At our parish Women’s Group tonight, we read Chapter 3 of the First Letter of St John.

One of the Bible translations used the word conscience while others used the word heart….and so we talked about our conscience and thus being right before God.

In the back of my mind, a quote kept nagging at me. From Cardinal Pell, on Blessed Cardinal Newman, on conscience.

I could remember the gist of the message but not the actual words of the quote.

So, I didn’t share but instead came home to find that quote. To quiet my nagging mind!

Anyone in a real life situation that requires moral strength, honesty, and accuracy would surely be repelled by the advice that “morality has nothing to say about the details of your choice; it’s all up to you.” This is purely abandonment of people when they most need and expect guidance. …” (Cardinal Pell, Newman and the Drama of True and False Conscience).

Very true. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that our consciences need to be formed. It lists the many ways in which a conscience may be formed and includes the “wise words of others” in the list.

So we do not abandon others to despair, to making poor or ill-informed choices, to repeating mistakes…we share our love ..and the Truth. Perhaps by words. Perhaps by actions. Perhaps simply by the way we live.

We are made free to choose what is right; this is not freedom without constraint but a freedom guided by our conscience.

Thus, a formed conscience is formed in virtues (so we have strength to follow our conscience, to do what is right even if it is hard) and is also formed via learning i.e. learning what is good. “When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.” (CCC 1777)

Our judgment involves our intellect; it is not a feeling and is not based on intuition.

It is based on reason; we say that it is both formed and informed.

Conscience relies on judgment.

When faced with a choice or an action, it is our judgment that tells us the morality of such a choice or action. We, formally or informally, go through stages of judgment as we use our conscience to make a moral decision. We consider the ideals of morality (to do good and not evil); we apply these to our given situation; we make a judgment about the actions or possible actions and finally we choose an action, in accordance with our judgment i.e. in accordance with our conscience.

Conscience has an important role to play in our life.

It guides us, it helps us choose actions that may be morally right or wrong; it helps us reflect on our actions and to feel a sense of guilt when we perceive that an action has been morally incorrect.

“Conscience is a law of mind…Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ. “ Blessed Cardinal Newman

Conscience helps us in our witness and example to others. We show others how to act, what we believe, what is right and what is wrong by our actions borne of our conscience.

“…They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them “ Romans 2:15

Conscience acts as our guide and helps us to act with charity, as an example for others, teaching others, by word and deed, of moral law.

And it is conscience that prevents me from rationalising my sins away; prevents me from putting the blame on the other and stops me from seeing myself as blameless; it is conscience that stops me from falling into self centred sadness ( it’s not all about you, dear).

Conscience is my little, inner nagging voice.

My heart.

2 thoughts on “Conscience”

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