Katie van Schaijik

What is conscience

Mar. 25, 2010, at 1:12pm

A friendly behind-the-scenes dispute with a Linde reader on the topic of religious liberty has reminded me once again how widespread is the confusion about the nature of conscience in our day. Many take it to be nothing other than a license for religious and moral subjectivism. The duty to act according to conscience is twisted into a right to do whatever I want so long as I don’t see anything wrong with it.

So when a traditionalist Catholic hears someone (like me) claiming (as I do) that religious liberty is an imperative of human dignity, he thinks he is hearing a defense of relativism. When I say (following Newman) that conscience is the voice of God speaking in the human soul, he understands me to absurdly and dangerously identifying all sincere ideas and intentions with the voice of God.

My desire to clear up the misunderstanding sent me back to Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk section on conscience. In it Newman clearly distinguishes between a false and contemptible notion of conscience popular in his day (and ours) and the truth about conscience.

When [today] men advocate the rights of conscience, they…do not even pretend to go by any moral rule, but they demand, what they think is an Englishman’s prerogative, for each to be his own master in all things, and to profess what he pleases, asking no one’s leave, and accounting priest or preacher, speaker or writer, unutterably impertinent, who dares to say a word against his going to perdition, if he like it, in his own way. Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations. It becomes a licence to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them. Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will.

If this is a person’s idea of conscience, it is no wonder that he thinks that the notion of religious liberty threatens the objectivity of truth! In fact, though, conscience properly understood, is nothing other than the subjective apprehension of moral truth and its implication for me as a free moral agent, answerable before God for my actions. Here is Newman again [my bold]:

I say, then, that the Supreme Being is of a certain character, which, expressed in human language, we call ethical. He has the attributes of justice, truth, wisdom, sanctity, benevolence and mercy, as eternal characteristics in His nature, the very Law of His being, identical with Himself; and next, when He became Creator, He implanted this Law, which is Himself, in the intelligence of all His rational creatures. The Divine Law, then, is the rule of ethical truth, the standard of right and wrong, a sovereign, irreversible, absolute authority in the presence of men and Angels. “The eternal law,” says St. Augustine, “is the Divine Reason or Will of God, commanding {247} the observance, forbidding the disturbance, of the natural order of things.” “The natural law,” says St. Thomas, “is an impression of the Divine Light in us, a participation of the eternal law in the rational creature.” (Gousset, Theol. Moral., t. i. pp. 24, &c.) This law, as apprehended in the minds of individual men, is called “conscience;” and though it may suffer refraction in passing into the intellectual medium of each, it is not therefore so affected as to lose its character of being the Divine Law, but still has, as such, the prerogative of commanding obedience. “The Divine Law,” says Cardinal Gousset, “is the supreme rule of actions; our thoughts, desires, words, acts, all that man is, is subject to the domain of the law of God; and this law is the rule of our conduct by means of our conscience. Hence it is never lawful to go against our conscience; as the fourth Lateran Council says, ‘Quidquid fit contra conscientiam, ædificat ad gehennam.’”

So, as I put it to my traditionalist partner in dialogue:

The thing to do, when conscience is so widely and badly misconceived is to correct the misconception, not give in to it, and then treat conscience as something dangerous and doubtful and needing to be kept on a tight leash by authorities.

It is a great mistake for Catholics to think they can advance the cause of Truth by suppressing or downplaying or curtailing the rights of conscience. Only a laity with strong, free and clear consciences can possibly meet the emergency of our times. That’s why Vatican II made it so central a part of its teaching. A legalistic ethos that renders Catholics immaturely dependent on external authority will not answer.

Like Newman, my interest in freedom has everything to do with my interest in Truth and my interest in persons. Conscience is where Truth (highest, most momentous Truth) and persons meet, in the intimate interior of the soul. Hence, those who want to stifle conscience or limit its scope are—whether they realize it or not—calling for the oppression of persons—calling for them to be less intimate with God, less personally unified with Truth, more dependent on external authority.

You want consciences to be well and properly formed. Very good. So do I. But to do that we have to know what conscience is in the first place, viz. the voice of God in the human soul.

