Sunday, November 20, 2011

Forming a Conscience

A women I spoke with years ago informed me she was giving up being Catholic.

"I don't like feeling bad all the time," she said.

"I feel bad only when I've done something wrong," I replied.

She didn't like the reply -- in fact, she became downright caustic.

It turns out that she'd made a wreck of her marriage and was abandoning her husband; small wonder she felt bad. Worse, her Catholic faith obliged her to do the right thing, which meant owning up to her misconduct and repairing the harm she had caused through her neglect and selfishness. Ergo, the Catholic faith had to go.

We're responsible for the right formation of our own conscience. A correct conscience is not something that happens to us -- rather, it is something we develop just as we develop correct grammar, correct posture, correct handwriting. We start with the instruction given by those in authority over us -- e.g. parents, teachers. With time we learn to recognize good sources of authority and follow their lead. Just as we'll never be at a point where we won't need to go back to the dentist to check out our teeth, we'll never get to a point where we won't need good instruction and helpful reminders on how to live a good life.

"I have a clear conscience" can be a sign of a bad or selective memory.

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