The glorification of conscience

Today we appear to have two different approaches to morality. One is founded in obedience to the Church’s teaching on moral matters; the other is the absolute requirement to follow our subjective conscience. These two notions appear to stand in opposition to each other. I explore this anomaly with help from Pope Benedict’s address, as Cardinal Ratzinger, to his fellow bishops in 1991. I hope that some will examine his text which, at some 7000 words, is rather too long for this column.

While we are not inclined to doubt the principle that conscience is sovereign, we must be aware of a possible contradiction. The glorifying of conscience can quickly lead to a subjective approach in which the objectivity of the moral tradition becomes no more than material presented to us for consideration. Our grasp of truth becomes subjective, and the only criterion is sincerity. But we know that subjective conclusions vary from one person to another, and may well reflect special circumstances. They cannot be a certain guide to truth.

Subjectivity may lead to some surprising conclusions. We might find ourselves accepting the possibility that a Nazi guard pitchforking a Jew into a gas chamber was obliged to do so in good conscience. And some have even argued that those who have little knowledge of Revelation and the divine law have an advantage since their ignorance allows them a range of behaviour forbidden to us. There is irony in the thought that our faith may condemn us while lack of faith goes free.

We may approach this by considering the need for guilt. Luke describes this in the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee. It is the tax collector who goes away justified because he recognises his guilt and his need for mercy. The Pharisee, complacent in his virtue, renders himself impermeable to God. Far from regarding guilt as some kind of weakness, it is our recognition that we continually fall short of the truth within us. Our Nazi guard may not be to blame at the moment of decision. But he is to blame for not recognising the moral truths which lie within him. In a sense, he is sinning against his better self.

Ratzinger uses the word anamnesis, or recollection, in this context. It is exactly described in Romans as “(The Gentiles) show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness…” It tells us that two elements are involved. The first is our native ability, directly created within us, to recognise the good. The second is the judgment of conscience which is necessarily based on our recognition of the good.

We must not separate the two. By doing so, we find ourselves with a wholly subjective judgment of conscience. This is what leads us to decisions which are grounded in our inadequacies, in immediate circumstances, in the fashions of our culture. Precisely because it is our own we give it a superiority which smacks of the Pharisee. But when it is grounded in the law in our hearts it is a decision made in humility. The Council does not speak of our subjective decisions but of a conscience which “is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.” We do not pick and choose the voice of God, we listen, we recollect. You can’t get more objective than that.

The Church is the witness of the moral good – a compendium of Christian understanding, developed and refined over the centuries. While it is authoritative to us as Catholics by Christ’s commission, its expression does not trump our recognition of the good as it applies in our own decision. We remain responsible. It is not a burden, rather it lifts the burden by helping to clarify the demands of the good within us. It is not a law which requires reactive obedience. On the contrary we must, as far as possible understand how it leads towards, or possibly detracts from, the good we recognise. We are responsible, too, when our uncertainty properly requires us to defer to the Church’s teaching — much as we might responsibly rely on an expert in other contexts.

For the Pharisee, compliance with the law was the objective since salvation came through the law. Our understanding is different. Christ is the harbour light and the laws are the buoys which mark the entrance to the channel. As a distinguished theologian put it: “The ten commandments protect the outer periphery in which Christ will be formed in us.” We come back, as always, to our growth in Christian virtue. It is through this that we see more clearly, and choose more freely, the good implanted within us.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s address is at .

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Catholic Herald columns, Moral judgment, virtue ethics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to The glorification of conscience

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    For “a Nazi guard pitchforking a Jew into a gas chamber ” try substituting “a Church official chaining a heretic to a stake in a bonfire”, perhaps despite a reluctant conscience. Would the Church then be “the witness of the moral good “?

    A more apposite example for our own times is of course the concealment, under obedience, of clerical abuse. I mention it only because someone is bound to!

    • Brendan says:

      In away I’m glad you did mention it Peter . I was reminded this week that Pope Pius xii said of his times that we have .. ” lost the sense and awareness of sin ..” in society . How prophetic ; he should have lived to see the West 15-20 years after he died and up to our times ! Quentin has laid out well the sphere in which the Catholic conscience has objective reality today. Yes, it’s about sinfulness and the ‘ aboriginal Vicar of Christ ‘ – ones conscience ; this innate . ontological sense in doing ‘ good ‘. After all , before and after The Fall we are made in Gods image and likeness.
      This sense of subjective sin is the key to reconciling/ harmonising the ” anamnesis ” of Pope Benedict and the seemingly confrontational / contradiction of… ” obedience to the church’s teaching on moral matters …..and the absolute requirement to follow our subjective confidence. ”
      Humility is the key in living , to ‘ reach ‘ God ; and the way to cultivate this great virtue of virtues is to ponder on Gods infinite mercy. I am coming to believe that it is no coincidence that Pope Francis – no doubt given his Jesuit background , Ignatian spritual upbringing – has called a Year of Mercy in this regard. In promoting a sense of oneness with The Lord he hopes to engage us in our ‘ origins ‘ which lie in re-orientation with this natural sense of moral judgement which is so lacking in society today. Humility does not come naturally to the West ridden with hubris and the loss of that sense of our fallen nature – sinfullness. Considering the events of the October Synod The Holy Spirit must be moving the Holy Father to present this great year of grace to the world !
      These are my initial thoughts . I will hopefully get around to reading the 7000 word ‘Ratzinger’ address sometime.

  2. John Thomas says:

    Yes, the problem comes when moral judgements based (essentially? solely?) on “my conscience” are in truth just reflecting the culture, popular values, what the media says, etc. – ie. something non-Christian, in most cases).

    • Brendan says:

      John Thomas – In our media/celebrity obsessed age which to a large extent drives the agenda for our ‘culture ‘ , someone said …. ” all T.V. is propaganda , it just depends what propaganda. ”
      In ‘ faith ‘ we Catholics know what to do – steer by the star of Christ in The Barque of Peter ….. not slavishly but in .’ truth .’ Christ would not have meant it , if it did not come from His lips.

  3. John Candido says:

    ‘The glorifying of conscience can quickly lead to a subjective approach in which the objectivity of the moral tradition becomes no more than material presented to us for consideration.’ (Quentin)

    Balance is paramount. The church’s magisterium is for every Catholic burdened or unburdened by immaturity and/or cynicism. The ‘glorification’ of conscience can be a prime source of error. The human conscience is there to be used when necessity intervenes. Its use is characterised by an unavoidable subjectivity. After all the ‘subject’ will be employing it to determine what should be his/her attitude on any moral issue, not the church.

    A glorified conscience ‘…can quickly lead to a subjective approach…’ (Quentin)

    A person utilising their conscience must eschew selfishness and self-deception, and use other resources to assist them. Using the conscience is difficult but not impossible.

    ‘Our grasp of truth becomes subjective, and the only criterion is sincerity. But we know that subjective conclusions vary from one person to another, and may well reflect special circumstances. They cannot be a certain guide to truth.’ (Quentin)

    Subjective conclusions vary from one individual to another, and is why they are ‘subjective’ i.e. a ‘subject’ uses their intellect, other resources and their conscience, in a sincere effort over time to determine how they will behave given their unique circumstances.

