Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.”

“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." - The Second Vatican Council document (Gaudium et Spes 16)

Gospel Text: (JN 16:12-15)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.”

We should always follow our conscience, but we must be aware that a person’s conscience can sometimes be wrong. That is why it is necessary to properly inform our consciences. A person is still morally responsible for his bad actions even if he acted with a certain conscience, if he failed to inform his conscience properly.

The current relativistic notion is false that claims, “What's true for you is true for you, but it may not be true for me.” This point became clear in the mind of Pope Benedict XVI when participating in a debate on the justifying power of the subjective conscience. In that debate someone objected to the idea of the subjective conscience by saying that if it were true than we could expect to see the Nazi SS in heaven since they carried out their atrocities with fanatic conviction and complete certainty of conscience. Pope Benedict came to the conclusion that the theory that a person could be justified merely by following his subjective conscience must be false.

A person can't always be sure he's right just because he has a firm subjective conviction, lacks doubt or has no guilt feelings. A person is responsible for the evil he commits with a certain conscience when he "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." (GS 16) People can become blind to what is true and good if they are ignorant about Christ and his Gospel, by giving in to temptation, scandal, the rejection of the teaching authority of the Church and a lack of true repentance and charity.

We have an obligation to form our consciences correctly by meditating on the Word of God and the teaching of the Church. It’s not an easy task since we’re prone to pride, and tempted to prefer our own judgments and reject even legitimate authority.

The task of educating our consciences doesn’t end with religious instruction. It’s a lifelong task, but the education of children in this regard is particularly important. A child who has not received adequate religious training is like a ship set in the ocean without a compass. Christ promised that the truth would set us free. The proper education of the conscience leads to true freedom and peace of mind.

In order for us to hear this voice clearly we need to pray, reflect and examine our conscience. St. Augustine says “Return to your conscience, question it. . . . Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.”

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