Steve B • Mar 25, 2010 - 4:37 pm

Katie (or anyone else who is well-educated on this topic and inclined to comment),

Can you elaborate on to tie what Cardinal Newman, Cardinal Gousset, you, and the Church mean by “conscience” with the passage that I posed to you in our sideline discussions from St. Paul in Romans 1:21-23 ?

“... for although they knew God they did not accord Him glory as God or give Him thanks.  Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.  While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.”

Since, as you quoted from Card. Newman that the Divine law “as apprehended in the minds of individual men, is called ‘conscience’”, what are those areas in our “darkened” minds called, which St. Paul taught in the above passage?  Are those dark areas of our mind called something other than “conscience”? 

When via our free will we act out in ways consistent with those dark areas of our minds, what else can those actions be called besides “following one’s conscience”, even though they are in no way at all following the Divine Law?

Obviously, those who promote the “pro choice” agenda have their minds appreciably darkened wrt the Divine Law on the sanctity and dignity of human life - i.e. their minds have been grossly malformed, distorted, and/or deluded.  I’m sure that we will agree on that conclusion, right?

So, doesn’t the Church have the DUTY to teach that they (and anyone else who promotes such blatant and objective falsehoods) do NOT have the moral right to publicly spread their errors? 

This is what I and my “traditionalist” cohorts have been and still are struggling mightily with, in trying to reconcile with traditional Church teaching before Vatican II the seemingly ambiguous (at the very least to us) Church teaching on “religious liberty” in the Vatican II document Dignitatus Humanae.

Thanks SO much for your wonderful blog, and for making the effort to bring up this topic and discussion on “conscience” to your TPP forum!

Best wishes, and God bless,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Katie van Schaijik • Mar 26, 2010 - 11:00 am

I hope others will jump in here too.  But I’ll at least make a start on an answer by saying that conscience is certainly not co-terminous with conscious thought.  No one who acts without regard for the moral law is acting according to conscience.  Conscience is precisely the faculty by which we apply the moral law to ourselves and our own acting.
St. Paul here describes exactly what happens when we don’t “accord God glory”, which, in the moral realm, means when we silence or ignore the voice of conscience and instead choose to follow inclination or ambition: viz., our minds become darkened.  Newman draws out this point.  As we attend to the voice of conscience, it becomes a better instrument: stronger, clearer, more sensitive, more reliable.  In other words, nothing brings light and clarity to the moral realm like habitual obedience to conscience.  Conversely, when we suppress it or ignore its dictates, confusion inevitably follows.  We have a harder and harder time distinguishing right from wrong.  (Note that this is the legal definition of insanity.)

The Church has a duty to proclaim truth, including truth about freedom of conscience.  She also has a duty to defend her members against error and falsehood.

But, as I’ve said in earlier emails to you, the expression “no one has a right to publicly spread errors” confuses the issue.  The right is not to spread error, but to follow conscience.  And consciences can be mistaken.  So can those in authority.  It has happened many times in the history of the Church that Catholics were silenced or disciplined for teaching what was thought to go against the teaching of the Church, but what was later vindicated as perfectly consonant with it.
Awareness of these two possibilities makes the Church reluctant to resort to force and coercion of any kind in delicate matters touching conscience.

Steve B • Mar 26, 2010 - 11:18 am

Hi again Katie,

Ooops!  I just noticed, Katie, that you replied while I was drafting my next comment.  Sorry that I missed your reply before I posted this below….

I want to provide some compelling reasons why I think that my questions above are reasonable and crucially need an answer in this discussion….

Below is a quote from pg. 164 of a book that I have, “The Rhine Flows into the Tiber - A History of Vatican II” by Fr. Ralph M. Wiltgen S.V.D., which seems to strongly imply that the definition of “conscience” you provided Katie from Card. Newman does not necessarily construe that it is the only one recognized by the Catholic Church. 

The following quote was from Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, who was the Secretary of the Holy Office during Vatican II - the equivalent of what today is the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (for those of our readers - think of then Card. Ratzinger, before he was elevated to the Papacy) - speaking about the original but yet unratified draft of Dignitatus Humanae (emphases below are mine):

But the text was guilty of exaggeration in stating that “he is worthy of honor” who obeys his own conscience.  It would be better to say that such a person was deserving of tolerance or of respect and charity.  “The principle that each individual has the right to follow his own conscience must suppose that that conscience is not contrary to the divine law,” he asserted. 

