Reflection on Article 1798 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, 1798.
A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. The Lord Jesus is the way, the truth and the life who has spoken the truth in love to us about God and ourselves in order that we might be made holy, that is, sanctified (cf. John 14: 6; 17:17; Ephesians 4:15). When the Lord Jesus preached that the truth will set us free (cf. John 8:32) He had a double meaning: He Himself, Truth Incarnate, as well as the moral truths contained in His preaching such as the Beatitudes (cf. Matthew 5:2-12) and the entire Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5:1-7:29). When we conform our lives and desires to what is truly good then we are on the right path which leads to happiness in the here and now and the hereafter.
A well-formed conscience formulates its judgments according to reason. While we are not rationalists, denying the possibility (and the reality) of God’s self-revelation in the Incarnation and Sacred Scripture, we know by both faith and reason that there are good things that we should do and evil things we should not do. A well-formed conscience recognizes these things. The Ten Commandments are a revealed and privileged expression of the Natural Law (cf. CCC § 2070). All law, human or divine, is to be an “ordinance of reason” (cf. CCC § 1951; Summa Theologiae I-II Q. 90, A. 1).
A well-formed conscience formulates its judgments in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. If we are trapped in vice, e.g. greed or lust…, we have a false appreciation of just what is good. The greedy person sees money and wealth as “the good” for which to live, while the lustful person sees sexual gratification as the end all and be all. Almighty God is the origin and end (goal) of all that is good, true and beautiful (cf. CCC §§ 32-33, 282). The virtues, such as generosity and chastity, also help us not only to act well, but also to judge in conformity with our nature, in the image of God (cf. Genesis 1:27).
We must always avail ourselves of the means to form our conscience. There are various tools at our disposal for the formation of our conscience: the Cross, the Sacred Scriptures (including the Commandments and the Beatitudes), the sure and certain teaching of the Church, the example of the Saints. This is an imperative, not a mere suggestion. As we are responsible for the good we do (or fail to do) and for the evil we commit (or refuse to commit), so too, we are responsible for forming our consciences rightly. Not attaining the age of reason (normally by seven years of age) or mental impairment (e.g. retardation, schizophrenia, dementia…) can impact our personal responsibility.
God bless you!
Father John Arthur Orr


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