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Protection of Conscience Project

www.consciencelaws.org

Service, not Servitude

Religion


ECUMENICAL COUNCILS

Vatican II


PAPAL STATEMENTS

Encyclicals

Other Papal Statements


DICASTERIES, PONTIFICAL ACADEMIES & COUNCILS

Doctrinal Notes

Moral Reflections

Pastoral Directives


THE HOLY SEE


EPISCOPAL STATEMENTS

BISHOPS' STATEMENTS

Strategy to Abolish Right of Conscience

  • Archbishop Alex J. Brunett* | . . .I want to share with you my deep concern about a growing threat to human life that could have grave implications for the church: the campaign by abortion advocates to deny Catholic health care providers their fundamental human right of conscience to refuse to take part in morally evil actions such as abortion and euthanasia. . .
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The freedom of conscience rights

  • Archbishop J. Michael Miller *| . . .Lest the right of conscientious objection not be recognized, Catholic health-care professionals, chaplains and all those who assist them must love freedom enough to insist on this right in the public forum. We must never allow ourselves to become marginalized because of our lack of courage. . .
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Religion, reason, voting

  • Francis Cardinal George *| . . . Conscience is not an excuse for doing something irrational. We are to form our consciences according to the social teaching of the Church and use that formation to make political choices. This is not easy, because principles are clear but practice often is clouded by confusion of fact and the distraction of various forms of self-interest. . .
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The moral conscience in ethics and the contemporary crisis of authority

  • Bishop Anthony Fisher* | . . . Conscience is indeed the proximate norm of personal morality, but its dignity and authority "derive from the truth about moral good and evil, which it is called to listen to and to express." Sincerity cannot establish the truth of a judgment of conscience and freedom is never freedom from the truth but always and only freedom in the truth. . .
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Conscience: the Aboriginal Vicar of Christ

  • George Cardinal Pell* | . . .It is interesting that few argue that if your conscience instructs you to be racist or weak on social justice issues, it is acceptable to be so. Primacy of conscience only appears with the sexual, or like, issues. This does look rather suspicious. . .
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Health Care Reform and the Future of the Catholic Health-Care Vocation

  • Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M.* |  . . .If you're a doctor or ethicist or hospital administrator or system executive working in Catholic health care, and in good conscience you cannot support Catholic teaching or cannot apply it with an honest will - then you need to follow your conscience.  The Church respects that.  Obedience to conscience is the road to integrity.  But conscience, as Newman once said, has rights because it has duties.   One of those duties is honesty.  It may be time to ask whether a different place to live your vocation, outside Catholic health care, is also the more honest place for your personal convictions.  What really can't work is staying within Catholic health care and not respecting its religious and moral principles with all your skill, and all your heart. . .
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BISHOPS' CONFERENCES

Canada

Canadian Catholic Conference (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops)

  • 1 December, 1973 | . . .For a believer, this teaching of the magisterium . . . cannot be just one element among others in the formation of his conscience. It is the definitive cornerstone upon which the whole edifice of conscientious judgement must be built. . . Moreover, it would be unthinkable that the Spirit, speaking in the heart of the redeemed Christian, would be in opposition to himself teaching in the authority established by Jesus . . . (Statement on the Formation of Conscience)
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Belgium

Conference of Catholic Bishops of Belgium

 

Philippines

Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines

  • Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the Reproductive Health Law:  While we would have wanted the Supreme Court to nullify the RH Law (Republic Act No. 10354), we must now contend with the fact that it has ruled rather to strike down important provisions of the law in deciding Imbong v. Ochoa, G.R. 204819 (April 8, 2014) and companion cases. It is our pastoral duty to pass the necessary information and instruction to our Catholics who, as health care workers (physicians, nurses, midwives, medical aides, medical technologists, etc.), are employed in health facilities, whether public or private, so that they may know what their rights are under the law as passed upon by the High Court. . .
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Uganda

  • Letter on the Morning After Pill, 23 March, 2001 |  . . .Considering that the use of such a product touches fundamental human values to the point of affecting human life at its beginning, this Conference feels the urgent need and duty to offer some clarifications on the issue. In doing this, we are only re-stating well-known ethical stands and principles supported by precise scientific documentation and by Catholic ethical doctrine. . . .
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United States

US Conference of Catholic Bishops

  • Testimony, 20 February, 2002 | . . . Legislation that will protect conscience by prohibiting discrimination against health care providers is urgently needed to counteract these attempts nationwide to undo existing protections. . . (Re: Kansas Health Care Providers Rights of Conscience Act)
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Arizona Catholic Conference

  • New Vision, May, 2008 |  . . .Conscience is at the heart of human dignity and freedom. The free will of all people requires that individuals not be forced to act contrary to their conscience. The Catholic Church affirms and asserts this, especially in religious matters. . . .(Freedom of Conscience: A Pastoral Statement)
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California Catholic Conference

  • Carol Hogan* |  . . . can we as Catholic individuals and Catholic institutions continue to function as a viable part of American society if we lose the "conscience clause" as a method of opting out of immoral or illicit public policy? In this paper, I will respond to these questions and assert that the challenge of cooperation in American society is synonymous with the challenge of keeping effective opt-outs. . .(Conscience Clauses and the Challenge of Co-operation in a Pluralistic Society)
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Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

  • Viewpoint, Summer, 1998 | The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association have been working with legislators to ensure the continuation of Catholic health care in Pennsylvania through conscience protection amendments to two managed care bills currently in the state Senate. . .
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CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The Catechism provides succinct statements of Catholic teaching.

