Lesson 22- Jesus and Forming Our Conscience
As I ended my last program I was discussing who was saved and who was not. Saved from what? Saved from Gehenna which is the place of empty thought that Helen Keller was trapped in before she acquired the gift of language. Helen, you might remember described this state as a Kingdom of Mental Darkness and her coming out of it as comparable to entering heaven or the Kingdom of Mental Light. From what she wrote, one thing in clear, there is only one way of this Kingdom of Mental Darkness and it is the activation of the left hemisphere of the brain which is the seat of Logic in us. In other words, this logical brain which is able to use and understand language is the Word within us. It is the seat of our intelligence which separates us from the animal kingdom because it is capable of knowing and following the Truth. It consciously knows and understands what no animal will ever understand. It knows the true purpose of things. It knows that the purpose of food is nutrition and not taste and that the purpose of sex is reproduction and not pleasure. Therefore, it is the source of moral law which is simply those principles based on the true purpose of things which is simply the Will of God, which is simply the Truth. It is, in fact, what we call our conscience and, according to the Church, we are obligated to always follow it.
So, to repeat the observations that I made at the end of my last program, who will be saved? All those who love and seek the truth! Will it be only Christians, or Catholics, or Protestants? No. In fact, according to the scriptures, many of them will be shocked when they discover that the Lord wont even recognize them at the Last Judgment. As Jesus once said, Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the Kingdom of God but only those who do the will of My Father. Well, what about those who dont know Gods moral law, after all, there are all different kinds of cultures and they all have a different perspective on what is right and what is wrong. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the moral law is written on the heart of every human being and none of us have any excuses for not knowing it. Well, how can that be if they never read the Bible and never heard of Jesus? St. Thomas says that every human being, no matter where he is born or what culture he belongs to, knows the moral law in its primary application. For example, every human being agrees, Thou shalt no kill Me!; or Thou shalt not steal what is MINE! or Thou shalt not lie to ME! The difference between various cultures occurs when these primary moral principles are applied secondarily. Some people never get beyond Thou shalt not kill, rob, or lie to ME! Others go a little further and say, Thou shalt not kill, rob, or lie to ME or members of my FAMILY. Still others go a little further and say, Thou shall not kill, rob, or lie to ME, my FAMILY, FRIENDS, OR GROUP. However, says St. Thomas, the Logos or Logic within us say that the logical application of these primary moral principles is Do unto everyone else as you would have them do unto you. Does that sound familiar? Its the Bible. So says St. Thomas, any human being possessing a logical brain who reflects on this knows the primary moral law and therefore, if he follows his conscience, which is the logical left hemisphere of his brain, it will lead him to this logical conclusion.
This same left hemisphere is capable of eventually knowing the primary purposes of things, which, since they were created by God, is His will on how things should be used. Thus, He made food for nutrition and sex for reproduction and, once the left hemisphere of anybodys brain understands this, it becomes part of their moral conscience and they become morally responsible for following it. If they dont know this, then their conscience excuses them from moral blame although they will still suffer the consequences which flow from misusing something. Thus, our consciences, to the degree that they are formed become the basis for determining whether we will be saved or not.
This, by the way, is the teaching of the Catholic Church which says that every person is obligated to follow his/her conscience even if it is wrong. Of course, the Church also adds that it is the moral obligation of each person to do his/her best to inform their conscience by making every reasonable effort to explore the issue to learn the truth. But, if through no fault of their own, they dont know the real truth, they are obligated to follow the truth as they know it.
Does this mean that, as Catholics, we are allowed to pick and choose what we wish to believe because our individual consciences have come to a different conclusion than that of the Church? . For example, is it possible to belong to Catholics for Choice! a group which, while claiming to be Catholics, opposes the Churchs position on birth control and abortion? The answer is No! because, according to the logical analysis of his own conscience, he is convicted. How is this so? Well, as a Catholic we believe that Jesus was the Son of God. As a Catholic, we believe that He founded a Church and placed St. Peter, the chief Apostle, in charge of it. We also believe that, through apostolic succession, all the Popes were his successors and, like St. Peter, received the Keys to the Kingdom which signify his authority to rule in the name of God. We also believe that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to protect the Church from error in the areas of faith and morals and that when the Church speaks authoritatively it is, so to speak, from the mouth of God. Thus, to be a Catholic, is to believe this. If one doesnt believe it, then he isnt a Catholic no matter how much he claims that he is. If he were to follow the logic that flows from his own consciences, he would be forced to admit it. Thus, by saying that he is Catholic, he is violating his own conscience which the Church says no one is suppose to do. Either he has to bring his own conscience into conformity with the teachings of the Church or else conclude that he no longer believes what is necessary to be a Catholic. In which case, he should stop calling himself Catholic and decide to adopt a name which is more consistent with what he believes. Otherwise, he is being a hypocrite who says one thing and does the opposite. The Church doesnt have to tell him this because his own conscience, if he were to listen to it, would do it. Protestants, for example, concluded that they did not believe this and thus, they did the honest thing by following their consciences and leaving the Church.
