Many people are having a field day justifying disobedient behavior with the following remark of Ratzinger in the late 60’s
“Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed above all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism”.
He’s right, of course. The problem for the Progressive Dissenter’s cheap and easy transformation of these words into an imprimatur for blowing off the Church is that the Dissenter far too easily congratulates himself on his status of “conscientious” when in fact he is listening, not to his heart, but to an organ roughly two feet below it. Wisely has it been said that the “conscience-driven” dissenter from Catholic teaching who says, “The modern critical intellect can no longer accept the primitive dogmas of transubstantiation, papal, infallibility, or the Trinity” typically means “I’m sleeping with my neighbor’s wife.”
Actual principled rejections of the Church’s doctrines are as rare as hen’s teeth. Virtually always, a rejection of the Church’s doctrinal teaching comes from some fear or desire, triggering some rash, immoral act which then arranges the artillery of the intellect an effort to rationalize itself into moral legitimacy. The main factors at work in almost all postmodern “conscientious” objection to the Church’s teaching–whether from the “conservative” apologists for torture and war crimes, or from the “progressive” apologist for pelvic adventurism–is not serious consideration of the Church’s teaching, but serious consideration of how to lawyer, game, mickey, and euphemize in order to twist oneself into a pretzel and pretend one takes the Tradition seriously while extending the middle finger to the clear and obvious teaching of the Church. “Conservatives” who simply blow off the Church are much rarer, because they know they have to keep up the appearance of fidelity as they blow off the Church. So conservative rationalizations tend to be more complex while lefty claims of “conscience” are simple–and simply wrong–like the moronic protestations of Nancy Pelosi. The reality is conscience does not consist merely of “how can it be wrong when it feels so right?” and progressives know this when they are addressing a racist who felt really good about the lynching. But they forget it completely when it comes to the pelvis because nobody has ever told them, and they were certainly in no hurry to find out, that a Church teaching is not rendered moot by the fact that it is uncomfortable or inconvenient. On an extremely rare occasion, you will find yourself in a position where you must challenge, say, the bishop of Rouen when he wants to burn St. Joan, or the bishop of Boston when he wants to hide the deeds of a perverted child abuser. But the reality is that, on almost any given occasion, the teaching of the Church is common sense and the right thing to do and the real reason you don’t want to do it is not that you are a bold saint standing up to a corrupt tradition of men, but because you want to do something you shouldn’t or you want to chicken out on doing something you should. That’s the reality behind almost every bold posture from a dissenter, whether progressive or reactionary.