When is Our Conscience Clear?
Please help me understand how we can be guided by our conscience. The Catechism is too wordy for me. How can I be sure I have a “clear” conscience? I witness many obvious rogues unashamedly professing that their consciences are clear. P Evans
A simple way to explain what the Catechism tells us regarding conscience, is to start with God creating Adam and Eve: “God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
Created in God’s image means that human persons reflect among themselves the goodness and love of their creator. Human nature tends towards what is good and lovely, and away from its opposite. The Catechism (1776) calls this a law inscribed by God in man’s heart.
On top of this natural goodness, human nature has been enriched by God’s explicit Ten Commandments of the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.
With the guidance of the Church, we know the difference between right and wrong in relation to the will of God. We are brought into a deeper understanding of the purpose of our existence, which is to know God, love him and serve him in this life in order to live with him happily in his everlasting kingdom.
Our conscience is properly clear when, if Christ were to call us to judgment here and now, we would have repented of all our sin and be prepared to enter that kingdom.
We must never try to judge another person’s state of conscience. That is God’s domain.
But sometimes the “rogues” who declare they have a clear conscience are not thinking of the final judgment that we must all undergo. They are perhaps measuring their moral conscience against a standard that is well below God’s law.
Often this could be a human law, convention, fashion or peer pressure which sets their minds at ease, even when they may suspect that it’s not in everybody’s interests.
The Church dismisses any suggestion that our judgments of conscience can be acts of independent personal opinion. Rather, every one of us has a responsibility to our Creator who is Truth itself. We all depend on him. What one person does must ultimately be for the good of all.
When we stand in the court of divine judgment there will be no lawyers or witnesses to argue on our behalf. We are alone before God who told Moses: “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14), the unchanging Truth who cannot be deceived.
Please read the Catechism again in paragraphs 1776-1802. There is a lot there to digest but I hope my notes will help you appreciate the role conscience plays in daily Christian living.