People said the same thing in Blessed John Henry Newman’s time. But the distinguished British convert sharply criticized the idea of conscience that implied. Calling it a “counterfeit” of genuine conscience, Newman wrote in 1875:
“When men advocate the rights of conscience, they in no sense mean the rights of the creator nor the duty to him … They demand what they think is an Englishman’s prerogative, for each to be his own master in all things and to profess what he pleases, asking no one’s leave and accounting priest or preacher, speaker or writer unutterably impertinent who dare to say a word against his going to perdition … in his own way.”Risky business, you might think. Especially in view of a point made by another British convert-author, Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, concerning serious sins we may culpably ignore: “We need … the pardon that descends when we are unaware that we must have it or die. … Only God, who knows all things, can forgive us effectively.”
Read more from the article by Russell Shaw from the December 16, 2012, issue of OSV Newsweekly.