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WHAT JUDGES THE

MORALITY OF OUR ACTS?

THE SUBJECTIVE NORM OF


MORALITY

CONSCIENCE

What is Conscience?
a practical judgment of human reason
concerning the moral goodness or evil
of an action.
It is by the judgment of his conscience
that man perceives & recognizes the
prescriptions of the divine law.
An act of the human intellect. Therefore
subject to the shortcomings of our
intellect.

CONSCIENCE
It is the inner voice summoning us to
love the good and avoid evil, by
applying objective moral norms to our
particular acts, and thus commanding:
do this, do not do that.

CONSCIENCE IS
our natural capacity to discern what is morally
good or evil, with the feeling of being obliged to
do the good and avoid the evil.
our reason
figuring out, determining (hence, were
responsible)
what we should (hence, moral obligation is
involved)
do (regarding a decision to act)

Conscience, therefore, is
our subjective norm of moral behavior,
which determines how we should act
by applying objective moral norms to a
specific moral act.

It is SUBJECTIVE -- it is ours, no one can morally


decide for us.
It is subjective, not subjectivistic.
ultimate & subjective moral norm does not mean it
operates apart from all objective moral norms.

It is OBJECTIVE -- conscience transcends our


individualistic, private notions and binds us.
by precisely applying universal objective norms to our
particular acts

ACCORDING TO VATICAN II:


Deep within our conscience we discover a law which
we have not laid on ourselves, but which we must
obey. Its voice, ever calling us to love and to do what
is good and to avoid evil, tells us inwardly at the right
time: do this, shun that. For we have in our hearts a
law inscribed by God. Our dignity lies in observing
this law and by it we will be judged. Conscience is
our most secret core, and our sanctuary. There we are
alone with God whose voice echoes in our depths
(GS 16).

WHY IS CONSCIENCE OFTEN REFERRED TO AS THE


VOICE OF GOD?

because it is God who created us, who has put this


inherent sense of what is good & bad in us, and who
wants us to act according to our human nature and be true
to ourselves.
because this law of conscience that is inscribed by God
is experienced often as absolute: not dependent on
anything we freely choose of ourselves, nor on what
family, society taught us.
this exceptional absolute quality is why conscience is our
most secret core, our sanctuary, where we are alone with God
whose voice echoes in our depths.

NEVERTHELESS
the phrase voice of God is only a metaphor. It is not
an outside voice that dictates new moral information
to us.
we cannot identify the voice of conscience with
Gods since it often happens that conscience goes
astray through ignorance which it is unable to avoid,
without thereby losing its dignity. For despite the
possibility of error, conscience remains our final
moral norm, and by it we will be judged (GS 16.)

IS CONSCIENCE A FEELING?
FEELINGS ARE NOT CONSCIENCE. A SENSE OF PEACE
OR GUILT MAY ACCOMPANY THE JUDGMENT OF
CONSCIENCE, BUT FEELINGS DO NOT DETERMINE
THE MORALITY OF AN ACT.
FEELINGS & SOCIAL CONVENTIONS DO NOT DETERMINE
WHAT IS MORALLY RIGHT AND MORALLY WRONG. FEELINGS
CAN BE MISGUIDED, SOCAL VALUES CAN BE CORRUPTED.
SOME PEOPLE DO THE MOST HORRIBLE THINGS AND FEEL
NO GUILT OR REMORSE (E.G., HOLOCAUST), WHILE OTHERS
FEEL GUILT OVER MATTERS THAT HAVE NO MORAL
SIGNIFICANCE (E.G., BEING NEAT & TIDY)

SINCE THE JUDGMENT OF CONSCIENCE IS AN


ACT OF THE INTELLECT, IT CANNOT MERELY
BE A FEELING OR A PERSONAL DECISION TO
ACT OR LIVE IN A CERTAIN WAY.
NOT THAT FEELINGS ARE UNIMPORTANT OR
IRRELEVANT IN MAKING JUDGMENTS OF
CONSCIENCE.
EITHER ACTS ARE OR ARE NOT TRULY IN
ACCORD WITH CORRECT MORAL
STANDARDS.

IT IS PRECISELY BEC THE JUDGMENT OF


CONSCIENCE IS ONES BEST JUDGMENT ABOUT
WHAT ONE SHOULD DO THAT A PERSON IS MORALLY
OBLIGED TO FOLLOW HIS/HER CONSCIENCE.

THIS DUTY IS INTELLIGIBLE ONLY WHEN


CONSCIENCE IS UNDERSTOOD AS A JUDGMENT THE
BEST JUDGMENT ONE CAN MAKE ABOUT THE
TRULY GOOD THING TO DO IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES.
FEELINGS CAN GENERATE NO SUCH DUTY.

GUILT FEELINGS A GREAT IMPACT ON ONES


LIFE.
BUT IF THESE FEELINGS DO NOT COME FROM
AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE INTRINSIC
GOODNESS OR WRONGNESS OF A
CONTEMPLATED ACT, BUT MERELY
MOTIVATED BY A DESIRE FOR APPROVAL &
FEAR OF DISAPPROVAL BY AN AUTHORITY
FIGURE, THEY CANNOT PROVIDE DECISIVE
MORAL GUIDANCE.

