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Voice Of Conscience = Voice Of God

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich just gave a big speech defending Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation. From the National Catholic Reporter‘s take: [1]

The third of Cupich’s principles calls the conscience of the individual person an “essential” element in the task of discerning how God is calling them to live their life.

The cardinal cites at length from paragraph 303 of the exhortation: “Conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God.”

He also cites the definition for conscience given in Gaudium et Spes as “the most secret core and sanctuary of a man … [where] he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.”

“When taken seriously, this definition demands a profound respect for the discernment of married couples and families,” the cardinal states. “Their decisions of conscience represent God’s personal guidance for the particularities of their lives. In other words, the voice of conscience — the voice of God … could very well affirm the necessity of living at some distance from the Church’s understanding of the ideal.” [Emphasis mine — RD]

Cupich notes that Francis urges pastors to carefully exercise discernment, working with individuals to “take into account the complexity of various situations.”

“It is hard to overstate the significance of this hermeneutical shift,” the cardinal states. “By fully embracing the understanding of conscience found in Gaudium et Spes, Pope Francis points not only to the possibility of accompaniment in the Church’s ministry with families but also to its necessity.”

Well, I agree with His Eminence that it is hard to overstate the significance of this hermeneutical shift. Notice the highlighted part above. The voice of the individual’s conscience is the voice of God. The Church no longer teaches truth, but its own opinion of the “ideal.”



“The result is not relativism, or an arbitrary application of the doctrinal law, but an authentic receptivity to God’s self-revelation in the concrete realities of family life and to the work of the Holy Spirit in the consciences of the faithful,” states the cardinal.

“As pastoral discernment attends to the reality of a situation, the conscience based Christian moral life does not focus primarily on the automatic application of universal precepts,” he continues. “Rather, it is continually immersed in the concrete situations which give vital context to our moral choices.”

Oh, please. The result is relativism, straight up.

Here is a link to the full text of the Cupich speech.  [2] I want to point out sections that the NCR report didn’t cover. Such as:

At the heart of this shift is a fully incarnational approach, which the Cardinal explains, is a two-way street. On the one hand the Church embraces the family with the Gospel message. Yet, since the family is already itself a Gospel, the Gospel of the family, there is a reciprocity to this incarnational approach that recognizes the contribution that families make to the Church’s understanding and proclamation of the Gospel. In other words, there has to be a holistic connection between our knowledge and our practice, our ideas and our experience have to inform each other.

See that? The family “is already itself a Gospel”. What does that mean? Could it mean that the family is on the same level as the Gospel in terms of the proclamation of Truth?


This insight has enormous consequences. If we are serious about fully appreciating that the concrete lives of families and couples are part of salvation history in which God continues to engage and redeem humanity, then at the least it will mean moving away from presenting an abstract and idealized presentation of marriage. Instead, we should begin with a view that married life is “…a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities, with all their joys, hopes and problems” (AL 38). Likewise, if we accept that families are a privileged place of God’s self-revelation and activity, then no family should be considered deprived of God’s grace. Our ministerial approach should begin with the understanding that families are not problems to solve. Rather, they are opportunities for the Church to discern with the aid of the Spirit how God is active in our time and what God is calling us to do here and now.

Oh? What about the families of the “three-person babies” [3] that labs in Britain are about to manufacture? What about polygamist families?


The presupposition must always be that whenever there is a family striving to live together and to love one another, the Spirit is already present. The task of those who minister to families, then, is to open their eyes to see, and to help families discern where God is calling them. All of this represents an enormous change of approach, a paradigm shift holistically rooted in scripture, tradition and human experience.

Uh huh. In what sense is the Spirit present in the family of four, all of whom call themselves transgender? [4] In what sense can this be considered blessed by God?

More Cupich:

It goes without saying that this will also mean rejecting an authoritarian or paternalistic way of dealing with people that lays down the law, that pretends to have all the answers, or easy answers to complex problems, that suggests that general rules will seamlessly bring immediate clarity or that the teachings of our tradition can preemptively be applied to the particular challenges confronting couples and families. In its place a new direction will be required, one that envisions ministry as accompaniment, an accompaniment, which we will see, is marked by a deep respect for the conscience of the faithful.

