The Judgments of Conscience (2022)

I’ve enjoyed reading about the life of St. Thomas More, in, Saint Thomas More: Selected Writings (New York: Vintage Spiritual Classics, 2003). What I enjoy about this book, besides the excellent editing work of John Thornton and Susan Varenne, is the preface to the book, written by the Jesuit, Joseph W. Koterski. In the preface, Koterski gives us a concise and to-the-point outlook and overview of the significance of St. Thomas More’s life. His analysis of the “judgments of conscience” is most striking.

Some background about the life of St. Thomas More is in order. St. Thomas More (1478-1535) was a scholar, lawyer, statesman & humanist. More lived in England during a time of “new learning” in Europe. As a friend of the remarkable Dutch humanist, Desiderius Erasmus, More contributed greatly to the scholasticism of his day. His literary works (e.g., Utopia and The Sadness of Christ) showcase an understanding of a wide range of theological and philosophical subjects. As a lawyer and commoner, More ascended to the highest levels of diplomacy in England during the reign of King Henry VIII. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), More was executed by Henry VIII in 1535 because of his silence on the issue of Henry VIII’s desire to obtain a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, so to marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn, which, according to Koterski, involved “a question of a truth based on revelation and the determination of authority [by the Roman Pontiff]” (xii, xvii). More’s trial was tense, to say the least. It is supposed that More was eventually charged with treason only because Sir Richard Rich (1496-1567), a prominent lawyer himself, committed perjury. Notwithstanding, once More was charged with treason, he chose to no longer keep silent about the issues surrounding his sentencing, and so he discharged his views about Henry VIII’s actions and the sentencing thereof. More’s “stance” at trial still serves as a remarkable testimony to truth and law. He said:

And forasmuch as this Idictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament directly repugnant to the laws of God and his Holy Church, the supreme Government of which, or of any part whereof, may no temporal Prince presume by any law to take upon him, as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual pre-eminence by the mouth of our Saviour himself, personally present upon earth, only to St. Peter and his successors, Bishops of the same See, by special prerogative granted; it is therefore in law, amongst Christians, insufficient to charge any Christian man.” (xiii)

(Video) You & Judgement, Tour of Consciousness with Dr Dain Heer

On a spring day in 1535, More was executed. At his execution, it is written he said, “I die the king’s good servant but God’s first”. He knelt down, prayed the Miserere (Psalm 51), kissed his executioner in “an act of forgiveness”, and then succumbed to the swift blow of the executioner’s ax (lxiv). More was canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius Xi in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Pope Pius XI praised More as an example of “Christian fortitude” and described him as a “star of sanctity that traced a luminous path across that dark period of history” (lxvi). St. Thomas More’s patronage in the Catholic Church includes lawyers, statesman and politicians. He stands as an witness to law, truth, wisdom and knowledge amidst the fiery trials of martyrdom, and he stood for it all in the face of tremendous political adversity.

But how did he “stand” for it all?

It is said that the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, dictated two sources by which he would relegate himself to a trial of authority: (1) by testimony of Holy Scripture; and (2) by his own conscience. Thomas More is said to have done so by two related sources: (1) by the authority of Christ’s Holy Church; and (2) by the “inner seat of reasoning and judgment about moral matters” (xv). On account of both of these sources, More stood before the world-court with a formed conscience, a conscience that exercised “proper authority and reason’s discovery of the natural law” (xv). Indeed, he stood before the world-court with a strong conscience.

(Video) How to Have Fun With Judgments, Tour of Consciousness with Dr Dain Heer

Thomas More appears as someone who demonstrated an unusual sense of wisdom in relation to law and the governance thereof. His unusual sense of wisdom in relation to such is most likely due to a few reasons. One reason is that More was associated with the Carthusian Order in his youth, and so he most likely participated in the monks’ spiritual exercises of meditation and prayer (xxxvii). He also most likely read St. Thomas Aquinas on the judgments of conscience: i.e., a three-fold exercise that More could use in conjunction with the Carthusian spiritual exercises. The three-fold division of the judgments of conscience includes:

