Life in Christ
teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the
aboriginal Vicar of Christ.
It is important for every person to be sufficiently present
to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience.
This requirement of
is all the more necessary as life often
distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection:
Return to your conscience, question it. . . . Turn inward, breth
ren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.
The dignity of the human person implies and requires
uprightness of moral conscience.
Conscience includes the perception
of the principles of morality (synderesis); their application in the
given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and
goods; and finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be per-
formed or already performed. The truth about the moral good,
stated in the law of reason, is recognized practically and concretely
of conscience. We call that man prudent
who chooses in conformity with this judgment.
Conscience enables one to assume
for the acts
performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience
can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the
good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The
verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and
mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the
forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be prac-
ticed, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the
grace of God:
We shall . . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our
hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and
he knows everything.
Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so
as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to
act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from
acting according to his conscience, especially in religious mat-
50 John Henry Cardinal Newman, “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk,” V, in
Certain Difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching
Longmans Green, 1885), 248.
51 St. Augustine,
In ep Jo.
8, 9: PL 35, 2041.
3 § 2.