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 life.”
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 shirt!  

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 him.
6. DOUBTFUL/PERPLEXED 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! Conscience assassination!
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!
12.  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!


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!