“(1) The recognition that we have done or have not done something (in this regard, conscience is said to be a witness);
(2) the judgment that something should be done or should not be done (here conscience binds and incites us to some action); and
(3) the judgment that something is well done or ill done (thus conscience is said to excuse, accuse, or torment us).” (xv)

The first of these judgments of conscience may be known to many, to Christians in particular, as an “examination of conscience”. It is important to note that the first step of the judgments of conscience, (“the recognition that we have done or have not done something”), is not the same as steps two and three of the same. In steps two and three of the judgments of conscience, there is a judgment done to the conscience. As such, steps two and three of the judgments of conscience are not strictly identical to the recognition or examination of the judgment of conscience, also known here as step one of the judgments of conscience. Examining or recognizing one’s conscience is not a direct judgment upon one’s conscience, but rather merely only an examination or recognition of the conscience that may lead to formal judgment of the conscience. In other words, examination or recognition of the judgments of conscience is not in-itself a judgment of the conscience. It is, rather, a step in bearing out actual judgment upon the conscience. The judgments of conscience themselves are, on the other hand, a step-beyond only examination or recognition of the conscience or of the judgments of conscience, for the judgments of conscience bear down on the conscience, convicting it, accusing it, tormenting it, binding it, inciting it, and so on. So it is steps two and three of the judgments of conscience I am most concerned with here, for these are crucial in identifying the life of a Martyr and Saint; they are crucial in identifying the life of St. Thomas More.

(Video) October 2022 General Conference | Saturday Sessions

In conclusion, we might all do well to transition from merely examining or recognizing the judgments of conscience to actually judging the conscience. This sort of exercise of the conscience is what Martyrs and Saints are made of. And if you “delight in the law of God in your inmost self”, perhaps you should make it your exercise too (Romans 7:22).

Lance H. Gracy serves as contributor and editor-in-chief of TheEruditePress. If you want to know more about him, check out the “About the Editor” page.

REFERENCES

(Video) Laura Weinrib, “Freedom of Conscience and the Civil Liberties Path Not Taken”

All in-text citations found in:

Thornton, Varenne (Eds.) (2003). Saint Thomas More: Selected Writings. New York: Vintage Spiritual Classics. Print.

Citations from Holy Scripture according to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

(Video) Obeying your conscience The key to destiny (Part One) - Pastor Olubi Johnson

FAQs

What is the judgment of conscience? ›

Since the judgment of conscience is a judgment about how an action conforms or does not conform to natural law, then, it is obligatory to follow that judgment, that is, to act according to one's conscience. The act of the moral conscience is an efficacious practical judgment.

Why conscience is important in our life? ›

Through our individual conscience, we become aware of our deeply held moral principles, we are motivated to act upon them, and we assess our character, our behavior and ultimately our self against those principles.

How does the conscience make its Judgements? ›

The Catechism states: “A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator” (No. 1783). The binding force of conscience does not depend on a person's decision to follow it or not.

What does Augustine say about conscience? ›

St Augustine believed that conscience was literally the voice of God, informing us of what is right and wrong and we receive this message intuitively. Augustine asserted that all goodness comes from God and God knows our actions and the choices behind those actions directly.

What is conscience example? ›

The definition of conscience is a personal awareness of right and wrong that you use to guide your actions to do right. An example of conscience is the personal ethics that keep you from cheating on an exam.

Does everyone have a conscience? ›

Most real people, in contrast, have a conscience. Not only do they have a general sense of right and wrong, but they also understand how their actions affect others. Conscience is sometimes described as that voice inside your head.

How do you have a good conscience? ›

Stand up for your beliefs.
  1. Trust your own beliefs and decisions of what is right. Do not let yourself be swayed by what others think, say or do.
  2. Speak up when you see an injustice being done. Many people have a strong conscience but are afraid to act.

What does reason of conscience mean? ›

1. the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action. to follow the dictates of conscience. 2. the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.

What does it mean to have a good conscience? ›

phrase. If you say that you cannot do something in all conscience, in good conscience, or in conscience, you mean that you cannot do it because you think it is wrong.

Can a conscience ever make wrong Judgements? ›

A human being must always obey the certain judgment of conscience. It can happen, however, that moral conscience makes erroneous judgments about how to act in particular circumstances.

