Monday, March 7, 2011

Acting according to or forsaking of conscience

A colleague of mine came across a collection of ‘quotable quotes’ that she had used nearly twenty years ago when organising public meetings to promote the pro-life message.   Here is a sample of those quotes:

‘In the context of the assertion by the Minister of State […] that there is no matter of conscience involved in voting for the European Union Treaty, one may recall a passage in Robert Bolt’s play, “A Man for all Seasons” which deals with the trial of Thomas More on a charge of high treason for refusing the oath of supremacy as being against his conscience.

‘More’s friend, the Duke of Norfolk, who had gone along with the majority in supporting the oath and the Act of Succession, appeals to More: “Can’t you do what I did, and come with us, for fellowship?”
‘To this More replies: “And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”’
[letter to newspaper, 1992]

‘Like another illustrious lawyer in another hour of crisis in the long history of our Europe, Mr. Justice Rory O’Hanlon has been “the king’s good servant, but God’s first”.  O si sic omnes.’
[letter to newspaper, 1992]

Quoting from ‘A Man for all Seasons’, when Cardinal Wolsey tries to browbeat St. Thomas into agreeing to King Henry VIII’s divorce he asks how can St. Thomas obstruct the King’s wishes for the sake of his private conscience?  Cardinal Wolsey puts it to St. Thomas – ‘If only you’d look facts flat on, without that horrible moral squint.  Oh, your conscience is your own affair, Thomas, but you’re a statesman.’  

St. Thomas replies: ‘Well, I believe that when a statesman forsakes his own private conscience for the sake of his public duty, he leads his country by a short road to chaos.’
Perhaps at this time, more than ever before, we should ask St. Thomas More, patron saint of politicians, to guide our politicians and legislation