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Priority of Conscience

“And it is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is agrave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood.” Fr. Roy Bourgeois in his letter to Maryknoll why he could not recant his belief and public statements that support the ordination of women.

“Over the pope … there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.” Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI,in his 1968 commentary on the Second Vatican Council’s document, Gaudium et Spes.

“My understanding of the teaching of the Church is that we must follow our conscience, even an erroneous conscience. My reading of Cardinal Newman confirms that. I think it is Boyer’s life of Newman that he quotes Newman as saying he drank a toast to conscience first, the Pope second.” Dorothy Day (Catholic Agitator 1, no, 9, Dec. 1970)

“The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2242)

“Never again will I be silent on an issue that is destroying the soul of our nation…” Martin Luther King

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.” Martin Luther King

“When it is said that we disturb people too much by the words pacifism and anarchism, I can only think that people need to be disturbed, that their consciences need to be aroused, that they do indeed need to look into their work, and study new techniques of love and poverty and suffering for each other. Of course the remedies are drastic, but then too the evil is a terrible one and we are all involved, we are all guilty, and most certainly we are all going to suffer. The fact that we have “the faith,” that we go to the sacraments, is not enough. ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ with napalm, nerve gas, our hydrogen bomb, our ‘new look’.” (“Are The Leaders Insane?” By Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, April 1954, 1, 6.}

“A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.” — Aristotle

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who during time of great moral crisis maintained their neutrality.” — Dante

“We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government, nor are we for this party or against the other… But we are for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom, that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness, righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with God, and with one another, that these things may abound.” — Edward Burrough, 1659

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”--Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” – Abraham Lincoln

“My kind of loyalty was to one’s country, not to its institutions or its office holders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease and death.” — Mark Twain

“As for the peoples, they were nothing at all [to the politicians] … except cannon fodder. No government ever … hesitated to deceive them. [Each government] took it for granted that they [the average citizenry] would let themselves be butchered in unlimited quantities when the game of power politics [included] war.”— Konne Zilliacus, M.P. (1894–1967), Mirror of the Past: A History of Secret Diplomacy

“We were constantly told by our friends, ‘Who were we to differ with able statesmen, with men of sensitive conscience who also absolutely abhorred war, but were convinced that this war for the preservation of democracy would make all future wars impossible, that the priceless values of civilization which were at stake could at this moment be saved only by war?’ But these very dogmatic statements spurred one to alarm. Was not war in the interest of democracy for the salvation of civilization a contradiction of terms, whoever said it or however often it was repeated?”-- Jane Addams, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Founder of Hull House; Personal Reactions During War, 1922

“Through clever and constant application of propaganda people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.”-- Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf, 1923)

“It also gives us a very special, secret pleasure to see how unaware the people around us are of what is really happening to them.”— Adolf Hitler

“The streets of our country are in turmoil! The universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting! Communists are seeking to destroy our country! Russia is threatening us with her might! Our republic is in danger, yes, danger from within and without! We need law and order!”-- Adolf Hitler

“What good fortune for those in power that the people do not think.”— Adolf Hitler

“Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.”— Joseph Stalin

“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You win it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” – WWII General George Patton

“Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore (individual citizens) have the duty to (refuse to obey) domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”-- Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950

“The greatest threat to our world and its peace comes from those who want war, who prepare for it, and who, by holding out vague promises of future peace or by instilling fear of foreign aggression, try to make us accomplices to their plans.” — Hermann Hesse

“If man will only realize that it is unmanly to obey laws that are unjust, no man’s tyranny will enslave him.”—Gandhi

“In nonviolence, the masses have a weapon that enables a child, a woman, or even a decrepit old man to resist the mightiest government successfully. If your spirit is strong, mere lack of physical strength ceases to be a handicap.”—Gandhi

“All through history it has been the nations that have given the most to generals and the least to the people that have been the first to fall.”-- Harry Truman

“Loyalty doesn’t mean following the President when he decides to drive over a cliff. It means holding him back.”-- Burr Loomis