    A personal exercise of anyone’s conscience is a private judgement and only applies to them. Something like the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), objectively applies to everybody. Whether moral principles are popular and easy or unfavourable and difficult misses the point. The CCC is not only a work that objectively applies to everyone; the CCC is also addressed to everybody.

    Balance must apply to all provisions of the CCC because of the complexity of individuals. It would be akin to fundamentalism to only use the CCC to make a decision. Moral provisions in the CCC are not optional extras, but these provisions must be nuanced with the subjective circumstances of people. Not as a cynical exercise but a wise use of all of one’s resources. The same conclusion of any person’s conscience may apply to other people with similar circumstances, but this is unintended and accidental; not an immutable rule.

    Moral teachings do not disqualify people’s circumstances and people’s circumstances do not expunge moral teachings. Neither is superior. A personal ‘accommodation’ between one’s circumstances and moral provisions is properly achieved using integrity and one’s conscience.

    ‘…our grasp of truth becomes subjective, and the only criterion is sincerity…’ (Quentin)

    Everyone should take this with a grain of salt.

    The guard’s moral innocence is better left to God who can ‘read’ any heart. ‘I was following orders’ cannot be used to exonerate war crimes.

    ‘The defense of superior orders was no longer considered enough to escape punishment; but merely enough to lessen punishment.’ (Wikipedia accessed on the 29th January 2016)

    Fr. Joseph Ratzinger was a peritus at Vatican II. As a theologian in 1967 he wrote:

    ‘Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirements of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which is the last resort, is beyond the claims of external social groups, even the official church, and also establishes a principle in opposition to totalitarianism.’

    Quotation taken from,

    (‘Gaudium et Spes’, Volume 5, Part 1, chapter 1, p. 134, in ‘Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II’, Edited by Herbert Vorgrimler, 1968, New York, Published by Herder & Herder.)

  4. G.D. says:

    Is not the idea to follow our enlightened conscience? “ … the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. ….. alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.” And the depths of all others.

    When we attempt to hear that voice (become enlightened) and it is one with the external moral teaching, we know our internal choice is moral; and the external teaching is moral.
    Objective and subjective moral discernment, in this instance, no longer exist.
    Yet both can co-exist in the world.

    If conflict persists then we must listen to the echoes in more depth, and dialogue with the external authority. Until both are in agreement.

    In as much as one, the subjective individual or the objective external institutional authority, refuses exchange without condemnation (yes mercy is a key to enlightenment) and without superiority (humility too) and without coercion (freedom another) true morality is being denied by them.
    And the conflict for the refuser remains.
    Both suffer. Only one in peace.

  5. Nektarios says:

    This is a very big subject, the whole subject of conscience, it would benefit us to approach it slowly and carefully.
    We know all men, whether Jew or Gentile has a conscience. God has written into the hearts of all men a conscience, God’s monitor on the soul that warns us when in moral danger. We ignore it at our peril.

    The word conscience means con – that is with another, and science that is knowing. That is its meaning. For the Christian, that knowing is with another, God. It is also that knowing with our Christian brethren, as well as God.

    There are many states of conscience, there is, a good conscience, a pure conscience, a weak conscience, a defiled conscience, and there is a seared conscience. Let me take one for the moment, that of a weak conscience.
    All actions may be good in themselves but not always expedient. Cf. Roman 14:14-16.
    To him who has a pure conscience, all things are pure, but for the brother with a weak conscience
    our actions we see no problem with, they would see as sinful. This is particularly so in missionary work, where the missionary in a foreign land and culture is preaching the gospel, but if they conduct themselves as they would at home, they may cause offence and their good may be evil spoken of.
    Many a missionary home on furlough will testify to this.

  6. Brendan says:

    In our modern post-Christian world Ratzinger says….” The concept of truth has been virtually given up and replaced by the concept of progress. …progress itself ‘ is ‘ truth .” I construe from his meaning :-
    Anamnesis ; theologically and ontologically gifted by God – the pre-condition of subjective conscience – is obscured and replaced by our numerous subjective judgements, dependent on culture and and our own psychological presentments. Morally correct as they may be in competition with each other , the one that wins out becomes the ‘truth ‘ of progress. But being one of many it is purely relativistic and cannot therefore be the sole representative of truth. One example ; the tragedy of the split in Christianity up to today. The other ; the destruction of the real significance of marriage and the gift of sexuality therein , being replaced by a plethora of wholly subjective ways of living out our existence, contrary to Gods plan for His world.
    In this regard the Petrine Promise is the one guarantee of the truth of the ‘ kerygma ‘ within us – flowing from ‘ the aboriginal Vicar of Christ ‘ ( this primordial anamnesis ) through the Spirit in the Church and the world. So then indeed can Newman toast to ” conscience first ” and ” the Pope ” second.

  7. St.Joseph says:

    Brendan I wonder if conscience is by experience and not taught , I say this as I have told these experiences before on the blog.
    When we do something wrong like I did as a child with my friend having our sandwiches in the back of the church, as we were in the choir and allowed (age around maybe 9 If my memories serves me right ,but before this incident happened my friend when at Holy Mass would pull her Rosary Beads from her mouth very slowly when I came back from Holy Communion, however to prevent myself from laughing, I pretended to faint.Then of course my parents and all in the church felt sorrow for me , and my mother took me home.
    To go back to the sandwiches , my friend and I got bored so we decided to teach ourselves how not to laugh in church ,so we decided to go up to the Altar Rails and see which one could stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament without laughing!
    Neither of us could do so.
    In bed that night I felt burning up in bed and could see a figure which looked like God the Father
    glaring at me and I felt really awful. I could not wait to go to school to tell my friend( who had died RIP now) and we both made a promise to God we would never do that again.
    Year after that when middle twenties I was married 2 children and a friend called to say she was going to Mass it was a weekday, would I like to go, I had just eaten my dinner -but said ‘yes’.
    When going into church the priest was there and I asked him I it was alright to receive Holy Communion as I had not fasted for the hour. He said I should not have asked him as he would have to say no!!. Another lesson learned?? I knew how much God cared!
    I have matured a bit now with my conscience, and being not well to go to daily Mass or even on Sundays but watch the Mass on EWTN daily, sometimes I have to eat at the time Mass is being celebrated lunch tea time, however my conscience doesn’t bother me. As the saying goes one can pray when one eats’.
    We know what is right and wrong, if we are catholic and have a relationship with God also not forgetting Confession.

    You were spot one when you said ‘simplicity’. I am sure The Lord has a sense of humour but will not be taken for granted!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Looking back on the incident in my above post where the priest gave me an answer about the reception of Holy Communion . I remember that on my way out of Mass he asked me if I would join the new Liturgy Commission just beginning in the parish,

      Talk about confusing ones conscience!! Of course I said ‘certainly not’!
      Perhaps he wanted to change all the churches teachings with my help!!!

