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CONSCIENCE FORMATION

Dr. Evelyn P. Ciabal

Conscience
Making moral decisions demands maturity and responsibility. To seek to understand reality, to be attentive to the wisdom of the past; to discern the biases and demands of a particular situation- all these efforts are required of a mature decisionsmaker. All of them hinge on the central issue of conscience.

Conscience
We describe conscience as a little voice inside our minds telling us what to do. Sometimes we picture conscience as an inner police officer or as repeatedly played recording of our parents advice and admonitions.

Conscience
Conscience is also the personal self. It tries to make a sound judgment about our basic moral questions. What ought I to be? and What

ought I to do?

Conscience
Conscience is the practical judgment of reason upon an individual act as either good and to be performed or as evil and to be avoided.
As a judgment of reason it allows us to make a reasoned conclusion.

Conscience
As a practical judgment it commands, forbids,

allows or advises, depending on what dictates to an individual as to whether an act is obligatory, prohibited, permissible, or prudent. It is concerned not with the speculation but with action, a practical action of what is in the mind.

Conscience
Before we perform an action, our conscience judges whether we should perform an act or not. It is an immediate intellectual light shed upon the proposed act without which such will not be called human act.

After an action, conscience becomes a judgment of approval or disapproval. It is moral judgment of what we have done.

Conscience
Conscience is the secret core and sanctuary of our self which must not be violated.

Each of us is bound to follow our conscience faithfully in all our activities so that we may come to God, our last end. Therefore, we must not be forced to act contrary to our conscience .

Conscience
In moral theology, the term conscience has a very precise meaning which does not always coincide with its common meaning. it is a judgment on the goodness or evilness of the action, not on its usefulness or other practical considerations.

Conscience
In moral theology, the term conscience has a very precise meaning which does not always coincide with its common meaning. it is a judgment on the goodness or evilness of the action, not on its usefulness or other practical considerations.

Concepts of Conscience

Concepts of Conscience
1. Heteronomous conscience is tied to normative
ethics, focusing solely on laws and obligations, commands and prohibitions, in such a way that there is hardly any place for the conscience to evaluate and decide.

Concepts of Conscience
2. Autonomous conscience is totally subjective.
It ignores the law and determines by itself what is right and what is wrong.

Concepts of Conscience
Pope John Paul II states that the judgment of conscience has an imperative character; man must act in accordance with it. It is the proximate norm of personal morality. The authority of its voice and judgments derive from the truth about moral good and evil, which is called to listen to and express. This truth is indicated by the divine law the universal and objective norm of morality.

Levels of Conscience

Levels of Conscience
1. Antecedent actual conscience refers to the
whole process of making a judgment in conscience before the moral act.

Levels of Conscience
A person who has witnessed a crime should ask himself/herself: Am I obliged to give this

information to the proper authorities so that they can act upon it?
In a traffic situation, is it morally right to offer the policeman an amount, in order to free ourselves from a serious inconvenience?

Levels of Conscience
In these situations, we try to come to a moral judgment concerning what is permissible (first situation), what is obligatory (second situation), what is forbidden or what is morally different as far as our moral responsibility for a particular act is concerned.

Levels of Conscience
2. Concomitant actual conscience refers to our
actual awareness of being morally responsible for the goodness or the badness of a particular act which we are carrying out. In effect, our own conscience informs us that we are acting in a good way or we are doing something that is morally reprehensible.

Levels of Conscience
3. Consequent actual conscience involves the
process of reflection on ones moral responsibility relative to past actions.

Qualities of Conscience

Qualities of Conscience
1. Qualities which refer to the personal freedom: Free- one is able to assume a personal moral stand with regard to a particular attitude or a moral responsibility for a particular action in a way that is unhindered or unimpeded, in order to answer for that particular action or attitude.

Qualities of Conscience
Unfree- Ones moral attitude or responsibility for a particular action is hindered or impeded by some obstacles such as fear or anger.

Qualities of Conscience
2. Qualities which refer to objective value:

Correct means that ones subjective perceptions, discernment, dictates and decisions of conscience conform to the objective moral values and demands that one strives to possess.

Qualities of Conscience
Objective means that it is based on moral values that are generally accepted as good because they conform to the norm of morality, e.g., the divine reason which is eternally good and true.

Qualities of Conscience
Erroneous which means there is lack of conformity between the objectives values and the moral demands that go with them and ones subjective moral perceptions, discernment, dictates, and decisions in the habitual or actual levels of conscience.

