Friday, February 29, 2008

Conscience and the Denial of Sin

I once heard it said that if there is one thing worse than sin, it is the denial of sin.

But how does one come into a denial of sin?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, states:

“1792. Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.”,

herein which I will attempt to parse:

Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel

I surmise that ignorance is brought about when you are in the boondocks and isolated from the rest of humanity and civilization. No TV, no books, no teachers, and no Google. But for the greater mass of people, especially those who are in a position to make a difference in this day and age, ignorance can only be decidedly voluntary. One is supposed to be obliged in conscience to seek the truth and not be content with what is personally comfortable from a conveniently “practical” point of view, yet it is so convenient and comfortable to make a shortcut. I therefore call this conscience a quick and easy “Do-It-Yourself” conscience.

Enslavement to one’s passions

All slaves have masters, and in this case, the master is one’s passions. The distinction being that this is a self-inflicted slavery that shuts out discernment and with it – freedom. Indeed the flesh is weak, and that is why the Lord instructed us to pray “lead us not into temptation…”. On the other hand those who become slaves by choice invite temptation and then wallow in it, and therefore I call this conscience, a “pawned” conscience.

Bad example given by others

When “everybody” is doing it, it must be acceptable and therefore “right”. This is heightened by peer pressure within the close confines of one’s social circle, or even of one’s subjective and personal perception of what is considered acceptable by the larger social sphere. Notions of acceptability prevails and liberal fad rules. I call this conscience a “Popularity Contest” conscience.

Autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority

The conscience exists in a vacuum, whose discernment does not include an outside point of reference.
As a case in point, it is dangerous to choose a car without dutifully consulting car-buying guides and mechanics. In the spiritual sense where the stakes are much higher, it should be imperative to be even more conscientious in seeking guidance from external authorities, especially from those whose knowledge and wisdom is drawn upon a studied foundation of more than two-thousand years of consistent teaching. If we find ourselves disagreeing as Catholics with the teaching of the Church on a serious matter, it’s probably not the Church that’s wrong, the problem is much more likely with us. Maybe I’ll call this conscience a “clueless” conscience.

Lack of conversion and of charity

I have stated at the onset that the denial of sin may be worse than sin itself, and come to think of it, the only sin might be denial itself. The adamant refusal to be open to correction could be in fact the only barrier to conversion and charity. This is characterized by a spirited self-righteousness that can only be perhaps corrected by a bolt of lightning, which is not entirely impossible, to those of us who have heard of the road to Damascus. Anyway, a less dramatic conversion could just as well be effective, which is what all of us should be working at in this season of Lent. Also, the first among the St. Matthew’s Beatitudes is something to ponder at, as we all evaluate our spirited selves.


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