  8. Brendan says:

    I do love your little stories St.Joseph ; you have vivid recall. Is this a woman’s thing ?
    I would say that the act of carrying out conscience ( the second component of conscience ) is a mixed result of ‘ experience ‘ and ‘ tutelage ‘. I take it that according to Ratzinger the first component being ‘anamnesis ‘ – this perception that we are endowed with good conscience from conception. The fact that you new instinctively ( from anamnesis strengthened by experience) that your friends antics with the rosary were not to be congratulated by you in any way and also the example by your parents etc. were the right way to react to reverence and worship due to The Holy Eucharist. I suspect the ‘ appearance ‘ of God The Father to you was meant to send that point home. How sweet to use the subtefuge to try and break this habit of bad behaviour on your part ! That’s how one grows in holiness however small and seemingly insignificant a thing of memory.
    For myself I perceive that ‘good ‘ conscience in the Christian/Catholic sense brings calmness of spirit , and while not infallible of itself – the fact that through your Faith the ‘ Church ‘ found you out in your approach to the priest to ask whether you can still receive Holy Communion ; yes God does lead us to question ‘ BECAUSE ‘ He loves us – in simply practical terms that’s why Our Lord gave us Popes to certify truth in faith and morals to lead us out of a moral maze.

  9. Nektarios says:

    There is a problem with conscience, but before I go into that, you remember the story of Abraham at the burning bush, when the Lord spoke to him, he hid his face and trembled. You may also remember when God descended from Heaven on top of Mt. Sainia and there was flashing and lightings and the whole mountain trembled? You remember Job, godly Job, faced with the presence of God declared he was a man of unclean lips. Or remember the Apostle Paul himself, in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.
    These are a few illustrations of the people coming near to God’s presence and the effect it had on them, for they knew God was a consuming fire, they knew God was righteous and holy, and they knew they were not.

    Now, the problem of conscience is when we come to prayer. Those who think prayer is easy, are ignorant. Prayer is coming before God who is a consuming fire, righteous and holy. As we come to prayer our conscience accuses us. Also the devil accuses us before God. Of sins past and present,
    and that conscience is accusing me and condemning me before God.

    Now like so many these days we can ignore all the accusations of conscience, saying to ourselves well, God is love. If He is love He cannot be angry with me.
    Yes, God is love, but He is also a consuming fire, righteous and holy.
    So just saying to myself, God is love will not quell the accusing conscience. I have failed, I have broken His Law and my conscience never forgets.

    I can have no assurance that my sins are forgiven, and as I draw near to God in prayer, I see something of His awesome glory, I see that He sees me in total righteousness and in His holiness.
    I look at myself, and I am afraid, trembling at His all-glorious presence. I look at myself, I see
    there is no soundness in me at all, all my works are as filthy rages before Him. Meanwhile
    my conscience continues, along with the devil to accuse me. How can I have assurance that I have been totally and completely forgiven? My conscience condemns me, the Law of God condemns me.

    Do you see the problem with conscience?
    How are we to silence conscience and the devil before God?
    I will continue later.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Your comment is very inspiring. I like it.
      Your Question ‘How are we to silence conscience and the devil before God..’?
      I find the Sacrament of Reconciliation as it is called now, the one thing that the devil hates, we can be sure of Jesus’s promise when He say’s ‘Go tell your sins to the priest and you will be healed.
      As long as we go back and thank God and not take it all for granted.
      Didn’t Jesus say’ not 7 times but 77′.
      When I have been tempted I have always said to Satan ‘Get off my back’. and he does
      One may say it is all in the mind , however it does work. I find one has to know the devil and his ways when it comes to our souls!..

  10. Nektarios says:

    Thank you St. Joseph for your comments. I will post something along these line a little later today
    but must rush for now.

  11. John Nolan says:

    Newman, whose ideas on conscience are more fully developed than those of any other modern thinker, and whose writings had a great influence on Joseph Ratzinger, did not confuse conscience, that ‘stern monitor’, with subjective and private judgement. It is ironic that many who use ‘primacy of conscience’ to justify what they call ‘loyal dissent’ from the moral teaching of the Church cite Newman in their defence whereas Blessed John Henry would have strenuously opposed this line of argument.

    • Brendan says:

      John Nolan – I have read this as well about dissenters. Surely it is not easy for the layperson to fully grasp Newman’s take on ‘ primacy of conscience ‘; but for the learned dissenters who deal with these issues day after day , one would suppose that they might begin to find some kind of angle rather than using Newman as defence , and by making a stand on what seems to me the absurdity of ‘loyal dissent .’

  12. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan & Brendan

    Conscience is not a matter of private judgement, though Conscience is personal.
    I am not quite sure what you mean by loyal dissent?
    If you mean those that would have a loyal dissent regarding certain aspects of Roman Catholicism,
    like Protestants or indeed Orthodox, I would have to disagree with Blessed John Henry Newman.

    Conscience is that warning of moral danger or to put it more forcibly, putting our eternal Salvation in danger.

  13. Nektarios says:

    Perhaps a prayerful reading of Roman 14 1-6 first. then carefully go through the rest of the chapter.
    It will show you the problems that were there. It started in Rome and here the Apostle Paul is addressing it .
    From what we read, we see different view points adopted in the church at Rome. Was this dissent on the part of some?
    We don’t want to be or appear to be bigots, which is a side of fear, but that in all the points that may vary within the Church we, as the Apostle says, in verse 5 of the 14th chapter of Romans, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.”
    To further develop and to be convinced in your own mind, go on to read Galatians 4: 9-10.

    Our Conscience should always be obeyed, but in saying that we also have to say, our consciences are not infallible. We need to educate our consciences through the reading of the Scriptures and discussions with others, so that one is fully persuaded in their own mind.

  14. Brendan says:

    Nektarios – I do not see St. Paul in Romans 14 as trying to address dissent . The ‘ historical- critical ‘ method of modern theology I read explains it as …. ” Christians not yet securely grounded in the faith and therefore without the firm convictions that would give them a sure conscience.” (NJB ). St. Paul, strong in the faith was ‘ charitable ‘ with them .1 COR. 8;10;14-33.
    You are right in saying that good conscience must be at least ‘informed .’
    Thank you Nektarios , there is no need on this occasion for prayer , when it is already at hand; but your point is taken.

  15. Nektarios says:

    Brendan – there was dissent in Rome over a few issues, which were giving problem to those weak in faith. the verses and chapters you refer to is along the same problems as were in Rome at that time.

    It is a big mistake to assume that we know more than they did, that we are stronger in faith, more full of the Holy Spirit than they were.
    What the Apostle is saying to them all, is don’t let your conscience drive one to extremes. You know the sort of thing: I don’t agree with you, I think you are wrong. The other says the opposite. Voices get louder and the start shouting at each other. We should not let ourselves be pushed into extremes on matters of secondary importance such as festival, fasts, interpretations of the Law of the Sabbath. It was a RCC Bishop, don’t remember who and long ago, who suggested it was wrong and sinful to walk along a promenade on the Sabbath day, and another Bishop who went as far as to say it was sinful to walk more than four steps on the Sabbath day.