Thus, what Card. Ottaviani said above seems to imply that there ARE two types of “conscience”:

A) an “enlightened” type - in which the human mind does correctly apprehend and conform to the Divine Law, and

B) a “darkened” type - in which the human mind does not correctly apprehend nor conform to the Divine Law.

I don’t know if that is “official” Church teaching, but that’s my take on what I read.

Note also that the concerns of Card. Ottaviani expressed above were NOT addressed in the final, ratified, and promulgated draft of Dignitatus Humanae!

As perhaps the most prominent Secretary in the Vatican Curia at that time, surely Card. Ottaviani would have had a clear and full grasp of what the Church could mean and teach by the term “conscience”, wouldn’t you say Katie?

For him to have had such strong objections to the language in Dignitatus Humanae, which ended up NOT getting properly clarified in the final draft of the document, seems to give proper weight and merit to the concerns that we “traditionalists” have long had with the ambiguous language used in Dignitatus Humanae….

What do you think Katie?  Where do we go from here?  We’re back to disagreeing on the definition of the term “conscience”.

Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Steve B • Mar 26, 2010 - 11:44 am

Paragraphs 1790 - 1794 of the Catholic Catechism seem to be the most objective and succinct means perhaps to clarify this:

1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.” In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

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.

1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time “from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.”

  The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.

Steve B • Mar 26, 2010 - 11:52 am

Hi Katie,

Although these paragraphs in the Catechism don’t explicitly use the terms “englightened conscience” and “darkened conscience” as I have, they do seem to substantiate my implications above.

For instance, it may well be the case that for you your conscience is 99.9% “enlightened” and only 0.1% “darkened”, while for yours truly mine is at 95% “enlightened” and 5% “darkened” - I’ll readily concede that you are more saintly than me, since you’re so charitably putting up with me in this discussion!  ;-)

For those who promote the “pro choice” agenda, perhaps their consciences may be only 70% “enlightened” and 30% “darkened”?  Certainly the balance would get worse, depending upon how “militant” they are at promoting their horrible agenda….

I do honestly think that in the “Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat” in Matthew 13:24-30 it would not be unreasonable at all to infer that it could be directly applicable to the wheat being the “enlightened” portion of our conscience and the weeds being the “darkened” portion of our conscience.

Your serve!  ;-)

Katie van Schaijik • Mar 26, 2010 - 12:11 pm

I don’t find Cardinal Ottaviani persuasive here, given the light Newman has shed on the nature of conscience as the voice of God in the individual.  (Apparently the council fathers also didn’t find him finally persuasive.)  It makes no sense to suggest that we can obey anything other than our own conscience, just as it would make no sense to say we can give rational assent to ideas we think false.

For apprehending ideas we have only our own intelligence.  For apprehending the moral law we have only our own conscience.

My body may be robust or sickly, but it’s the only one I’ve got.  If I want to live in the world, I have to live through it.  If I want to live well, I’ll take care of my health. My intelligence may be sharp or dull, but it’s mine.  No one else can think for me.  If I want to think well, I will get educated.  My conscience (thanks to good parents and teachers) may be well-formed, strong, clear and sensitive, or (because of a bad background and bad habits) weak and uncertain.  Regardless, it’s the only one I have, and if I want to act morally well, I have to act according to what light it gives.  I can’t act morally well by ignoring my conscience, anymore than I can think well by ignoring my intelligence or become robust by ignoring my health.

(If I am off in these analogies, I hope others will show me!)

“surely Card. Ottaviani would have had a clear and full grasp of what the Church could mean and teach by the term “conscience”, wouldn’t you say Katie?”