Our conscience, which is the logical left hemisphere of our brains, will always, if we take the time to listen, tell us what are the logical conclusions that follow from what we believe to be true. For example, during the 1960s, I had a bout with my conscience that forced me either to change my ways or else admit that I was a hypocrite. Having grown up in the Devils Pocket, a working class Irish Catholic neighborhood in Philadelphia, I was deeply embedded in racism. In previous programs, I have described the ongoing conflict between us and the adjoining Black neighborhood. However, after going to college and getting a broader perspective on the world, I suddenly was confronted with the obvious clash between my Christian beliefs and my racist attitudes.
When the Civil Right Movement broke out in the 1960s, I had to decide whether I really believed that all people were brothers and sisters under the fatherhood of God. At the same time, as a Social Studies teacher, I also believed Jeffersons statement in the Declaration of Independence which said, We hold these truths to be self evident that all Men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. How could I reconcile with both my religious and political beliefs the lynching of Black men, the gross injustices of all white juries in the South, and the degradation and humiliation of Black people who were forced to use separate public facilities? I couldnt. However, in all honesty, it was not the Black people that I knew in Philadelphia that moved my conscience, because most of my experience with them as a kid involved being robbed or beaten. Rather, I was touched by the poor Southern sharecropper who struggled to survive against all odds in a society that denied him his basic human dignity.
Anyway, my conscience demanded that I had to do something to support the Civil Rights movement if I was going to be consistent with both my religious and political beliefs. Therefore, I had to reject my racist upbringing and the feelings that I had from my own personal experiences with Black kids or else admit that I was a hypocrite in both areas. Therefore I bit the bullet and began to work for the Civil Rights movement during the 1960s. Of course there was a price to pay because it made me unpopular with people who still held my former views. But Jesus had warned us that unpopularity would be one of the consequences of following the Truth, and my conscience, which I allowed to test my actions against my beliefs confronted me with impeccable logic as to the only possible conclusions that I could draw. To ignore these conclusions would have been to violate my conscience and, as I have said, the Church teaches that I must follow my conscience to the best of my ability. And, if as I have been suggesting, the logical left lobe of my brain, as the source of logic, is my conscience and also the Logos which St. John said is found in every human being, then it logically follows that to follow my conscience is to follow Jesus, the Truth which sets me free. So, in essence, the Churchs rule is that we must always follow Jesus by seeking to know the Truth and, as our understanding grows, using it to form the premises upon which our actions are based.
This is what the Church means by an informed conscience and why it does not accept as morally valid the conclusions of those people who, without any attempt to discover the Truth or to face the logical implications of their beliefs, simply state conclusions that happen to favor a position that they desire. This, I believe, is the flaw in the position of Catholics for Choice who besides being logically inconsistent with their claim to be Catholics are also logically inconsistent with some of the premises which I suspect they hold to be true.
I think that I am correct when I say that the members of this group represent the more liberal elements who claim to belong to the Church. I, myself, especially in the 1960s considered myself to be liberal in the sense that I favored civil and human rights and a more active role by the Church and its members in social justice issues. I was, and still am, quite capable of criticizing the Church when it fails to live up to its own stated beliefs because, it too, has to act consistent with its conscience. . However, I do not criticize it when it acts consistent with those beliefs. In fact, when I see Mother Theresa or John Paul II stand up in the face of popular opinion and declare that all human life from conception to death has an innate dignity, that is when I am most proud of being a member of the Church.
If anything, it is the liberals within and out of the Church who have disappointed me. Back in the 60s, I voted Democratic and worked for Civil Rights because of my religious and political beliefs. I cheered when Martin Luther King said in his famous I Have a Dream Speech that he dreamed of the day when this nation would live outs its belief that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights among which were Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That is why it shocked me when some of the same civil rights activists, who had worked for the civil rights of Blacks, women, and other minorities, suddenly revealed that they really didnt believe in Martin Luther Kings dream or in Jeffersons statement in the Declaration of Independence. They were now telling us that human children within the womb had no rights that born humans had to respect and that ones humanity could be defined out of existence by any group powerful enough to apply political pressure.
The Democratic Party, once the party of civil and human rights, now became the party of abortion and even put it as a plank in its platform. Women activist, who once used Jeffersons words to win their own rights, now rejected those same words when they were applied to their unborn children. Black civil rights leaders, like Jesse Jackson, who lauded Dr. Kings speech, seemed to be unable to see how abortion is a direct contradiction of that dream and is based on the same premises that white racists used to deny Blacks their rights. Even Thurgood Marshall, civil rights lawyer, first Black member on the Supreme Court, and a supporter of abortion rights, refused to recognize the personhood of the unborn child and accepted the same argument used in the Dred Scott Decision which declared Black slaves to be non-persons and therefore without any legal standing before the courts.
