Lecture Ten: Chapter Two, Section 2: Two Senses of Conscience, Its Proper Relation to Truth
1. What are the main notions of conscience that are criticized by Veritatis splendor and why does Pope John Paul II consider them inadequate?
2. What does it mean for Vatican II to call conscience “the sanctuary of man, where he is alone with God, whose voice echoes within him”? How do Socrates and Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman develop this aspect of moral conscience? What difficulties might we expect to encounter in discerning whose voice we hear? How does recourse to Scripture and the teachings of the Church help?
3. Why does Aquinas stress the role of conscience as the judgment that we pass on our actions (past, present, and future) in the light of standards that we do not create but receive from God in the scriptures and from the natural moral law that reason can discover within us? What difficulties might we expect to encounter in the situation of having to be judges in our own case? How can proper formation of conscience assist with these difficulties?
Suggestions for further reading:
Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Moral Conscience,” §1776-1802.
John Henry Newman, “A Letter Addressed to the Duke of Norfolk on Occasion of Mr. Gladstone's Recent Expostulation Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans,” ch. 5, “Conscience,” available at http://www.newmanreader.org/works/anglicans/volume2/gladstone/index.html.
Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). On Conscience: Two Essays. San Francisco CA: Ignatius Press, 2007.