God has endowed every human person
with a conscience, and it is our obligation to work at a proper formation of
our conscience. Simply following the flow of the world and worldly values,
especially as communicated by the mass media, is not a proper means to form
one’s conscience properly. On the
contrary, often what is learned from TV, movies, talk shows, movie stars are
values antithetical to true Christian values.
This being said, many blurt out this dangerous
assertion: “I must follow my own
conscience.” Or, “I have to be true to myself!” Still another , “ I feel that this is what
is right for me!” All of these
statements affirm what the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has warned us
frequently to avoid: “The dictatorship
of moral relativism!” By these five
words the Holy Father cautions us not to follow the flow, our feelings, the
modern current of worldly values, subjectivism, but rather to pursue Truth,
Absolute Truth, which is found not so much in a philosophical system, but in a
Person and that Person is Jesus Christ the Son of the living God who said, “I
am the Way, the TRUTH and the
CONSCIENCE! One of the most basic and rudimentary first
principles, instilled in every human person that enters the world is “Do good
and avoid evil!” However, due to
shattered family units, a neo-paganism, Freudianism, and a growing hedonism in
the modern world, many are brought up and raised without any moral-compass
whatever! Therefore, the conscience has
never been properly formed or in time it can be deformed--- worse yet, the
conscience can even be suppressed or killed!
God, is the best of “Gentlemen” and He respects our freedom which we can
choose to use for His honor and glory or to abuse for our own condemnation!
What might be some “Erroneous
consciences” manifest in the modern world?
Many! Some people have a mixture
of more than one. Let us give the list
and see where you might fall, calling to mind that it is incumbent upon all to
work at forming a healthy
conscience—better yet (the conscience of the saints a “delicate
conscience”. Also call to mind the
immortal words of Pope Pius XII, “The sin of the century is the loss of the
sense of sin!” As priest and confessor,
the person that scares me most--- with regard to the salvation of his immortal
soul—is the individual who arrogantly brags over the fact that he actually has
no sin! Why so scary? For the simple reason that the purpose of the
Incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus’ life among us and especially the reason
for His excruciating Passion and death, leading to His Resurrection was
precisely for that reason--- to forgive our sins, to redeem us--- to ransom us
from the enemy and to conquer the devil!
Actually, as Fulton Sheen highlights, Jesus is “Teacher”, but more
important than “Teacher” Jesus is Savior
and Redeemer. He saved us from the poison of sin!
Consciences of the modern man in the
modern world—the list and explanation!
1.ERRONEOUS. In this word, you can see included within
the word “Error”. It is a conscience that
is wrapped up in error, falsehoods and lies!
Many of us, even those who are ardently pursuing authentic holiness,
still have some blind spots in the formation of their conscience.
2. DEFORMED. This person once had a well-formed
conscience, but due to a lack of proper formation, mental and spiritual
laziness the conscience gradually lost its light and is filled with errors,
prejudices, false ideas. This conscience
might be compared to a well-ordered garden full of fruits and flowers, but the
gardener has gone on vacation for 6 months and upon return finds the garden
filled with ugly weeds and cock-roaches!
The conscience must be cultivated, or else, like this garden it will be
filled and cluttered with immoral weeds!
3. LAX CONSCIENCE. This conscience has lost most of its light,
just a flicker, a minute flame still exists.
This individual has remorse of conscience only when he/she perpetrates
the most egregious of faults. How often
have I heard this comment: “I am a good
person! I do not kill and I do not
steal!” This statement summarizes this
type of conscience! This person’s
conscience reacts only to the most horrendous of sins, but is blind to so many
other moral transgressions! The further
we walk away from the light the less we can see the coffee spots on our white
4. SUPPRESSED CONSCIENCE!
God will often prick and gently rebuke us after our sin, beckoning us to
return to Him trusting in His love and mercy, but He never forces Himself on
us! By abuse of our free will, we can
reject God’s invitation to
conversion. Two powerful and
well-known biblical examples of the suppressed conscience is in the person of
King David after having committed adultery with Bathsheba and after having
killed her husband on the battle field. David simply ignored the stark reality
of his grievous sins, until God sent him the prophet Nathan, who woke up
David’s conscience by means of the Parable of the rich man taking advantage of the poor man, and the slaughter of the
innocent sheep. The second example of
the suppressed conscience can be found in the book of Daniel in the story of
the chaste, but beautiful, Susanna. Two
of the elders gave in to lust, spied her behind the fence and desired to commit
adultery with her. The Bible says that they
suppressed their consciences and failed to look up to heaven!
5. SCRUPULOUS CONSCIENCE. This is a sick conscience, actually
warped. This conscience tends to
perceive sin where sin actually does not exist or to blow the gravity of sin out
of proportion. At the same time a person that suffers with a scrupulous
conscience can be totally blind to what are objectively grave sins. St. Maximillian Kolbe as wells as St Therese
Lisieux passed through a stage where they suffered scrupulosity. St. Ignatius himself, shortly after his
conversion in the battle of Pamplona and after having painstakingly made his
general confession—which took several days--- suffered severe scruples! How then can one resolve such a state of
soul? Very simply--- obedience! The scrupulous
conscience must be sincere and transparent to his confessor and obey all of the
advice, indications and counsels.