    This is the matter of conscience the Apostle is suggesting, we be convinced in our own minds
    and keep the bond of peace in love. But many having power in the Church have abused their power and caused trouble in the conscience of the weaker brethren. It has caused divisions in the Church, over secondary matters blown out of all proportions. It has caused many weaker brethren to make shipwreck of their faith.

  16. John Nolan says:

    Nektarios, exaggerated sabbatarianism is a Protestant, not a Catholic trait. Continental Catholic visitors to England in Victorian times were shocked that everything was closed on Sundays at a time when most people worked a six-day week.
    The chief advocate on this blog of the mistaken concept of ‘loyal dissent’ is John Candido, so if you need further clarification take it up with him.

  17. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan – No, I don’t require clarification about dissenters.
    Like so much exaggerations, especially Christian ones, it is pushing doctrine to the extremes and when one does that it usually lands up in error and affects those of a weak conscience most.

    Many folk thought that the Apostle Paul was referring to the keeping of the Sabbath. This is a Law of God. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”. That is not in question, nor is it up for grabs to observe or not. It is also there for the whole of humanity. Where the arguments came in was right as far back as the early Christian Church. Was the Sabbath to be observed on the the Seventh day of the week or the first day of the week. These arguments and dogmatics on the issue of the Sabbath continue to this day, and sometimes lead to divisions, disharmony and often forgetting, such who oppose, are ones brethren for whom Christ died.

    On the Sabbath, when ever one observes it, there is 6 days a week to work, and I am pleased there is one day a week that is different, where we can step a side from that, and worship God and enjoy the rest ready for the week ahead. It is changed days.

    • St.Joseph says:

      My daughter has a very busy employment in a Secondary school ,business manager etc,
      She does a lot for me , with 2 sons at home one working one at catholic Secondary school, a full day, and in her fifties plus two days a week ,taking me to hospital , plus cooking me dinners! She will go to 11 am Mass, then iron 14 white shirts on a Sunday plus anything else she needs to do, she does have a lady to help with house work once a week, She told me last week her son needed some a new school bag etc and went out on Sunday the only time with him as he plays things at school like rugby and basket ball and violin lessons after school .and rugby on a Saturday in a team
      I don’t think she has a guilty conscience to do essential jobs on the Sabbath,
      What is servile work?
      I would like her to retire because I worry about her health but she says she is needed and enjoys her work, and is a very holy and prayerful catholic.

      • St.Joseph says:

        My son is travelling 100 miles from Herts today to take me to early Mass in the morning my late husbands anniversary, and no doubt we will stop and get some shopping!
        I don’t believe I have the need to confess that, or do I.

  18. Geordie says:

    What about scruples? A conscience can be a double edge sword; either too lax or too strict. We are told, in such cases, to follow the Church’s teachings but the Church is historically inconsistent. Acts which were considered sinful when I was a child or positively encouraged now. Thus what is the answer now?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Remind me, I can only think of a few and those are, fasting on a Friday and 1 hour fast before Holy Mass. Perhaps monthly confession, now essential once a year,
      I was not allowed a Nuptial Mass in 1962 as my husband was not a catholic, no flowers or no hymns only when signing the register and music on the way out

      • St.Joseph says:

        PS. When my son married years ago his wife was allowed to receive Holy Communion at their Nuptial Mass.
        Which must be still allowed as my friends son’s wife did about 7 years ago.

    • Nektarios says:

      Geordie, St. Joseph & Martha

      The Church, like the Jewish religious leaders, turned what should have been a joy into a burden concerning the Sabbath day.
      Many turn up on a Sunday out of duty, but to come into the Lord’s presence with that heart and mind is really not to worship God. Thats when we land up with scruples as you put it.
      Have a closer look at what scruples actually are and how they operate in our minds and hearts.

      As I was saying earlier, the Apostle Paul was saying that all these other services, festivals,
      fasts, so many keeping of days, days of obligation, saints days and the like are all secondary and a matter of ones conscience, so the Apostle Paul says, know your own mind on these matters.

      Many complain that it is all the fault of a secular society, the pace of life in modern society is just too fast, in part they may well be right, but those responsible for the Church locally, nationally or internationally, never seem to take any blame or responsibility for the spiritual dearth today.
      For example, the Church of Scotland as did the Church of England carried on although
      there had never been a war, where millions had died, many left as widows and children without fathers and many orphans. They gave the impression they did not care. As a result people began leaving the churches up and down the land.
      People thought the wartime restrictions seemed to be like restrictions or impositions by the Church. The people had had enough of restrictions and wartime made people grow up in a sense and they were not going to be bullied by any so- authority of the Church. Even education changed.
      Our conscience needs to be educated today, so we can know our own minds. The Church institutions have got no right whatsoever to laud it over the people of God and society in general, that has been tried many times and has always failed. it is failing now. discuss yes, come to a conclusion or agreement among yourselves. Your conscience is not the property of the Church, but yours and yours alone. God has placed it in you to protect you or safeguard the soul, use it!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Yes, however I would like young people to go to Holy Mass out of duty, it is only by grace that they would receive that helps them to mature in their faith and love for God. I don’t mean force but encourage.
        We do lots of things out of duty!!

    • John Nolan says:

      Geordie, what acts which were deemed sinful when you were a child are positively encouraged now by the Church? I’d really like to know.

  19. Martha says:

    Taking part in non-Catholic services, which we could not do, even sitting and standing with the congregation at a friend’s wedding. In my parents’ days, from early 1900’s, fasting during Lent was quite severe, most or all weekdays I believe. Not acceptable to go away or on holiday where Sunday Mass would be out of reach, though I still would not do that. St. Teresa’s father would not use public transport on Sundays, because it obliges someone to be working. Meals out would be the same. I am sure there are others which still apply, though many people do not think so, reading immoral books, films, TV now, without good reason. Servile work on Sunday in earlier times for us, included sewing, but not knitting as I recall!

    • St.Joseph says:

      My mother would not sew on a Sunday or cut her nails on a Friday (or maybe it was Good Friday). She used to say our lives are mapped out for us, however I wondered how about our free-will!

      • Martha says:

        Girls and ladies had to cover their heads in Church, I am not sure if that was strictly speaking a custom only or a real sin if you didn’t, disobedience anyway for a child. As regards our lives being mapped out for us, yes, always free will, but how free in the question of particular vocations, as well as more perfect choices in many situations?

  20. St.Joseph says:

    I always wore a smart Trilby many of different colours.
    Now I feel that I am drawing notice to myself as people passed a remark. So I stopped wearing them. Only at funerals and Good Fridays and Christmas.
    I believe that ‘proper dress’ (not indecent) out of respect like abroad is necessary. They provide scarves in Italy with a notice in the porch.

  21. John Nolan says:

    Servile work is the obligation under the feudal system of the serf to work unpaid on the lord’s land. Holy Days (of which there were plenty) and Sundays were therefore popular with the peasantry.

