Conscience and the law
- Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - October 1, 2015 - 10:00am

I'm sure most people agree that as we plunge into more complicated, pressure-packed times, we need to remind ourselves of some basic, must-know concepts, precisely because they run the risk of being forgotten and set aside.

Among these concepts is the intimate relationship between law and conscience. We cannot deny that these days many people think law and conscience have practically no relationship at all, or that they work in different levels. They don't meet.

In my chats with people, and somehow verified in my many readings of current developments, I get the impression that conscience is increasingly considered the ultimate bastion of personal freedom, the seat of one's real and barest self, where nothing extraneous like law should be let in.

I am afraid this is a dangerous drift in people's understanding of things. It betrays a treacherous and even alarming idea of freedom. It detaches freedom from any clear, fixed reference point, allowed to spin and fly in any direction

Freedom, in this view, is prone to become nothing other than a whim or caprice. It considers itself self-created and self-defining, its own law, completely at the mercy of arbitrary impulses, like one's moods, passing fancies, current crazes and fads.

Freedom without a fixed reference point can go everywhere but can end nowhere. It becomes a wild and destructive force that frustrates our desire for peace and joy. It's highly deceptive, strongly seductive but completely dangerous.

And yet no matter how distorted and even denied, the objective truth about freedom, especially as it relates to the link between law and conscience, cannot be contradicted.

A wayward freedom, if it does not crash, will be forced to correct itself. It cannot escape the working of its own nature, and its own origin and purpose. It might take centuries, wars, pain, blood, but it cannot go against itself indefinitely.

Recently, I read that the Asia-Pacific population is slowing down. In fact, it is feared to start shrinking. It is nearing below-replacement-level. The region is joining other ageing nations in the West.

The culprit? The vicious contraceptive mentality, an abuse of freedom, is taking its toll. Some countries affected by this disease are desperate in reversing the trend. Let's pray for them.

Meanwhile, it is also reported that countries that still have high population growth are expected to perform well economically and to ride out the storm of our worst global economic crisis to date.

But do you think many people will realize this? I have my doubts. They would rather be scared to death by the highly speculative, suppositional, if not rash threat of global warming. Oh, well….

Thus, it is important to educate everyone about the real character of freedom. And for this, the core of how freedom is lived by connecting one's conscience with an objective law should be understood well.

Sad to say, a dense and almost impenetrable fog of  ignorance and confusion surrounds the understanding of this matter. Have you, for example, heard of such thing as eternal law, natural law, and natural moral law?

The common belief is that these concepts have not stepped out of the ivory tower ever since they were conceived. And no one seems to be concerned. No one is doing anything to correct, even if people, on the other side, have gone overdrive in knowing technical items even to the nano level.

To say the least, this is a monstrous disequilibrium, a totally unfair selectivity in our pursuit for knowledge!

We need to make everyone, especially the young, understand what conscience is and how it needs to respect and follow a law which it has to discover, a law not of its own making.

This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about this matter:

"Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment…For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God…" (1776)

"The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings." (1783)

This is actually an old teaching, but to many nowadays, it is hot and fresh breaking news.


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