In other words, the only difference between those who were formerly oppressed and their oppressors was a lack of opportunity because, once they had the power, they were willing to use it to serve their own interests even if it meant that a whole class of human beings had to be dehumanized and depersonalized. The hypocrisy was so blatant that I cant believe that their own consciences werent screaming about the inconsistency between their stated beliefs and their actions. For example, there is no way that you can logically say that all Men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights among which are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness and then declare that unborn children have no rights, especially the right to life. If you even give that a little thought, your conscience will convict you and will tell you that the real operational premises behind your actions go something like this:
1.There are human and subhuman and subhuman have no rights that humans need to respect.
2.That ones humanity depends on the willingness of other humans to grant it to you and if they wont then you can be treated as a nonhuman.
3.That there is no such thing as God given rights. All rights come from the state and, since the state giveth, the state can take them away, without any due process of law, whenever it is advantageous for it to do so.
4.That human parents are capable of conceiving something other than a human being and thus species dont necessarily reproduce according to their own kind.
5.That fetus is the name of a species and human is a stage of development. Thus we are fetuses which develop into humans rather than humans who go through a fetal stage of development. Of course, this makes it hard to explain why there are fetal goats, cows, and pigs etc
6.That justice, instead of weighing contending rights on her balancing scales, is allowed to look at the rights and needs of the mother and totally ignore the rights and needs of the unborn child. For example, she has a right and need to finish college versus his or right and need to stay alive.
7.That the child, who is separated from her biological system by the placenta in order to prevent her white blood cells from attacking it as a foreign body, is really just another part of her body like her liver and lungs.
8.That the powerful and vocal can oppress the powerless and speechless because they are unable to defend themselves.
I could go on with other hidden premises that are inconsistent with the belief that all Men are created equal but I have already given enough to demonstrate that these are serious contradictions which, if allowed into consciousness, would convict the person holding them of hypocrisy. The conversation between the pro-abortionist and his or her conscience, which is the Jesus within us, would go something like this.
Jesus: Isnt it true that the word that you use for human beings is hominid
Us: Yes, that true.
Jesus: And isnt it true that when you kill a human being, you call it homicide just as when you kill an insect, you call it insecticide.
Us: Yes, that true.
Jesus: And isnt it also true that science and the evidence has demonstrated that all species reproduce according to their own kind. Thus cows produce cows and dog produce dogs.
Us: Yes, I guess thats true.
Jesus: Then doesnt it logically follow that humans can reproduce only human Beings?
Us: Yes, but it isnt a human being. Its a fetus because it doesnt look like a human being.
Jesus: But isnt fetus the name of a stage of development which you arbitrarily invented just as you invented terms like neonate, adolescence, teenager, and senior citizen to designate other levels of development. And isnt it also true that there are fetal goats, cows, and pigs which indicate that they too are at this stage of development.
Jesus: Then fetus isnt the name of a species. Its the name of a stage of development.
Jesus: Do human beings go through a fetal stage of development.
Jesus: And isnt it true that the unborn child looks exactly like a human being at the fetal and other stages of development.
Us: Yeah, I guess so.
Jesus: So what youre saying is that a human being is what the child is and fetus refers to the stage of his development, instead of that he is a fetus developing into a human being.
Jesus: So abortion is the killing of a human being at the fetal stage of development.
Jesus: And to kill a human being is known as homicide.
Jesus: So abortion is a form of homicide.
Jesus: And dont your laws say that when homicide is committed on purpose and with full knowledge and intent that it is called murder.
Jesus: So abortion is the murder of an innocent and defenseless human being.
Us: Well, thats your way of putting it.
Jesus: And doesnt the 14th Amendment to your Constitution say that No state shall deny any person equal protection under the law.
Us: Yes. But the unborn child isnt a person.
Jesus: Is that a scientific fact or just an opinion that suits your desires? In other words, are you saying that personhood is something that is dependent on what other people decide and not an existential fact and that the Dred Scott decision was correct when it decided that slaves were property and non-persons and thus had no rights before the law? If that is what youre saying then obviously you would have no problem with the killing of slaves by their owners or with the Holocaust and any other atrocities committed when a major group declares a minor group to be subhuman or non-persons. And so, if some day, a dominant group declares your group to be subhuman or non-persons, youll have no problem with it because, as you measure, so shall it be measured unto you. Or, as they say on the street, What goes around; comes around. In other words, these are your premises so you shouldnt have any trouble with their logical conclusions when they are applied to you or to those for whom you care. As I have told you in the past, the basic premise for moral behavior is that You should do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Otherwise, you should have no complaint when you receive the same treatment,.