“All that was required of them (i.e. the brain-washed masses) was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations. And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because, being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.”-- George Orwell 1984

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.“— George Orwell

“The most important topic on earth: peace. What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”— John F. Kennedy, American University commencement address, Washington, 10 June 1963

“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”--Theodore Roosevelt, on April 19, 1906

“Pity the poor, wretched, timid soul, too faint hearted to resist his oppressors. He sings the songs of the damned, I cannot resist, I have too much to lose, they might take my property or confiscate my earnings, what would my family do, how would they survive. He hides behind pretended family responsibility, failing to see that the most glorious legacy that we can bequeath to our posterity is liberty!”— W. Vaughn Elllsworth

“The individual conscience must be able to refuse cooperation in acts and policies which though justified in the abstract by specious arguments lead in concrete to immoral and disastrous consequences.” — Thomas Merton, Open Letter to the American Bishops, summer 1965

War and Peace

“Your personal values may and probably do extend beyond the Army values, to include such things as political, cultural, or religious beliefs. However, if you’re to be an Army leader and a person of integrity, these values must reinforce, not contradict, Army values.” (Army Field Manual, [FM 22–100, Chapter 2–32] )

“Training which drills soldiers on how to kill without explaining to them why it is morally permissible for them to do so is harmful to them, yet that is the current norm. Modern combat training conditions soldiers to act reflexively to stimuli—such as fire commands, enemy contact, or the sudden appearance of a “target”—and this maximizes soldiers’ lethality, but it does so by bypassing their moral autonomy. Soldiers are conditioned to act without considering the moral repercussions of their actions; they are enabled to kill without making the conscious decision to do so. In and of itself, such training is appropriate and morally permissible. Battles are won by killing the enemy, so military leaders should strive to produce the most efficient killers. The problem, however, is that soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively. If they are unable to justify to themselves the fact that they killed another human being, they will likely—and understandably—suffer enormous guilt. This guilt manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has damaged the lives of thousands of men who performed their duty in combat.” (CPT Pete Kilner, instructor at the U.S. Military Academy. In a paper titled “Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War” in a paper presented to the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics in Washington, DC, January 27–28, 2000)

“On top of this, most of our universities and high schools train young people how to murder other people in an evil program called Reserve Officer Training Corp, or ROTC. This work goes against everything Jesus gave his life for, everything we stand for. While I was in Central America in 1985, Salvadoran Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuria talked about ROTC, ‘Tell the Jesuits of Georgetown that they are committing mortal sin because they are supporting the forces of death which are killing our people.’ He was assassinated in 1989.” (Father John Dear S.J. in National Catholic Reporter Online article — Jan. 8, 2008)

“It can never be lawful for a righteous man to go to war, since his warfare is in righteousness itself; nor to accuse anyone of a capital charge, since it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word or by sword, since it is the act of putting to death which is prohibited. It is always unlawful to put a man to death.” – Lacantius

“To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.” – Tacitus

Martin Luther was asked: “Suppose my lord were wrong in going to war?” He replied: “If you know for sure that he is wrong, then you should fear God rather than men (Acts 5:29), and you should neither fight nor serve. For you cannot have a good conscience before God.” But you say, “Oh, no, you say, my lord would force me to do it; he would take away my fief and would not give me my money, pay and wages. Besides I would be despised and put to shame as a coward, even worse as a man who did not keep his word and deserted his lord in time of need.” I answer: You must take that risk and, with God’s help, let whatever happens, happen. He can restore you a hundred fold as he promises in the gospel…”

“War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity; it destroys religions, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it.”-- Martin Luther,

“We must kill them [the enemy] in war just because they live beyond the river. If they lived on this side and we killed them, we would be called murderers.” — Blaise Pascal (17th century mathematician and philosopher)

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other (enemy of public liberty). War is the parent of armies and from these (armies) proceed debts and taxes; and armies and debts and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” – James Madison, “Political Observations” (1795–04–20) also in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (1865), Vol. IV, p. 491.