IT HELPS US UNDERSTAND THE DEEPER


REALITY OF AUTHENTIC CHRISTIAN
CONSCIENCE AND HOW IT IS GRADUALLY
FORMED UNDER THE COMPLEX PATTERN OF
INFLUENCES FROM INSTINCT, GRACE,
FAMILY, COMMUNITY.

MOMENTS
ANTECEDENT - Conscience which
discerns. (Before the act)
CONCOMITANT- Conscience in action.
Am I doing the right thing? (During the
act)
CONSEQUENT - Conscience which
reviews, evaluates an action which has
already been done.

LEVELS OF CONSCIENCE
1. INSTINCTIVE LEVEL Dominated by
fear of punishment & desire for approval
or reward.
Natural level, normal for children.

FEAR CONSCIENCE
operates on the instinctive level;
focuses on the command, on the external breaking a
command of authority (taboo), which brings on guilt
feelings of anxiety;
dominated by fear of punishment and desire for approval;
natural for young children;
roots always remain in us to some degree;
but if still predominant in an adults moral life, constitutes
a serious moral defect, a major obstacle to personal growth
& well-being.

2. MORAL / PHILOSOPHICAL - Operates


on the ethical level, that is, not just on what
is commanded by some authority but now
from awareness of the inner good or evil of
an act.

MORAL-ETHICAL CONSCIENCE
looks beneath the command of the authority and
recognizes the inner good or evil of moral acts, and
their own responsibility for them;
this inner good/evil is judged in terms of the value
of the human person in communitybeing true to
self and others as human persons;

3. CHRISTIAN LEVEL - My Christian Faith


illumines, clarifies & deepens what we
perceive as truly worthy of being a person.
It places moral striving as a personal call to
wholeness & holiness.

CHRISTIAN-RELIGIOUS CONSCIENCE
Faith actively illumines the moral life of the
disciple of Christ,
under his new Law of the indwelling Spirit,
who inspires and strengthens the re-creative love
of on-going conversion.

We become conscious of the healing &


liberating grace present in our very moral
struggle & striving, as we are called to
greater & fuller conversion into the persons
that God has created us to become.

NOTE
These 3 levels of conscience are not exclusive
we all retain a good measure of the first and
second levels even after we have reached the third.
This is actually needed in our human condition.
But the task of every Christian is to grow toward a
dominantly Christian level of conscience in all
moral decision-making and activity.

CONSCIENCE
SINCERITY CORRECTNESS

It is not enough to be sincere.


It is important to be correct.

KINDS OF CONSCIENCE
I. Conscience with
reference to the
degree of
voluntariness:
FREE
UNFREE
II. With reference to
objective moral
norm:
CORRECT or TRUE
ERRONEOUS
Invincible
Vincible

III. With reference


to the degree of
certainty:
1. CERTAIN
2. DOUBTFUL
IV. With reference to
moral attitude:
1. DELICATE
2. LAX
3.SCRUPULOUS
4. PHARISAICAL
5. CALLOUS

Formation of Conscience
INFORMED
ENLIGHTENED
FORMED

THE DUTY TO FOLLOW ONES


CONSCIENCE
ONES JUDGMENT CAN BE MISTAKEN.
BUT THIS DOES NOT CHANGE THE
FACT THAT ONE IS OBLIGED TO
FOLLOW HIS/HER FINAL JUDGMENT
OF CONS, FOR IN SUCH A ACSE ONE
HONESTLY BELIEVES THAT A
CERTAIN COURSE OF ACTION IS
MORALLY REQUIRED

BUT THE MORALLY UPRIGHT PERSON WILL,


OF COURSE, EARNESTLY SEEK TO SEE TO IT
THAT HIS OR HER JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE.
HENCE, THE DUTY TO FORM ONES
CONSCIENCE:
ONE MUST GRASP THE IMPLICATIONS OF BASIC
PRINCIPLES OF MORALITY;
ONE MUST LEARN HOW TO APPLY THSE NORMS
SO AS TO FORM REASONABLE JUDGMENTS OF
CONSCIENCE.

HOW DO WE FORM A CHRISTIAN


CONSCIENCE?
Personal & ecclesial PRAYER LIFE
Studying the WORD of GOD & the
Teachings of the Church (Seek the moral
guidance of the Church)
Responsiveness to the indwelling Holy
Spirit.
Examination of ones conscience. Critical
Reflection on our concrete moral choices
& experiences in daily life.

The Catholic Church as Moral


Guide & Teacher:
Bearer of Moral Tradition
A community of Moral discernment
Shaper of Moral Identity.

CLARIFICATIONS
Conscience does not supersede
Gods/Church norms, but applies them.
We are judged by God according to what
we honestly judge to be a valid application
of a law/norm.
Conscience is ones best judgment as to what in
the circumstances is the morally right thing to
do.