Reflection on Article 1793 of the Catechism

My dear parishioners,
Peace! Under headings of Judgment, Formation, Choice in Accord, Erroneous Judgment and In Brief, the Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses “conscience” in twenty-nine passages. Here we consider CCC, 1793.
When someone is in invincibly ignorant the evil they may do is not their responsibility. In treating invincible ignorance in his Summa Theologiae I-II Q. 88, A. 6, as being such as “to excuse sin altogether” the examples given by Saint Thomas Aquinas, O.P. (+1274) without being “politically correct” are madmen and imbeciles. If we are neither of these any ignorance we may suffer may similarly be culpable.
When someone is not responsible for their erroneous judgment the evil they may do is not their responsibility. In so many words Saint Thomas reminds us that it is one thing to not know the potency of a particular wine or spirit, and another to repeatedly approach the same libation expecting a different result (cf. ST I-II Q. 88, A. 5).
The evil we do is still evil, a privation, a disorder, even if we are invincibly ignorant or have made an erroneous judgment without any malicious intent. Even a cursory reading of Sacred Scripture allows us to recognize that there is good and evil: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20); “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matthew 12:35); “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21); “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult” (1 Peter 3:9); “Do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God.” (3 John 1:11).
We are to do all that we can to correct the errors of moral conscience. This is both a personal responsibility as well as a social one. I am responsible for myself and my neighbors as you are responsible for yourself and your neighbors. We should recall that the one who protested “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was Cain the fratricide (cf. Genesis 4:9). To show concern for our neighbor is to practice solidarity which is our duty (cf. Saint John Paul II. Sollicitudo rei socialis (30 December, 1987) 9). Reformation of personal and social consciousness is a part of the solidarity required in the face of the degradation of work exploitation, poverty and hunger (cf. Saint John Paul II. Laborem Exercens (14 September, 1981) 9). The principle of solidarity is valid not only in the internal order of each nation but also in the international order and personal ordering of our lives (cf. Saint John Paul II. Centesimus Annus (1 May, 1991) 10). God’s call to holiness includes a call to greater unity and solidarity achieved in part by a sound formation of conscience (cf. Saint John Paul II. Redemptoris Missio (7 December, 1990) 38).
God bless you!
Father John Arthur Orr

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