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Monday, December 15, 2008

The Judgement of Conscience

CCC 1777 : Moral conscience, 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. 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 (one) listens to (one's) conscience, the prudent (one) can hear God speaking.
What a beautiful, jam-packed teaching!

For many years now it has been unfashionable to be considered 'judgemental'. The very word has become another way to call someone a bigot, a racist, a demeanor of humanity. Yet there was a time when to be considered judgemental meant that one could be counted upon to discern what was right and what was wrong. To be refereed to within one's own community as a man or woman of taste, refinement, morality inferred that the person could be counted upon to show good judgement.

Personally, I believe that we have a tendency to 'throw the baby out with the bath water' whenever we are trying to correct a societal wrong. What begins from a place of love degenerates to a lack of backbone, an inability to call an evil an evil and a fear of not being accepted by the community itself. I also believe that if a person or group has a particular political or religious agenda it is almost immune from attack if they wrap it in the words of a particular struggle against evil. Thus, when Sinclair Lewis once proclaimed that fascism would come 'wrapped in a flag, carrying a cross', today it is safe to say that fascism will come wrapped in the Bill of Rights (badly interpreted) and carrying a picture of Dr Martin Luther King. In other words, to rely upon how someone or some group presents a particular issue would be foolish; rather, it is going to depend upon an ability to make a judgement that will allow individuals to decide what parameters will define their society.

What is lovely about this teaching is that is underlies God's great respect for His own creatures. He embeds in our hearts what is Natural Law, and then He constantly calls to us through that embedded knowledge to choose good and avoid evil. He allows us to grow at our own pace and yet He did not leave us orphans. He did not simply start the watch works and then step back. Instead, by giving us a propensity for doing good, for wanting to draw nearer to Him in all things, something quite extraordinary is proclaimed: God cares.

God cares about ever little aspect of our lives, and while He will not force us to do good neither will He not give us the ability to do it without the power necessary to do it. Why have a beautiful Ferrari in your driveway without an engine, or if you have the engine, without it being properly installed? And once it is installed, why would you not have fuel to make it run?

Thus we know that The Church teaches we have a conscience but that simply having one is not enough. There is a purpose to having a conscience. It was given to us for a reason. We have a ways and a means to discern what is wrong and what is right - which presupposes that there is a right and a wrong.

Rom 2:14-16, 1:32

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