I’m not playing the victim here because I believe millions of women, particularly religious Anglo American women in my generation and older, have experienced something similar. As a Catholic particularly, I have learned within the last few years that forming an individual conscience within the comprehensive framework of doctrine lies above the authority of the Magisterium.
In Ronald Hamel’s and Kenneth Himes’ 1989 Introduction to Christian Ethics, Bernard Häring writes that
“The uniqueness and creativity of conscience is not just for one’s own sake; it is for co-humanity in and for the reciprocity of consciences. Hence, discernment concerns the common good in Church and society, and the good of each of our fellowmen. … We have to listen to the prophets even if they shake us and unmask our errors” (270).
The best example I can recall is using the unborn as a political weapon to keep the Republican party in power at all costs by any unethical means possible. Essentially, every other minority group has been endangered over decades in order to fruitlessly “end abortion” and “save the unborn,” and many (not all) conservative clergy and laity abused questioning laity and more liberal clergy to usher in fascism. No one can tell me that endangering every single minority group over decades is more evil than a declining abortion rate. This is where a well-formed conscience plays into choosing a political party.
Speaking of the unborn, I’ve formed my conscience on this issue as well. As an Educational Therapist, I follow the Code of Ethics in my profession which places the autonomy of the patient first. I believe this supports the entirety of Catholic teaching. After years of coercion and watching the raw nihilist power of the Republican party recently criminalize abortion and ban gender-affirming care, I believe that ALL decisions should be made between the patient and the doctor, and I mean all. I believe no one has the right to interfere with any medical decision because it could quite possibly be life-threatening to the patient. I also believe the mother’s life always comes first, especially under 20 weeks of pregnancy when the baby cannot survive outside the womb. I understand this is technically a pro-choice position which is the case with over 60% of American Catholics, particularly healthcare professionals like myself.
Finally forming my conscience gave me the ability to critically think in a life-and-death situation 3 years ago in my own family where I had to weigh several moral dilemmas. I will not divulge the details too much here, but I believe forming my conscience allowed me to save one of my children’s lives. If I had still been stuck in coercion and abuse mode and allowed others to think for me, I think this child would not be alive and well today.
When these more conservative clergy and laity are confronted, they will typically respond with denial and even turn the blame back on the victim which is called gaslighting. They rarely to mostly never take responsibility for their words and actions.
Now that I understand that God/Jesus, the entire Bible, and the Catholic Church herself are much more loving, flexible, and merciful than what many conservative clergy and laity have shown me, I will continue to make decisions from this day forward with a well-formed conscience. This is while weighing the comprehensive span of Catholic and Biblical teaching to make decisions based on LOVE, the Sanctity of all lives, Human Dignity, and Science. My husband will support me in most cases. Case closed