Conscience and Truth in the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman

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Fr. Hermann Geissler FSO

John Henry Newman’s statements about conscience are among the most beautiful and relevant texts which he left to us. Not by coincidence, he is sometimes called Doctor conscientiae – teacher of conscience.
In the context of a symposium in 1990, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – Pope Benedict XVI – told the audience how in his early years at Freising Major Seminary he became familiar with Newman through the Prefect Alfred Läpple. Among other things he said, “For us at that time, Newman’s teaching on conscience became an important foundation for theological personalism, which was drawing us all into its sway. Our image of the human being as well as our image of the Church was permeated by this point of departure. We had experienced the claim of a totalitarian party, which understood itself as the fulfilment of history and which negated the conscience of the individual. One of its leaders had said, ‘I have no conscience. My conscience is Adolf Hitler.’ The appalling devastation of humanity that followed was before our eyes.

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