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Conscience

In the classic Disney movie,
Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket is
chosen by the Blue Fairy to be
Pinocchio's "official" conscience.
He agrees to his post as, "Lord
High Keeper of the Knowledge
of Right and Wrong, Counselor
in Moments of Temptation, and
Guide along the Straight and
Narrow Path."
Do each of us have a “Jiminy Cricket” as our conscience to tell
us right from wrong?
NO!! Conscience is NOT an inner voice within us that is
separate from who we are…Rather, it is a reflection of our
being:
It is the operation

Conscience is not what we have, it
is something we are.

the intellect.

of

“Deep within his conscience man
discovers a law which he has not laid
upon himself but which he must obey.
Its voice ever calling him to love and to
do what is good and to avoid evil,
sounds in his heart at the right
moment….For man has in his heart a
law inscribed by God….His conscience
is man’s most secret core and
sanctuary. There he is alone with God
voice echoes in his depth.” Vatican II,
Gadium et Spes

To define and clarify…
Conscience: a judgment
of reason whereby the
human person recognizes
the moral quality of a
concrete act that he is
going to perform, is in the
process of performing, or
has already
Conscience
refers to ourcompleted.
entire being as
creatures who desire to turn towards
goodness and truth.

It is NOT an inner voice that
goes untouched, unexamined
and undeveloped.
Conscience IS molded by our
environment, but must be
evaluated against TRUTH when
making a decision.
Conscience IS NOT a feeling, it is an act
of the intellect and will that must be
examined against truth before final
judgment can be made.

The Latin root for the word “conscience” means to
know.
It deals with our acts of judging based on our
KNOWledge of right and wrong,

Conscience vs.
“Consciousness”:
• Consciousness refers to a general awareness of
ourselves, other people and our surroundings.
• Conscience refers to our awareness
(consciousness) of right and wrong,

Again, Conscience is not a
feeling; it is a practical
judgment; an operation of the
intellect that must be examined
against TRUTH.

The job of the
conscience is to
evaluate whether or not
a particular act is good
or evil, and to advise
“Conscience enables one to assume
accordingly.
responsibility for the acts performed.”

Review of the Moral Act:

There are three basic components for determining
whether an action is moral or immoral:

1.The object chosen
2.The intention (the “end”)
3.The circumstances surrounding the
action

“A morally good act requires the goodness
of the object, of the end, and of the
circumstances together. An evil end
corrupts the action, even if the object is
good in itself (such as praying and fasting
‘in order to be seen by men’).
The object of choice can by itself vitiate
[corrupt] an act in its entirety. There are
some concrete acts– such as fornication–
that it is always wrong to choose, because
choosing them entails a disorder of the
will, that is, a moral evil.” CCC 1755

Conditions that Lessen
• “Violence is an external force applied by one person on
Guilt…
another to compel that person to perform an action against his
or her will.”
• “Fear is a disturbance of mind resulting from some
present or imminent danger.”
• “Concupiscence is the rebellion of passions [emotions]
against reason.” It is the tendency of human nature
toward evil.
• Ignorance is lack of knowledge in a person capable of
possessing such knowledge. There are two types of
ignorance:
- Vincible Ignorance is that which can and should be dispelled. For
example, if someone thinks it might be wrong not to eat meat on
Fridays in Lent, but purposely never asks a priest or a friend about it,
then he still commits sin if he eats meat on those days.
Invincible Ignorance is that which cannot be dispelled. In other
words, someone is ignorant of his own ignorance.

-

“We can sum up by saying that invincible ignorance eliminates the
moral responsibility for a human act; vincible ignorance does not
eliminate moral responsibility, but may lessen it.”

Divisions of Conscience…
Certain vs. Doubtful
True (correct) vs.
• True (correct): one which
Erroneous

indicates correctly the
goodness or badness of a
• Erroneous:
one which falsely
moral
conduct
indicates that a good action is
evil, or an evil action is good

A person with a false conscience may/may
not be guilty of an evil act depending on
whether his ignorance was vincible or
invincible.
Did he try to know the truth and yet
remained in error?- invincible; he is
innocent.
OR Was he negligent in seeking the truth or
tried NOT to seek the truth?- vincible; not
innocent

• Certain: one which
dictates a course of
action in clear terms
without fear of error
• Doubtful: one which
leaves a person
undecided as to the
proper course of action

**We must always
follow a certain
conscience!

Lax vs. Scrupulous
• Lax: forms moral
judgments on insufficient
grounds; may be persuaded
that great sins are
permissible
• Scrupulous: when
someone sees evil where

there is none

When our conscience is honestly and correctly formed, we
MUST follow it in every circumstance!
But, in order to follow our conscience, we must
always seek to FORM our conscience…
Steps to help our conscience grow and be attuned to God’s
will.
1. Find the facts.

2. Examine your motives.
3. Think of the possible effects.
4. Consider alternatives.
5. What does the law have to say?
6. What is the reasonable thing to do?
7. What does your own experience and that of other
people say about the issue?
8. What would Jesus have done?
9. What is the teaching of the Church?
10. Pray for guidance.
11. Admit that you sometimes sin and might be
wrong.
12. After all of this, follow your conscience. “Everyone
who knows what is the right thing to do and does not do