Christ Jesus ascending

Morality, Conscience, Compassion and the Church

“His (Cardinal George Pell) prickly, hair-splitting, eyes-front demeanour relaxed, and there was a hint of the younger George Pell – an ambitious, whip-smart, academically minded and athletically talented Ballarat priest being groomed for the highest levels of Catholic power – while around him, to his claimed complete incomprehension, young boys were being groomed for abuse by a succession of evil clerics.” Nick Miller published in the Sydney Morning Herald 5 March 2016

I have been sick to my stomach by Cardinal George Pell’s response to the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. Setting aside any judgement, his lack of compassion has been extraordinary. I have been so disturbed that the thought entered my mind, albeit fleetingly, that I want to distance myself from anything to do with Christianity.

How is it possible to be a Christian, let alone a priest, without a conscience, without morals and without compassion? This applies to the perpetrators as well as those who knew about the activities of the perpetrators.

It seems to me that we don’t understand these three fundamental human qualities.

What is conscience? Conscience is an inner voice judging our actions and thoughts. We could say that it is an organ of cognition revealing to us what is right and wrong; this means that it is up to us to develop a good conscience. The more highly developed our conscience the closer we come to Christ.

What is morality? We are moral beings when we don’t acquire our happiness at the expense of others. Morality is pure, sense-free will. The root of morality is love. To be a moral person has consequences beyond our physical life as Rudolf Steiner explains, “Our good deeds originate in our interest in other people. At death, the etheric body of a person who lived morally retains its human shape. These forces participate in the reshaping of the cosmos.” Earthly Knowledge and Heavenly Wisdom.

Compassion does not mean experiencing the other’s pain, it means experiencing the other person’s value as a human being. Compassion arises out of the purest love and respect for the other person. We see the other person as a divine being.

Where does this leave the Catholic Church and its Priesthood? In Lecture 5 of “The Fundamental Social Demand of Our Times” Rudolf Steiner notes that the Catholic Church says that it is heresy to claim that the human soul bears something of the Divine within it. This means that they shut us off from the Divine.

I don’t know about you, but this leaves me with a deep sense of shame, but also deep compassion for those who say they know about Christianity but whose actions reveal they know very little about it. I am comforted knowing that the continually bleeding Christ continually blesses them.

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