In 2016, some of Canada’s Catholic bishops approved clerical cooperation with euthanasia [5], explicitly citing Amoris Laetitia and Pope Francis’s idea of “accompaniment”.

Again, read the entire Cupich speech [2] to see for yourself what one of Pope Francis’s closest allies has said.

I could be wrong, but this seems to me like a new religion. Cardinal Cupich recently denounced The Benedict Option [6]. Having read this speech, I see why he finds the Ben Op so threatening. You conservative Catholic readers should too, and read the signs of the times.

86 Comments (Open | Close)

86 Comments To "Voice Of Conscience = Voice Of God"

#1 Comment By albert salsich On February 10, 2018 @ 8:41 am

The tone of your interjections, Rod, and of a certain number of commenters, gives the impression of great disdain for leaders of the Roman church. I prefer to try to listen for what might be new insights that clarify how ancient teachings can be better understood in the context of everyday life.

Here’s one that stood out for me: “God’s self-revelation in the concrete realities of family life.”

God revealed himself variously in the Old Testament, specifically in the person of Jesus, and practically in the developing life of the Church. If Christians in the West experience that life developing still, the test should be the way they live as individuals, right? And the way the Church ministers guide them. Both rules and information, along with doctrine and instruction, are the traditional form of guidance,and very important, but discernment is important too, as exemplified in certain stories in the Gospels.

Jesus did the discerning for a group (the self-righteous rules enforcers) by himself, directly and unambiguously– no ” relativism” there — but when dealing with individuals he was more gentle, entering into their “complicated” lives and guiding them by listening and asking questions, eating and drinking with some (e.g. Zachaeus), quietly and sympathetically assisting others in their own discernment, some of them women trapped either by their own weaknesses or by the pressures for survival in a dominant male culture.

If Chuch leaders today try to balance those two forms of guidance, Why not salute them. It’s what I try to do with my own children. And I am hearted every Sunday by these opening prayers of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

“For the peace of the whole world; for the good estate of the holy churches, and for the union of all men, let us pray to the Lord.”

The concept of “the holy churches” meant one thing in the 4th Century, but I believe it can be applied differently, discerningly, today.

#2 Comment By Thomas tucker On February 10, 2018 @ 10:40 am

Very well thought out, and written, utahagen.

#3 Comment By Reverend Father Sacerdos On February 10, 2018 @ 11:12 am

Cardinal Cupich is such a snake oil salesman.

Please God, let this horrible pontificate of Francis end soon.

#4 Comment By Robert B Lewis On February 10, 2018 @ 11:39 am

John Henry Newman, in his “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk,” called individual conscience “the primordial voice of God in man.” He also stated that a practising Catholic had a duty to listen to the voice of the Magisterium in forming that “individual conscience, but, finally, in what is the most shocking pronouncements of this document (to Catholic literalists and Biblical fundamentalists), he said that any Catholic whose conscience told him the Magisterium was wrong on a serious matter, but obeyed it anyway, was culpable and likely guilty of MORTAL SIN.

[NFR: #LoveWinneth! — RD]

#5 Comment By Bernie On February 10, 2018 @ 11:54 am

I support Thomas Tucker in praising the comment of utahagen. Excellent!

#6 Comment By TR On February 10, 2018 @ 12:23 pm

Don’t know the history of Orthodoxy, but in Peter the Great’s time, remarriage/divorce was mainly permission to force your wife into a nunnery, renouncing her marriage vows, which would then allow the husband to remarry. Peter did it himself, as I recall. Sounds patriarchal, doesn’t it?

As, usual, Anne has to the best take on the logical dilemma the Church finds itself in with regard to conscience versus authority.

Newman’s comments should be disregarded, especially if they were uttered after the ultramontane controversy, as simple self-justification.

