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Joseph Ratzinger, on Conscience and Dissent

Fr Joseph Ratzinger, Vatican peritus

“Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism”.

Joseph Ratzinger, 1967

(in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II )

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

I  first heard this quotation a few months ago, but was unable to write it down. I have been looking for an on#line text ever since, so was delighted to find this in Bishop Kevin Dowling’s notable talk on the watering -down of Vatican II decisions since the council and especially under the papacies of John-Paul II and Benedict XVI.

There is much more that could be said about the excellent Bishop’s address, and I still hope to do so, with some background insight as a fellow South Africa. For now though, I just want to leave you with the words of the current Pope himself, in his younger days.

Consider that as a young outsider, he fierce in his defence of conscience, of academic freedom for theologians, and of the importance of procedural fairness in dealing with those accused of promoting false ideas. The higher he climbed the ecclesial ladder, the more completely he has simply discarded these principles. The fundamental importance of conscience,  of procedural fairness, and of containing the threats of abuse of papal power, so dear to Father Ratzinger the peritus at Vatican II, is of no further consequence to Pope Benedict, the ultimate Vatican insider.

Pope Benedict XVI

(For extensive commentary on the main substance of Bishop Dowling’s  remarks, see Bill Lindsey’s post, and follow his links to further  analysis elsewhere.)

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One Response

  1. Right, Wrongs, and the Law, by Steve Farrell…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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