20th January 2012, 03:07 PM
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Nothing political is correct.
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Join Date: 5th February 2002
Reps: 1,574,738,335,962,253,824 (power: 1,574,738,335,962,329)
What is Moral Conscience?
Refuting four mistaken ideas about conscience in light of the natural law tradition.
My experience as a teacher, counselor and confessor has repeatedly confirmed that there is a tremendous amount of confusion, especially among Catholics, about the nature of moral conscience. That experience has also taught me just how sensitive this topic is. Want to make a group of people immediately uncomfortable? Start talking about conscience—and worse, suggest that the ideas they have about conscience are perhaps mistaken. In what follows, I will offer a sketch of the perennial, Catholic, natural law (NL) understanding of conscience—in a hopefully accessible, non-scholarly, and pastoral fashion—by first sketching out and refuting four popular misconceptions about moral conscience.1
To begin with, I hope most of us would agree that conscience is not the proverbial angel on my shoulder, the antagonist of the little devil who whispers temptations in my ear perched on my other shoulder. Yet, while most of us have progressed beyond this childish understanding of conscience, I fear that a large percentage of Catholics still labor under some form of misconception about the nature of moral conscience.
Allow me to suggest that most if not all of those problematic notions about conscience—having trickled down to us historically from different schools of moral philosophy, psychology and related fields—generally fall into one of the following broad categories:
(a) Conscience as emotive response.
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“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”