Cardinal John Henry Newman’s rich understanding about conscience could not be more timely today and was tested several times in his own life, said Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in an address in Rome on the eve of the famous English convert’s canonisation.
The archbishop explained how, in a time when anti-Catholic sentiment ran high – the saint escaped jail for a conviction in 1845 after losing a criminal libel case brought against him after speaking out against a former Dominican friar and graduate of his university who was an anti-Catholic activist and serial rapist.
His fine and court costs amounted to the equivalent of more than £1.5M in today’s values, with some of the burden believed to have been relieved by supporters in Australia.
Speaking at a conference on Newman held at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas on 12 October, the archbishop explored the reasons why St John Henry Newman has been celebrated by many as one worthy of the title of Doctor of the Church and specifically, ‘doctor of conscience’.
His teachings on conscience are based upon the tradition going back to Sts Paul, Augustine, Aquinas and Thomas Moore, Archbishop Fisher said.
“Newman insists that conscience is…the echo of God’s voice within the heart of man, the pulse of the divine law beating within each person as a standard of right and wrong, with an unquestionable authority.
“Yet conscience today is more often asserted in defence of following personal inclinations according to a subjectivist or relativist ethic,” he said.