Malta – Another perspective

Needless to say, the Maltese Bishops’ guidance on AL has not been received with joy throughout the Church (see here, for example).

In the Irish Catholic another view is expressed here.

This is the key part of the argument (my emphasis):

An emphasis on conscience is at the heart of the Maltese bishops’ guidelines, with the bishops concluding that a divorced-and-remarried Catholic cannot be denied Reconciliation and the Eucharist if, as a result of a suitably sincere and thorough discernment process, he or she “manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she [is] at peace with God”.

In no way should this be equated to a merely subjective ‘feeling’. On the contrary, time and again in recent decades when liberal Catholics have sought to justify disobedience to papal teachings, they have done so on the grounds of ‘conscience’, only to be rightly rebutted by more orthodox Catholics pointing out that only a properly formed conscience has such authority.

Now, though, too many are reacting to the Maltese calls for their clergy to enlighten consciences and for enlightened consciences to be respected, by saying this would mean a sacramental free for all. We can’t have this both ways. Either we respect properly formed consciences or we don’t.

The emphasis on properly formed conscience is key to their argument: a properly formed and enlightened conscience should accord with the teaching of the Church on faith and morals.

The problem, in my opinion, with such an approach is that catechesis in the West is something of a failed project, with priests and catechists ignoring the moral teaching of the Church. How can one have a properly informed and enlightened conscience if no-one has bothered to teach and proclaim the Gospel and the teaching of the Church?

The position in Malta may be different (after all, they only legalised divorce in the last couple of years, on a very tight referendum result), but in the rest of the West ‘properly formed and enlightened consciences’ would probably only exist after a long process of remedial catechesis.

In short, I can (kind of) see where the Maltese bishops are coming from, but I see their approach as having harmful risks if it is applied in the casual, slap-dash manner beloved of clerics in the UK and US.

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One Response to Malta – Another perspective

  1. Michael says:

    If they have a properly informed conscience in that situation would they really believe that they were at “peace with God”? I understand that Maltese have a different history that might give them higher standards or a better likelihood of an informed conscience but don’t the facts speak for themselves?

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