I've been watching an interview by Eric Sammons, editor of Crisis Magazine, with Fr. Jason Charron, pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Carnegie, PA and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Wheeling, WV. The video is very interesting and I post it here if you are interested and have the time to watch it.
"The pope doesn't have the authority to command us to become Protestants, for example. He doesn't have the authority to command us to go against a conscience which is informed by the perennial, apostolic, Catholic, universal teaching of the Church. There have been popes in the past who have used their authority, let's say their legitimate authority, in an imprudent way. You can go back to Honorius; you can go back to Liberius; you can go back to John the 22nd. And the faithful, at that point, have to simply follow their conscience, the aboriginal Christ as Newman referred to it."
"Aboriginal Christ?" What exactly does that mean? Well, I looked up Newman's statement and here's what he wrote in a letter to the Duke of Norfolk explaining it:
"The natural law," says St. Thomas, "is an impression of the Divine Light in us, a participation of the eternal law in the rational creature." (Gousset, Theol. Moral., t. i. pp. 24, &c.) This law, as apprehended in the minds of individual men, is called "conscience;" and though it may suffer refraction in passing into the intellectual medium of each, it is not therefore so affected as to lose its character of being the Divine Law, but still has, as such, the prerogative of commanding obedience. "The Divine Law," says Cardinal Gousset, "is the supreme rule of actions; our thoughts, desires, words, acts, all that man is, is subject to the domain of the law of God; and this law is the rule of our conduct by means of our conscience. Hence it is never lawful to go against our conscience; as the fourth Lateran Council says, 'Quidquid fit contra conscientiam, ædificat ad gehennam.'"
This view of conscience, I know, is very different from that ordinarily taken of it, both by the science and literature, and by the public opinion, of this day. It is founded on the doctrine that conscience is the voice of God, whereas it is fashionable on all hands now to consider it in one way or another a creation of man....
“Conscience is not a longsighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself, but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representative, a monarch in its peremptoriness. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas, and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a say.”
We must obey our conscience, Newman says, "at all hazards." He goes on to say:
Thus, if the Pope told the English Bishops to order their priests to stir themselves energetically in favour of teetotalism, and a particular priest was fully persuaded that abstinence from wine, &c., was practically a Gnostic error, and therefore felt he could not so exert himself without sin; or suppose there was a Papal order to hold lotteries in each mission for some religious object, and a priest could say in God's sight that he believed lotteries to be morally wrong, that priest in either of these cases would commit a sin hic et nunc if he obeyed the Pope, whether he was right or wrong in his opinion, and, if wrong, although he had not taken proper pains to get at the truth of the matter.
St. John Henry Newman
All of this presumes a well-formed conscience which is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church this way:
1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.
Keep in mind what Newman said about conscience in his day differing very greatly from its true meaning to become a "creation of man." If that was true almost 150 years ago, it is even more true today when people like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden consider themselves "devout Catholics" while they shred the faith.Some of the other issues Fr. Charron brought up are also important and interesting. He talks about Fr. Altman and the sedevacantist position beginning at about 35:11.