REFLECTION: Care for our conscience PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 08 March 2015 14:42



We need to talk a little bit more about conscience these days, because if ever some reference to it is made in the media, it is so swallowed up by its controversial social, legal and political context, that its basic religious and spiritual nature is practically distorted, if not corrupted, and its strategic role in all aspects and levels of our life unappreciated.

Especially when we make reference to what is usually termed as “freedom of conscience,” we can have such a varied interpretation of meaning and understanding that we end up confused and in unavoidable conflicts.

In some extreme cases, conscience can be understood as a right to do anything we like, practically making ourselves our own god and creator, our own lawgiver. And this simply cannot be. It’s absurd. The commonest of common sense can readily debunk it.

Conscience is a judgment we make with respect to the morality of an action we make. It is a judgment we make either before, during or after a human act, qualifying it as either good, bad or neutral.

It is something personal which does not mean that it does not have implications in the other aspects of our life, social, legal, professional, etc. Conscience figures at the very foundation of every human act we make, and our human acts can have varied effects, consequences and implications.

Let’s remember that as persons, we are meant by nature to be in relation with others, first with our God and Creator who is the original and ultimate lawgiver, and then with everybody and everything else. Therefore, our actions as persons will unavoidably involve our web of relations.

Our sense of privacy, which is also part of our nature, should not be taken to mean that we can be on our own. It is meant rather to protect our individuality, our uniqueness, our subjectivity, without compromising our need to be universally related to everyone and everything else, starting with God and always with God.

We need to take good care of our conscience. As an act of judgment, it has to gather relevant data, first of all from God, our ultimate lawgiver, and from things on the ground, in a specific situation, with concrete persons involved.

It has to hear from all these sources and process the information slowly and with prudence before making a judgment. It’s not true that judgments of conscience are always spontaneous and immediate. They can take time and has to go through a long process.

From these considerations, we can already gather that for our conscience to be properly formed, we need to have a vital relationship with God and with others. This will require of us constant effort, and of course the grace of God to discern his mind and will. This grace is actually abundantly given to us.

This vital relationship with God and with others should not be substituted by mere doctrine, norms and our legal, cultural, social, traditional systems, etc., which are meant at best to be guides only. The latter should only be the means, not the end in themselves.

Otherwise, we would be prone to fall into the anomalies of legalism, traditionalism and other isms that are caricatures of the real thing. These anomalies would in turn lead us to make rash judgments and to be self-righteous in the end.

Sad to say, this is what we are seeing these days—many seemingly good people stuck in self-righteousness, whose sense of justice hardly sits well with mercy and compassion, and is easily lured into the wiles and tricks of men, if not of the devil.

Thus, more than anything else, to have a good conscience involves intensifying our attitude and dispositions of faith, prayer, piety and devotion, as well as our effort to enter into personal and even intimate contact with others.

That is why our catechism tells us that our common and

ultimate vocation is holiness that involves communion with God and with everybody else. We need to do everything to foster the attainment of this communion.

Caring for our conscience also means developing virtues, especially humility that is so basic that no other virtue can prosper if not grown on the ground of humility. We need to have a genuine concern for the others, doing our best to know them as deeply as possible and to love them irrespective of their conditions.

This is how Christ behaved toward all of us. And he gave us that new commandment that we have to love one another as he himself has loved us. This is how we can have a really good conscience.