Morality, is it embedded or taught?


Is morality embedded in our hearts or does it have to be taught?


I believe both. Some are naturally humble and good natured. Some willingly do what was shown/taught by example as they know they should.


Both – it’s embedded, and it must be learned. The Catechism teaches that the Natural Moral Law is written in our hearts, but that we are responsible for forming our consciences so that we are able to act in accordance with it.



1777 Moral conscience, 48 present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil …

1779 It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. …

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task …


Some of it probably is, but a lot of it has to be taught.

Human sacrifice, exposing babies to the elements or drowning/smothering them at birth, a culture of “it’s okay to steal— but it’s impermissible to get caught!”, religious rites that involve orgies or drunkenness---- those were all common elements in pagan cultures. And that’s why the Christian emphasis on agape was so revolutionary-- while the pagans had the concept of “hospitality towards strangers”, the Christians had the concept of “equality before God”.

So you can see an example of this mindset in the letter from Emperor Julian to Arascius, the pagan High Priest of Galatia. Julian took the view that the Christians were indulging in false piety, to coerce people to join them, and that his people ought to start erecting hostels and supporting the poor, or else everyone will see that they do nothing to support their own poor— but the Christians are happy to support everyone’s poor.


Both. We have it and we learn it.


It is taught.


Both. And the ‘embedded’ is natural moral law, I believe is a proof of God. For without God, there is no reason for morality.


Perfectly stated: concise, cogent and elegant. Bravo.


I was always taught since we are made in Gods image we are born with moralities but I was also told that God taught morality to Adam and Eve and gave Moses the tablets so that must indicate that we were taught morality too. If we think about when we were kids we were most likely taught by our parents.


Which is the moral course if our conscience, educated to the best of our ability, is still at odds with our teacher

That depends on the trustworthiness of the teacher. Teachers can be wrong, as we can be wrong, “in conscience.” The Lord left a solid reference, a teacher with moral authority, in the universal moral teachings of the Catholic Church. We all personally do have a conscience, and the gift of reason to discern right and wrong - BUT we also have confusion in our souls, the wounds of concupiscence that must be straightened, corrected if wrong, led to true righteousness by the Truth of Christ and His Church.

One must be wary of pride in this matter! Concupiscence also temps us to think more highly - and more trustingly - of our opinions and desires than we ought. Humbly, even if we are fairly sure we are right about a moral question, we should proceed slowly, prayerfully, carefully listening to the judgments of others whom we respect or should respect (especially, the Church!) before we conclude that our own conscience is right in the matter and the judgments of the others are wrong.

A wise man once told me, “If you are unsure, sit down.” In other words, don’t walk by an uncertain light, especially in the minefield of moral choices. Pray some more, maybe a lot more, before acting.


As humans, we have two obligations:

  • to form our conscience to the best of our ability
  • to follow the dictates of our conscience

The implication is that, if our conscience is telling us to do something that we suspect is wrong or immoral, we have a duty to correct that faulty formation of conscience.

In your case, if your teacher (the Church? your priest?) is telling you something that you believe to be incorrect, then your responsibility is to determine whether it is he or you who is mistaken, and to act appropriately.

(What we cannot do is merely shrug and say “meh… it’s my conscience, and it’s telling me to rob that bank, so I’ve gotta do what my conscience says!” or even, “meh… if he says it’s right, then that’s my excuse – I’ll do it, even though I know it’s wrong!”)

Conscience is a gift, but God would have us use it wisely…



We see this far too often today. “Primacy of conscience” is taken to mean essentially hedonism: I’ll do whatever I please or I’ll behave in a self-indulgent manner because I feel like it. It’s one of the most horribly misunderstood Christian concepts today, I’d say almost as misunderstood as “Christian freedom” (where freedom is correctly defined as the liberty to choose to do what is objectively right and good but mistakenly taken to mean having license to do whatever one wants).


It sounds as though you are talking about prudence - what is the true good called for in a particular situation or circumstance. If your thought is a sin, and the adviser is suggesting a non-sinful act, then he’s got something important on his side. If he suggests a non-sinful good, and you lean toward a different non-sinful good, then if its “apples or oranges”, either is good.

But it is never good to do evil so that some apparent good might come. The end does not justify the means: the means must, in itself, be good as well as the end must be good.

Suppose there are only two choices - say at an election: One candidate promises abortion on demand, the other promises to limit abortion in some significant way. We ought to do what we can, in such an election, to lessen the evil that will certainly come after that election. Abortion will definitely come after the election, but if one candidate wins, the evil will be lessened. In this case, to lessen the evil is the most good, the best thing, that we can do, and hence we ought to do that good.


It’s taught. To think otherwise denies reality and the Word of God.


a) if you are presented with choice to obey or not, and you choose to obey or not, for some reason, this seems like it can be a moral act.

b) but I think some “choices” to obey are more of a case of not even recognizing the presence of a choice, on account of previous choices long made and settled. I still see value in this state of affairs, though, since a person may have worked very hard to deliberately create it, and it is a way to achieve our positive goals.


I think habits of virtue can be nurtured. In general they don’t arrive embedded and in full flower. I also think knowledge can improve and make certain choices more attractive.


No, “we” - faithful Catholics - can never “do evil” period, and not even when some apparent good might result. Lethal self defense is not evil. The pregnancy you named is beyond my medical knowledge, so I can’t comment on that, but Catholic medical ethics do not permit evil acts. Self-defense is an act to preserve life and protect life against an evil intent to destroy or gravely harm it.

Here is a good Catholic reference site for Medical bioethics: NCBC

And of course the Catechism.

Catechism 1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).<Cf. Mt 6:24>

Concerning contraception:

2369 “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood.”<Cf. HV 12>
2370 Periodic continence, [NFP] that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self- observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.<HV 16> These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil:<HV 14>
Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality… The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.<FC 32>


Basic Right and Wrong is written on our hearts; BUT morality; moral values, what is Moral and immorla is a learned condition.


If I understand your question (is it still a moral act even if we don’t want to do it?) yes.
A moral act is still moral even if done for flimsy or even wrong motivations.

Does a little child want to share and take turns? No. They have to be taught to do so, and in some cases, forced.
But sharing and taking turns are still the right thing to do.
Of course, one would hope that with continued development, the child will eventually come around to see the sense of sharing and taking turns, and make it their own (even if it’s still more fun to have all the things and take all the turns :slightly_smiling_face:)

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