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Life in Christ

439

teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the

aboriginal Vicar of Christ.

50

1779

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

interiority

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.

51

1780

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

by the

prudent judgment

of conscience. We call that man prudent

who chooses in conformity with this judgment.

1781

Conscience enables one to assume

responsibility

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.

52

1782

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-

ters.”

53

50 John Henry Cardinal Newman, “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk,” V, in

Certain Difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching

II (London:

Longmans Green, 1885), 248.

51 St. Augustine,

In ep Jo.

8, 9: PL 35, 2041.

52

1 Jn

3:19-20.

53

DH

3 § 2.

1886

1806

1731

2106