All About Conscience

Addressing the Many Dangerous Misconceptions About Conscience, Authority of Conscience and Whether Conscience Trumps Church Teaching (A Preview)

This is A preview of my latest article. Link to full article on Substack (free!) is available at the end of this preview

People have a lot of wrong ideas about conscience. Many are convinced that conscience is merely how we feel about the moral quality of an act or that conscience is a little angel on one shoulder, countering the voice of a little devil on the other. Our heads (minds) are caught in the middle, exercising free will to choose between those two opposing voices.

 “Is it a sin to fornicate? I don’t feel it is. Therefore I’m free to do it.” “It’s a mortal sin to miss mass. But I feel God understands, so it’s not a sin for me.”

Wrong, wrong, all wrong.

There is also a misunderstanding of the authority that one’s conscience has. Some hear “authority of conscience” and believe it permits and validates moral relativism. “I believe abortion is wrong, but if someone else, by authority of their conscience, feels it isn’t wrong, they have a right to do what they feel is right.” Still, others see conscience as something that binds reality to its authority. “I feel this isn’t wrong, therefor society should allow it. After all, we have free will and must obey our conscience. The Church even says so!”


On the other hand, there are orthodox Catholics and conservatives who believe conscience can be imposed upon; that people should be forced to do what is objectively right and Good. “There ought to be a law!” echoes this attitude. But that position is not Truth either.

Part of the cause of all this confusion is that all these errors are rooted in something True. As with most lies and falsehoods, the more it borrows its material from Truth, the more convincingly it masquerades as the Truth, deceiving those who, for whatever reason, have lost the ability to discern Truth from Lies (Tip: “Mostly true” is the same as a lie. It isn’t true).

We all have a conscience, we have a right and a moral obligation to obey and follow our conscience and to respect that of others, and conscience has an authority that must be respected and honored. Those are all Truths. But those truths do not constitute a right to choose evil nor grant us license to do what we wish contrary to what is right and Good. That’s where the confusion comes in.

The subject of conscience can be a complex knot to untie, so I decided to lay out some of the more common misunderstandings and misconceptions about it and untie them piece by piece for you.

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