Chapter

Conscience in the <i>Letter to the Duke of Norfolk</i>

John Finnis

in Religion and Public Reasons

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580095
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729416 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580095.003.0017
Conscience in the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk

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This chapter gives a close and detailed study of Newman's understanding of conscience and natural and divine law, as manifested in his 1875 response to Gladstone's 1874 critique of the doctrine of papal infallibility defined in 1870, which had charged Catholics with divided allegiance and mental and moral slavery. The chapter shows that Newman's response to that charge is unsuccessful, partly because of legalistic elements in his conception of morality. Newman's influence on the Second Vatican Council's 1965 teaching on conscience has been exaggerated, and his arguments against the charge of mental and moral slavery, though correct in conclusion, are unsound, partly because he failed to take consistent account of the darkening of consciences by sinful habits and conventions, or of the possibility of precise ecclesial teachings on exceptionless moral norms. An endnote responds to a Jesuit critique of the essay.

Keywords: Neweman; Gladstone; papal infallibility; divided allegiance; conscience; natural law; exceptionless moral norms

Chapter.  8620 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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