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*Image: Pope John Paul II greets Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during his inauguration October 22, 1978. [CNA/Vatican Media]

By Randall Smith, The Catholic Thing, Jan. 11, 2022

Randall B. Smith is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas. …

Randall Smith“In the contemporary discussion on what constitutes the essence of morality and how it can be recognized, the question of conscience has become paramount, especially in the field of Catholic moral theology.” So said then-Cardinal Ratzinger in a 1991 address “Conscience and Truth.” This theme of the connection between conscience and truth, especially the truth about the human person, was repeated incessantly by both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

In Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, the word “conscience” appears 108 times, mostly in contexts in which he was attempting to correct modern errors. As in this passage:

an opinion is frequently heard which questions the intrinsic and unbreakable bond between faith and morality, as if membership in the Church and her internal unity were to be decided on the basis of faith alone, while in the sphere of morality a pluralism of opinions and of kinds of behavior could be tolerated, these being left to the judgment of the individual subjective conscience or to the diversity of social and cultural contexts (VS, 4). …

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