On Maintaining Integrity in Difficult Circumstances

Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else; if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, as one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.

Joseph Ratzinger, Gaudium et Spes, n. 16 in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Volume 5, ed. Herbert Vorgrimler, New York, Herder and Herder, 1969, 134.

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