Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Human Conscience

Pope Pius XII once said: “The great sin of our century is the loss of the conscience of sin;” an eclipse of the moral conscience. People in our times do not believe in sin anymore. They minimize immoral acts to mere choices that according to them, just because they choose them and like them, are O.K…. and should be accepted by everyone else.

There are sane and evil conducts. Our own consciences tell us when we do something that is not right, that hurts us or others, that is not natural, that goes beyond the limits of our rights and freedom.

In the eclipse, or darkening, of the moral conscience, there are three phases:

1) In the first phase, there is sin and there are sinners. In this phase, sin and sinners and their guilt are recognized. The sinner is held accountable for his crime, sin, and/or fault, and is punished accordingly by the law, after being accused by his own actions and conscience.

2) In the second phase, there is sin, but there is no sinner. All crimes, sins, social and moral misdeeds are attributed to the system, the environment, circumstances, needs, weakness, etc., but there is no mention of guilty persons, no sinners, no punishments.

3) In the third phase, there is no sin… and LONG LIVE the sinner! People believe that no one has the right to tell them what to do and how to do it. In the name of distorted freedom, sinners are rewarded for all the time that they were seen and treated as sinners.

Morals are thrown out the window and are replaced by laws that are really usurpers of Divine Truth and true liberty. What was considered sinful becomes a virtue; virtues are belittled, mocked, repudiated. Public sinners are considered heroes, role models of society, and become the idols of the youth.

All of this is a process of a moral involution in which the human conscience is silenced, obscured, and disfigured. According to Pius XII, “the human conscience is the tabernacle of man,” which protects and defends the voice of God in and for man…. so that we may know what we do right and what we do wrong.

In human beings, there are two consciences: the psychological conscience and the moral conscience. The psychological conscience is the indicative perception of what we actually do and feel. For example, when we are hurt, hungry, tired, thanks to our psychological conscience, we feel pain, hunger, and the desire to relax.

The moral conscience is the imperative appreciation of what we should do and feel. Our moral conscience tells us how we should behave in certain situations, how we should respond to certain events, and when we do something that is right or wrong, good or evil. This moral conscience is what makes us, humans, different and even superior to irrational animals because it is superior to the psychological conscience.

For example, during Lent we usually fast. Even though our psychological conscience tells us that we are hungry, after hours without eating or drinking anything, our moral conscience tells us that we should not eat or drink anything so as not to break the fast. This is due to the fact that our consciences are witnesses of our actions; it is the herald or messenger that announces the decrees of the King (according to St. Bonaventure). We are all born with it (moral conscience), and it guides our steps when it comes to deciphering whether what it tells us comes from God (King) or not.

In order to find out, anytime we want, whether what our conscience commands us to do, or not do, comes from God, there are three things that we should always do:

1) To pray sincerely, to immerse ourselves in the depths of God.
2) To apply the holy virtue of Prudence: to use reason, to act with logic, to ask when we do not know or need advice, to anticipate future dangers or obstacles, to be cautious, to analyze circumstances and situations, and to use our intuitions wisely.
3) To exercise ourselves in the virtue of Charity in order to form and reform our moral conscience. We can achieve this by:
a) Doing good and to opposing and resisting all evil.
b) Making the resolution: “I will NEVER do evil under the pretext of getting something good.”
c) Never doing to another person what we would never consent anyone to do to us.
d) Never cooperating voluntarily in evil against another person.
e) Accepting the dictum that there is no liberty of conscience without TRUTH, but only within TRUTH. This last point concerns politicians more than others because they are the ones in charge of making, abolishing or distorting laws that might, and usually do, fall under the turf of morality such as abortion, contraception, capital punishment, stem cell research, etc.

~Fr. Hasbún

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