Us: But I marched for Civil Rights in the 1960s and I supported civil rights and equal treatment for all minority groups.
Jesus: Yes, that might be true except for when it comes to unborn children. That is where you violate the very principles which you claim that you believe in. The unborn child has become your subhuman and non-person because, like other oppressors in the past, you find his or her life to be an inconvenience to you. You dont disagree with the premises of those in the past who denied civil and human right to other groups, you just disagree with them over the group to which they should be applied. So what makes you different? They killed innocent and defenseless slaves and Jews by declaring them subhuman or non-persons. You kill innocent and defenseless unborn children by doing the same thing.
Us: But abortion is a religious issue not a political one and there is suppose to be a separation between church and state. Any way, you cant legislate morality. .
Jesus: First, if you cant legislate morality then how is it that you have laws against lying, stealing, murder, fraud, just to mention a few? Morality is about right behavior and laws are passed to enforce right behavior. The fact that both the Church and the government are concerned with right behavior does not make the issue religious when they are both concerned with the same thing.
Second, if abortion is the killing of a human being by denying him equal protection under the law then it is a human and civil right issue which directly violates principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence and provisions found in the Constitution of the United States. There is a direct reference in both documents to the right to life, which logic indicates, takes precedence over any other rights because none of them can be enjoyed unless one is alive. There is no direct reference in the Constitution to a right of privacy and, even if there were, it still doesnt answer the question the right to privately do what? To molest your children? To abuse your wife? To kill your spouse? Obviously, these are prohibited even though they might be done in the privacy of your own home.
Us: But I believe in Choice!
Jesus: No you dont. Otherwise, you would be opposed to any laws that limited the choices made by human beings. If this were so, you would oppose any law, such as the Civil Rights Act, that restricted one mans action or choice to protect another mans right. Without such laws you would be living in anarchy. The word choice has no moral significance until one reveals what one is choosing. Some choices are good, moral, and legal while others are not. So Choice is just a thought blocking slogan designed to gain peoples acceptance without having them think. By Choice! you mean the right of a mother to choose to kill her baby at the fetal stage of development. When it is stated like this, the moral significance of the choice become apparent. That is why you choose never to complete the statement because then the morality of the act would be brought to the conscious level where the moral issue would be clear for all to see.
Us: But abortion is legal.
Jesus: While morality and legality are related they are not the same thing. Every thing that is immoral does not necessarily have to become illegal. For example, it might be immoral to cheat on a test but it doesnt have to become illegal. By the same token, every thing that is legal is not necessarily moral, otherwise there would never be any immoral laws. Try telling that to the Black people facing the Jim Crow laws in the South or to Jews in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Martin Luther King wrote eloquently in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail defending his right to oppose immoral laws. The Church has always taught that one has an obligation to oppose any laws which violates the higher laws of moral behavior.
Now this conversation is an example of how a person is suppose to form his conscience by testing and studying the premises and evidence which either support or oppose his moral decisions. This is what the Church means by an informed conscience and why it teaches that we have a moral obligation to follow it, whether it be right or wrong, so long as we have gone through the necessary reflective process and are still open to changing our position upon receiving further information. Thus, according to the Church, the final basis for all moral actions is our conscience.
Why is this so? Because God is looking at the disposition of our hearts, not at what we are doing because ultimately that disposition is what He has to work with. Allow me to quote what I said at the end of my last program on this topic by giving you an example of how God might look at it.
Suppose I have a person who knows the real truth but fails to follow it and there is another person who has a false truth but is diligent in following it. What do I know about the hearts of these two people? I know that the first one wont follow the truth even when he knows it but the second one is willing to follow any truth once it is revealed to him. There is no way that I can save the first one because no matter how much truth I reveal to him, he refuses to follow it. However, the second person is easy to save. His problem is ignorance. Once he becomes convinced that something is true, he has already demonstrated that he will commit himself to following it because he obeys his conscience which is the repository of what he believe to be true.
Where did the Church get this idea that sincere non-Christians could be saved? From the Bible and from St. Paul who in Roman 2:9-15 says :
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil: the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good: the Jew first and then the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
Notice that the Jew in this quote are the Chosen People who have been given the laws of God and the Greeks are the non-Jews who have not been given the laws of God. Today, we could substitute Christian for Jew and non-Christian for Greek. Now let me continue the quote. Paul says:
All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the laws will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles who have not the laws do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them.
Did you hear that? their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them. In another place Jesus says to the Pharisees that if they had not known, they would have an excuse but since they claim that they know they are held responsible. It appears that God, like any good parent, does not hold any of His creation morally responsible when either they cant know, such as animals and little children, or they dont know through any fault of their own. If human parents can see the justice in this, do you think that God cant?
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.