Irish Archbishops challenged on claims of conscience about abortion

Archbishops are absolutely wrong about conscience

The Irish Times
27 December, 2012

Desmond M. Clarke

OPINION: Catholic bishops who attribute an absolute value to conscience are trying to force others to accept their position on abortion.

The Catholic archbishops of Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Emly, and Tuam released a public statement on December 18th that included this general principle: “No one has the right to force or coerce someone to act against their conscience. Respect for this right is the very foundation of a free, civilised and democratic society.”

I do not think they believe that. Nor do I.

Conscience could mean many things but it is usually understood as referring to the judgment of an individual about significant moral and religious matters. Unfortunately it is possible for someone to decide in “their conscience” that politically-motivated murder is acceptable in some circumstances, and the archbishops presumably do not mean the conscience of a murderer obliges a democratic state not to interfere in their behaviour, no matter how well-intentioned it may be. . . [Read on]

One thought on “Irish Archbishops challenged on claims of conscience about abortion”

  1. Professor Clarke has accurately identified one of the problems with the Irish archbishops’ unqualified assertions about freedom of conscience. Claims of conscience are, in fact, made by physicians who provide abortions as well as by those who refuse to do so, and the brief statement by the bishops affords no grounds by which to distinguish the two cases. However, Professor Clarke’s further assertion that the principle of double effect is an example of nonsensical private mental activity does not rise above the level of mere philosphical partisanship.

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