Abortion (2270-2275)
Conscience (1776-1794)
Contraception (2366-2372)
Euthanasia (2276-2279)
Fertility (2373-2379)
Human Experimentation (2292-2295)
Medical Treatment (2278-2279)
Morality of Human Acts (1750-1756)
Organ Transplants (2296)
Reproductive Technology (2373-2379)
Sterilization (2297)
Suicide (2280-2283)

COMMENTARY

Commentary from other sources is a reliable guide to Catholic teaching only to the extent that it conforms to the teaching of the magisterium of Pope and bishops in union with him.

The Health Care Professional as Person: The Place of Conscience

  • Bridget Campion* | . . .Recently I was asked to present "the Catholic position" on physician-assisted death as part of a panel discussion held at a downtown Toronto hospital. The purpose of the event was not to debate the issue but to educate participants about various points of view. I ran into some difficulty when I was discussing the Catholic Church's interest in protecting the consciences of health care staff. One panelist immediately redirected our attention to the needs of the patient seeking physician-assisted death and the conversation left the health care professionals behind. In this short article, I would like to bring the focus back to the doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, therapists, in short, to the health care staff involved in patient care and who may have objections to performing or assisting in physician-assisted death.. . .
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The Fundamental Human Right to Practise and be Trained According to Conscience

  • Mons. Tarcisio Bertone, SDB * | . . .When there is a conflict between the moral norm and the law, i.e. between natural law and positive law, the only instrument to overcome the dilemma or the clash is conscientious objection. Conscientious objection represents a founded and legitimate dissent in relation to the constituted order, due to its dissonance towards a higher law. . .
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The Role of the Christian Conscience in the Promotion of Life in Relation to Developing Countries

  • Ivan Cardinal Dias* | . . .To form conscience means to be convinced that as long as in some part of the world people are dying of hunger, there will be elsewhere those who eat for two, not because they are hungrier than others, but because they have greater abundance. . .
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Choosing between good and evil

  • Fr. Vincent Hawkswell* | . . .We are forbidden to do evil. Moreover, "we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we co-operate in them," warns the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We can do this "by participating directly and voluntarily" in others' sins; "by ordering, advising, praising, or approving" them; "by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so"; and "by protecting evil-doers." . . .
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Conscience

  • Fr. John Kelly* | . . .are we really justified in upholding the principle that one must follow one's conscience, when so many people, by following their conscience, seem to make so many mistakes? . . .
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Formal and Material Co-operation (with evil)

  • National Catholic Bioethics Center (USA) | . . .Cooperation in the ethically significant sense is defined as the participation of one agent in the activity of another agent to produce a particular effect or share in a joint activity. This becomes ethically problematical when the action of the primary agent is morally wrong. . .
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The Courage to Refuse to Cooperate in Evil

  • Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk* | Great care, discretion, and courage are required as we seek to avoid cooperation in medical situations where immoral practices may not only be tolerated, but even at times almost imposed on us.
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Rights, the Person and Conscience in the Catechism

  • Janet Smith* | . . . Many have observed that the modern world is so pluralistic in its moral thinking that there is no common moral discourse. Yet there is one mode of moral discourse that seems to have a kind of universal currency and that is the language of human rights. . .
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Freedom to Choose God

  • Janet Smith* | . . . Religious freedom . . . is not absolute. It is a fundamental human right but one subject to reasonable limitation. Let me comment on the current state of bioethics as a means of illustrating what can go wrong when we misunderstand the proper reach of human freedom and why the important element in religious freedom is not so much freedom as it is religion. . .
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Cooking Up a Healthy Portion of Conscience

  • Donald DeMarco* | . . . It is a commonplace misunderstanding of freedom that it is something negative and somehow becomes more itself to the degree that it is separated from knowledge. . . . Another common misconception is that conscience can operate alone, apart from objective truth. But conscience does not create truth, but discovers it. . .
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Conscience and Modern (i.e., Democratic) Totalitarianism

  • Rev. Robert John Araujo, S.J.* | . . . conscience is assumed to be a purely subjective thing, a personal preference that is fundamentally irrational. . .My objective here is to examine the exercise of conscience and religious liberty in a particular light removed from the drama and heroism of peaceful civil disobedience. My effort is designed to look at the nature of properly formed conscience and the corresponding exercise of religious freedom and what it may mean in the context of the United States and other western democracies today. . .
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What role does Conscience play in Medical Ethics?

