Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Leading Irish moral theologian warns of totalitarianism threatening conscience

Last night the Irish Seanad (senate) voted by 39 votes to 14 for the government's bill to legalise abortion  - read Pat Buckley's blogpost today for a reflection. The bill will now pass to Michael D. Higgins, Ireland's pro-abortion president, for his approval.

Dr Vincent Twomey, emeritus professor of moral theology and perhaps Ireland's leading moral theologian, has written an important article published today in The Irish Times entitled: "Conscience, a last bulwark against totalitarianism" and subtitled "The attempt to suppress dissent on the abortion Bill marked a new low". In the article, among other things he says:
  • "Jerry Buttimer TD, chairman of the Oireachtas committee on the Bill, played a central role in getting the Bill passed. As a seminarian at Maynooth, he was exposed to the kind of fundamental moral theology that denies moral absolutes, such as direct abortion, and places politics superior to (supposedly private) moral convictions. Whatever the rationalisations used, the net effect of all this was the attempt by the Taoiseach, Minister for Health and chief whip to put pressure on anti-abortion colleagues to vote for legislation they knew to be wrong."
  • "The imposition of the whip in such a debate on life and death crushes the small voice of conscience more effectively than any torture chamber."
  • "It is well to remember that, in the aftermath of totalitarianism, the German people in 1949 wrote the primacy of the conscience of elected representatives into their constitution. Those representatives are expressly instructed that they are not bound by orders or instructions; they are answerable only to their conscience. Conscience is the last bulwark against totalitarianism."
Dr Twomey's last point about Germany is very important. In 1937 Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Mit brennender sorge ("With burning sorrow"). In it the Pope exposed the Nazis'
"[s]ecret and open measures of intimidation, the threat of economic and civic disabilities, [which] bear on the loyalty of certain classes of Catholic functionaries, a pressure which violates every human right and dignity."
He expressed his compassion for Catholics persecuted for opposing the anti-life Nazi state, who "have often to face the tragic trial...of being hurt in [their] professional and social life", and commended them for their "heroisms in moral life". He warned that:
"The resulting dereliction [by Nazism] of the eternal principles of an objective morality, which educates conscience and ennobles every department and organization of life, is a sin against the destiny of a nation, a sin whose bitter fruit will poison future generations."
And he taught:
"[I]it will be every one's duty to sever his responsibility from the opposite camp, and free his conscience from guilty cooperation with such corruption. The more the enemies attempt to disguise their designs, the more a distrustful vigilance will be needed, in the light of bitter experience."
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