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I am responding to John Bennett’s letter to the editor in the Oct 19 edition.

John does not correctly state the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church regarding a Catholic accepting all the church’s moral teachings. A Catholic cannot pick and choose which church teaching on morality they choose to accept or reject. Catholics who reject church moral teachings on, for example, homosexuality, abortion and chastity, are in fact heretics and set themselves apart from the Body of Christ. They delude themselves into thinking they are correct when they are not. Worse yet, their scandalous rejection of church authority on morality often leads those weak in their faith into grave sin for which they will be held accountable by God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2284-2287).

The Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church is quite clear what Catholics must believe:

Can. 750 §1. A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium (the teaching authority) of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.

§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.

John’s quote from Joseph Ratzinger’s 1968 commentary on Article 16 of Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World, Gaudium Et Spes to justify disobedience of church teachings on morality by Catholics misrepresents the true meaning of this quote. To understand what Joseph Ratzinger wrote, one must have an understanding on what the church teaches about conscience in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 1776-1802). In summary the Catechism says:

ź Man must obey his conscience.

ź Man must recognize that his conscience can be erroneous and seek to inform it.

ź A true or correct Catholic conscience is one that has made a sincere effort to discover the truth and one that acts in accordance with the word of God and the teachings of the church.

We can safely assume that Pope Benedict XVI, being a practicing Catholic, holds all of the above three. See Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s talk “Conscience and Truth” presented at the 10th Workshop for Bishops, February 1991 in Dallas for a more in-depth treatise of what he understands conscience to be.

Edward Stapanon, Lexington Park