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Christian Conscience, Catholic Teaching and Lay Participation in Public Life

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Vatican II left Catholicism with some unresolved tensions: on the one hand between the authority of conscience and the teaching authority of the church and, on the other hand, concerning the proper relationship between the hierarchy and the laity. Such unfinished business continues to play itself out in public and political life. This article traces developments in the Catholic understanding of conscientious participation in public life, stretching from John F. Kennedy’s presidential candidature in 1960 up to the present writings of Pope Benedict XVI. In the post-Vatican II era, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have emphasized the strong correspondence that should exist between church teaching and the Christian conscience.

Affiliations: 1: University of Glasgow UK


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