“Always let your conscience be your guide.” ~ The Blue Fairy (Pinocchio)
The Blue Fairy is not the only one to say that we should always let conscience be our guide. As a matter of fact, that is also in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In article 1790, it states, “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.”
Hence, a Catholic must always be guided by conscience. There is a caveat to that principle, though, as 1790 continues, “Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.”
Conscience is more than that “little voice” that speaks inside of us. After all, if we are honest about it, sometimes that little voice is not conscience. Sometimes it is lust or avarice or greed or some other primal desire. Conscience must guide us but conscience must be properly formed as well.
We cannot make something up and call it conscience. We cannot hear that someone else did something and say that we want to do it as well and that our conscience agrees with that. Those are ways that we use conscience as an excuse and not as a rule.
A well-formed conscience is the product of a lifetime. It is the product of intense prayer, scrutiny, study, and discernment. We must understand what the Church teaches. We must know what God commands. We must desire to do God’s will and not our own. When confronted by a difficult choice, we should not make our decision lightly. We should pray about it and ask God for discernment and help in choosing rightly.
When all is said and done, when we make a decision based upon what we believe is our well-formed conscience, we must follow through with it for, as the Catechism reminds us, “If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.”
Conscience. It is a very serious and weighty matter. Make sure to form yours properly throughout your life.
FAITH ACTION: Continue to form your conscience by prayer, study, and spiritual reflection.