there are two very different types of moral decisions.

Or, I think a better way to explain it is that since the Church evaluates the morality of an action based on three factors intent, means, and circumstances, in such a way that if even one of those three is immoral then the whole action is immoral it is possible for a certain means to be always immoral thus rendering any action which uses that means immoral without contradicting the fact that intent and circumstance also come into consideration. It is not so much a matter of a different type of moral decision, but rather that the Church does not have a good intent balance out an immoral means. A bad intent on top of an immoral means will make the action worse than if the intent was good, but even if the intent were good the action itself would still be immoral because of the means used.

[quote=Corki]The process of evaluating an act through the three standards of intent, means and outcome ONLY applies if the act is morally neutral or morally good.
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That is the contradiction. If the “morality” of an act rests on all three “prongs” (intent, means and result), then you cannot declare that the “means” (the act) – alone – is intrinsically “evil” while disregarding the other two parts. Elementary, my dear Watson!

Except that thats not how it works. Its not that all three have to be evil for the act to be evil, its that if even one of the three are evil the act is evil. No contradiction.

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