    Rest also meant recreation, so after hearing Mass the populace would head for the tavern. Holy Days in England were known as ‘church-ales’.

    I suspect it was the influence of Protestantism and Jansenism which imposed an unhealthy sabbatarianism on Catholic thinking and practice. Railway companies ran trains on Sundays in Victorian times (in ‘Barchester Towers’ the evangelical Mrs Proudie disapproves of this) and this even applied in Presbyterian Scotland, although some attributed the Tay Bridge disaster (28 December 1879) to divine displeasure at the practice.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan
      I love these little stories, but underlying all that was great poverty and hardship and ignorance by the masses, even though some of the educated were not much better it has to be said. It was not very Christian on the part of the rich to behave as they did towards their fellow- man in the countryside or in the towns and cities living in hovels, no education, and in penury.

      Protestantism and Jansenism have nothing at all to do with each other and Jansenism is perceived by most as a heresy.

      Barchester Towers was a cracking good story and the weekly episodes were very well
      portrayed as was church politic and culture of the time.

  22. St.Joseph says:

    John Nolan,
    Thank you for that info.
    My husband and I had a Public Free House, Restaurant and Guest House, and entertainment with Bands Irish. Folk and Jazz’ the evening never empty’ Never any trouble.
    They would come in after Mass and the conversation in the Bar would be how much they won or lost at the bookies shop across the road. I never thought it to be sinful.
    They always gave funds to the newly built St Joseph’s Church in the area. even non-Catholics and helped with the yearly Fetes.
    And it did not affect my children’s faith or education.

  23. Geordie says:

    I was taught that it was sinful to take part in non-Catholic prayers and non-Catholic services. If we went to weddings or funerals in non-Catholic churches, we couldn’t join in the prayers. We were not allowed to give money to a false religion. An old uncle of mine, who had very little, always gave to the Salvation Army, because he said he would have starved in the trenches without them. I was shocked that he did this but he did it anyway; and he was right.
    Now we are encouraged to attend ecumenical services and we are expected to listen to sermons from non-Catholic ministers in our own churches. Not that I mind because their sermons are often better than the ones I’ve heard from some of our priests.
    I once asked a parish priest why a “heretic” was allowed to preached to us and a Catholic layman wasn’t. He said JPII was very keen on this sort of thing. I bet Pius XII wasn’t.
    A few years ago a priest told us that their was no such thing as impure thoughts. That would have saved a lot of visits to Confession.

    • St.Joseph says:

      My father always gave to the Salvation Army too, he said the same thing about being in the trenches, and they came in every Saturday evening with their collection box in the Pub.

  24. St.Joseph says:

    The Salvation Army do good work at Christmas in a nearby town with Christmas dinners for the homeless. Also other charitable work.

  25. John Nolan says:

    As a student of the Great War I find the notion that the BEF would have starved to death without the Sally Army bizarre in the extreme. When conscription was introduced in 1916 army doctors were appalled at the poor physical state, largely due to malnutrition, of the urban working class. A few weeks on army rations transformed them. Heating food in the front line was difficult, but in a typical month an infantry soldier would only spend three days in the front line.

    Feeding no fewer than five armies was an enormous undertaking but the logistic services of the BEF coped extraordinarily well.

    • John Candido says:

      ‘When conscription was introduced in 1916 army doctors were appalled at the poor physical state, largely due to malnutrition, of the urban working class.’ (John Nolan)

      The realisation that the urban poor were in such a poor state of nutrition is an indictment of that society at that point in time. I am sure that there would have been international equivalents that any person could point to. I would love to know what the state of Social Security was like in the UK, before World War I commenced. My guess is that it would not have been too crash hot going on what John Nolan has just replied.

  26. John Candido says:

    I am being incredibly lazy by offering the following post. It is a past post and no explanation is necessary. What I do need to explain though is that despite the post below being about religious freedom, this is broadly interchangeable with the human conscience.

    It takes an enormous shift in belief and attitude to jettison fortress Catholicism from one’s system, and probably impossible for most people. One may wear fortress Catholicism as a point of pride and may never convert from it. Much like an invisible suit of armour, it helps the wearer to discriminate between the wheat and the chaff.

    Let’s take the virtue of obedience and the concept of loyal dissent. Obedience is a virtue, but so is an informed conscience that both dissents and is loyal to the Church. Can one be in contravention of the Church’s moral law, but be left alone by other Catholics to the privacy of one’s conscience? Yes, absolutely.

    I wholeheartedly agree with President Thomas Jefferson when he said, ‘Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.’ This could equally apply to a religious context. Or what American President Dwight Eisenhower mentioned about dissent in democratic societies.

    ‘Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels – men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.’

    Or of Fr. John Courtney Murray SJ, who admonished,

    ‘Every man has a right to religious freedom’, and ‘so great is this dignity that not even God can take it away.’

    In contrast, a noted speech in 1952 that opposed Fr. John Courtney Murray’s position on conscience, Cardinal Alberto Ottaviani, who was the head of the Congregation of the Holy Office (CDF), declared that freedom of conscience is an illusion.

    Fr. Walter Burghardt SJ, who was a friend of Fr. Murray’s thought that,

    ‘The right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the church, not in society or state, not even in objective truth, but in the dignity of the human person.’

    Galileo Galilei was accused of heresy by the Holy Office and was threatened with torture and imprisonment. Galileo recanted his position in 1633. Urban VIII was Pope at the time that Galileo was threatened for his scientific beliefs. In 1992 Pope John Paul II apologized for the church’s actions against Galileo’s human and religious rights.

    ‘Thanks to his intuition as a brilliant physicist and by relying on different arguments, Galileo, who practically invented the experimental method, understood why only the sun could function as the centre of the world, as it was then known, that is to say, as a planetary system. The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the Earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world’s structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture…’

    Pope John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano N. 44 (1264) – November 4, 1992.

    It was a common belief that the Earth was the centre of the universe, let alone the solar system, and that every celestial body revolved around it. The Fathers of the Church were as of one in this belief. It became an article of faith and given due gravitas. Nobody supports such a notion today.

    Based on an understanding of scripture when Jesus said, ‘give, asking nothing in return’, for 1600 years it was considered a grave sin to charge interest on a loan, which is called usury. Usury was forbidden until it became impractical during the birth of capitalism, somewhere in the middle of the 16th century.

    The Code of Canon Law (1983) states that all heads of religious institutions are obliged to place any surplus money into an interest bearing account, as a prudent method of financial management. Therefore, what was once thought of as immoral has now become an important moral obligation for the management of ecclesiastical finances.

    These instructions are found in Canon: 1284, Section 2, Points 5 & 6.

  27. G.D. says:

    Is a conscience ( in our fallen nature ) healed by laws & obedience to laws, or by freedom and love?
    It seems to me Jesus only condemned them that had ‘law’ bound consciences that put burdens on people; and freely (unconditionally) loved the repentant sinner into faith and health.