#7 Comment By Larry On February 10, 2018 @ 12:45 pm

“In what sense is the Spirit present in the family of four, all of whom call themselves transgender? In what sense can this be considered blessed by God?”

There is an easy answer to this question: God made them.

#8 Comment By Robert B Lewis On February 10, 2018 @ 2:54 pm

OK, Rod Dreher, so you think Newman was a “liberal”?

But please look at this, and at least BEGIN to open your heart to new possibilities that might possibly bring people together in some kind of honest exploration of spiritual possibilities that IS more loyal than, perhaps, Newman, to Jesus Christ Himself, rather than to “ecclesias”:


[NFR: An honest exploration of “spiritual possibilities” that will end in affirming 99 percent of what 2018 believes is true about sex and sexuality. I’ll pass, thanks. — RD]

#9 Comment By Ronald Sevenster On February 10, 2018 @ 3:45 pm

Cupich’s “conscience” is simply his name for a person’s desires and inclinations.

#10 Comment By David C On February 10, 2018 @ 4:18 pm

Anyone who wants to understand Newman’s rich and complex account of conscience should read Reinhard Hütter, “Conscience ‘Truly so Called’ and its Counterfeits: John Henry Newman and Thomas Aquinas on What Conscience is and Why it Matters,” Nova et Vetera 12 (2014): 701–67. There are also a couple youtube videos of Hutter lecturing. Newman is not as represented in some of these comments.

#11 Comment By Robert B Lewis On February 10, 2018 @ 5:50 pm

You know, David C., if Newman were not “as so represented,” don’t you think that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI would have had fewer reservations than they actually did in, first, beatifying him, and then, later, canonizing him? It is widely known that John Paul II was quite suspicious of Cardinal Newman’s theology–and especially of his true position regarding papal infallability.

#12 Comment By Lee Timmer On February 10, 2018 @ 6:42 pm

In other words, if it feels good, do it. Cupich is as much of a fraud as Bergoglio/Francis, as is the post-Vatican II “Church.”

#13 Comment By David J. White On February 10, 2018 @ 10:15 pm

You know, David C., if Newman were not “as so represented,” don’t you think that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI would have had fewer reservations than they actually did in, first, beatifying him, and then, later, canonizing him? It is widely known that John Paul II was quite suspicious of Cardinal Newman’s theology–and especially of his true position regarding papal infallability.

The Church chooses to canonize people as saints and hold them up as examples to the faithful for various reasons. That doesn’t mean that everything they ever said or wrote, even of theological matters, is correct or beyond criticism, or should be treated as dogma.

#14 Comment By Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick On February 10, 2018 @ 11:00 pm

The term “conscience” is meaningless–and misleading–and should be abolished.

If I go to my mechanic and say, “My conscience tells me that my car will run best on maple syrup.”

Will he say (This is the Cupich approach.), “Then maple syrup is what you should put in your tank”?

Or will he tell me I am misinformed, or perhaps even an idiot?

In auto mechanics, the voice of God is the engineer who knows how cars work. In morals, the voice of God is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

After Humanae Vitae, the universal nostrum was: “Couples must follow their conscience.”

Utter nonsense.

ALL bishops, priests, and theologians had the duty to say: “Couples must follow the teaching of the Magisterium.”

It is absolute nonsense to locate “the voice of God” INSIDE MY HEAD. (And yes, the Cathechism of the Catholic Church repeats this nonsense.)

The term “conscience” is poison. It should be banished.

#15 Comment By Mark VA On February 11, 2018 @ 2:20 am

Conscience, the ability to discern objective right from wrong, must be formed by the revealed Word of God, Tradition, and Magisterium. As a minimum, it must also work with Charity and Reason, and be exercised by the Free Will. All of these parts form an interlocking, complementary system that must be solved together, in each particular instance, to produce sound results;

What’s mostly lacking in this context, in my opinion, is Reason. Especially the language of “accompaniment” is woefully imprecise. For example, the priests and the laity must “accompany” a “family” whose members and their pronouns may change from moment to moment? Or “accompany” a man on his nth wife? Accompany them how and where?

