It was at this time that I couldn’t help thinking about St. Pope John Paul II’s brilliant encyclical, Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of the Truth). The modern world is infatuated with the notion of conscience. We say all sorts of pseudo-enlightened things like, “My conscience is clear.” or “My conscience allows me to sleep at night.” We treat conscience as the infallible guide and final judge of all actions. If we aren’t pricked by our conscience to act otherwise, we can barrel ahead into any number of misadventures.
But John Paul II offers a corrective.
A conscience is a good guide…if it is well-formed. A well-formed conscience is nourished by prayer, engagement in the sacraments and study of God’s word and tradition. A well-formed conscience is wedded to God’s Law and corrects our actions using this infallible Law as its supreme standard. But St. Pope John Paul II warns,
“When God’s truth is obscured, human consciences are also deformed, if sin is denied, God is also denied…Human conscience goes astray if it is neglected and deprived of the truth.”
To repeat, consciences can become blunted and deformed. Starved of prayer, sacraments and study, a deformed conscience can lose sight of Truth and comport itself to Untruth. We can find ourselves unpricked, uncorrected and unaware that our path is going astray. Before long we can find that our ill-formed or deformed conscience is in the service of our self-satisfying appetites while disregarding the God who should be its true master.
Please, read his entire piece. Just do it.
My conscience is in constant need of forming, constant need of correction, constant need of pricking and awareness. I'm a mess with the Church's guidance, can you imagine where I might be without her?
God grant guidance. God save us from blunted, deformed, unpricked, uncorrected and unaware consciences that lead us astray.
And God, do so gently and mercifully.