    Logical understanding of the fallen state necessitates a punitory remedy. Our understanding of conscience comes from that.
    When in fact the fallen state when all is said and done can not be satisfactorily understood in the least – where did ‘sin’ come from if God created all as good, the question of evil blah et …..
    Conscience is a putative (putative note) directive of what is right or wrong; it’s theology is punitive by nature – fallen nature – and causes guilt, not repentance. Is used by that same fallen nature to perpetuate itself. (THe Ego loves it!)
    But the fallen state can be known & felt by experiencing the lack of love and the presence of love.
    Our logical understanding may bring us closer to an awareness of our fallen nature, but that’s as far as it goes. Repentance is from the heart – often prior to understanding.

    So, ….. The institutional church deems an act sinful … someone ignores that law deeming it to be illicit, and confesses because they doubt their choice, receives absolution for that ‘sin’. Then the church alters the law, it’s now OK to act as such. Was the act sinful or not?

    Did the Church Institution in the name of ‘Church’ damage the conscience of said individual?

    Pedantic maybe, but i ask because of the ‘Pharisaic’ teachings in the bible and the seeming indictment of Jesus to ‘forgive’ unconditionally.

    • Nektarios says:

      You pose the question: ‘Is a conscience ( in our fallen nature ) healed by laws & obedience to laws, or by freedom and love?

      It depends on the state ones conscience is in. there is, a good conscience, a pure conscience, a weak conscience, a defiled conscience, and there is a seared conscience
      This affects the effectiveness of and sensitivity of ones conscience.
      It is also clear that ones conscience can be influenced.

      Has the Church Institution, made up of fallible men and women, has it damaged the conscience of the individual? Yes is the answer, time without number. But, you will never get the hierarchy to admit it.
      If these men got some things wrong, and some were wrong big time, especially the way they see themselves and strut the world stage, they continue to damage the consciences of others.
      Living and acting like that does not show the y have understood a thing of Apostolic doctrine and teaching as they ought, nor are the the all-wise ones, but they show themselves to be ignorant.
      So deluded are they, they think the Church with all its errors and additions, not to mention so many of the the inventive Canon laws, they want to control every aspect of ones life, and conscience if they could get away with it as in centuries past.

      Yes, our conscience need to be educated

      • G.D. says:

        Nektarios, i was trying to suggest we have the totally wrong idea of conscience …
        Our whole concept is not as ‘conscience’ is really ….
        it’s only putative – generally considered or reputed to be.
        We haven’t grasped the essence of it. It’s misrepresented because our fallen nature has formed it in it’s own (Ego) image.

        “Conscience is a putative (putative note) directive of what is right or wrong; it’s theology is punitive by nature – fallen nature – and causes guilt, not repentance. Is used by that same fallen nature to perpetuate itself. (THe Ego loves it!)
        But the fallen state can be known & felt by experiencing the lack of love and the presence of love. …………. (Which is the essence of conscience) …………
        Our logical understanding may bring us closer to an awareness of our fallen nature, but that’s as far as it goes. Repentance is from the heart – often prior to understanding.”

        God doesn’t reward and punish – God gives Grace.
        Our ‘conscience’ isn’t a means of measuring how good or bad we are – it simply recognises the personal free(willed) acceptance or rejection of that Grace. Often unconsciously. Then we can begin to discern … via other means.

        Don’t expect that view to be given any credence by the learned! But I’ve yet to hear a convincing justification for the ‘carrot and stick conscience’ we generally beleive it to be.
        Tends to limit the mercy and love of God in favour of ‘manipulation’ of consciences when it suits.
        And to educate a conscience within such an understanding ………. isn’t education at all !?

      • Nektarios says:


        It is true to say many do have a wrong idea about conscience. Many people are so interned, that it is a case of what I think is right.
        I am not too sure you have quire got the action of conscience entirely right. You are right on some aspects, but if I may say in addition G.D., conscience is not their to incur guilt,
        cause one to repent. Neither is conscience is not, and I repeat not a carrot or a stick approach nor indeed can be. Conscience that God gives every man, is a means He give to protect our souls, and warn us if we are getting into moral danger. That is why I said earlier we must alway obey our conscience.

        You are right of course we can manipulate conscience, which is to deny it. This can lead to guilt, a bad conscience, and so on, it also leads to a seared conscience. This is where the conscience is so abused, that the picture we are given in Scripture is like being seared with a hot iron. The trouble was, that it was initially to stop bleeding and seal up a wound.
        However the downside was that it killed off all the nerve endings and one felt nothing.
        So, to have a seared conscience, is to have one that of or from the conscience does not receive anything, and feels nothing.

  28. John Nolan says:

    John Candido
    The country with the best welfare provision in 1914 was Germany, thanks to Bismarck’s ‘state socialism’ of the 1880s. In Britain the Liberal government elected in 1906 had introduced old age pensions, free school meals and a National Insurance scheme which provided sickness, accident and unemployment benefit. It was not over-generous but can be said to have laid the foundations of the post-1945 welfare state.

    The poor physical condition of working-class recruits had been remarked on at the time of the Boer War (1899-1902) . In the First World War there were ‘bantam’ battalions for under-height men; in reality they were barely fit for active service.

    The contrast with the Dominion troops and later the Americans (who were all volunteers, of course) was remarked on at the time.

    The Industrial Revolution left a long legacy. In the Second World War civilian rations were meagre by any standards but millions were better nourished than they had been pre-war.

    On another topic, beware of simplifying the Galileo affair. Copernicus (a monk) had dedicated his treatise on the heliocentric system to Paul III and the Counter-Reformation popes encouraged astronomy. Urban VIII, though highly authoritarian, was a scholar and a humanist. Had Galileo stuck to science and not encroached on theology as he did in his Dialogues of 1632 he would have got away with it; he had high-placed supporters, notably Cardinal Barberini who counselled tact. Like many intellectuals, Galileo was in some respects a victim of his own folie de grandeur.

    The Church has not changed her teaching on usury; what has changed is the nature of monetary transactions, indeed of money itself. For much of human history money was barren – you had two choices, spend it or hoard it. In the early modern age it could be invested, which meant it was no longer unfruitful.

    It’s a complex issue, but the specious and self-serving argument that ‘the Church changed her mind over usury, so could change her mind on contraception/women’s ordination/homosexual acts etc. etc.’ is founded on false premises.

  29. ignatius says:

    Thanks for adding the link to Cardinal Ratzinger’s essay, it is very helpful.

  30. St.Joseph says:

    Yes Quentin, thank you.

  31. G.D. says:

    Sorry, I’m struggling here to grasp what conscience is.
    What exactly is conscience????

    J. R. in his first paragraph states ………. ” For judgements of conscience can contradict each other. Thus there could be at best the subject’s own truth “…………
    ‘own truth’????
    If the subject has recognised ‘truth’ then it’s an objective truth (of God) the subject has accepted.
    There can not be a ‘subjects own truth’ decided, judged, from the subjects ‘fallen nature’.
    That remains a mere interpretation of truth.
    ‘Judgements of conscience’ ????
    Does conscience judge?

    Def. conscience – 1. an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.