No, I wouldn’t say.  Why should I?  If the greatest minds in the history of the Church—such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure—can passionately disagree with one another on important points of doctrine and philosophy, if no human person can comprehend the mind of God; if even great and devout thinkers have from time to time been found wrong; if the teachings of the Church grow and develop over time as the faithful live and pray and ponder, then there is no scandal at all, nothing even strange, in a given Cardinal—even a highly placed, highly educated and well-meaning Cardinal—having an incomplete or uncertain grasp of a particular aspect of Catholic thought.  Not every Cardinal is a great philosopher or theologian. Not every Cardinal is even particularly clever.  But even if I considered Card. Ottaviani a intellectual giant and great scholar, I could still find him no match for Newman when it comes to elucidating the nature of conscience.  (As it happens, I think this is the first time I’ve heard his name.)

Scott Johnston • Mar 27, 2010 - 4:59 am

Tally Ho!

I want to interject a thought here. I think it may be the case that there is confusion about the meaning of conscience caused by the use of the idea that conscience is a “voice.” Even the Catechism (and Vat II in Gaudium et Spes) uses this terminology. However, I would suggest that when the Church uses the “voice” terminology for conscience, it is using it more as a figure of speech, or using a certain rhetorical, poetic mode of speaking (e.g. in Gaudium et Spes) than as an idea to be taken literally.

I say this because as I understand it, conscience for Aquinas is not a literal “voice” of God in the sense of a direct, supernatural illumination into the human mind from without. Properly speaking conscience is a natural thing—not supernatural. Yet, it comes from God, was created by God as an integral part of our human nature.

First, we have our basic (natural) inclination to do good and avoid evil (because we sense that this is integral to our fulfillment and flourishing—i.e. the attainment of our own purpose as individuals and as a society—as human persons). This basic orientation to prefer good to evil is sometimes called by the Greek term synderesis (the Catechism mentions it). Then, we have our (human, natural) judgment in regard to particular, concrete human acts (whether past, present, or future). Our judgment puts together synderesis with moral principles about what is right and wrong (e.g. the Commandments), compares among possible acts, and chooses which particular act is the best in the particular context—the most morally commendable.

Insofar as God inscribed into our being both the desire to do good as well as a universal awareness of certain moral principals (more or less supported within different human cultures), we can say that conscience is the “voice” of God. But this is to speak analogously. It is not the “voice” of God in the sense of a supernatural illumination sent into our mind from without whenever we need the judgment of conscience. In other words, conscience does not entail God giving us new knowledge about right and wrong in regard to possible actions as we consider them, like a friend whispering advice into our ear. Now, God of course can give supernatural illumination in regard to a certain situation, but this would be a divine gift that is something different from conscience.

So, we can speak of conscience as a “voice of God” in a figurative, analogous, poetic sense. But we get into trouble when we start thinking about this “voice” in a too-literal way. I think it is quite different whether or not we regard conscience to be a natural thing (created by God to involve an orientation to the good and making possible the determination of the best course of action in concrete circumstances) or a supernatural thing (thus not part of our created nature).

In speaking of conscience, the Catechism, and Vatican II, do seem to blend together elements of a more careful, exacting language with more figurative language, perhaps assuming that the reader recognizes the different modes of speaking.

Katie van Schaijik • Mar 27, 2010 - 9:10 am

I agree with you mostly, Scott.  There is definitely a danger in thinking of conscience too literally as a voice.  But I don’t quite like to call it a strictly natural faculty either.  Later in that letter to the Duke of Norfolk Newman distinguishes two senses of conscience.  One is the more usual, commonplace meaning of our moral sense.  The other is imperious commander.  It is in this latter sense especially that we experience it as the voice of God.

Scott Johnston • Mar 28, 2010 - 5:19 am

I wonder, Katie, how the interplay of nature and grace in the operation of conscience in the baptized enters in here. This probably must remain somewhat hidden in mystery to us. But the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit certainly have an impact on the operation of conscience, especially the gift of counsel (which Aquinas pairs with the virtue of prudence).

