cc 1781: Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God:
We shall....reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and He knws everything. (1Jn 3:19-20).
How many times have I struggled with the presence of good and evil in my own heart? Taking the place of "but he deserved it" is the age-old conflict in the human soul of what is right and what is wrong. When someone cannot differentiate between the two, we call them insane. We say they cannot stand trial in a court of law. We lable them psychopaths or sociopaths. In other words, we take for granted that the average person knows what it right and what it wrong.
For instance, in the example of the abortion debate I know that once someone who is demanding that abortion is a 'right' realizes that they are not going to be able to wiggle out of the fact that what is being killed is a human being the very next argument they will jump to is 'well then you people really don't care about them once they are born'. In other words, they capitulate on the one hand and then try to use as an argument for abortion being ok that these humans should be killed before they are born outside the womb because they may have a really horrible life, because no one will ever love them like they should be loved and because they are going to be just too expensive. However, if you point out to them that the 'far right neo-cons' use many of the same arguments for restricting health care to illegal immigrants they get very angry.
The frong page of the Modesto Bee affirmed how little we know about the ways of God. We have babies being thrown into dumpsters in Turlock and two people who some would have said should never have had sex let alone have a baby watching their child grow into a strong and happy young woman. We have evil existing side by side with Love - how can this be?
A little over a month ago I attended a big, fat Italian wedding and watched a 2 year old boy race down the aisle of St Joseph's holding a pillow with rings securely attached. I laughed as he made a bee line for his spot at the altar, just like he had been told to do and then grinned with triumph when he 'did it right'. Today that little one has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and is in a bed at St Jude's in Memphis. Perhaps, some would argue, he should have been killed when he was in the womb rather than go through what he is going through now?
When I had my abortions, I did so out of fear and anger and hopelessness. I did it because I was selfish and self-centered and could only think about what a pregnancy would mean to me and how it would disrupt my life. But the evil I had done stayed with me just as The Church teaches - as witness to the universal truth. I had put me above the common good.
Now, I can argue on my behalf that the entire culture was focused on 'do what is good for you first, you cannot be happy unless you are doing what you want' philosophies. I can see many people my age still believe that lie. I hear it in meetings all the time. Take care of YOU first, we tell newcomers to our 12 step program. This is a SELFISH program, we tell them. But that is not true and we have proven again and again in human history that it is when we put others before ourselves that we accomplish the most and are the happiest.
Today, I recognize that I fail when I put me first. It is as simple as that...I never do life right if I put what I think is best for me in front of the common good. My conscience, once dead, has been revived and the verdict of His love and mercy is "seek first My Kingdom".
I do not pretend to know everything.....but I do know this: I am small. God loves small. I am loved.