Abstract Recent legal efforts to force pharmacists to distribute potentially abortifacient drugs constitute a violation of conscience. This campaign of coercion violates religious freedom, professional deontology, and the right to refuse even material cooperation in acts of grave evil.
Extract I’m going to talk about conscience in general and about the principle of cooperation. Then you will hear from Dr. Lane about the current application of that in the current administration’s policies. . .
. . .What [conscience] really is, in some ways, is a commitment on our part. And there are two basic hinges, if you will, to the commitment that conscience is. The first is to have and to hold fundamental moral principles. That if you are to be a moral person to begin with, you have to commit yourself to having fundamental moral commitments. Then, secondly, once you have those, you commit yourself to acting in accordance with them. And that’s what in essence, conscience is.
Abstract The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Chamberlain,referred to above, in how it handled the definition of “secular” and pluralism as requiring the inclusion of religion and religious viewpoints, is a model for the law and the first serious consideration of a non-atheistic/agnostic (or secularistic) “secular” in Canada. It, and the TWU decision, provide the beginning outlines of an approach to both pluralism and the secular that will be superior to the preemptively non-religious and atheistic/agnostic understandings that preceded them. The decision also correctly describes the nature of pluralism as one that encourages a diversity of beliefs and that resists the co-option of “secular” society by totalistic conceptions of liberalism that exclude diversity.
These decisions ought to lead to a reconsideration of how we view law and policies in relation to all public aspects of society, including public education. Pluralism can be and needs to be re-conceptualized within existing legal norms and the Canadian historical tradition, so as to foster a richer conception of diversity and genuine tolerance with an appropriately communitarian focus. For pluralism to be pluralism, however, it is important to rescue it from a pseudo-liberalism that hides its totalistic claims.
A Response to Iain T. Benson, “Living Together with Disagreement: Pluralism, the Secular and the Fair Treatment of Beliefs in Canada Today”
Abstract This response will be divided into three segments. First, it will respond to Benson’s analysis of pluralism, liberalism, and the “secular”. Second, it will advocate for a return to John Stuart Mill’s harm principle as a better way of reconciling competing claims when equality rights and religious freedoms collide. Third, it will apply the harm principle to the contemporary issues of same-sex marriage and the religious objections of marriage commissioners. The central idea is that by moving away from the vague, all-encompassing language of “Charter values” to the harm principle, we create a more pluralistic public sphere that gives reasons for religious and ethnic minorities to reciprocate such tolerance and participate actively in civil society.
Abstract The Church’s teachings are often very challenging. Those who are involved in the health-care professions and who conduct their practices in accord with Church teaching can expect misunderstanding and even rejection from their colleagues and patients. One of the most difficult teachings of the Church is its condemnation of contraception. In 1968 Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae vitae, which hit the world like a bomb. In it he affirmed the Church’s long-standing teaching on human sexuality and condemned contraception in particular. Today scientific advances such as in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem-cell research, as well as the challenges in making moral decisions about end-of-life care, make it increasingly difficult for health-care professionals to practice in accord with their deeply held moral convictions. Developing a properly formed conscience, which is the voice of God, is essential in dealing with these contemporary issues and making right choices. This essay outlines the process for properly forming the conscience. It also explains why prescribing contraception is morally wrong.
Smith JE. Conscience, Contraception, and Catholic Health-Care Professionals. Linacre Quarterly. 2010 May;77(2):204-228. Edited transcript of a talk given at the first annual symposium for health-care professionals, “Conscience and Ethical Dilemmas in Catholic Healthcare,” hosted by the Archdiocese of Baltimore Respect Life Office and Baltimore Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, Baltimore, MD, May 9, 2009. The text is more conversational than a written paper and not as closely documented as a professional piece. Much of the material was accompanied by PowerPoint slides.
