Role of Conscience


#1

Hello,

What is the role of conscience in Catholicism? Is the following an accurate statement?

The conscience is the very essence of the person as a moral agent and cannot be abrogated without compromising our humanity. As a faculty of reason, the conscience can be mistaken, and it is the responsibility of every individual to form their conscience through the exercise of reason and the virtues. In Catholicism, Scripture and tradition, including the Magisterium, are invaluable in this. However, we must be absolutely clear: an individual must always follow the dictates of their own conscience. This is the firm and consistent teaching of the Church herself.


#2

[quote=Ahimsa]Hello,

What is the role of conscience in Catholicism? Is the following an accurate statement?

The conscience is the very essence of the person as a moral agent and cannot be abrogated without compromising our humanity. As a faculty of reason, the conscience can be mistaken, and it is the responsibility of every individual to form their conscience through the exercise of reason and the virtues. In Catholicism, Scripture and tradition, including the Magisterium, are invaluable in this. However, we must be absolutely clear: an individual must always follow the dictates of their own conscience. This is the firm and consistent teaching of the Church herself.
[/quote]

I can agree with everything except for the bolded part.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

III. TO CHOOSE IN ACCORD WITH CONSCIENCE

1786 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.

1788 To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts.

1789 Some rules apply in every case:

  • One may never do evil so that good may result from it;

  • the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”

  • charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.” Therefore “it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.”

I think these paragraphs refute the “an individual must always follow the dictates of their own conscience” when that conscience says that one may do evil, even when a good may be the result.

Here is a link to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on line specifially Part Three, Section One, Chapter One, Article 6 Moral Conscience


#3

[quote=ByzCath]I think these paragraphs refute the “an individual must always follow the dictates of their own conscience” when that conscience says that one may do evil, even when a good may be the result.
[/quote]

I think if a conscience is viewed as the person’s last and best judgement of what is right to do, then obviously they cannot act against that, or the person would be choosing what they view to be evil in their best estimation.

Here are two relevant CCC:

1800 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.
**1778 **Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right…

However, that is not to say that if you are unsure, that you must act a particular way about that. Well, I suppose you must strive to clear up your uncertainty!!!

Warning: I am NOT saying that if Prior to considering the Church’s teaching you think it is right to do such and such, but that if you were to consider it, then the judgement would change, I am not saying that you are then free to follow what you think! Because then you are not following your last, best judgement. You are following some sort of prior decision to the full decision of your conscience.

ByzCath, I’m not sure if I have understood you correctly, btw. Are the words that I have cut from your post trying to say something in particular about a person’s knowledge of the rule about the ends don’t justify the means? It is perfectly possible to be in ignorance of that rule. As a child, I was deliberately taught that that rule was specifically wrong. It took me years to sort that out of my head.


#4

[quote=Pug]ByzCath, I’m not sure if I have understood you correctly, btw. Are the words that I have cut from your post trying to say something in particular about a person’s knowledge of the rule about the ends don’t justify the means? It is perfectly possible to be in ignorance of that rule. As a child, I was deliberately taught that that rule was specifically wrong. It took me years to sort that out of my head.
[/quote]

I understand what you are saying but we must look at all of the entries in the Catechism but speifically parapgraph 1789 says it all, it does say that some rules apply in every case… Here it is again.

1789 Some rules apply in every case:

  • One may never do evil so that good may result from it;

  • the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”

  • charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.” Therefore “it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.”

So if the rule, “one may never do evil so that good may result from it” is a rule that applies in every case, then it doesn’t matter if you did not believe that in the past, it still applied. Now if you didn’t believe it the severity of the sin commited might be mitigated but it doesn’t nullify the sin.


#5

[quote=Pug]ByzCath, I’m not sure if I have understood you correctly, btw. Are the words that I have cut from your post trying to say something in particular about a person’s knowledge of the rule about the ends don’t justify the means? It is perfectly possible to be in ignorance of that rule. As a child, I was deliberately taught that that rule was specifically wrong. It took me years to sort that out of my head.
[/quote]

I understand what you are saying but we must look at all of the entries in the Catechism but speifically parapgraph 1789 says it all, it does say that some rules apply in every case… Here it is again.

1789 Some rules apply in every case:

  • One may never do evil so that good may result from it;

  • the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”

  • charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.” Therefore “it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.”

So if the rule, “one may never do evil so that good may result from it” is a rule that applies in every case, then it doesn’t matter if you did not believe that in the past, it still applied. Now if you didn’t believe it the severity of the sin commited might be mitigated but it doesn’t nullify the sin.

I believe that it would also add culpability for that sin to the one who taught you that this didn’t matter.


#6

[quote=ByzCath]So if the rule, “one may never do evil so that good may result from it” is a rule that applies in every case, then it doesn’t matter if you did not believe that in the past, it still applied. Now if you didn’t believe it the severity of the sin commited might be mitigated but it doesn’t nullify the sin.
[/quote]

GRRRRR! I just made a long post that the servers ate! Here is my new version, sigh.

I can understand your comment in two ways:

A) The ends/means rule always is in play, even if your are not aware of it. So if you violate it in ignorance, a material sin will be done, that is, damage will take place, even if there is no culpability in the particular case.

B) It is doctrinally impossible to be ignorant of the ends/means rule, so if you violate it, you are guilty of at least a venial sin. You cannot pawn it off as material only. (For now I exclude considerations of coercion, being asleep, etc.)

I offer two CCC, one towards A and one towards B.

1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

It has never before occurred to me that 1860 might mean that everyone is judged (deemed) to be knowledgeable of the ends/means law no matter what, no exceptions for being stupid or grossly mistaught.

I do consider the ends/means rule to always be in play.

Which do you mean?


#7

Pug,

I am leaning more towards B but in the case of A, even in invincible ignorance (something that I believe is very hard to have in the modern western world given the laws we have) that 1793 says an evil still occurs and that we must work to correct their false understanding.


#8

[quote=ByzCath]1793 says an evil still occurs and that we must work to correct their false understanding.
[/quote]

I agree to this. It is right to tell people the truth. What constitutes a sin is not some whimsical list. A person can be hurt by what they don’t know.


#9

Ahimsa

In Catholicism, Scripture and tradition, including the Magisterium, are invaluable in this. However, we must be absolutely clear: an individual must always follow the dictates of their own conscience. This is the firm and consistent teaching of the Church herself.

Query:

Does this principle apply to people of other faiths?

If a Muslim terrorist, following his conscience, blows up fifty infidels with a bomb tied to his chest, does he go straight to Allah and the eighty virgins?


#10

If he bombs innocent civilians, then – according to how many or most Muslims interpret their faith – he would not be doing the will of Allah.


#11

To agree with that statement is to say “my conscience is superior to the laws of God.” In other words the statement is absurd and ridiculous.


#12

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