Quo vadis, Papa Jorge Mario Bergoglio?

#16 Comment By James On February 11, 2018 @ 6:39 am

The Bergoglian captivity finds all humanity to be “mystics,” glad receivers of “divine” locutions.
In this day, in this desert, Roman Catholicism is beset with a legion of false prophets, exhorting us to the idolization of the individual — and it is no different in the protestant traditions.
Disorientation regarded merely as a paradigm shift is deception.

#17 Comment By Doghouse Riley On February 11, 2018 @ 9:29 am

If I took a hammer and bent the smarmy midget’s nose a little further sideways, I KNOW my conscience would be giving me high fives. Instead, I try to obey God, the Real God, instead of my honest, but defective, conscience.

#18 Comment By JohnT On February 11, 2018 @ 9:35 am

Perhaps if you weren’t so terrified of your own humanity you might find it less challenging to grasp that of so many others. More to the point, any group of experienced adults who can look at a newborn child and see eternal damnation without a bit of water and an incantation are speaking from a place of true horror.
Oscar Romero was a Christian. He didn’t blog about it, sitting in safe office feeling The Lord run through his words. He lived it. How many of these church leaders you defend are even in the same galaxy as that fellow? I’ll help. None.

[NFR: You’re sweet. — RD]

#19 Comment By Carl E. Olson On February 11, 2018 @ 11:34 am

St. John Paul II addressed Cardinal Cupich’s claims directly 25 years ago in “Veritatis Splendor”. Several examples could be given, but here is one example, from early in that seminal text:

“Today, however, it seems necessary to reflect on the whole of the Church’s moral teaching, with the precise goal of recalling certain fundamental truths of Catholic doctrine which, in the present circumstances, risk being distorted or denied. In fact, a new situation has come about within the Christian community itself, which has experienced the spread of numerous doubts and objections of a human and psychological, social and cultural, religious and even properly theological nature, with regard to the Church’s moral teachings. It is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions. At the root of these presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth. Thus the traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and the permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church’s moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to “exhort consciences” and to “propose values”, in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices.

In particular, note should be taken of the lack of harmony between the traditional response of the Church and certain theological positions, encountered even in Seminaries and in Faculties of Theology, with regard to questions of the greatest importance for the Church and for the life of faith of Christians, as well as for the life of society itself. In particular, the question is asked: do the commandments of God, which are written on the human heart and are part of the Covenant, really have the capacity to clarify the daily decisions of individuals and entire societies? Is it possible to obey God and thus love God and neighbour, without respecting these commandments in all circumstances? Also, 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 behaviour could be tolerated, these being left to the judgment of the individual subjective conscience or to the diversity of social and cultural contexts.” (par 4)

As I’ve explained elsewhere, AL seems to be an attempt to either go around or to simply undermine VS: [8]

#20 Comment By Michael On February 11, 2018 @ 11:37 am

Those who flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center were following the dictates of their consciences and following the words of God. Had they failed to follow the dictates of their conscience, they would have fallen into sin. I can see the utility of the cardinal’s way of reasoning. Nothing one’s conscience tells them to do can be sinful. Failure to follow one’s conscience is sinful. Maybe I’m just not getting it.

#21 Comment By Thomas Tucker On February 11, 2018 @ 2:22 pm

Robert B Lewis- Cardinal Newman has not been canonized.May I suggest that you don’t know as much about him as you think you do?

#22 Comment By Dan Green On February 11, 2018 @ 3:21 pm

Millions of we Catholics, born into the religion, are so over it all. The organizations model, boggles ones mind.Throw in pedophiles and wow.

