1. Conscience is the inner judgment of the soul which keeps us in full conformity with the law of God and the precepts of the Church by indicating the principles in accordance with which we should act from moment to moment. Unfortunately, this judgment is not always enlightened and sincere. Some people become so broad-minded that they appear to have no conscience at all. In their vocabulary sins become mere acts of folly, scruples become melancholic tendencies which ought to be ignored, and our natural weaknesses become necessary handicaps of nature which we can do nothing to overcome. As a result, they join their disorderly pleasures and sins of every kind with the practice of their religion. They imagine that they will be able to compensate for their offences against God by their false and superficial sanctimoniousness. But Jesus tells us: “You are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48) Moreover, He has given us a law to be observed and has instituted the Church to interpret God's law and to lay down for us specific standards of behaviour. Our Lord said of His Apostles and their successors: “He who hears you, hears me.” (Luke 10:16) He warns us that it is not enough to cry: “Lord, Lord! but it is necessary to do the will of His Father Who is in Heaven.” (Mt. 7:21) He warns us, moreover, that “everyone who hears these my words and does not act upon them, shall be likened to a foolish man who built his house on sand.” (Mt. 7:26) We must form a reliable conscience in ourselves with the help of the Church's teaching and the advice of a good Spiritual Director. Then we must earnestly put its dictates into practice.
2. There is such a thing also as a scrupulous conscience. Some people live in continual anxiety and torment. They see sin everywhere and believe it is impossible to avoid it. In spite of the clear directions of their confessor, they postpone receiving Holy Communion because they feel unworthy. They say their prayers over and over again because they feel that they are saying them badly. They become a burden to themselves and to others. They never stop worrying and waste their own valuable time as well as that of their confessor. The spirit of Jesus, however, is a spirit of peace, forgiveness and truth. He is infinitely good and merciful and wants us to have complete confidence in Him and in the ministers of His Church, which He founded as a sure guide for our salvation and spiritual happiness. People who are troubled by a scrupulous conscience should go to a good confessor or Spiritual Director and strictly obey his instructions. The only cure for scrupulosity is absolute obedience.
3. There are some people who have a right conscience, a conscience, in other words, which is based on the principles of the Gospel, on the precepts of the Church and on the sound advice of a good confessor. Nevertheless, these must remember St. Paul's warning: “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) They must not grow proud like the Pharisee who prayed in front of the altar, but must be humble like the poor publican who knew that without God's direction and grace he would fall into serious sin. They should remember, too, that it is not enough to have a right conscience, but its dictates must be put into practice with the help of fervent prayer and frequent reception of the Sacraments.
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