A friend of mine pointed out that on page 13 of this magazine it proposes religious indifferentism and it misrepresent the Catholic teaching on conscience. I had read this magazine two years ago, and just only now when I reread it again I found out that his [my friend] observation is true. This is what was written on page 13
The Catholic Church places much importance on the education of conscience because conscience is the primary basis of moral life. She respects then the decision of anybody who decides to become a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo if this is a product of his conscience’s dictate. We don’t believe that any Catholic who joins the Iglesia ni Cristo becomes a servant of the devil. When such person does this decision on dictates of his conscience (believing truly in the teaching of the Iglesia as the “truth”), then he made a decision pleasing to God and good for his soul. Know Your Faith, Ed. Tim Melizza, p.13
Most of those who read this part of the magazine did not notice the liberalistic implication contained in the statement. Therefore we have to dissect the statement above in order to expose the hidden liberal stain that causes some Catholics to doubt and leave their Holy Catholic faith behind and embrace a heretical sect like the Iglesia ni Cristo kay Manalo. The statement above contains twofold error;
1. Religious indifferentism
2. Misconception on Church’s teaching on conscience
The Church respects the person when he is following his conscience because the Church does not force a person to act contrary to his conscience. However that does not make his decision correct. If we say that there is nothing wrong in leaving the Catholic Church for another religion, as what the statement implies [When such person does this decision on dictates of his conscience (believing truly in the teaching of the Iglesia as the “truth”), then he made a decision pleasing to God and good for his soul.] Then it proposes religious indifferentism. The Church rejects the idea that all religions are the same because Christ founded only one Church, not Churches. In the Vatican II document Decree on Ecumenism it clearly laid down the belief of the Catholic Church that there is only one true Church, the Catholic Church.
The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. Decree on Ecumenism No.1
The same teaching is also reiterated in the document Dominus Iesus released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was back then its prefect.
The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff; Gal.3:28; Eph. 4:15-16; Acts 9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ’s salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf. Col.1:24-27), which is his body (cf. 1 Cor.12:12-13, 27; Col.1:18). . .The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is a historical continuity rooted in the apostolic succession between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church. Dominus Iesus No.16
Since Christ continues his salvific work in the Church and by means of the Church, then how can it be pleasing to God and good for the person’s soul to leave the Catholic Church as dictated by his conscience? It seems that “conscience” has become an excuse to justify apostasy. However this is not the case, conscience if not properly formed can lead a person to error and a conscience which is properly formed must lead us back to God. So when a person using his conscience lead him away from God by leaving the Catholic Church and joins other cults like the Iglesia ni Cristo his conscience is badly formed.
Misconception on Church teaching on conscience
To prevent us from getting lost in the discussion about conscience it is fitting for us to limit our discussion in the Church’s definition on conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defined conscience as;
Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths. CCC 1776
There are three points that can be deduce from the Church’s definition on conscience 1.) Conscience must obey a law [Divine law] 2.) Conscience leads us to do good and avoid evil and 3.) Conscience is the voice of God. Going back to the statement found in the magazine it violate these three important elements of conscience. We are told in the Sacred Scripture to obey the teachings of Christ Mt.28:19-10 and part of the teaching is to adhere to sound doctrine and reject whatsoever is false and heretical Gal.1:8. When a person leaves the Catholic Church he violates Christ’s command to obey all his teachings and reject unsound doctrines. When a person leaves the Catholic Church and joins the Iglesia ni Cristo his conscience does not lead him to good and avoid evil, since apostasy is a grave sin. Conscience must be properly formed so that it will act in accordance with God’s will. And since some conscience were not properly formed it leads to erroneous decisions, like leaving the Catholic Church. In paragraph 1783 of the Catechism it tells us that a conscience that is properly formed is upright and truthful.
Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. CCC 1783
Since conscience is the voice of God, then would God tell a person through his conscience to leave the true Church and join a religion that denied the divinity of His only begotten Son? Would it be pleasing to God and good for the person’s soul to prefer his own judgment and reject authoritative teachings? It is a mortal sin for a person, knowing that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ to abandon the true Church for another sect or religion.