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Your Conscience

I have not read Dante's Divine Comedy in its entirety, but were he to have written it today, there would definitely be a special circle of Hell for priests who refuse to instruct their people in Catholic dogma. Since I lean heavily on the side of traditional Catholic practice (which, by the way, means things older than 1960), it is common for people to tell me horror stories that usually start off with something like "there was this priest who...".

I heard an awful one today. I was told about a priest who commented about abortion by saying, "you gotta follow your conscience". (Remember, special circle of Hell...). You gotta follow your conscience regarding whether to murder the unborn?! Really? What could he have been thinking with a comment like that? I am not trying to offend anyone, but NO. As in "N" and "O". It is true that the Church places a special level of importance of one's conscience, but never (as in "never") does it ignore the importance of that conscience being formed by the truth of God.

If your conscience is fully in accord with what is good and holy, then, yes, you should follow your conscience. To claim that following your conscience (regardless of whether it is in accord with the commandments of God) is always a good thing, is evil. That may be too harsh; it is better to say that it is EVIL (as in wicked, vile, and guarantees a one way ticket to Hell).

Every one of us is responsible to form our conscience in the truth. Our conscience is a good guide if it is pure and holy. It is destructive if it is influenced by the world. Sometimes, I believe that people (including priests) choose to give an answer that avoids conflict (like "follow your conscience") even if it is not true. Just because, however, many people think this to be true, does not make it so.

So here is the challenging question: what was the last thing you did to form your conscience rightly? Have you ever intentionally done something like that? If you are not doing so, then you are likely allowing your conscience to be formed by the world. You do not need a PhD in moral theology to get this. All you need is a regular habit of reading good and holy books. The lives of the Saints, the Catechism (preferably Trent), and of course the Scriptures, will all help you along this road. Form your conscience rightly, and then you can follow your conscience.


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