  • D. Vincent Twomey, SVD* | . . . conscience is assumed to be a purely subjective thing, a personal preference that is fundamentally irrational . . . The sincerity of those who hold a subjective view of conscience is not in doubt. But is it enough? More importantly, what is wrong about that all-pervasive contemporary understanding of conscience? For the rest of this paper, I will concentrate on such a misunderstanding in the hope of clarifying what conscience in fact is. . .
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Clarifying Our Terms for 2015
Catholic moral theology has a great way to sift through some of the hardest moral debates.

  • Mark Gordon* | Two-thousand-fourteen was a contentious year in the Catholic community as debates on a variety of issues divided the faithful. In the 2014 election, 54% of self-described Catholics voted for Republicans, with that number rising to 60% among white Catholics.  Healthcare and immigration reform, Common Core education standards, religious liberty, American foreign policy - including the torture debate - and even the normalization of relations with Cuba all provided fodder for often acrimonious food fights among Catholics . . .
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SPECIFIC ISSUES

ABORTION

Abortion & Conscience

  • Michael Sean Winters* | . . . We are called to conform ourselves to the moral law and so form our consciences that this conformity is understood, properly, as a genuine liberation, a freeing of one's capacity to choose so that we choose the good. In short, our exercise of conscience is not just a legal claim of immunity. . .
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BIRTH CONTROL

Conscience, Contraception, and Catholic Health-Care Professionals

  • Janet Smith* | . . . One of the most difficult teachings of the Church is its condemnation of contraception. . . This essay outlines the process for properly forming the conscience. It also explains why prescribing contraception is morally wrong.  . . .
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Statement on the So-Called 'Morning After Pill'

 

Catholic Health Care Providers and the Issue of Emergency Contraception: Offering Compassion and Truth in Cases of Rape and Sexual Assault

  • Kara A. Crawford *| . . . The Church, cognizant of her duty to defend the sacredness of human life, can never condone the use of any abortifacient drug regimens or procedures, regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception. However, this stance must be distinguished from the administration of contraception following rape or sexual assault, which is not prohibited by natural law or by the Church. . .
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Interview: Seeking an Ever Clearer Conscience

  • A. Cyrenian | How a Catholic pharmacist followed his convictions and stopped dispensing contraception.
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END OF LIFE CARE

Tube Feeding: Medical Treatment or Basic Care?

  • Adrian Treloar*, Philip Howard* | The authors argue that feeding tube placement is a medical procedure and as such requires consideration of the benefits and risks as for any other medical treatment. However, the day-to-day use of feeding tubes, to provide hydration and nutrition, constitutes ordinary care that does not require medical supervision. Withdrawal of tube feeding raises major ethical and legal questions.
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Responses to Certain Questions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration

  • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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EUTHANASIA

The Nature and Necessity of Conscience Protections for Health Care Providers

 

Belgian Catholic psychiatric hospitals 'adjust' their view of euthanasia

  • Michael Cook* | One of the last substantial barriers to increasing the number of euthanasia cases for non-terminally-ill psychiatric patients in Belgium seems to have crumbled.  A religious order in the Catholic Church, the Brothers of Charity, is responsible for a large proportion of beds for psychiatric patients in Belgium – about 5,000 of them. The international head of the order, Brother René Stockman, is a Belgian who has been one of the leading opponents of euthanasia in recent years.  Nonetheless, in a surprise move this week, the board controlling the institutions of the Brothers of Charity announced that from now on, it will allow euthanasia to take place in their psychiatric hospitals. . . .
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Brothers of Charity: Vision of Euthanasia Adjusted

  • English translation | The Brothers of Charity group in Belgium approved a changed vision of euthanasia in psychiatric illness in a non-terminal situation. . .
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Head of Belgian order explains shock move

  • René Stockman (interview) | Brother René Stockman is the superior general of the Brothers of Charity, a "congregation" of the Catholic Church which cares for the poor and the needy. . . This week the Belgian region, where the congregation started in the 19th Century, announced the startling news that its hospitals would offer euthanasia to non-terminally-ill psychiatric patients who request it. . . MercatorNet interviewed Brother Stockman by email about this break with Catholic opposition to euthanasia.
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Belgian Catholic group explains switch on euthanasia

  • Raf De Rycke (interview) | . . . A religious order in the Catholic Church, the Brothers of Charity, which is responsible for a large proportion of beds for psychiatric patients in Belgium announced that it will allow euthanasia to take place in its facilities.  This has been an extremely controversial move because the Catholic Church is unequivocally opposed to euthanasia. . . The local organisation has clearly split from Rome on this issue. . . In the email interview below, the chairman of the board of the Brothers of Charity in Belgium, Raf De Rycke. . . explains the point of view of the dissidents.
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Euthanasia for psychic suffering in a non-terminal situation

  • Brothers of Charity (Belgium) | The Organization of the Brothers of Charity continues to stand by its vision statement on euthanasia for mental suffering in a non-terminal situation.  In recent weeks, paths have been explored to get both parties to the table. However, this has not yet produced any results. In the meantime, we will continue to request establishing a dialogue so that we would have a chance to explain our vision statement and our argumentation. . . .
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VACCINATIONS

Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses

  • Pontifical Academy for Life, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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