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An Inner Law (1776) Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law which he must obey, namely to do good and to avoid evil. In his conscience (man's most secret core) he is alone with God whose voice echoes within man. Conscience - Judge of Individual Acts (1777-1779) Moral conscience urges a person to do good and avoid evil. It even judges his particular choices (past, present, and future) and shows God's authority. The prudent man hears God speaking in his commandments. By conscience, the person's reason judges the morality of his actions (past, present, or future). In this judgment, man sees God's law. "Conscience is a messenger of him who speaks to us behind a veil and teaches us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ" (John Cardinal Newman). Every person must have sufficient interior awareness so he can hear and follow his conscience. "Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness" (St. Augustine). An Upright Conscience Assumes Responsibility (1780-1782) Human dignity requires an upright conscience which knows moral principles and applies them in each circumstance. Truth is recognized by prudent judgments. Whoever follows his conscience is indeed prudent. By conscience, a person assumes responsibility. Even in evil deeds, conscience remains an inner witness to truth that the choice was evil. This true judgment makes clear that the person must seek forgiveness and choose good in the future. "Whenever our hearts condemn us, we reassure ourselves that God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything" (1 Jn 3:19-20). Man has a right to make his own moral decisions. He cannot be forced to act contrary to his conscience, nor be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters. Man's Duty - To Have a Right Conscience (1783-1785) The person has a duty to have a true conscience which is formed by reason and seeks to know God's will. Only the educating of conscience can overcome negative influences and temptations. This lifelong task begins with awakening the child to know and practice God's law. A prudent education teaches virtues, cures selfishness, and guarantees peace of heart. The Word of God guides this education. Man must examine his conscience before the cross, seek the advice of others, and learn the Church's authoritative teaching. Difficulties in Judging (1786-1789) Conscience can make a right judgment (in accord with God's law and reason) or an erroneous judgment (not in accord). In some situations, moral judgments are difficult. However, in every case, the person must seek God's will in accord with his law. The person must interpret the data, assisted by his own prudence, competent advice, and the help of the Holy Spirit. In all cases, evil can never be done so good can result. "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them" (Mt 7:12). "Do nothing that makes your brother stumble" (Rom 14:21). Sources of Errors in Judgment (1790-1792) Although a person must always obey the certain judgments of his conscience, he might be in ignorance and make erroneous judgments. Sometimes, the person is to blame for having an erroneous conscience because he took no effort to discover the truth. In this case, he is responsible for the evil he commits. There are several sources of these errors in judgment: ignorance of Christ and of his Gospel, bad example from others, enslavement to passions, lack of conversion of heart, and rejection of the Church's teaching. Unable to Overcome (1793-1794) Sometimes, the person is not responsible for his erroneous judgment because he cannot overcome the obstacles to truth. This is called "invincible ignorance." Although evil is present, the person is not blameworthy. He should work to correct his errors. Conscience must be enlightened by faith so that persons and groups will turn aside from blind choices.

Free to Choose (1730) Man is created by God as a human person who can begin and control his own actions. He is meant to seek God and gain perfection by cleaving to him. Good or Evil (1731-1733) By freedom (rooted in his intellect and will), man has the power to act or not to act. He can shape his own life, mature in goodness, and gain a perfection which is rooted in God. Until man attains God, he can choose to do good or evil, to grow in perfection or to sin. Because human acts are free, they are worthy of praise or blame. By constantly doing good, man grows in freedom. Doing evil leads man into a "slavery of sin" (Rom 6:17). Responsible for Acts (1734-1735) A person is responsible for his voluntary acts. By progress in virtue, in knowledge of good, and in selfdiscipline, he gains greater mastery. Man's responsibility and imputability can be lessened or nullified by ignorance, fear, habits, or inordinate attachments or other factors. God's Confrontations (1736-1737) God confronted Eve, "What is this that you have done?" (Gen 3:13). He also confronted Cain, "What have you done?" (Gen 4:10). A person is responsible for any directly willed act. Also, an action can be indirectly voluntary (from negligence or ignorance). A person is not responsible for an evil act if he did not will it and did not intend it as a means to an end. For example, a person might incur death while trying to help another. A person is responsible if they could have avoided the evil (as a drunk driver killing someone). Respecting Freedom (1738) Every human person must recognize the right of freedom in others. Exercising freedom, especially in moral or religious matters, is an inalienable right of the human person. This must be protected by civil authorities within the limits of public order. Abuse of Freedom (1739-1740) Human freedom refused God's love and became a slave to sin. The first sin has led to so many others. Human history attests that the problems of man come from man's abuse of freedom. Freedom does not give man the right to say and do everything, because man's purpose is not his own earthly satisfaction. Man's blindness and injustice destroy the cultural conditions needed for freedom. Deviating from the moral law violates man's own freedom and imprisons him within himself. Grace and Freedom (1741-1742) "For freedom, Christ has set us free" (Gal 5:1) and saved us from sin's power. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (1Cor 17). Christ's grace is not a rival to man's freedom. The person grows in inner freedom by being docile to God's Spirit. "Take away from us all that is harmful so we may freely accomplish your will" (Prayer - 32nd Sunday).


1749 Freedom makes man a moral subject. When he acts deliberately, man is, so to speak, the father of his acts. Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil.

I. THE SOURCES OF MORALITY 1750 The morality of human acts depends on: - the object chosen; - the end in view or the intention; - the circumstances of the action.





The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the "sources," or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts. The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience. In contrast to the object, the intention resides in the acting subject. Because it lies at the voluntary source of an action and determines it by its end, intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: it is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken. Intention is not limited to directing individual actions, but can guide several actions toward one and the same purpose; it can orient one's whole life toward its ultimate end. For example, a service done with the end of helping one's neighbor can at the same time be inspired by the love of God as the ultimate end of all our actions. One and the same action can also be inspired by several intentions, such as performing a service in order to obtain a favor or to boast about it. A good intention (for example, that of helping one's neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).39 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent's responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.

II. GOOD ACTS AND EVIL ACTS 1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting "in order to be seen by men"). The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts - such as fornication - that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil. 1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it. IN BRIEF 1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three "sources" of the morality of human acts. 1758 The object chosen morally specifies the act of willing accordingly as reason recognizes and judges it good or evil. 1759 "An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention" (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means. 1760 A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together. 1761 There are concrete acts that it is always wrong to choose, because their choice entails a disorder of the will, i.e., a moral evil. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.