What are the two important lessons to understand about using your conscience and what are two key sources for forming a good conscience? ›

Two key principles of conscience are (1) always form + inform your conscience and (2) always follow your conscience).

What is conscience how can a person attain peace of mind? ›

Peace of conscience relates to your inner self and is controlled by what you personally do. Peace of conscience can come only from God through a righteous, obedient life. It cannot exist otherwise.

What is conscience in ethics essay? ›

Conscience describes two things – what a person believes is right and how a person decides what is right. More than just 'gut instinct', our conscience is a 'moral muscle'. By informing us of our values and principles, it becomes the standard we use to judge whether or not our actions are ethical.

Is the conscience a good moral guide? ›

In the Christian tradition the conscience is predominantly considered to have its origins in God or through discovering God`s will - if this is done correctly, the conscience is therefore to be considered a reliable guide.

Is the conscience reliable? ›

Like dogma, conscience is not always reliable, particularly when it tells you what you want to hear. It is probably more so when it tells you to do something you do not want to do; in other words, something contrary to your own perceived self-interest.

How do we use conscience? ›

How to use Conscience in a sentence
  1. He did the task for the sake of his conscience. ...
  2. His fine character and conscience earned him universal respect and confidence. ...
  3. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory. ...
  4. He told the truth for his conscience's sake. ...
  5. Did he think she had no conscience about what happened?

Does conscience mean with knowledge? ›

The word conscience contains the word science, which comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning "to know" or "knowledge." You can think of your conscience as your knowledge of yourself, especially when it comes to your own morals, or your feelings about right and wrong.

What is your conscious mind? ›

The conscious mind involves all the things you are currently aware of and are thinking about. It is somewhat akin to short-term memory and is limited in capacity. Your awareness of yourself and the world around you is part of your consciousness.

Why did God give us a conscience? ›

The conscience is a wonderful gift from God. He has generously placed His standards of right and wrong in the mind of every person. He's done this to lead us into the best life possible. Without a conscience, we'd have no ability to function in community.

What is a person's conscience? ›

The concept of “conscience", as commonly used in its moral sense, is the inherent ability of every healthy human being to perceive what is right and what is wrong and, on the strength of this perception, to control, monitor, evaluate and execute their actions [25].

Is conscience the same as guilt? ›

A guilty conscience is when you feel you've done something wrong and feel guilty because of it. Your conscience can lead to guilt, but conscience is not the same as guilt.

What does it mean to keep your conscience clear? ›

Definition of clear conscience

: a knowledge or belief that one has done nothing bad or wrong At least now I can face him with a clear conscience.

How do I keep my conscious clear? ›

Clear Your Conscience: 4 Steps
  1. Isolate what's nagging at you. The first step to clear your conscience is to isolate what's nagging you. Sometimes it's hard to admit to ourselves exactly what eats at us. ...
  2. Unburden yourself through purging. This second step to clear your conscience is important.
8 Feb 2010

What other things can you do to help others through our conscience? ›

Remember to keep in mind your child's level of development and tailor your activities accordingly.
  • #1 Model Empathy. ...
  • #2 Listen Actively. ...
  • #3 Spend Time. ...
  • #4 Set Limits. ...
  • #5 Do Not Tolerate Aggression. ...
  • #6 Teach the Golden Rule. ...
  • #7 Allow Remorse. ...
  • #8 Participate in Family Tasks.

What is the conscience rule? ›

Your Conscience Rights

Federal statutes protect health care provider conscience rights and prohibit recipients of certain federal funds from discriminating against health care providers who refuse to participate in these services based on moral objections or religious beliefs.

How do you use conscience in a sentence? ›

He wanted to clear his conscience before he dies. They are displaying an alarming lack of social conscience. More like to blot out his guilty conscience.

What are the types of conscience? ›

Certain conscience means convinced without any doubt that an action is good or bad.
...
Assistant Professor
  • Correct conscience.
  • Erroneous conscience.
  • Certain conscience.
  • Doubtful conscience.
  • Lax conscience.
  • Scrupulous conscience.
  • Delicate conscience.
9 Dec 2020

Should one always obey the dictate of his her conscience Why or why not? ›

For no matter what in particular one ought to do, one ought to follow one's conscience. That is so because the duty to follow conscience is reducible to the duty to do what is morally good.

