Conscience is our guide Print
By Cdl. Raymond Leo Burke   
Friday, 08 March 2013

God Who has made us in His own image and likeness, making us His co-workers in the care of the world (Genesis 1:26-30), and who has redeemed us by the Precious Blood of His only-begotten Son (Acts 20:28), has inscribed within our hearts His law which gives life and overcomes death (Deuteronomy 30:11-20). Conscience is the voice of God within us, assisting us to choose good and to avoid evil, in accord with God’s law. Our conscience helps us to choose what is true and not to fall prey to self-deception, the deception of others and Satan’s deception, all of which would lead us to betray the truth about ourselves and our world. It is our conscience which leads us to choose a particular action, which judges the goodness or evil of the action as we carry it out, and helps us to assess the goodness or evil of the action, once it has been done (Catechism of the Catholic Church [hereafter, CCC], Nos. 1777-1778).

Because of the sacred nature of conscience, we must enjoy the right to act in accord with what our conscience dictates. We must be free to make a personal decision to do what is good and to avoid what is evil. The right to act in accord with our conscience, however, presupposes that our conscience is informed with the truth which God has inscribed in our heart and revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. We are obliged to inform our conscience with the knowledge of God’s law, both the natural law inscribed in our hearts and the law revealed in God’s Word taught with authority by the Church (CCC, Nos. 1783-1785).

To the degree that our conscience is not informed by the divine truth, to that degree our conscience is liable to an erroneous judgment. There are times when we make a wrong moral judgment because of ignorance of the truth. Sometimes, we are responsible for the ignorance because we have failed to seek out the truth or have dulled our conscience through repeated sin. Sometimes, we are not responsible for our ignorance. In any case, it is always our responsibility to inform our conscience with the truth, especially with the help of our teachers in the faith, the Holy Father, the bishops in communion with the Holy Father, and our priests, co-workers with the bishops (CCC, Nos. 1790-1794). The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” summarizes well for us the means of forming a good conscience:
In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church (No. 1785).