    Is conscience …
    1. An enlightenment as to correct orientation of soul? (A rudder set by Truth. A Light)
    2. Or a judgement of what is right & wrong? ( A rudder to be set by the subje. Judgement)
    A light to follow, or a certain ‘rational’ to exercise.

    1. Is awareness of The Truth inherent within Life. ( Of soul ).
    2. a consideration of a course of action. ( Of thought).
    The first is awareness of Truth as it is.
    The second an interpretation of Truth.

    If the first then it does objectively guide. If the second it is subjective only.
    And misses the whole point of guidance.
    The first is Truth, the second subjective duality.

    Once conscience is claimed as a ‘personal’ faculty is it still conscience, or a personal judgement?
    I just can’t see it as both as it seems to be accepted generally.
    Which is it???

    • Brendan says:

      A ‘ personal judgement ‘ is the outcome of the thought processes of the human faculty called ‘ conscience ‘, which encompasess the persons sense of the moral good.
      Specifically for the christian this is dialogue with the persons ‘ centre ‘- God.

      • G.D. says:

        or the faculty is openness to grace itself within us …. ‘ the first so-called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true (both are identical) has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine.’ ………. not a judgemental dualism

        But still seems ego driven ….. ‘ Conscience is degraded to a mechanism for rationalization …. (if you believe as i do it’s OK, if not …) …. ‘ while it should represent the transparency of the subject for the divine and thus constitute the very dignity and greatness of man. ‘ ….

    • G.D. says:

      I’ve now read the J.R. essay. Makes sense. Especially …’ conscience signifies the perceptible and demanding presence of the voice of truth in the subject himself ……..he emphasized truth’s priority over consensus, over the accommodation of groups… It is the overcoming of mere subjectivity in the encounter of the interiority of man with the truth from God ‘ … Good stuff!

      Apart from various minor points ……
      for instance … ‘ The Pharisee no longer knows that he too has guilt. He has a completely clear conscience’ … …. ‘ But this silence of conscience makes him impenetrable to God and men ‘ … which are nonsense! And others. And the confusing of guilt with personal conscience!
      ….. it makes sense.

      Then in concluding J.R. says ‘ The Gospel may, indeed, must be proclaimed to the pagans because they themselves are yearning for it in the hidden recesses of their souls (cf. Is 42:4) Making St Paul’s prior quote into what his ‘own conscience’ thinks of it.

      … By which i take it all must believe as we Catholics ‘authorise’ to believe.
      Which is back to the carrot and stick ‘dualistic conscience’ format. Any truth not ours is not truth. Believe like I do and your OK, don’t and your not.
      Never mind.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I often think about the 3rd Commandment, which tell us to’ remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day’. I used to think why is this spoken like that when we ought to keep’ holy’ every day.
        I am not speaking now about servile work. To me it must mean worship . Mass. and other faiths what they do publically worship the Lord.

      • Quentin says:

        GD, if I may so, I think you may have missed a point or two here. In some ways the word ‘guilt’ can mislead us. What it means here is truly acknowledging our imperfections – which Nektarios might describe as facing up to our fallen nature. And because of this we are open to God because it is only through his forgiveness and grace that we can grow. The self-satisfied do not feel the need to do this.

        Why should Catholics be obliged to steer the consciences of others? They can of course bear witness through their behaviour and, when appropriate explain what they believe and why. It is the nature of a moral view that we believe it applies universally. When I say that stealing is wrong, I don’t mean that it is only wrong for me, I hold that it is wrong for everyone in similar circumstances. Don’t you?

    • John Candido says:

      Hi Brenden,

      If you are confused about what the human conscience is, why not have a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)? The section about the human conscience is in ‘Part Three, Life in Christ’. Simply go to paragraphs 1776 through to 1802 for a useful, basic and authoritative guide to the human conscience.

      The CCC is a reference work that was written by many scholars that was commissioned by Pope John Paul II. A commission of twelve cardinals and bishops was given the task of writing the CCC in 1986. The person who headed the commission was none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI (retired) who was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or the ‘CDF’, at the time of the Catechism’s commissioning.

      Here is a link from the Vatican that starts at paragraph 1776 which is about the human conscience.

  32. Brendan says:

    Thank you John Candido . I do not believe I am confused about what is human conscience . Practice of my Catholic Faith – particularly through attention to The Sacrament of Reconciliation – has deepened this awareness over the years…. and no doubt awaits further deepening. Is there something that makes you think that I fall short of understanding , in that area ?
    Just a comment on G.D.’s piece … (sorry, I’m trying to catch up a bit on this ‘ blog .’)
    Dualism suggests confusion. … ”Deep within his conscience man DISCOVERS [my capitals ] a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he MUST [ my capitals ] obey. It’s voice , ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil , sounds in his heart at the RIGHT [ my capitals ] moment….For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God… His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths”. CCC – from ‘ Gaudium et Spes ‘.

  33. G.D. says:

    John, that was my post. It’s not that i don’t see the explanation of conscience as presented. Just that i can’t see it as a ‘judgement function’. It’s the light that enlightens always. Our choices after are the judgements.

    Quentin, I had in mind ‘spiritual truths beliefs and doctrines’ when talking of the illicit steering of consciences. I should have been more explicit.
    Yes there are universal morals and truths that apply to us all. And the light of conscience lets us know what they are, and yes they are to be witnessed to most definitely.

    But i can not help but see conscience as a universal gift of grace given to all, all the time. For the purpose of enlightening and give the needed graces to ‘obey’.
    Everyone must have full access, and knows that light. Whatever name is given to it. There are no favourites.

    I feel even them that choose to ignore it, and are seemingly self satisfied, somewhere in their inner most being know the guilt of ‘imperfection’ and the right choices. The more, the more it is ignored. We all do.
    Mercy, for imperfections and ‘sin’ is given with the acceptance of the light of conscience, and it’s guiding.
    (Repent and bewail our failings as we might/must(?), guilt is given from ourselves, and serves no real purpose??).

    Just can’t see it is conscience, of itself, that ‘rationalises’ the why’s and wherefores, or judges though.

    • Brendan says:

      G.D. – My feeling is that I also …” see conscience as a universal gift of grace [ Christ , sent by the Father ,did no die for a select few ] given to all , all the time ”… and are free to use it and abuse it in good measure.

  34. Brendan says:

    ” Man proposes, but God disposes .” Prov.16:9..Solomon , et alii.

  35. Nektarios says:

    You are right on this point, conscience is not a rationalisation of thought. Neither does it ask questions as to the whys and wherefore of ones thoughts or actions, nor is it judging one.

    Let’s get to the heart of conscience, deeper than the peripheries of religious thought, deeper than ones feelings, to the very depths of your being, your soul.

    Actions thoughts, directions, feelings desires that can be harmful to the soul, is monitored there. It function is to protect your soul from harm. It warns us we are damaging our own soul.
    This is why we should listen to it and obey it.
    Conscience is not a product of thought. It can be quelled by thought, ignored by a sinful will, and so on. Conscience, and it seems it can also be affected by what passes as morality of the modern man.