How important is it to educate one's conscience? ›

Good conscience is needed among all human beings. Since moral education cannot be given to all, promotion of reasonable norms and values at family, community and social level can be effective for formation of good conscience and its reflection in behaviours among others.

What is the relation of conscience to your actions? ›

Conscience is at the heart of progressivism because conscience is not just a feeling but a palpable urge toward improvement—a call to action or engagement. Conscience is the way our moral sense and our moral formation come together to inform our actions in the world.

What do some people claim about the idea of conscience? ›

What do some people claim about the idea of conscience? Some people deny the very existence of a personal conscience, positing that the idea of conscience is no more than an attempt to control people through guilt.

Is conscience a reliable guide for decision-making? ›

Early Christian writers such as St Augustine of Hippo and St Jerome appear to sincerely agree with the idea that one's conscience is a responsible arbiter between right and wrong and is therefore reliable for making decisions.

How does the Catholic Church understand the concept of conscience? ›

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes that “a well-formed conscience is upright and truthful” and that “[t]he education of the conscience is a lifelong task.” According to the Catechism, the “Word of God” (i.e., the Bible) and the “authoritative teaching of the Church” should guide the formation and ...

Where does our consciousness come from? ›

Somehow, within each of our brains, the combined activity of billions of neurons, each one a tiny biological machine, is giving rise to a conscious experience. And not just any conscious experience, your conscious experience, right here, right now.

Where is our conscience? ›

Where is your conscience located? Scientists say it's in your brain. In fact, brain scans have revealed what experts call a “moral network” in the human brain.

Where did conscience come from? ›

The word "conscience" derives etymologically from the Latin conscientia, meaning "privity of knowledge" or "with-knowledge". The English word implies internal awareness of a moral standard in the mind concerning the quality of one's motives, as well as a consciousness of our own actions.

How is conscience related to faith? ›

Some Christians believe that the conscience is the voice of God. God is speaking to individuals, guiding them to do the right thing in a given situation. Conscience can be described as a moral sense of right and wrong. A conscience must be educated, as an uneducated conscience can make a wrong decision.

Are humans born with conscience? ›

Early theorists in psychology mainly took the approach that babies are born without any sense of morality and have to learn it as they get older. We now know that although a fully developed sense of morality does not emerge until adolescence or later, babies already show signs of a rudimentary moral compass.

What is the importance of moral values and ethical in our lives? ›

Moral values pave the path for all their decisions in life, as without these values, children do not have any guidance and their life may seem directionless. In order to be accepted and respected by society, parents and caregivers should make sure of imbibing these strong moral values in children as a lifestyle itself.

Who said that we should use our conscience when making moral decisions? ›

In Kant, for instance, “every human being, as a moral being, has a conscience within him originally” (Kant 1797 [1991]: 160), and conscience is one of the four “natural predispositions of the mind (…) for being affected by concepts of duty”, the other three being moral feeling, love for one's neighbors, and respect for ...

What is our conscience according to the Bible? ›

Acts 24:16) Conscience gives you the ability to evaluate your own thoughts and desires, to discern what is right and wrong, and to distinguish between what is good and what is best.

What is erroneous conscience? ›

Erroneous conscience is when a person knowingly, or unknowingly, makes a mistake in judgement by doing the wrong thing which they, consciously, believed was the right thing to do.

What is conscience in the Bible? ›

Some Christians believe that the conscience is the voice of God. God is speaking to individuals, guiding them to do the right thing in a given situation. Conscience can be described as a moral sense of right and wrong. A conscience must be educated, as an uneducated conscience can make a wrong decision.

What does the CCC say about conscience? ›

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes that “a well-formed conscience is upright and truthful” and that “[t]he education of the conscience is a lifelong task.” According to the Catechism, the “Word of God” (i.e., the Bible) and the “authoritative teaching of the Church” should guide the formation and ...

What refers to the conscience and moral judge of one's conduct? ›

Superego. Refers to the "conscience" and "moral judge" of one's conduct; Violation of rules leads to feeling of guilt; strives for perfection rather than pleasure.