Qualities of Conscience
Culpable means that one is in error and is therefore responsible for such an erroneous state of conscience. Inculpable means that one has erred in good faith, and makes a reasonable attempt to form a correct conscience.

Qualities of Conscience
3. Qualities which refer to moral attitude: In the process of making the transition from moral awareness to moral act, ones conscience maybe:

Qualities of Conscience
Lax which means it is remiss or careless in its efforts to clearly perceive and internalize particular moral values.

Qualities of Conscience
Strict which shows that the conscience tends to judge moral obligations too harshly, especially in an excessively legalistic way, adhering more to the letter than the spirit of the law.

Qualities of Conscience

Scrupulous which means that a conscience tends to judge sin to be present where, in fact there is none.

Qualities of Conscience
Pharisaical or when the conscience tends to be self-righteous as far as ones own moral evaluation is concerned, while being judgmental towards others , making unwarranted conclusions on the basis of external observance of the law.

Qualities of Conscience
Clear which means a conscience which confidently and freely acts with due regard for perceiving, appreciating and internalizing true values and making the proper transition in ones actual conscience when confronted by a moral decision regarding a particular way of acting.

Qualities of Conscience

Callous which is the worst type of conscience because it has no sensitivity to sin and God as if the person has no conscience at all, e.g., criminals.

Qualities of Conscience
4. Qualities which refer to degree of certitude

Perplexed when one deems it wrong to act in a particular way or to refrain from acting and, therefore, cannot make a morally good choice.

Qualities of Conscience
Doubtful when in an effort to form a clear conscience on a particular attitude or way of acting , one finds the lack of sufficient evidence to make a judgment

Qualities of Conscience
Probable when the conscience arrives at appoint where it finds security in its own formation of a moral attitude at the habitual level or of a practical judgment at the actual level, even while still admitting the possibility that the opposite is true.

Qualities of Conscience
Certain when the conscience is able to reach a degree of certainty in its own formation of moral judgment so that all practical doubts are resolved, and the new conscience is unhesitatingly clear in the actual process of making a sound discernment and decision.

Qualities of Conscience
5. Qualities which refer to maturity and responsibility A fully mature and responsible conscience should be free, correct and certain.

Dimensions of Conscience

Dimensions of Conscience
We develop a general sense of value which means awareness that we should do good and avoid evil. A sure sign of this general awareness is the fact that people argue about right and wrong. There will be no debate if we do not experience the responsibility of choosing between good and evil. Our desire to do the right thing reflects this general sense of value.

Dimensions of Conscience
As we search to discover the right course of action, we probe into human behavior and the world to search for truth. If we are honest in our search, then we turn into a variety of sources for wisdom and guidance (e.g., Scriptures, Koran, the Church, the physical and human sciences, tradition and competent professional advisers).

Dimensions of Conscience
After searching for the truth, the time comes when we are able to make an actual concrete judgment and a specific decision.

Formation of Conscience

Formation of Conscience

1. Each of us always says, I must follow my conscience.

Formation of Conscience
We must follow our decision (3rd Dimension) only after we have done our best to search for the truth concerning the issue facing us (2nd dimension). Following our conscience does not mean doing what we feel like doing. What it means is the hard work of discerning what is right and what is wrong.

Formation of Conscience
We must be reminded that our conscience can go astray without losing its dignity. A person can do his/her very best in search for the truth but can still miss the mark, as a result, the decision reached might not be the best which will lead to our human fulfillment.

Formation of Conscience
Nonetheless, the individual must follow this decision, on the condition that the person really tried to discover the truth. The conscience is individuals Supreme Court; its judgment must be followed but first it must be formed into a fully mature and responsible conscience.

Formation of Conscience

2. Obey your Conscience

Formation of Conscience
This principle is actually true but it should be properly understood. Sincere people often get into trouble because they faithfully obey their conscience without being critical of validity of their decisions. Formation of conscience is important here.

Formation of Conscience
A mature moral decision is not only a decision to make a good deed that we ought to do but also a choice made in good faith to make what we want ourselves to be.