  36. Nektarios says:

    Further to what has been posted earlier, in conclusion, though there is much more indeed that can be said, I just desire to strengthen in your mind and heart what I wrote on Conscience earlier.

    In Roman 9:1 ‘I tell you the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness
    in the Holy Spirit’

    Without going into the whole commentary on this verse and following verses,it would take too long here, the Apostle Paul is making an opening statement, but I confine it to these words of the Apostle, ‘ My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit’.

    What is the Apostle telling us about conscience. He is telling us that our conscience is independent
    but fallible.
    If you want to look more into this chapter, you see why he bringing this statement up. He was grief stricken, for his fellow-countrymen the Jews, who had all the privileges, they had the Law of Moses, The Prophets their History. The tragedy was because of their leaders, the Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers and doctors of the Law, they got it wrong. Did not recognise Christ when he came, were full of bias and bigotry and crucified the Lord of Glory.
    In Rome they argued about the eating of certain meats. For those of a strong Christian conscience,
    there was no problem, but to the weaker brother and sisters there was a problem. It was for both a matter of conscience. But we must not cause our fellow brethren to stumble on account what we hold in a good conscience.

    So what does the Apostle mean by, ‘my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit?’
    He is saying to the Christian in Rome, some had come from a pagan background and among them were also those dear Christians who were formally Jews.
    He is telling them don’t act against your conscience,always obey it. You may be wrong, but obey it nevertheless.
    The Apostle Paul is also speaking to the Jew as if to say, look I am a Jew, I was a Pharissee, a teacher of the Law, and I acted in good conscience against Christ and His disciples. I got it wrong.

    He is telling them yes, your upbringing, religion, teaching and all that impacts upon ones conscience. What we see or read, we listen to our conscience through the prism of our history, our culture, our religion or none, but though our conscience is independent of us when it speaks, we can only see it through these prisms.

    So what is the Apostle getting at when he says, ‘ my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit. He is saying to those believers in Rome, our conscience is independent, yes, but fallible, subject to all the influences we grew up in, so, our conscience needs to be enlightened, but how?

    As they were all formally pagans or Jews, as Christians, which is an act of God towards us and we see Christ for what and who He truly is, the Son of God, and Saviour of the World.
    He has given the Christian a new nature with all its potential. So the Holy Spirit educates and orientates our consciences towards God and our behaviour towards each other as fellow Christians.

    Our consciences with all that is our history, our culture, our way of life, our thoughts, desires, motives and so on, it is necessary for us all to be enlighten in our conscience by the Holy Spirit.

    Is our consciences enlightened by the Holy Spirit, by Holy Scriptures? Is such enlightenment changing our lives, making us holy, loving your Christian brethren?

  37. G.D. says:

    Excellent post and discussion. Learnt a lot through lots of support, and had plenty of brain exercise.
    Thanks to everyone.

    Last bit from me …. Feel the call for some inner cogitation to listen to (my’?) conscience without the intemperance of thoughts…….
    The pitchforking Nazi may believe he’s in good conscience, but he’s not.
    To be held guilty or not? ….. Thank God I’m not in a position of judgement …. But i do believe there will come a time (or an eternity!) when that Nazi will judge self and choose again.
    Life ( accepting the merciful light of conscience) or death? …. His choice.

    (St. J. Keep holy the Sabbath, indeed!).
    Thanks to all.

  38. Brendan says:

    God Bless you G.D. !

  39. Martha says:

    Thinking about conscience this week, and its imperative, is also helping me to sort out some of the confusion I have always had about what is actually sinful, and what are less perfect but still lawful choices, relating to the 10 Commandments and Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount where He widened their full requirements into the Beatitudes. I think it relates to the parable of the talents and His words that much more will be expected of those to whom much has been given. In that sense, conscience is surely subjective, as what is required of one person is not the same as that required of another, more or less blessed with spiritual advantages. And as an individual progresses in his spiritual life, more understanding and a closer union with God, and increasing love for Him, must bring extra responsibilities, which explains why saints and other holy people have such an acute awareness of their shortcomings.

    Forgive me if this is all elementary and quite obvious to most contributors!

  40. St.Joseph says:

    I often think about what Jesus said about the Commandments Only’ two are necessary’ ‘Love the Lord Thy God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your whole mind and your neighbour as yourself,!
    I take that to mean if we keep those we will have kept them all!

    However love can be interpreted in many ways.

  41. Martha says:

    Yes, indeed, St, Joseph, sometimes “tough love” is the best option.

    I have just come across this thought also, Love is like playing the piano. First you must learn to play by the rules, then you must forget the rules and play from your heart.

  42. Nektarios says:

    As I read through the postings, it became clear to me that when it comes to conscience, any of its negative way of alerting us to our sin, wrong motives, etc etc we feel perhaps guilt, fear, anxiety, want to run away from our conscience, preoccupy ourselves in the attest to silence it.

    The devil will also accuse us, reminding us of sins long ago.Remember you did that.He will sneer at you. Who are you, your so small, finite, vanishing, polluted, weak.

    King David had committed some terrible sins, yet he turns back to God. This is what a child of God does. Psalm 51:5-6
    Dear old Job felt all these feelings and awareness of sin, that inherent vileness and rottenness that makes us unable to truly pray, that is come into the presence of God who is holy, full of glory. He speaks about God. Job 9:32 -35.

    Job was looking for someone to take him by the hand into the presence of God and stand between God and himself. One who could lay his hand on God and him so that His dread could be taken away.
    Like David, Job too were made aware through their conscience the helpless and hopeless situation. So when some people think all that you have to do is pray, so simple, but it is not simple, it is not easy thing for man to do. Many have given in to despair, drugs, drink, sex anything at all to quite conscience.

    Is there a way from earth to heaven? Is there a way from sin to holiness? Can all our searching here, philosophical and otherwise find out God? Job 11:7.

    Of ourselves we cannot find God. How can I? I shrivel to nothing in my vileness and sinfulness being full of iniquity by my fallen nature.
    All this is involved in prayer, but do you realise left to ourselves prayer is impossible.

    I am glad to say there is a way to enter into the Presence of God Hebrews 10:19. It is a marvellous road, a living way, made and opened up by the Son of God for us. This road has a solid foundation,
    will last for eternity. Made of what? It is made by the broken body and shed blood of the Son of God. This is the only way into the presence of God Ephesians 2:18 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
    This is how the first believer prayed, or indeed how anyone can truly pray. Only in Christ can one come to the Father.

    You can then stand before God.
    Even then, on your knees before God, the devil will come and accuse you and try to stop you praying, answer him like this through Jesus Christ:
    Be Thou my shield and hind place,
    That sheltered near Thy side
    I my fierce accuser face,
    And tell him Thou has died. -Philip Doddridge

    And that silences all the accusing voices of the devil, of our conscience, of hell.

  43. Nektarios says:

    Correction: – 1st para: should have read: in ….in the attempt to silence it.
    4th Para: ” …..anything at all to quiet conscience
    8th para:” ” ……Be Thou my shield and hiding place,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s