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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
As we prepare for our Easter celebration, which is only two weeks away, it is good to consider that God wants each of us to consider our personal state of conscience as He sees us. Our Lord is good and loving toward us at all times. However, even the soul that desires to fulfill God’s will may struggle to be good toward God all the time.
Therefore, it is important to understand our own moral conscience. All of us have a moral conscience – hardwired into our souls. What is this power in our souls? What ought we to know about the moral conscience? Finally, a conscience that is laden with guilt due to sin can be healed and experience peace through the Sacrament of Confession. I urge you to make a good Confession before Easter!
Our Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about this gift, the moral conscience, and why it is the key to living a good life in the eyes of God: 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." (Guadium et Spes 16.)
1777 Moral conscience, (Cf. Romans 2:14-16.) present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. (Cf. Romans 1:32) It bears witness to the authority of Truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.
1778 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. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the Divine Law:
Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. [Conscience] is a messenger of Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ. (John Henry Cardinal Newman, "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk," V, in Certain Difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching II (London: Longmans Green, 1885), 248.)
1779 It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection: ‘Return to your conscience, question it. Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.’ (St. Augustine, In John. 8:9: Patrilogia Latina 35, 2041) 1780 The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience. Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality (synderesis); 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. The truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason, is recognized practically and concretely by the prudent judgment of conscience. We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with this judgment.
1781 Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. 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: ‘We shall reassure our hearts before Him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.” (1 John 3:19-20)
1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as perso- nally 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.” (Dignitatis Humanae 3 § 2)
1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judg- ments 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.
1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it pre- vents or cures fear, selfishness and pride resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.
1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is,the light for our path (Cf. Ps 119:105), we must assimilate it
in Faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our
conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the
Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the
authoritative teaching of the Church. (Cf. Dignitatis Humanae 14)
1786 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right
judgment in accordance with reason and the Divine Law or, on the
contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.
1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral
judgments less assured and decisions difficult. But he must always
seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God
expressed in Divine Law.
1788 To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and
the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of
competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and His gifts.
1789 Some rules apply in every case:
- One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
- the Golden Rule: "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so
to them.” (Matthew 7:12; cf. Luke 6:31; Tobit 4:15)
- Charity always proceeds by way of respect for one's neighbor and his
conscience: "Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their
conscience - you sin against Christ."(1 Corinthians 8:12) Therefore "it is
right not to…do anything that makes your brother stumble.” (Romans 14:21)
1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his
conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn
himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance
and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already
1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This
is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit
of committing sin.” (Guadium et Spes 16) In such cases, the person is
culpable for the evil he commits.
1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others,
enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of
autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her
teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of
errors of judgment in moral conduct.
1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral
subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed
by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a
privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of
1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true Faith, for charity
proceeds at the same time "from a pure heart and a good conscience and