February 29, 2012 by eneubauer
On February 20 we concluded our forum discussing the USCCB document: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A call to political responsibility. This final discussion centered on political action at the local and state level – facilitated by Jennifer Carr Allmon, Associate Director of the Texas Catholic Conference. Jennifer presented an outline of “concerns” and encouraged participants to read through the Bishops thoughts on a host of different issues – many of which come up in bills introduced during the State legislative session in Austin.
My thoughts today will focus on a singular idea that came up at all three sessions rather than a “break-down” of what took place during our final forum. Therefore, the topical focus for this post will center on the need for Catholics to embrace the Biblical mandate to properly form individual conscience. Without a formed conscience we will be “tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.” – Ephesians 5:13a-14. A formed conscience gives Catholics the firm foundation from which they can make truly informed and wise decisions.
“Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to preform, is in the process of performing, or has already preformed.” [CCC 1778] “A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.” [CCC1783] The Catechism goes on in 1783-1785 to speak of the challenges to a properly formed conscience.
Challenges to Forming Conscience:
First, human sin draws man to seek his own judgement rather than the wisdom of God. Second, the formation of conscience is a life-long endeavor that must be purposefully pursued by the individual (i.e. scripture classes, individual study, etc.). The development of conscience does not end at the conclusion of sacramental preparation or confirmation but death. Third, because the formation of conscience deals with the interiority of man, it is often treated as a “feeling or emotion” rather than acquisition / understanding of a moral truth through reason, Holy Scripture, & the authoritative teachings of the Church.
Together, Reason, Scripture, Church Teaching, + Advise of the Wise, lay the foundation for human beings to properly form their conscience – giving them the ability to discern truth and judge and issue wisely. It is important that Catholics [& other Christians of good will] see public / political issues through the lens of Christ as the starting point in the development of a political position. So often the 24 hour news cycle and the proliferation of information via alternative media outlets are key in the development of our ideas. This is problematic! Why? Because the key to making good decisions begins with the formation of conscience. This formation then gives Catholics the ability to discern truth – using all available information to make an informed decision without compromising core values.