#23 Comment By romegas On February 11, 2018 @ 5:05 pm

Rod, I have noticed that you are one who is very quick to judge and condemn – perhaps you have not experienced certain things yourself. We all know what the ideal is and many of us have no problem admitting that we fall way short of it because we are feeble sinners. Let me tell you my story – My first wife left me after 6 years of marriage, or non-marriage if you prefer, even though I was ready to live the Christian ideal – ie to put up with the marriage even if in practice it did not exist and meant living a chaste life. Thankfully, my ex was wiser and took the decison unilaterally. She realised that, we have one life and sometimes rather than try to live it all in a desperate attempt to prevent things from collapsing, we should focus our God given energies to construct something worthwile instead. She left me and she was right. After she left me, I met another women, who I married civilly – and who ten years later am still happilly married to. We have a nine year old child – an angel, who we – her parents have brought up in the faith (Catholic) – even though we have lived in what is technically ‘grave’ if not ‘mortal sin’ – but those years of sin have been quite productive, in them I underwent a long process of personal conversion, I have raised a child through tremendous sacrifice in the best way I could – and she now endows our lives with her love every day. Technically, even though I finally got a Papal dispensa annulling the first marriage and plan to have a Church marriage with my current wife, I still live in ‘sin’. But then again the years living in ‘sin’, have been the most formative of my entire life – precisely because I have tried hard to listen to my conscience, I have managed to half turn my life around and achieve something I would not have done had I persisted in living a LIE. Today, I feel like the prodigal son, who found his way home and was given a second chance. My idea of God – is one that I believe that Jesus portrayed – A merciful and loving father who welcomes us with both arms AS LONG as we have the humility to admit that we have gotten things wrong, and that we failed Him the first time round, and as long as we sincerely try to be better people. So yes I believe that “the voice of conscience — the voice of God … could very well affirm the necessity of living at some distance from the Church’s understanding of the ideal.” – The Church teaches the ideal and shouldn’t change it – so we can all have something to strive for. By the way, my ex is now also happily married and has three beautiful kids of her own.

#24 Comment By Brian Walsj On February 11, 2018 @ 5:23 pm

Albert Salsich: that’s all well and good but no where in the Gospels, in God’s Word, in Christ’s words do we ever, EVER, find blessing ongoing sin because of “concrete reality”. Christ says go forth and sin no more, not “go forth and try to live up to the ideal”.

#25 Comment By at the soundcheck On February 11, 2018 @ 7:14 pm

I don’t usually read Rod’s posts on anything Catholicism. I want to say now that I truly appreciate commenters’ testimonies of their Catholic experiences. My allegiance to the my Catholic faith goes through periods of weakness and, aside from my resistance to authority, it always comes down to my own thinking, often about belonging or not (which is not unrelated to my resistance thing…). I was with my Catholic friends last night and it’s always the same: their degree of loyalty does not change, and is not due to current activities or words – for better or worse – of the Church or various church “leaders.” I sometimes envy their walk (a senseless task of mine), instead of appreciating my own.

Also, appreciated some good thoughts shared on conscience.

#26 Comment By mike On February 11, 2018 @ 9:04 pm

Fr. Vincent – excellent
The auto mechanic analogy is amazingly practical and effective in defeating Cupich’s sort of demonic sophistry.
It is very handy against those (usually unthinking) who love to bring up the false conflict between science and faith. Does a master mechanic begin to doubt the existence of BMW?

#27 Comment By Seven sleepers On February 11, 2018 @ 10:53 pm

“I could be wrong, but this seems to me like a new religion”


Uncle Chuck, you made another convert! Cosmanian Orthodoxy swells each day!

#28 Comment By Ace montana On February 12, 2018 @ 9:15 am

As the church lady from SNL used to say — “Isn’t that convenient?”

#29 Comment By AZ Traddie On February 12, 2018 @ 9:32 am

Cupich and the Magic Power of Conscience: not Christ, but Oprah.

#30 Comment By romegas On February 12, 2018 @ 5:10 pm

@Fr. Vicent

“In morals, the voice of God is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.”

With all due respect, I think that you are only partially correct and I will use myself as an example.