Jules van Schaijik • Mar 28, 2010 - 7:53 am

I think there is much more to the “voice” quality of conscience than you, Scott, or St. Thomas think.  What makes conscience unique among our faculties, as Newman points out, is that in our experience of it we have to do with more than just ourselves.  It is not just a combination of our inclination to do good with our rational judgement as to where the good lies in a particular case.  Rather, the experience includes an element of “being held to obedience” by another.  The following lines from Veritatis Splendor are therefore not just poetical:

Moral conscience does not close man within an insurmountable and impenetrable solitude, but opens him to the call, to the voice of God. In this, and not in anything else, lies the entire mystery and dignity of the moral conscience: in being the place, the sacred place where God speaks to man.

I agree that conscience is a natural faculty.  It belongs to the essence of human nature.  It is not a miraculous, divine intervention in the ordinary state of affairs.  Still, it is unlike any other natural faculty, because in and through it the person, in some mysterious way, encounters God. To overlook this is to deprive conscience of its unique depth and imperative character.

frangelo • Mar 28, 2010 - 11:36 am

As a Franciscan I might suggest there be more to the idea of natural illumination, that is, a greater emphasis of the relative and not absolute autonomy of the natural order in respect to man.  Scotistic thought would follow this route. G.M. Hopkins loved Scotus, e.g., because he realized that the subtle doctor would have appreciated his theory of aesthetics, which attributed more than a purely “natural” dynamic to poetic inspiration.

The question is what is it if anything that stands between nature and grace, and in what way are such things explained and acted upon, when the relative autonomy needs to be preserved without canonizing subjectivism.

I believe this is part of what the Council attempted to address when speaking of religious liberty, and one of the reasons why the question is so problematic.

Scott Johnston • Mar 28, 2010 - 5:26 pm

Hi Jules. If by voice character you mean that it is possible to conclude, with careful philosophical reflection upon the interior qualities of the experience of conscience, that it must have a divine origin, and that this origin must be one and personal, I would agree totally. In fact, my own conversion from agnosticism to accepting wholeheartedly that God is real and that He is one and that He cares for us and is involved with our lives, was largely based on reflection upon (helped greatly by C.S. Lewis) the interior moral experience of human life, beginning with what (to me) is the unexplainable character of the worst human evil acts on a purely natural order.

It seems to me that if conscience is indeed a natural faculty, then when we speak of voice in regard to conscience we have to do so in a way that does not slip into making the conscience a direct supernatural illumination. If “voice” can be used in such a way that it does not take conscience out of the natural and put it into the supernatural sphere then I’m fine with it.

I think that being careful to exclude a direct, supernatural illumination from without into the individual human person in regard to conscience is very important because if our thinking permits such, we end up degrading the dignity and personhood of human beings. It becomes a moral epistemology (can I say that?) wherein the ability of each person to individually ascertain the sphere of moral values and moral obligations is too removed from human nature and too dependent on God for supernatural intervention in the ordinary course of daily life.

And in saying this, I also still agree wholeheartedly that there is something special about conscience as a privileged place where man meets God, that sets it apart from other natural faculties.

Perhaps it is helpful just for clarity to recall that conscience in the most basic sense, is something that all human persons have, believer and non-believer alike, and this is the same faculty in persons both before and after the coming into the world of the grace of Christ. In other words, conscience does not need sanctifying grace to be itself. Although, since saving grace has come into the world, the grace of Christ, for sure there is assistance given by this grace (such as the 7 gifts) that enables the natural powers of conscience to operate more surely and with more confidence. And of course the healing and elevation that grace works in us also clears away obstacles to the healthy functioning of conscience.

I think we can very much hold to conscience being unique and unlike other natural faculties without needing to use language that would have it become very supernatural-like. My concern with the term “voice” is that the usual connotation of voice is very direct, immediate, one-to-one, often uniquely interpersonal. When I hear a voice, I am hearing something from without, that is not internal to me at all (unless I speak of my own internal voice). And I think that the usual connotation of hearing a voice makes speaking of conscience literally as a voice of God certain to make most people imagine it as a direct supernatural illumination that is special and particular to oneself. Indeed, God can give a special, particular revelation of a moral sort to a particular person. But this would not be conscience, but rather a special grace.

And may I say, if you will indulge me, I don’t think I fully embrace a solely Thomistic epistemology of the human person. As came up on this blog at some point a while back, I am intrigued and fascinated by Bonaventurian (natural) illumination. Not sure how this impacts (if it does) philosophizing about conscience.

