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Religion and Public ReasonsCollected Essays Volume V$
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John Finnis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199580095

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580095.001.0001

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Conscience in the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk

Conscience in the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk

(p.209) 16 Conscience in the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk
Religion and Public Reasons

John Finnis

Oxford University Press

This chapter gives a close and detailed study of Newman's understanding of conscience and natural and divine law, as manifested in his 1875 response to Gladstone's 1874 critique of the doctrine of papal infallibility defined in 1870, which had charged Catholics with divided allegiance and mental and moral slavery. The chapter shows that Newman's response to that charge is unsuccessful, partly because of legalistic elements in his conception of morality. Newman's influence on the Second Vatican Council's 1965 teaching on conscience has been exaggerated, and his arguments against the charge of mental and moral slavery, though correct in conclusion, are unsound, partly because he failed to take consistent account of the darkening of consciences by sinful habits and conventions, or of the possibility of precise ecclesial teachings on exceptionless moral norms. An endnote responds to a Jesuit critique of the essay.

Keywords:   Neweman, Gladstone, papal infallibility, divided allegiance, conscience, natural law, exceptionless moral norms

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