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HISTORY (3:34) - In 1945 and 1946, Nazi war criminals were forced to account for their depraved actions in the city of Nuremberg, Germany.
The Rights of Conscience
Bringing Nazi war criminals to justice
Held for the purpose of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, the Nuremberg trials were a series of 13 trials carried out in Nuremberg, Germany, between 1945 and 1949. The defendants, who included Nazi Party officials and high-ranking military officers along with German industrialists, lawyers and doctors, were indicted on such charges as crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. READ MORE
REFLECTIONby Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau
The rights of conscience have always been controverted both in Church law and in civil law. Can anyone, Church or state, coerce me into doing something I believe to be wrong? Who is to decide what is right and what is wrong?
In the 20th century, we saw the Nuremberg Trials in the late 1940s, where German leaders from the Nazi era were convicted of war crimes even though they claimed they were just following orders. The Military Tribunal said there was a higher law which took precedence over the orders of men. Implicit in these judgments was the claim that there is a law of conscience that perceives rights and wrongs in the objective order no matter what the civil or the military laws might hold.
Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., practiced civil disobedience in response to unjust civil laws. They appealed to a higher law, the law of conscience.
Christian martyrs went to their deaths during the past 2,000 years rather than to comply with human laws they considered contrary to the law of God.
Conscience is that faculty by which we are aware of the innermost rightness or wrongness of certain behaviors.
The Catholic tradition holds that conscience is the final arbiter of the rightness and wrongness of human conduct. Final judgment will be based on our perception that what we did was right or was wrong according to the law of God.
The Church teaches that the human heart can and does know instinctively what is right and what is wrong. We cannot make something right if it is inherently wrong. But we cannot be judged or faulted for believing something was right even though it was objectively wrong.
Conscience needs to be guided by teachers who have been given the responsibility to teach what is right and what is wrong. The Church claims that right for itself. A Catholic will seek guidance from Church teachings in the formation of conscience. A Catholic will ask advice from mature and experienced Christians in order to form a right conscience. But, ultimately, conscience will be the guide.
Each of us has a responsibility to develop our conscience awareness according to the revealed will of God in Holy Scripture and according to the teachings of the Church as articulated in the moral tradition of the Church. Firmly rooted in the faith community and seeking to be loyal to the authentic tradition of the Catholic Church, we may consult other voices, but finally, we must decide, personally.
See: The Catechism: # 1778-1796
ECHOING GOD'S WORD – © 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau (1932-2017); Adapted; Used with permission.
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Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) - Judge Haywood Scene (1/11) | Movieclips
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) - Judges in the Dock Scene (2/11) | Movieclips
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