Bishop Kieran Conry attempts to use the Catechism to justify his misrepresentation of Humanae Vitae on conscience

When challenged by a reader of Protect the Pope about his misrepresentation of Pope Paul VI on conscience in Humane Vitae Bishop Kieran Conry has not only stood by his reported words in The Tablet but he has also selectively quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in an attempt to justify his misrepresentation of Pope Paul VI.

To remind readers, this is what The Tablet reports, and which Bishop Conry now stands by:

‘The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Kieran Conry, who is responsible for evangelisation in England and Wales, said that enforcing strict teaching on the use of contraception risked turning people away from the Church and said that most practising Catholics had accommodated the teaching while following their own consciences.’

‘Speaking on Monday at the launch of a campaign to bring four million lapsed Catholics back to church, Bishop Conry said that Catholics had made up their own minds about contraception and that most were happy to live “with ambiguity”. “It’s important to remember that Paul VI made it quite clear you follow your conscience,” he added. “Many people may not be happy with what the Church says but it seems this is not turning people away. People make  accommodation.’

Bishop Kieran Conry misrepresents Pope Paul VI when he says regarding the use of contraception by Catholics that Paul VI ‘ made it quite clear you follow your conscience’.  In fact what Paul VI wrote in Humanae Vitae is that a ‘right conscience’ would never allow a couple to use contraception. There are three references to conscience in Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, the key one being paragraph 10:

‘Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.’

‘From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out.’ (para 10).

A reader of Protect the Pope made the following challenge to Bishop Conry’s misrepresentation of Humanae Vitae:

‘I would also like to raise the issue of comments attributed to Your Lordship recently in The Tablet on the subject of Humanae Vitae. These comments suggest that you have justified the rejection of Humanae Vitae on the grounds of personal conscience. This is a misrepresentation of what was actually taught by Pope Paul VI. I would like to share the following from Pope John Paul II who has clarified this in the past :

‘Christians have a great help for the formation of conscience in the Church and her Magisterium. As the Council affirms: “In forming their consciences the Christian faithful must give careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church. For the Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher of truth. Her charge is to announce and teach authentically that truth which is Christ, and at the same time with her authority to declare and confirm the principles of the moral order which derive from human nature itself “. (Dignitatis Humanae, 14.)

‘Fidelity to the magisterium of the Church, therefore, prevents the moral conscience from straying from the truth about man’s good. It is not right then to regard the moral conscience of the individual and the magisterium of the Church as two contenders, as two realities in conflict. The authority which the magisterium enjoys by the will of Christ exists so that the moral conscience can attain the truth with security and remain in it.’ – Pope John Paul II, August 29th 1983

“It is not enough to say that we must always follow our conscience,” the Pope said, “Each one of us must ‘form’ a right conscience, one that seeks to know the truth as revealed to us by God, according to his wise and loving plan. The believer, he said, has the assistance of the Church in forming a “right conscience.” For “it is the duty of the Church to give expression to that truth which is Christ himself, and to declare and confirm those principles ofial  the moral order which have their origin in human nature itself.” (Pope John Paul II, August 17, 1983).

With such clear teaching I find it difficult to imagine that the comments attributed to you in TheTablet can be anything other than a misrepresentation. Can you please reassure me?’

Bishop Conry would have none of this and completely dismissed the quotes on the formation of right conscience from the Second Vatican Council and Blessed John Paul II. He wrte in reply:

‘I have not read anything in The Tablet that I feel I have to comment on. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has enough clear teaching on the Church’s position on conscience, and states explicitly that a person is bound to follow that conscience, even if the conscience is badly former (sic) (n. 1790).’

Protect the Pope comment: Bishop Conry’s defence of his misrepresentation of Humanae Vitae is to offer a paraphrase of paragraph 1790 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which taken out of its context within the section on ‘erroneous judgement’ misrepresents the Church’s teaching yet further. By missing out the succeeding paragraphs Bishop Conry omits to mention culpability for making erroneous judgements, which is crucial to any discussion of Catholic couples using contraception.

