Archbishop Niederauer Explains Free Will, Conscience, and Moral Choice
Writing for Catholic San Francisco, Archbishop George Niederauer, prompted by Nancy Pelosi’s recent remarks in Newsweek, has taken her to task, and all others, who possess misconceptions about Church teaching on free will, conscience, and moral choice.
The archbishop explains that, though God has endowed humankind with the gift of free will, “it does not legitimize bad moral choices.” Having freedom of will gives no individual the right to proclaim that a woman’s right to choose is a proper exercise of that gift. To do so, indicates a choice of evil over good, by denying the “fundamental rights of others.”
You will want to read this article, print a copy, and give it to any “mis-guided, Catholic pro-choice” friends you may have.
Archbishop’s Journal – Free Will, Conscience, and Moral Choice: What Catholics Believe
In a recent interview with Eleanor Clift in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”
Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.
Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.