Formation of Conscience
The dignity of human person implies and demands the rectitude of the moral conscience; that is, its being based on truth. One must seriously seek aright conscience or, in other words, one must try to make sure that ones moral judgment is right. This can be achieved by:

Formation of Conscience
Diligently learning the laws of moral life (trough spiritual formation) just as players must be interested in knowing well the rules of the game; Seeking expert advice on difficult cases (spiritual direction) just as doctors hold constitution when the diagnosis of a serious illness is not clear;

Formation of Conscience
Asking God for light trough prayer; Removing the obstacles to right judgment such as habitual moral disorder or bad habits ascetical struggle); and

Formation of Conscience
Personal examination of conscience. Ask yourself these two questions; 1. What bad things have I done for the day? 2. What good things have I done for a day?

Formation of Conscience
Formation of ones conscience precisely refers to the careful preparation of judgment. A person is called prudent when he decides according to the judgment . Among the above listed condition for reaching a right judgment, two can easily benefit from a remote preparation: 1.) the intellects knowledge of moral laws, and 2.) the wills removal of obstacles.

Formation of Conscience
Thus, the formation of ones conscience is a long and comprehensive process that will later facilitate an immediate and right judgment in any concrete situation.

Formation of Conscience

3. Certain Conscience

Formation of Conscience
Certain conscience refers to the judgment about the goodness or evilness of a particular action, which is made without fear of making a mistake .

Formation of Conscience
When the intellect judges with certitude on the morality of a specific action, the judgment should always be followed. Hence the traditional principle that certain conscience must always be followed. This is a direct consequences of the first moral principle (that one must do god and avoid evil) and is likewise self-evident. When the intellect concludes with certitude that it cannot be done, one must not do it.

Formation of Conscience
Only certain conscience is a right rule for action. But it need not be based on absolute certitude, which is seldom found in human actions, certitude in a broad sense is enough. This means that the judgment is based on a serious reason, although there is a possibility of being wrong.

Formation of Conscience
Besides being certain, conscience must be right or at least invisibly erroneous in order to be a rule of morality (within natural ethics ) is natural law, only that conscience which correctly applies natural law to a particular case (right conscience) can be held as a legitimate rule of morality in the strict sense. Because of human imperfections, however, man can sometimes be right when in reality he is not. Because of this, invisibly erroneous conscience is a rule of morality.

Formation of Conscience
Sins committed with a conscience that is both certain and erroneous are merely material sins. This would be the case if a person does something wrong but is convinced that it is right. There is no formal sin her since there is no voluntary separation from God. The sin would be real and imputable, however, if the conscience is erroneous because of a previous fault for example, because of a previous negligence in acquiring the necessary moral formation. On the other hand, material sins, though not an offense to God, are always harmful. God commands or forbid something precisely on account of its being beneficial or harmful to man.

Doubtful Conscience

Doubtful conscience is the suspension of judgment on the moral


goodness or evilness of an action because the intellect cannot see clearly whether it is good or bad. It is no illicit to perform an action when one does not know whether it is good or bad, a doubtful conscience cannot be followed if it entails the possibility of doing something bad; the doubt must be resolved first. If one doubt whether or not there is an obligation to do something good (like going to mass), it can always be done without need to resolve the doubt; there is no risk of sinning in doing it.

Doubtful Conscience
Doubt may refer: To the laws itself and its content (like a referee who doubts the interpretation of some obscure rules of the game); and

Doubtful Conscience
To the action (like the referee who doubts whether or not a player actually pushed another player). In either case, if there is reasonable ground for doubt, one may not act until it is solved.

Principle of Resolving a Doubtful Conscience

Principle of Resolving a Doubtful Conscience


We must always strive to form a certain conscience before acting. This may be done in a variety of ways so that a practical certainty can be reached. And thus establish a sufficient basis for acting in amorally correct way.

Principle of Resolving a Doubtful Conscience


We must try to find direct solution of the doubt. This can be done by applying general principles to the particular case, by consultation with experts, or referring to other well-informed sources.

Principle of Resolving a Doubtful Conscience


We can also try indirect solution of the doubt by resorting to what are commonly called reflex principle, as express in certain rules of prudence and various presumptions.

Principle of Resolving a Doubtful Conscience

Thus we can establish a sufficient basis for resolving the practical doubt in such a way that one may then act with clear conscience.

Principle of Resolving a Doubtful Conscience


The most important reflex principles are:
A doubtful law does not bind; In case of doubt, the professor has a better right; A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty;

Principle of Resolving a Doubtful Conscience


In case of doubt, one has to judge according to what ordinary happens; An act is to be presumed valid until proven otherwise; and In case of doubt, what is odious should be restricted and what is favorable should be expanded.

