Saturday, April 30, 2005


What does it mean when someone says to you "my conscience is clear"? Does it mean that they don't feel bad anymore about what they've done? That's what I think it means to a lot of people. But is that a proper, Catholic response? Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote the following in a letter to the Duke of Norfolk (ref'd in the article I cite at the bottom):
Conscience is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him Who, both in nature and grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.

George Cardinal Pell cites this in an article in this month's First Things. Cdl. Pell goes on to state that this description of the conscience as something objective and extrinsic goes against the modern understanding of it, "and this sits uncomfortably with those who see conscience as a sign of freedom, and freedom as the right to reject what is unpalatable."

So, is your conscience clear when you have justified to yourself your position on something, or is it "clear" when it is in harmony with the Church? Any thoughts?

(see George Cardinal Pell, "The Inconvenient Conscience", First Things May 2005.)


At 8:31 PM, Blogger BekahS. said...

As Catholics, we are required to form our consciences around the Church's teaching. If we are careful to do that, we, like Paul, can claim "For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we have behaved in the world, and still more toward you, with holiness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God." (2 Cor 1:12)


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