So there we have it!!
Gaudium et Spes says in Paragraph 1776, “‘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.’”
St. Paul said in The Letter to the Romans Ch 1 that there is something good in us still
We are made in God’s image and likeness
So we do have an INTELLECT and we do have a WILL
The intellect has been DARKENED and the will has been WEAKENED because of the Fall
We still have the ability and capacity to realize that there are some things that are always GOOD and there are some things that are always WRONG
We have a sense of right and wrong
This thing that tells us that is “Jiminy Cricket”
This is our CONSCIENCE that has this SENSE of right and wrong
Just because we think something is right or wrong doesn’t make it right or wrong
There are a lot of things that we disagree on when it comes to our conscience
So we have to have a WELL-FORMED CONSCIENCE
Paragraph 1778 says, “Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed.”
Conscience is a JUDGMENT OF REASON
Too often we associate conscience with feelings or passions
CONSCIENCE IS A JUDGMENT OF REASON!!
This is a REALLY BIG DIFFERENCE
The world around us sees conscience as that GUT FEELING we get
In that gut feeling, we are really referring to our passions
Like that seems fine or that seems off as opposed to what the Church is saying
You could have that feeling of queasiness or that feeling of, “no, this seems confirmed”
CONSCIENCE IS A JUDGMENT OF REASON!!
That means the work of our intellect is NECESSARY
Why is this important?
Because our intellect is still there
Our intellect has the ability to apprehend TRUTH
Our intellect has the ability to see this is GOOD or this is NOT GOOD or this is TRUE or this is FALSE
We have to use this tool we have been given
We have to use our intellect in order to form our conscience
Our conscience can be MALFORMED
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!
Our conscience can be NUMBED
Our conscience can be DEAFENED
One of the reasons why we need to have a well-formed conscience is because the louder and louder the world around us becomes, the harder and harder it becomes to actually attend to the voice of conscience
Paragraph 1779 says, “It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience.”
How many of us are present to ourselves?
What does that mean?
Do I have the ability to stand in line and not look at my phone?
Do I have the ability to drive in my car for long distances and not turn on the radio or podcasts?
Do I have the ability to sit in silence without immediately driving myself crazy or without immediately having 1,000 different distractions?
Am I adequately present to myself, or do I find myself constantly distracting myself from what the Catechism calls “interiority”?
We live in a culture that devotes itself to the passions
“If it feels good, do it”
We also live in a culture that is incredibly distracted
Sometimes we don’t even know what we think
We don’t even know what we are feeling
In a world of constant distraction, we rarely stop
How many times have you gone to the fridge because you’re bored?
You’re not even hungry yet you go to the fridge and open it and look around in it and you don’t even realize you’re just bored
How many times have we felt angry about something when we’re not really angry, we’re just nervous?
Or we aren’t mad at anyone, we’re just scared and afraid?
WE DO NOT OFTEN ATTEND TO OURSELVES!!
We don’t necessarily know what we are thinking or what we are feeling
If we have that interiority, we become closer and closer to that
We need interiority for a good conscience
Paragraph 1780 says, “The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience. Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality (synderesis)...”
So what is that?
Remember Christian Smith who stated, “The conclusion was a majority of American young adults have neither the ability nor the categories to make moral decisions.”
The principles of morality will be those categories
How do we even understand the right and wrong?
How do we even understand good and evil?
Paragraph 1780 continues, “...their application in the given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already performed.”
There has to be some kind of assessment
All of these have to be present for a person to have PRUDENT JUDGMENT OF CONSCIENCE
That’s just the beginning
So interiority, am I present to myself?
Beyond that, do I have principles of morality?
How do we apply those principles in given circumstances?
How do we practically discern between goods and competing goods and other reasons?
How do we judge well?
Because we need to have that prudent judgment
We need to be able to JUDGE WELL
Paragraph 1781 says, “Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed.”
That is good
Remember, we have responsibility
When we have freedom, we need responsibility
Paragraph 1781 continues, “If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God…”
So here is a person who does wrong
The judgment of conscience can be there
They can actually still know the universal truth of the good and as a witness of the evil of his particular choice
Sometimes when we reach out our hands to the evil, we don’t automatically become evil
The voice of conscience remains in us saying, “That was wrong.”
When we do evil, the voice of conscience remains in us saying, “That was evil. You knew the good, and you did the evil thing.”
Even in the midst of our particular choices of choosing evil, the judgment of conscience convicts us of that choice and reminds us of the good
That is why it says, “the verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy…”
It calls to mind the reality that we need to ask for forgiveness
There is a good to be CHOSEN
There is a good that STILL NEEDS TO BE PRACTICED
Paragraph 1782 says, “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”
This is often misunderstood
Every person has the right to act in conscience and in freedom
Being made in God’s image and likeness, you have been made as a being that can will to choose so that you can be able to choose
A person can never be forcibly converted
The Church stands directly against that
A person can never be forced to act contrary to their conscience nor must they be prevented from acting according to their conscience
What this does not mean is that just because we do not want to do something, it does not mean that if we have to do it it is a violation of our conscience
Imagine a kid saying he does not want to eat his green beans
He’ll tell his parents that they are violating his conscience by forcing him to eat green beans
That’s not the same thing
What the Church is saying is that if the child believed that eating the green beans would be the wrong thing to do, a sin, or if they’re poisoned, for the parents to force the kid to eat them, ok that would be a violation of conscience
To say, “I don’t want to do that, therefore I have to act according to my conscience.”
That is not the same thing
There can be a level more serious than green beans
The principle remains the same
A person cannot be forced to act contrary to their conscience
If you came across someone who said, “I know all about Christianity and I do not accept Jesus.”
To forcibly baptize this person would be wrong
To force them to act contrary to their conscience would be wrong
We may never do that
We may never force someone to act contrary to their conscience
We can’t prevent someone from acting according to their conscience, especially in religious matters
Remember that conscience is a judgment of REASON
Because of that, we can get things wrong because our reason and intellect can be misled, mistaken, or malformed
Therefore, our conscience needs to be formed
Fr. Mike is praying FOR YOU!!
Please pray for Fr. Mike and for each other!!
I cannot WAIT to see you tomorrow!!