Jules van Schaijik • Mar 29, 2010 - 11:54 am

I agree, Scott, with what you say about conscience being an integral part of human nature. All persons have it, not because they are believers or in a state of grace, but simply in virtue of being human. It is crucial to insist on this.

But I continue to think that the term “voice” is very appropriate and descriptive. It captures what is so unique about the experience of conscience: the sense of not being alone, of being watched, addressed, and held accountable by another. These elements, I think, are part of the immediate experience of an awakened conscience. But you write as if it can only be inferred from that experience: “it is possible to conclude, with careful philosophical reflection upon the interior qualities of the experience of conscience, that it must have a divine origin, and that this origin must be one and personal.”

It is on this point, it seems, that we still differ. On my view it is much more literally true than on yours, to say that conscience is a “dialogue of man with God” or that it is “the witness of God himself, whose voice and judgement penetrate the depths of man’s soul” (Veritatis Splendor, #58).  These phrases represent, in my view, a more deeply personalist view of conscience than can be found in, say, St. Thomas, whose perspective is, to use Wojtyla’s term, much more cosmological.

One more point, just to be clear:  I don’t mean to say, of course, that in conscience we encounter God as clearly and directly as we encounter one another in conversation.  Nor, I can only suppose, is the experience of conscience anything like an interior locution such as some saints have received. But neither is it just an inference.  I therefore call it a sense or a feeling.

Scott Johnston • Mar 29, 2010 - 1:21 pm

Thanks for your patience, Jules! I must confess, in writing my last comment or two, I wanted instinctively to use the term “voice,” for conscience but then deliberately avoided it because of this discussion.

I don’t think, Jules, we are very much in disagreement, only slightly, and more as to a matter of emphasis than on fundamental principles. I’m sure you are right in that there are some ways in which “voice” is really the best term to use, though it still has drawbacks.

Because I have more recently studied St. Thomas than Newman on this subject, I am more in the mode of wanting to be careful to preserve the full nature of the human being as created by God, as distinct from and prior to the action of saving grace and anything like an inner locution/supernatural illumination/miracle. I would probably be more eager to embrace your perspective if I went back and read more Newman.

I don’t have the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk. Is it contained within another work? I do have Grammar, Apologia, Idea, and 15 Sermons. Could you direct me to where in these I might refresh my reading on Newman’s thoughts on conscience?

That being said, I do recall from some class or other that Newman and St. Thomas don’t quite see eye-to-eye about conscience, and that it can be debated whether, if Thomas’ anthropology is correct, Newman doesn’t perhaps go a little too far in how he speaks of conscience as a voice. I am certainly not qualified to lay this out. But it is a very interesting and subtle topic.

Katie van Schaijik • Mar 29, 2010 - 1:38 pm

Happily, all of Newman’s works are online at the Newman Reader.  You can find the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk linked in the post that got this discussion off the ground.

Jules van Schaijik • Mar 29, 2010 - 2:16 pm

Hi Scott,
The first 20 pages or so of chapter 5 of the Grammar of Assent are by far the most relevant to the issue we have been discussing.
In the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, it is especially chapter 5 that is of interest.

Scott Johnston • Mar 29, 2010 - 2:22 pm

Thanks to you both!

Scott Johnston • Mar 27, 2010 - 5:30 am

Along with my comment about 30 minutes ago, of some interest may be a series of three articles on moral conscience written by Fr. Thomas Berg (former Legionary now diocesan priest) in 2008 and published at the web site of the Westchester Institute.

Part I
Part II
Part III

I think Fr. Berg does an admirable job of holding to Church teaching and being in continuity with Catholic theological tradition while also speaking in a way that is accessible to a personalistic approach.

Katie van Schaijik • Mar 27, 2010 - 9:34 am

If he went deep into the study of conscience, it is no wonder he left the Legion.

Katie van Schaijik • Mar 26, 2010 - 12:21 pm

I’ve just seen your quotes from the catechism.  I agree with them.  I don’t say conscience is always objectively right.  I say it always has to be followed, and that following it is the best way to bring into better line with the objective moral law.

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