The Rights, Limitations and Responsibilities of Conscience
Although key philosophers and theologians have long taught the importance, demands and rights of conscience, before the 20th Century many states did not accord it much respect.
Conscientious objection has again become a contentious issue: arguably, an ‘ideology of choice’ can result in governments, the law, and professional bodies restricting individuals’ rights not to cooperate with policies they judge immoral. One strand of research common to the Aquinas and Las Casas Institutes, and others, concerns the nature, rights and responsibilities of conscience. Can we move the debate on so the entities of ‘the political’ and ‘public spheres’ can envisage their role as more than the mere toleration of conscience, and become more proactive in nurturing mature, responsible moral and political decision-making? To explore the issues:
- The Aquinas Colloquium in 2017 was on “Aquinas and Newman on Conscience”, and showed that, by rejecting the absolute freedom of a ‘counterfeit conscience’, Newman was closer to Aquinas than has been widely assumed.
- A workshop on “Promoting a Responsible and Free Conscience in Today’s Society”, also sponsored by the Anscombe Centre, Oxford, the Catholic Studies Centre, Durham, and the Eleanor H McCullen Centre for Law, Religion and Public Policy, Villanova, will be held after Easter in 2019.
- We seek funding for a research fellow to produce a major publication on conscience’s sources, nature, limitations, rights and responsibilities, and on ways in which its mature exercise may be cherished so as to promote both personal and the public good.