Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Q: Which Vatican II periti said the following:

If we Christians, when faced with a moral decision, really realized that the world is under the Cross on which God himself hung nailed and pierced, that obedience to God's law can also entail man's death, that we may not do evil in order that good may come of it, that it is an error and heresy of this eudemonic modern age to hold that the morally right thing can never lead to a tragic situation from which in this world there is no way out; if we really realized that as Christians we must expect almost to take for granted that at some time in our life our Christianity will involve us in a situation in which we must either sacrifice everything or lose our soul, that we cannot expect always to avoid a "heroic" situation, then there would indeed be fewer Christians who think that their situation requires a special ruling which is not so harsh as the laws proclaimed as God's laws by the Church, then there would be fewer confessors and spiritualt advisors who, for fear of telling their penitent how strict is God's law, fail in their duty and tell him instead to follow his conscience, as if he had not asked, and done right to ask, which among all the many voices clamoring within him was the true voice of God, as if it were not for God's Church to try and distinguish it in accordance with his law, as if the true conscience could speak even when it had not been informed by God and the faith which comes from hearing.

A man who has learnt -- by the grace of God -- to beware of man because he is a liar (omnis homo mendax) and so beware of himself because he is a man, will no longer able to say so lightly: "I will make this right with my conscience; what the priests say is just red tape." Must we make the thing right "with our conscience" or in fact -- putting it more exactly and more honestly -- with God? And doesn't God speak more clearly -- precisely in complicated and difficult cases -- by his own word through the mouth of His Church? -- so we can only be certain that we are really hearing the voice of our conscience and not the voice of our own sinful inclinations when this voice agrees with the Church's teaching. The priests are not erecting red tape when they abide by the teaching of the Church, but they are telling us the word of God. Is it really extraordinary that this word (which is God's) is so "unrealistic" and so "unsuited to the times," when "reality" is against God and the times are evil and the Christian must be prepared to take his stand for God against "reality" and the "times" even unto death?

Answer (posted 11/13/03):

This is an excerpt from an essay by Karl Rahner, "[on] The Appeal to Conscience", Nature & Grace: Dillemas In The Modern Church (Sheed & Ward, 1964), in which he criticizes the "situation ethic" (in which "the norm for the individual conscience is no longer the objective nature of the act concerned, the moral law and the commandments of God, but in a sense, the conscience itself [as] the lawgiver") as well as those engrossed by a "mystique of sin" (proposing that one can go on sinning, trusting in the mercy of God -- "that God writes straight with crooked lines gives the creature no right to draw crooked lines in his book of life").

Perhaps it's because I have read very little Rahner to begin with and am largely ignorant of his works, but given the tendency of his critics to portray him as 'modernist theologian' extraordinaire (or in the words of Bishop Williamson of the SSPX, the "prime delinquent" of Vatican II), and also for the praise given him by 'progressive' Catholics along with Kung, Congar, et al., I was struck by the rather traditional tone of this essay, so explicitly critical of moral attitudes commonly attributed to dissenting post Vatican-II Catholics today.

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