“I confess without shame that I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is Hell.” — Civil War Union General William Sherman (who orchestrated the scorched earth policy that terrorized the Confederacy in his “March to the Sea” in 1864)

“A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power?” — Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

“Why, of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia, nor England, nor for that matter, Germany. That is understood, but after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simpler matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”--
Herman Goering. Long time Nazi, Reichmarshall, and heir-apparent to Hitler. Statement made while imprisoned at Nuremberg after WWII.

“Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder and it is the working class who fights all the battles, the working class who makes the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely sheds their blood and furnishes their corpses, and it is they who have never yet had a voice - in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace. They are continually talking about their patriotic duty. It is not their duty but your patriotic duty that they are concerned about. There is a decided difference. Their patriotic duty never takes them to the firing line or chucks them into the trenches.”--Eugene V. Debs

“There comes a point when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his conscience”-- Lord Hartley Shawcross, Attorney General of Great Britain 1945–1951 and Nuremburg Prosecutor

“We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we do about peace — more about killing than we do about living.” — General Omar Bradley
“I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”-- Gen. George Patton

We were constantly told by our friends, ‘Who were we to differ with able statesmen, with men of sensitive conscience who also absolutely abhorred war, but were convinced that this war for the preservation of democracy would make all future wars impossible, that the priceless values of civilization which were at stake could at this moment be saved only by war?’ But these very dogmatic statements spurred one to alarm. Was not war in the interest of democracy for the salvation of civilization a contradiction of terms, whoever said it or however often it was repeated?”-- Jane Addams, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Founder of Hull House; Personal Reactions During War, 1922

“My God, I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against. My God, I do. We’re not just going to shoot the bastards, we’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel. Now some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you’ll chicken out under fire. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you’ll all do your duty. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood, shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo, that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll know what to do.”—General George Patton

“If you had seen one day of war, you would pray to God that you would never see another.” — Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (the victorious British general at the Battle of Waterloo, June 1815)

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”— John F. Kennedy

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers”-- Jose Narosky

“We do what we can, and the whole field of the works of mercy is open to us…. All work, whether building, increasing food production, running credit unions, working in factories that produce for human needs, working in the handicrafts — all these things can come under the heading of the works of mercy, which are the opposite of the works of war.” — Dorothy Day

“Military power is as corrupting to the man who possesses it as it is pitiless to its victims. Violence is just as devastating to the soul of the perpetrator as it is to the body and souls of those who are victims of it” — American Friends Service Committee

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice … Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of- country stance - how violently I hate all this; how despicable and ignoble war is…I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”--Albert Einstein

“It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber” —Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

“And so I’m looking for Paul. And I’m doing the stories as a freelancer. And I’m looking for him. I’m somewhere in the West Coast. And I hear about him, and I find his phone. It was a lot harder then to find his house. We didn’t have Google. He’s a southern Indiana farm boy. I get down there the next day. I fly overnight to, I think it’s Indiana, Indianapolis, below Indianapolis, below Terre Haute, a place called New Goshen, down in the southern part of Indiana. A chicken farm. I pull in. It’s a chicken farm out of Norman Rockwell, one of those old paintings from The Saturday Evening Post. It’s poor, just chicken coops, no farm, no farmland, a bunch of shacks. That’s the home. To the mother that I talked to the night before, I said, “I’m coming.” She said, “I can’t tell you he’s going to talk to you.” I said, “I’m coming, and you decide.” She said, “Just come, but I can’t promise.” She comes out to meet me. She’s 50 maybe, weathered, no man around, looks 70. And I just say, “Is Paul in there? Is he around?” She said, “He’s in there.” I said, “Is it alright if I talk to him?” She said, “Okay,” and then she says—then she says, you know, she says, “I gave them [the government and the Army] a good boy, and they sent me back a murderer.”— Journalist Seymour Hersh

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