Text Size:SmallerLarger

Letter to the Editor - 2011

Des Moines REgister

Many things factor into one's conscience

Jon O'Brien

24 May 2011

Bishop Richard Pates presents a very one-sided view of the church's teachings on conscience ("Protect Life and the Right to Follow Our Conscience," May 13). Catholic teachings on conscience, which stretch back to the earliest days of the church, are far more nuanced than presented in his article.

One's conscience can be guided, but never forced. It is true that Catholics must follow their consciences and that they must be informed by what the church teaches. But Catholics also need to trust our own experiences and must respect other people when we decide how to act. St. Thomas Aquinas, a father of the church, said that failing to act in accord with one's conscience is a mortal sin - even if it means going against church authority.

The bishop asks: "No matter our position on abortion, do any of us really want people - especially health-care providers - to violate their consciences?" We say no, we do not. We hope the bishop shares this view and stops working to place obstacles in the way of doctors and nurses who know, from their experience and in accord with their consciences, that women should be able to access the health care they need - including contraception and abortion. It is a matter of social justice and respect for the conscience of every person.

This article was originally published by the Des Moines Register.