I having been brought up with Magisterium. Even if I tried otherwise, I would not manage not to contrast my actions with the precepts set in the magisterium. It is against those precepts that I will realise that I have failed. So if you will – the magisterium is my instictive and superficial conscience, but then WHEN I HAVE FAILED – I have a secondary level of conscience – it is there that I really need to delve and question why have I failed to meet that which has been set in the magisterium? what my true shortcomings are? It is at that level that I seek God’s guidance and try really hard to keep heart, mind and ear open to him – it is is at that level where I learn to discern to listen to the voice of God. I find it deeply troubling that you are insinuating that this PERSONAL God doesn’t really speak to us – that he doesn’t work in our lives, that he doesn’t pull us by our hair when we are in the gutter and that all he ever came for is write down a magisterium. I thought that Jesus cames for those who needed saving, who by His aid and despite of themselves could actually reorientate themselves to Him – and eventually, if they entrusted themselves to HIM can actually find salvation. Who do we pray to? tghe magisterium or to Jesus? I am not for one moment saying here that the magisterium is not needed. It is because it provides the ideal, it is the work of inspired and holy minds. It is also something many like myself routinely fail to live up to – and that is when we really need Jesus.

#31 Comment By Dennis Crane On February 13, 2018 @ 3:55 pm

Catholicism has become indistiniguishable from mainline Protestantism not only in its embrace of the “social Gospel” but also in its lack of understanding of the real Gospel.

Catholicism also has become indistinguishable from Scientology in its ability to change doctrine. People love to cite John Paul II as an exemplar of sound doctrine. Yet John Paul II engaged in his own arbitrary theological revisionism — and got away with it.

First, he effectively changed Catholic teaching on capital punishment to embrace abolitionism exclusively — despite the fact that neither Scripture nor Tradition support such a position.


Second, he (like Paul VI before him) embraced Louis Massignon’s questionable views of Islam, which also have become normative in the Church:


Finally, John Paul II refused to discipline bishops who taught heterodoxy.

The fact that such a man is held up as an exemplar of sound orthodox thought shows just how much Catholicism has been infatuated with John Paul II’s cult of personality.

#32 Comment By Gerard McKeveny On February 13, 2018 @ 4:27 pm

It fascinates me no end that we’ve killed hundreds of thousands of middle eastern children, but it’s changing attitudes about sexuality that provokes apoplexy in conservative christians.

#33 Comment By Tom W On February 14, 2018 @ 10:44 am

Fr George Rutler has a great response on this.
Money quote;

“.. is that Cardinal Cupich has cited [Cdnl] Newman on conscience to represent the very opposite of what Newman lived and exhausted himself to declare: that conscience must be informed by the Holy Ghost and not left to wander about like a ghost of the subjective human ego, validating uninformed impulses. In his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, Newman distinguished between the operation of conscience and the exercise of private judgment.”


#34 Comment By JonF On February 14, 2018 @ 12:40 pm

I don’t get the opprobrium being heaped on coinscience here. Yes, conscience can sometimes mislead– but consider the awful reality if humans had no faculty of conscience.

#35 Comment By Carl Kuss, L.C. On February 20, 2018 @ 11:29 pm

“Oh, please. The result is relativism, straight up.” No it isn’t, Mr. Dreher. You need to go back and study and reflect on Christian ethics, on what is specific to it: on the Christianity of Christian ethics. Conscience is the voice of the Spirit and man, and that Spirit is always involved in good works, and not just in that abstract truth which is no truth at all.

#36 Comment By Kenneth Kirkman On March 16, 2018 @ 5:38 pm

Most disheartening of all is that Cardinal Cupich implies disharmony in a marriage which can have none. In saying “In other words, the voice of conscience — the voice of God … could very well affirm the necessity of living at some distance from the Church’s understanding of the ideal.” he is arguing that God could tell individual people to live in ways that are incompatible with what He himself has revealed about the nature of the human person and of the marriage covenant. The source of the Church’s ideal is not at all an abstraction; it is the reality of Christ’s sacrificial love for the Church and the nature of men and women as they are created in the image and likeness of God. He is pitting Christ against His bride. And that is inexcusable.