What is moral conscience in ethics? ›

Conscience is defined as having two interrelated parts: (1) a commitment to morality itself; to acting and choosing morally according to the best of one's ability, and (2) the activity of judging that an act one has done or about which one is deliberating would violate that commitment.

Why conscience is the voice of God? ›

Freud believed that figures such as parents, religion and school impose a great influence on our decision-making than our conscience, which is said to be the voice of God. These 'rules' influenced on us are believed to over ride the conscience that is innate.

Is conscience a gift from God? ›

The conscience is a wonderful gift from God. He has generously placed His standards of right and wrong in the mind of every person. He's done this to lead us into the best life possible. Without a conscience, we'd have no ability to function in community.

What is a person's conscience? ›

The concept of “conscience", as commonly used in its moral sense, is the inherent ability of every healthy human being to perceive what is right and what is wrong and, on the strength of this perception, to control, monitor, evaluate and execute their actions [25].

What are the two important lessons to understand about using your conscience and what are two key sources for forming a good conscience? ›

Two key principles of conscience are (1) always form + inform your conscience and (2) always follow your conscience).

How do I keep my conscience clear? ›

Release regret to redirect your focus on positive action.
  1. Lingering Effects of a Bipolar Mood Episode. ...
  2. #1 Be Brave & Stop the Self-Blame. ...
  3. #2 Set Clear Boundaries & Expectations. ...
  4. #3 Find Compassion. ...
  5. #4 Increase Self-Awareness. ...
  6. #5 Take Action & Start Small. ...
  7. #6 Acknowledge Progress.
2 Feb 2022

What are the 3 levels of conscience Catholic? ›

Traditionally, the Christian community has understood conscience as having three dimensions: capacity, process, and judgment.

Why is moral Judgement important? ›

To summarize, we find that moral judgments of unethical behavior are generally viewed as a legitimate means for maintaining group-beneficial norms of conduct. Those who use them are generally seen as moral and trustworthy, and individuals typically act more morally after communicating judgments of others.

Does conscience mean with knowledge? ›

The word conscience contains the word science, which comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning "to know" or "knowledge." You can think of your conscience as your knowledge of yourself, especially when it comes to your own morals, or your feelings about right and wrong.

How do we make moral Judgements? ›

Here are some practice points to enhance the moral judgment of public relations practitioners:
  1. Never rush to a decision. ...
  2. Be analytical. ...
  3. Eschew selfishness. ...
  4. Think through consequences. ...
  5. Strive to empower others. ...
  6. Question your intention. ...
  7. Use servant leadership. ...
  8. Consciously practice.
1 Dec 2017

Is it necessary to have conscience? ›

Conscience is the fundamental commitment to be moral: the fundamental commitment to respect others. People of conscience owe each other, first and foremost, respect for their consciences. Without conscience, no morality is possible.

Can a conscience ever make wrong judgments explain? ›

A human being must always obey the certain judgement of his conscience. Can a conscience ever be wrong? Even a well-formed conscience can make mistakes. However, must must always follow the dictates of our conscience, even if it is erroneous.

How do you use conscience in a sentence? ›

He wanted to clear his conscience before he dies. They are displaying an alarming lack of social conscience. More like to blot out his guilty conscience.

Videos

1. Rom 2:1-16 - The Judgment of God and Your Conscience
(Bible Baptist Church of Noblesville)
2. Awareness with Shannon O'Hara
(Shannon O'Hara)
3. Ethical Decision Making: Your Moral Conscience
(Global Ethics Solutions)
4. Patricia Churchland on How We Evolved A Conscience
(NOUS The Podcast)
5. The Warning? The Illumination of Conscience? (Catholic Prophecy?) - Jimmy Akin's Mysterious World
(Jimmy Akin)
6. Cases of Conscience Resolved - Puritan John Owen / Audio Book
(Christian Sermons and Audio Books)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Last Updated: 12/08/2022

Views: 6361

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Birthday: 1996-12-09

Address: Apt. 141 1406 Mitch Summit, New Teganshire, UT 82655-0699

Phone: +2296092334654

Job: Technology Architect

Hobby: Snowboarding, Scouting, Foreign language learning, Dowsing, Baton twirling, Sculpting, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Francesca Jacobs Ret, I am a innocent, super, beautiful, charming, lucky, gentle, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.