Otherwise this state of soul, this conscience, will end up torturing
CONSCIENCE. This individual may find
himself in a moral predicament in which he cannot find a clear answer. He may have to decide between two alternatives,
but it seems to him that either one of the decisions carries with it moral guilt
(sin). The old proverb kicks in: “I am
damned if I do it; I am damned if I do not!”
A basic principle of moral theology applies to this predicament: One should never act on a “Doubtful
conscience”—the reason being, one must never risk offending God through
sin. The solution to this
predicament? Seek out counsel! Either
from a competent confessor or spiritual director or consulting a good manual on
moral theology that clearly addresses and responds to that moral dilemma at
hand! In other words, God never pushes
us into sin. As Paul asserts, “With the
trial God will always provide us with the sufficient grace.” The problem is not God, but our lack of
collaboration with His grace!
7. CAUTERIZED/DEAD CONSCIENCE. God has endowed all with a conscience.
However, if that conscience is not developed, it can lay fallow, collect moral
weeds that choke the voice of the conscience to the point where the voice is no
longer heard, but suffocated, resulting in death. I remember once hearing of a case where a
woman actually carried out 28 abortions!!!!
I imagine after the 1st abortion the woman had remorse of
conscience, as wells as after the second, but maybe less. The third, a gentle
but insistent voice beckoned the poor woman to repentance and trust. However, after the 10th no doubt,
the conscience would be silenced. We can
assassinate our conscience. Through
repetition of sin, and increased gravity of the sin, and rejection of God’s
call to conversion, the conscience becomes calloused, cauterized and dies!
8. DIRTY CONSCIENCE. This conscience has been smeared and
sullied by constant and repeated sin.
The light of God’s grace becomes blocked; sin becomes habitual, slavery
to sin sets in with encrustation. One
may even fall in love with his sin and fall out of love with God. Jesus said that those who sin actually prefer
the darkness to light.
9. GUILTY CONSCIENCE. Not bad, if one has a correct
conscience. To sweep sin underneath the
rug does not resolve the problem but magnifies it. A bandaged cut does not necessarily heal the
cut. Iodine, disinfectant, medical treatment is necessary for healing. A guilty conscience must come to terms with
the sin, humbly admit it, confess it and trust in God’s mercy. Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth constantly
washing her hands, a clear manifestation of guilt not resolved. All the waters of all the seas could not
cleanse her from her guilt only God’s infinite mercy.
10 HEALTHY/CORRECT CONSCIENCE. All should aim in his spiritual life at
attaining a healthy or correct conscience.
This conscience reacts correctly to his actions. When he acts virtuously the conscience is
filled with peace. However, when he does evil, sadness and remorse
follows! Both these states manifest a
healthy or correct conscience.
11. DELICATE CONSCIENCE. Above and beyond the healthy/correct
conscience we encounter the “Delicate conscience”. This individual, truly pursuing sanctity of
life, abhors sin in all sizes and shapes, but he wants to go beyond the
minimum. He desires the Ignatian
“Magis”—to give the Lord all he is and has, to the “Max.” This “gem of a person” strives to be
attentive to even the slightest and most delicate inspirations of the Holy
Spirit and to respond generously and immediately. When he fails to respond, the Holy Spirit
gently but firmly notifies him of his failure!
Holiness basically depends on being attentive to God’s inspirations and
responding promptly and generously!
ENLIGHTENED CONSCIENCE. This
means a conscience that has God’s light shining upon it. An enlightened conscience pursues the proper
channels to shed the proper and adequate light.
The true light he seeks out in the Word of God, the Teaching of the
Magisterium of the Church, the Teachings of the Popes, their documents and
especially their encyclicals, and the lives, writings and examples of the
saints--- the incarnate reflections of the various virtues of Jesus Christ!
ONE FINALLY ANALOGY TO SUM UP OUR
TOPIC ON CONSCIENCE….
Imagine a room, with a window pointed
to the sun at midday (12:00 noon). Picture these different scenarios. 1st ,
the room has windows, shutters, shades totally shut—the room is in total
darkness. 2nd , the shutters and shades are only partially opened. A
streak of the sunlight passes through. Mere objects can be detected. 3rd
, the shutters and shades are half opened
resulting in the objects seen, but without any detail observed. 4th
and finally, the windows, the shutters and shades are totally opened at
noon. The sun pours forth its rays,
penetrating and inundating the room. The
chairs, tables, bed can be seen down to the most minute detail. Not only that, but even the tiny dust particles
floating in the room can be seen.
This analogy of the room applies to
our conscience. All have a conscience,
given as a gift by our loving God—nobody
in the world is excluded! However, some
have an erroneous conscience, others a lax one, still others might have
deformed their conscience to the point of cauterizing or even killing the
conscience. Those of good-will recognize
the reality of sin and that is part of fallen human nature and take specific
steps to know themselves and the truth in the light of God’s word, explained by
the Magisterium and Holy Father and his teachings. They have acquired a healthy
or even delicate conscience . May our
conscience be that of the room open to divine sunlight so that His light of
Truth will illuminate us and set us free!