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Cardinal Wuerl speaks on conscience, Church teaching, and Amoris Laetitia

January 26, 2017

Addressing a group of seminarians, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington reflected on conscience and Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

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“When we begin our reflections on the pastoral implications of Amoris Laetitia, we need to start with the understanding that none of the teaching of the Church has been changed,” he said. “This includes the teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, the directives you find in the Code of Canon Law, and also the role of individual conscience in the determination of personal culpability.”

“The apostolic exhortation calls for a compassionate pastoral approach to many people—married, single and divorced—who are struggling to face issues in life, the teaching of the Church, and their own desire to reconcile all of this,” he added. “The priest can and should impart the teaching and help form conscience. But the actual judgment of conscience and therefore the culpability before God for a specific action belongs to the individual.”

Referring to the woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8:1-11), Cardinal Wuerl said that Christ “avoids condemning her and then tells her to go but to sin no more … We need constantly to be helped back up so that we can continue on our way trying to sin no more.”


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  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - Jan. 27, 2017 3:44 PM ET USA

    The Cardinal implicitly conflates condemnation & judgment. Condemnation is to sentence to a punishment. Judgment is to assess; responsible judgment uses the truths of God to assess with right reason. Jesus judged the woman rightly: "You must sin no more". The capacity for judgment is part of (human) being put there by God, so it is good in being. The use of judgment responsibly is good. The intention of responsible judgment is good. Responsible judgment of people with right reason is moral.

  • Posted by: rickt26170 - Jan. 27, 2017 3:19 AM ET USA

    I don't know how intelligent people (even if a little short on backbone) like Wuerl can continue to peddle this double talk about AL. It is obvious that Kasper has won and that the divorced will be allowed the Eucharist. It's a lie to deny it. I fear the reason for the opaque manner this major change in Church teaching has taken place is to allow it to be a template for changing (but not changing) a host of Church teachings that are 2,000 years old.

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - Jan. 26, 2017 8:48 PM ET USA

    Well, afterall, he is consistent with his stance on Communion for public pro aborts. Give it to one and you have to give it to the other. So much for the moral law. Its called situation ethics.

  • Posted by: filioque - Jan. 26, 2017 6:45 PM ET USA

    God help these poor seminarians. They certainly are not going to get any clarity from their cardinal-archbishop. What a load of mushy, flowery, meaningless gobbledygook. I live in the Archdiocese of Washington and we are well-accustomed to this kind of Wuerl-around. If the seminarians have read any of the several critiques of AL or even just the dubia, they must be wondering what planet their leader thinks he is on.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jan. 26, 2017 4:13 PM ET USA

    There are times when I go to Confession not knowing whether a given sin is mortal or not. I expect/require the priest to clarify the doubt that clouds my conscience. FSSP priests leave no doubt about the gravity of a given offense. They know it is their job to judge. Under penalty of damnation, they know that they must not cower before the mighty or give preferential treatment to the poor; they must judge honestly before God and render their judgment for the betterment of souls. Wimps not welcom

  • Posted by: Jerome - Jan. 26, 2017 12:19 PM ET USA

    All fine and good. Except we're not talking about the "actual judgment of conscience" we are talking about the judgment of a public act and whether a particular public act bars one from communion. Certainly the judgment of moral culpability is up to God but that is not what is at issue here.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jan. 26, 2017 11:34 AM ET USA

    If AL "doesn't change any of the Church teachings," then why there is so much heated controversy about it, and completely opposing interpretations among different Bishops? And, "culpability before God" doesn't belong to individual's conscience alone. John 12:48: "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day." The Church exists to proclaim His teachings so that everyone's conscience could conform to them.