(Reflections regarding some texts on conscience by John Paul II and Benedict XVI)
Al leer algunos textos de Juan Pablo II y de Benedicto XVI sobre la conciencia, me ha llamado la atención la manera como plantean la relación entre subjetividad y objetividad en la sociedad actual en la que fácilmente se cae en el Relativismo. Este problema se profundiza a tratar las relaciones entre Dios y la conciencia y entre la Teología y el Magisterio de la Iglesia. Mi propósito en esta intervención al inicio del trabajo de la Pontificia Academia de la Vida es aportar una modesta reflexión que pudiera contribuir a iluminar estas relaciones desde el concepto de cultura. Comienzo presentando una selección de textos de ambos Pontífices, donde resalta la problemática aludida. En una segunda parte intentaré profundizar en dicha problemática.
[Translation] Reading some texts by John Paul II and Benedict XVI on conscience has directed my attention to the way in which they present the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity in today’s society which easily falls into Relativism. This problem is deepened to deal with the relationships between God and conscience and between Theology and the Magisterium of the Church. My purpose in this intervention at the beginning of the work of the Pontifical Academy of Life is to contribute a modest reflection that could contribute to illuminate these relationships from the concept of culture. I begin by presenting a selection of texts from both Pontiffs, where they highlight the problem alluded to. In a second part I will try to delve into this problem.
Extract Man is a free being who establishes his behaviour and forges his will in a series of ethical and/or religious principles. Loyalty to these principles brings the right and the need of conscientious objection. Man, in his own legitimate exercise of freedom, can and must object to exercising any action that is against or transgresses those principles that his conscience dictate. . .
One should have to distinguish between civil disobedience and conscientious objection. The latter comes from a personal motivation. One person feels that he cannot fulfil a certain juridical regulation because it goes against his/her conscience and moral principles, which are based on faith and on ethical considerations. However, civil disobedience , which can also be founded on conscience motivations, is a type of attitude that pretends to put forward a change or a breach in the law. In case of civil disobedience the law is also considered immoral or unjust. Civil disobedience and conscientious objection can happen together because civil disobedience is considered massive conscientious objection, if not massive, at least very numerous.
Extract The trend toward freedom of religion and conscience has been building over the past centuries. Certainly, the last hundred years have brought a greater tolerance of religious ideas in England, with restrictions on Catholic finally lifted in the early 19 th century, and the United States has, since the late 18th century enshrined religious freedom as a preeminent right. There is thus reason to hope that we may be moving toward a situation in which the precedent will be established that provides a greater understanding and accommodation of the conscience of the individual healthcare provider. However, there is not unanimity of opinion and contradictory decisions about the freedom of conscience in this area continue. “This issue is the San Andreas Fault of our culture,” said Gene Rudd of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. “How we decide this is going to have a long-lasting impact on our society.”
Challenges to the conscience of a health care professional certainly continue in common law countries, and the current system of dealing with such issues in these countries is far from adequate, or uniform. The problems will only grow as new unethical procedures become seen as “the norm” by some and as a “right” by others. . . . Common law countries certainly have much to do to develop more fully the ideal of a conscience clause for those in the medical field. However, the fact that in most common law countries some accommodation at least seems to be made for the conscience of those in the health care field provides hope.
Extract The aim of this article is to answer the question: what are the norms that guide conscience in judging whether a proposed innovation ought to be accepted into the Catholic tradition or not? For the purposes of this article, we need to integrate conscience into a wider theological context that embraces faith, the Church, the tradition of the Church and authority in the Church. The first step in the argument will be to clarify the nature of conscience and its relationship to the elements that have just been mentioned. The second step will be to explain the notion of tradition and the relation between conscience and tradition. In this context I will seek to establish the structures of tradition in relation to the two most basic innovations: the innovation of Creation and the innovation of the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. These, I will suggest, provide the source of the norms for accepting or rejecting other prospective innovations into the tradition.
Abstract Despite serious challenges to the identity of Catholic health institutions in the United States, both Church and society should continue to see them as privileged places of moral discernment. This discernment occurs in “institutional conscience,” namely, a dialogue among all those authorized to act on the institution’s behalf about institutional actions, for example, medical interventions. The institutional conscience of Catholic health institutions should be respected by society at large, leaving them free to practice Christian healing and to show the problems with certain practices that they reject, such as abortion, and to seek alternatives.