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10RE - Conscience: Home

This guide contains resources relating to the study of 'The Holy Spirit's action through Conscience and the Church'.

Key Terms

Circumstance: a fact or event that makes a situation the way it is.

Consent: to permit, approve, or agree; comply or yield.

Conscience: 1.The inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action. 2. the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.

Deliberate: carefully weighed or considered.

Divine Law: a law that is believed to have come directly from God.

Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

Innate: existing in one from birth; inborn; native

Intention: an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.

Magisterium: the authority and power of the church to teach religious truth.

Moral: of, relating to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical.

Natural Law: a principle or body of laws considered as derived from nature, right reason, or religion and as ethically binding in human society.

Principle: an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct.

Sin: any deliberate thought, word or action against the law of God.

Vice: an immoral or evil habit or practice.

Virtue: moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.

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What is conscience?

Conscience is a person's most 'secret core and sanctuary' (Gaudium et Spes 16). 

Conscience is a term that describes an aspect of a human being's self-awareness. It is part of a person's internal rational capacity and is not, as popular lore sometimes suggests, an audience room for the voice of God or of the devil. Conscience is a critical inner awareness that bears witness to the norms and values we recognise and apply. The complex of values with which conscience deals includes not only those we own, but the entire range of values to which we are exposed during life's journey. Consequently, there is always a sense of struggle in our reflective process. The witness of conscience makes its presence known by inducing mental anguish and feelings of guilt when we violate the values we recognise and apply. Conscience also provides a sense of pleasure when we reflect on conformity to our value system.

Bible Study Tools, 2014. 

What is the goodness of God?

The goodness of God is one of the attributes of God, as well as a description of His very essence. God, by nature, is inherently good, as Psalm 34:8 tells us: "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” He is the foundation of goodness and of everything good—He did not obtain it from another source. People can have good traits or do good deeds, but goodness is not in our character. Our goodness comes from God., 2016. 

Human Heart Questions

Questions that people continue to ask themselves throughout their lives are referred to as 'questions of the human heart'. Common examples are:

  1. What is the purpose of my life?
  2. Who am I?
  3. Why do people suffer?
  4. What happens after people die?
  5. How do we really know right from wrong?

The dignity of the Moral Conscience

In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.

Church in the Modern World - Gaudium et Spes para.16