Paragraph 1791 makes it clear that such couples would be culpable if  they take little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.” In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.’  The contracpting  couple are also culpable if enslaved to their passions, assert a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, and reject the Church’s authority and her teaching. (1792).

Paragraph 1793 indicts Bishop Conry’s acceptance of couples using contraception and his misuse of the Church’s teaching on conscience to support their erroneous judgement:

‘If – on the contrary – the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.’

Bishop Conry is content to argue that ‘ a person is bound to follow that conscience, even if the conscience is badly former (sic)’ , when in fact the Catechism makes it clear that because of the evil, privation, and disorder caused by the evil committed by contracpting couples, such as the abortifacient effect of the Pill, that he ‘must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.’ Instead, Bishop Conry seeks to justify couples using contraception. This is a clear abdication of his responsibility as Head of the Bishops Conference’s Department of Evangelisation and Catechesis, let alone a bishop of the Catholic Church.


9 comments to Bishop Kieran Conry attempts to use the Catechism to justify his misrepresentation of Humanae Vitae on conscience

  • Rifleman 819

    His 4 leaf clover luck just ran out , didn’t it?
    He is slippery enough to attempt to row back when the flak is about to start but his “Vicar of Bray” act has been rumbled right enough.
    Not the sharpest knife in the box by a long way.

    Henry Manning would have dismissed him with a withering stare and found a nice parish in Neasden for him ……for life.

  • Anna

    Now, who is that Australian priest who has been excommunicated?

    The reason was, ‘he followed his conscience’.

  • Deacon Nick, well done for keeping his toes to the fire. He must not be allowed to get away with this garbage just because he’s a bishop. It really makes one wonder how many of our bishops are even capable of dealing with cases of heterodoxy as per the Pope’s comments. The Pope is quite right that all these cases shouldn’t have to be dealt with by Rome – it is a bishop’s job to deal with them, but unfortunately most just pass the buck up-line.

    For a bishop to allow the teaching of error in his diocese or to teach it himself is to go against one of the major purposes of having an episcopate in the first place. If they are not up to the job they should tender their resignation under Canon 401 §2 and allow the Holy See to appoint a competent pastor. What is the point of a shepherd who poisons his sheep?

  • Wake up England

    Bishop Conry is undoubtedly leading the faithful astray.

    Nevertheless, his undeniable shortcomings are gravely overshadowed by his Irish brother-bishops who have done so woefully little to protect the unborn.

    And all this in a so-called “Year of Faith”!

    As I have said here before, any large international company would have sacked its top management long ago if they had openly flouted company policy; so why does the Catholic Church continue to put up with these third-rate bishops who do little (if anything) to preserve the Faith for future generations?

  • Nicolas Bellord

    “One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience”. This surely applies not only to the individual who has the erroneous conscience but even more so to a Bishop whose duty is to teach. The position of a Bishop is quite different from that of the individual. They occupy a post which requires them to teach the faith. My experience of Bishop Kieran is that he continually hints at ways where we might divert from the faith. He talks about “enforcing” – of course he cannot enforce the faith but he can teach it. The position in Arundel & Brighton is dire where these ambiguities have filtered down to Parish level and into the pew. Something needs to be done!

  • BJC

    +Kieran says this:

    “the Catechism of the Catholic Church has enough clear teaching on the Church’s position on conscience, and states explicitly that a person is bound to follow that conscience, even if the conscience is badly formed”

    This view of conscience could be used to excuse any sin you like, e.g. looking at pornography, adultery and homosexual acts, and that’s just for starters. What about the slaughter of 62 innocent civillians by Al-Shabaab terrorists in Kenya yesterday? Surely they will tell us they were “following their conscience” as well. Assuming this quote is accurate it has to be about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

  • Rifleman819

    I wonder if the Sussex leprachaun will see out his full term to retirement on that comfy cathedra?

    • Sonja

      I pray regularly that either our Bishop sees the light and the Holy Spirit within it, or that someone from Rome will help him to see it!

    • Tom

      He will because nothing will be done. He wouldnt be in charge of evangelisation in this country if he didnt have supporters in the Evangelisation council. They and his brother bishops will surely protect him. Sad for A and B.

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