Putting the Soul
back in Psychology!
Why I don't decide based on my "conscience".
According to Doctor of the Church St. Thomas Aquinas in his “Summa”, and the teaching of the Catholic Church of Rome (for both see "newadvent.org"), our "conscience" is only an act of our Intellect (mind) and Free Will. Our Intellect (mind) and Free Will are our immaterial Soul.
For this reason, we cannot trust our "conscience", nor blindly obey our "conscience", nor make choices solely by our "conscience". To do so is the same as believing: that we individually know it all, that we are always right, that we are perfectly sinless, and that we are our own “god”.
Our Conscience is not a power of our immaterial Soul, but rather only an action of our immaterial Soul: Intellect (mind) and Will, which is exactly how we choose to: lie to ourselves, rationalize, make excuses, choose bad priorities, and believe the lies that what is good is bad and what is bad is good, and the lies that what is Truth is false and what is false is Truth.
Our act of conscience is not only how we sometimes “get it right”, it is how we frequently “get it wrong”. Our act of conscience is never some perfectly loving all-knowing entity that is separate from all of our sinfulness. Our act of conscience is not God.
Just because we are told that “God speaks to us in our conscious”, which means God speaks to us in our immaterial Soul: Intellect (mind) and Free Will to choose, does not mean that we are listening to Him, does not mean that He speaks whenever we decide, does not mean that we accept and agree with what He says, and does not mean that we obey what He says to us.
Just because "God wrote the basic general laws on our souls at conception"...never means that we have actively chosen to: obey them, understand them, and developed them by searching for and learning specific and detailed Truth-Love from Jesus Christ and His Church, including but not limited to how to recognize when and how we are wrong in all that we: are attracted to/like/dislike, want/desire, expect, believe, think, feel, say, do, and don't do.
Most of us frequently disregarded God's "basic general laws" by: ignoring them and ignoring listening to Jesus Christ, dulling or silencing them with our: pride and selfishness and fears, among many other sins, distracting ourselves from God’s "basic general laws" with all our chosen "bad coping" (vices), and twisting / rationalizing into believing lies about them.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is balanced in its explanations on our act of "Conscience". But what many human beings do is to pick and choose only parts of the Truth in order to rationalize wanting to sin and pretending to be right when we are wrong. One of the more frequent rationalizations used is that we have to do whatever we feel or think as if we have no error, because:
# 1790 “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.”
[The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three “Life in Christ”, Section One “Man’s Vocation Life in the Spirit”, Chapter One “The Dignity of the Human Person”, Article 6 “Moral Conscience”, IV. “Erroneous Judgment”, © Holy See; Vatican, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a6.htm]
This statement from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in no way means that we are to always do what we feel or think is “right”. As the statement that follows in the quote supports. And notice the clarifying word “the certain”. That is a hugely important clarification that shows we are frequently not to obey our automatic spontaneous judgments of conscience. Therefore we need to know what the Catechism means by “the certain” judgment, before we can even think that we can rationalize that it’s always necessary to obey the judgments of our conscience. We can realistically deduce from the context, that “the certain” does not mean what is “erroneous judgement”.
The Catechism in various locations, explains how, in regard to making judgments, we need to do what is called proper Discernment, which includes but is not limited to: checking with Jesus Christ Himself, which can only be done if one has a relationship with Him and is in the “state of grace” (see Catechism), listening to Him which is called Contemplative Prayer, and waiting for external confirmation from Him that we do not control on what is the Truth, as well as actively seeking the teachings of Jesus Christ through His directly appointed collective human authority’s various writings.
In addition, we need to understand that there is much more than one definitional use of the word “condemn”. Condemn does not only, nor always mean “condemned to hell”, which in order to mean so the clarifier “to hell” must be added, of which it is not in this quote from the Catechism. For the action, “to condemn” also means: to reject as wrong/bad, and also to be found guilty; to be found at fault. We need to condemn what is irrational/wrong/bad with our own: attractions/likes/dislikes, wants/desires, expectations, beliefs, thoughts, emotions, feelings, words, and exterior actions…therefore, it is right and good to make the judgment to condemn one’s own particular erroneous judgments, and by doing so, would be an example of “the certain judgment” that we always need to obey.
The modern fad, which was wrongly used and supported by Christian leadership during the presidential elections during 2008 and 2012, which good priests have been correcting, is to use the rationalization that we are making an acceptable choice by believing, thinking, or saying: “I voted my Conscience.” As if this makes our beliefs and choices right or “good enough”...as if our perspectives and attitudes on all that we see and hear and think are always correct, or as if to say that what I feel or think is right, is most important, not what is objective Truth and whether or not I have it.
It is arrogant and prideful to make decisions based “solely on our conscience” because it negates and undermines the facts that:
1. For most human beings: our “conscience” is badly and poorly: formed / developed / educated; i.e. we ourselves are not sufficiently knowledgably on what is morally Right from wrong; a Truth from a lie, in all areas and with all priorities, no matter how: formally educated, Christian, Godly, spiritual, and/or religious we think we are.
Why?, because the majority of us have a plethora of layers of hundreds and hundreds of sins in what we personally: are attracted to/like/dislike, want/desire, expect, believe, think, and feel in hundreds of details, for which we have yet to cooperate to become Permanently Healed of…all of which create our perspectives and attitudes that twist and distort many objective moral Truths that we may or may not have been taught.
2. Most of us are obsessed / oppressed by one or more demons in some degree, whether we are aware of this or not, due to our sinfulness, unless we have already done what is necessary to remove and stop cooperating with them.
3. Most of us fail to try to actively cooperate with Jesus Christ sufficiently to become self-aware of; i.e. find out what we already: are attracted to/like/dislike, want/desire, expect, believe, think, feel, say, and do...that is false / wrong / bad.
4. Most of us fail to know how to correctly Discern with Jesus Christ or we fail to do so in all our decision making of any degree and type.
5. Most of us are assuming that our perspectives and attitudes on reality; what we “think” we see and hear on reality and what we feel, are always correct; i.e. we think that our feelings are reality and determine what is and is not reality.
Until these 5 areas are worked on, which takes an extensive amount of time and effort, we will make many wrong and sinful choices based on obeying our “conscience”.
For an excellent article on a subject directly related to Conscience, I highly recommend reading: "Considering Culpability", by Dr. Ralph Martin, published in the "Homiletic & Pastoral Review".