Principle of Resolving a Doubtful Conscience


In case of doubt, one has to follow the safest solution. In after all these efforts, the doubts remain unsolved and one fear that both the action and its omission could be sinful (perplexed conscience), one may choose any of the two. Neither would be a sin, as one does not necessarily offend God.

Principle of Resolving a Doubtful Conscience


The intellect should get used to issuing defective, biased judgment on the goodness or evilness of actions. We can distinguish two types of biased conscience as follows:

Two Types of Biased Conscience


1. Scrupulous conscience which is the intellect
with a tendency to scruples. It decides that an action is sinful based on weak or insufficient reasons. The symptoms of a scrupulous conscience are:

Two Types of Biased Conscience


Excessive anxiety over the sufficiency of good actions and, especially, over the validity of past confessions; Fastidious accusations, scrutinizing, and unnecessary circumstances, especially as regards to internal sins (thoughts, desires); and Obstinacy in ones opinion, which leads one to mistrust ones confessor and go from one confessor to another.

Two Types of Biased Conscience


The remedies of scrupulous conscience are:
Removal of its causes; Strict obedience to ones confessor; Orderly work and suitable recreation; Prayer; which increase light; and Trust in God who is Our Father.

Two Types of Biased Conscience


2. Lax Conscience also the intellect with a tendency to laxity. It judges without sufficient reason that a certain action is not sinful or is only slightly sinful.

If laxity becomes excessive because of repeated sins, we can speak of a hardened conscience, This does not mean that the intellect is no longer able to distinguish between good and evil. Properly speaking, subjective cannot really exist.

Two Types of Biased Conscience


The so-called pharisaic conscience is characterized by great punctiliousness (stiff correctness) in some things, especially external and often unimportant ones, together with great laxity in matters of far greater importance.

Two Types of Biased Conscience


The usual causes of a lax conscience are:
Poor moral education; Dealing with depraved people; Strong disorderly passions; and Living for a long time immersed in vices.

Two Types of Biased Conscience


The effects of a lax conscience are especially harmful. When the awareness of doing something wrong is lost the possibility of reacting and repenting is slim.
The remedies of a lax conscience are: Removing its causes; Frequent sacramental confession; and Asking light from God through prayer.

Some Principles Used in Moral Discernment

1. The principle of double effect- at times we are confronted by a situation wherein one act will have two separate effects- one good and the other bad . This principle helps us determine whether or not it is morally correct to perform one act, which will bring about a good as well as an evil effect.

These are four conditions that merit the application of the principle of double effect. The act must not be evil in itself. Both effects, the good and the evil, must proceed at least equally and directly from the act, or immediate effect of the act must be good while the evil effect is more remote. The intention of the one performing the act must be good while the evil effect must not be directly intended. A proportionally grave reason must be present in order to justify the toleration of the indirect evil effect.

2. The principle of lesser evil- In conflicting situation s where harm will result from either of two alternatives open to the agent, the rule of Christian reason is to choose the lesser evil (e.g., indirect abortion).

3. Principle of material and formal cooperation- Cooperation in this context means any physical or moral concurrence with the principal agent in an important act. The one who cooperates somehow assists in the carrying out of an immoral act by giving advice, providing necessary information, making necessary mans available or doing anything which, in one way or another , makes the immoral act possible, or at least facilitates it.

4. Making moral decisions- Choosing the action that does not fully promote humanity is not an easy task. Moral dilemmas confront us with profound complexity. Some persons judge artificial conception and contraception to be contrary to human nature. Others see them as compassionate use of technology to help nature. Our culture suggests a variety of means to resolve these difficulties.

Now we should carefully consider the process of making moral decision, the process of answering our initial question, What ought I to do? The answer to this question often brings conflict in us and life present situations where decisions are not so clear-cut.

In dealing with this kind of conflict, three approaches are suggested: 1. The theological (from the Greek word telos which means goal or end) approach;

2. The deontological (Greek deon which means duty or obligation) approach which begins with the basic values of human life (e.g., telling the truth) and holds that we cannot act directly against those values. This method holds that some human acts are morally right or wrong no matter what the consequences are.

3. The discerning approach which combines the value and wisdom of law with the uniqueness of concrete situations. Rooted in reality, this approach avoids relativism on the one hand, and accepts the significance of the concrete situation on the other. It avoids blind obedience to law or its other side.

A mature moral decision is not only a decision to make a good deed that we ought to do but also a choice made in good faith to make what we ought ourselves to be.

The End