Letters & Op-Eds 2008
The New York Times

The Catholic Conscience

To the Editor:

Re “Protests Over a Bush Rule to Protect Health Providers” (news article, Nov. 18), about the rule that prohibits anyone receiving federal funds from discriminating against providers who refuse to perform abortions for religious or moral reasons:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association may be behind the new rule, but their support does not reflect the fullness of Catholic teaching and the views of Catholics.

Catholic tradition requires Catholics to follow their own well-formed consciences even if it conflicts with church teaching. As the Catechism notes, “a human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.”

Catholic teaching also requires respect for others’ consciences. Doctors and pharmacists cannot dismiss the conscience of the person seeking a medication or a procedure to which they themselves may object. For example, they may not ignore the needs of patients who may not be Catholic, or who have made conscience-based decisions to use contraception.

One hopes that the bishops are not suggesting that the only well-formed conscience is one that is in lockstep with their own interpretation of Catholic teaching. That would, in fact, be the antithesis of a well-formed conscience.

Jon O’Brien

President, Catholics for Choice

Washington, Nov. 18, 2008


This Letter to the Editor was originally published in the 22 November 2008 edition of the The New York Times.

Catholics for Choice