PRESS STATEMENT: The Primacy Of Conscience In Parliament

7 August 2017


The Jesuit Institute South Africa, in the light of voices to the contrary, reminds all Members of Parliament (MPs) that they have the obligation to uphold the primacy of conscience. Nobody has the right to violate or override individual conscience; we condemn any such violation in the strongest terms. Any violation should not be tolerated. MPs have the obligation to vote according to their individual conscience for the sake of the common good.

The Jesuit Institute welcomes and endorses the South African Council of Churches’ (SACC) statement “Religious Leaders on Vote of no Confidence” (3 August 2017).

The Catholic Church holds to and teaches that deep within a person, their conscience discovers a law which they have not laid upon themselves but which must be obeyed. Conscience invites people to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil. It sounds in the human heart at the right moment. This law in the human heart is inscribed by God. Conscience is the human person’s most secret core and sanctuary. A person is alone with God whose voice echoes in their depths. This sanctuary can never be violated (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1776-1802).

The Jesuit Institute urges MPs to take the supremacy of conscience seriously. We urge you not to be puppets in a political establishment that seeks to suppress your basic moral obligation. Make an informed decision. Every indication suggests that South Africa now stands on a political precipice. The country cannot continue to function under a leadership that has lost its way in the mire of scandals and corruption. The Jesuit Institute reiterates the view of the SACC: “the current government has lost all moral legitimacy to lead South Africa”. There has been an irrevocable breakdown in trust between the country’s leadership and people. Numerous opportunities to restore this trust have been repeatedly missed. The deteriorating socio-political and economic environment under the current leadership must be key in your discernment as you carry out your duties for the country. Do not think only of yourselves but rather the common good, and the future of your children and grandchildren.

We appeal to all MPs, regardless of whether the vote of no confidence is in secret or not, to vote according to your own conscience. We highlight what the SACC says: “… basic ethics should not be a matter of political maneuvering and horse trading.”

We, with civil society, stand ready to support anyone who chooses conscience above all else.

The SACC reminds all South Africans that we are morally accountable for our deeds. “There comes a time for each of us to decide whether we shall live within the lie or break out and live within the truth! That is indeed a matter for a healthy conscience.”

The health of an entire nation is in your hands, MPs. Do what is right for the common good, for South Africa, for the future. Name and shame anyone that attempts to hijack your conscience!


For more information contact:

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ, Director. Tel +27 82 828 4548 or email

Fr Anthony Egan, SJ, Ethicist. Tel +27 72 938 4553 or email

Jesuit Institute Spokesperson
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