The Catholic conscience, formed, informed and the difference between the two

It’s quotes like the one below that keep me writing at this blog. The writer of the article has decided that she can be pro-choice and Catholic. Boggles my mind. It’s like saying “I believe in God, I believe in Christ, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Bible, I believe in the Ten Commandments, I believe that murder is immoral…unless you choose to murder a baby. Then it’s a choice. And if my conscience is okay with it, then it’s okay.” The idiocy of the entire article is stunning.

“Finally, I am a prochoice Catholic because my Catholic faith tells me I can be. The Catechism reads, “[Conscience] is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” Even St. Thomas Aquinas said it would be better to be excommunicated than to neglect your individual conscience. So really, I am just following his lead. After years of research, discernment and prayer, my conscience has been well informed. Being a prochoice Catholic does not contradict my faith; rather, in following my well-informed conscience, I am adhering to the central tenet of Catholic teaching — the primacy of conscience.”

From I Am a Prochoice Catholic, an article at the National Catholic Reporter Online.

There are so many things to point out in what she wrote in the full post, but right now I want to focus on this notion of the “well-informed conscience”. She has arrived at her decision to be a pro-choice Catholic having informed her conscience and she actually has the nerve to say she’s following St. Thomas Aquinas in this, in allowing the primacy of her conscience over the teaching of Christ and His Church. That’s something to go into in another post (and I will). But I want to point out that, while the writer writes about informing her conscience, she neglects to mention another step a Catholic has to take. We inform our consciences, yes, of course. But we also must form our conscience. That’s what the rules are for. It’s what devotions and prayer, the interior life, the sacrament of reconciliation and penance is about: allowing the Holy Spirit to work on us and to mold, to form, us into the image of Christ.

To be informed is not enough, not nearly enough. We must also be formed, we must be conformed to the image of Christ and that is what Christianity is about.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

Christianity is about giving oneself to others, giving of oneself, giving all of oneself, first to Christ, then to others. Murdering a child before he has taken his first breath (or at any other time!) is not the way to be a Christian. Honoring those who choose to take the life of another because of lack of money or unwillingness to sacrifice that the other might live is a strange way to claim to follow Him Who gave His Body and Blood for us, sinners, every one. For the woman who is pregnant. For the child within waiting to be born. For the one who will snuff out that life. For the one who supports such acts while claiming to follow Christ.

When forming your conscience, please don’t settle for informing it instead. Be informed, yes, by all means. But not by mere information gleaned from sources that do not have your best interests at heart, certainly not your moral or spiritual interests. Allow yourself to be formed by what God has revealed to us. By what the Church teaches in the liturgy and in the Catechism. How convenient that our conscience can tell us that whatever we decide is all right and perfectly justified. See how easily we deceive ourselves. “We know better than the Church. After all, we know better than God, don’t we? Why, we can be gods, deciding for ourselves what is good and what is evil.”

Haven’t we heard this line before somewhere? Haven’t we learned our lesson yet? Our ancient enemy is ever watchful, always eager to mislead us. A conscience merely informed but not formed will soon be deformed.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Gen 4: 6-7)



If you insist of being pro-choice, then do yourself and the rest of us a favor and stop calling yourself Catholic. There are plenty of other things you can call yourself. But saying you’re Catholic and pro-choice is like saying you’re against murder except when you’re for it. It’s just exactly like that, as a matter of fact. That is exactly what it is. We take an oath when we are received into full communion with the Catholic Church to accept and uphold everything that God has revealed and everything that the Church teaches. If you took that oath under false pretenses, you’re only fooling yourself. You aren’t fooling the Church and you certainly aren’t fooling God. If you dissent from those teachings, then you aren’t Catholic. If you are protesting those teachings, you are not Catholic and in communion with the Church but you are protestant, instead. That’s what the word means: one who makes or enters a protest. And please try to understand that we are not here to change the teachings of Christ. We are here to let His teachings change us.


Leave a Comment

  1. I noticed the quotation you made a reference to was written by a woman; to be pro-life is not of the teachings of Christ but of the church and the church is composed of the pope, cardinals, archbishops etc.,all men; how can they have informed consciences about having children when they don’t have any idea of what it entails. The church has had a stranglehold on women for a long time, look where it’s gotten it….


    • Hello, Rita, thank you for reading and commenting. Now, as to your comments, where to begin? For now I think I will take the thoughts one by one, yours in italics, mine in a regular font, and answer them briefly, as well as I’m able, not being a philosopher or theologian, but only an interested layperson. Anyway, here goes.

      I noticed the quotation you made a reference to was written by a woman;

      There are three quotes in the post, one from an article written by a woman, two from Scripture, though I’m not sure why that matters. (Reading ahead I saw that you did make a further assertion about that to which I will reply in due course.)

      to be pro-life is not of the teachings of Christ but of the church

      These are one and the same. The teachings of Christ are the teachings of the Church.

      and the church is composed of the pope, cardinals, archbishops etc.,all men;

      The hierarchy of the Church is made up of ordained men, but one can hardly claim that the Church is made up solely of men. I’ve never heard anyone make such a claim before. Would you mind telling me where you got such a notion? If that is not what you meant, what did you mean?

      how can they [men] have informed consciences about having children when they don’t have any idea of what it entails.

      Having an informed conscience does not now nor has it ever depended upon one’s biological sex, but, rather, upon one’s humanity, heart and mind, intellect, reason. I don’t need to be a man to reason about being a man. And no man needs to be a woman in order to reason about being a woman. If it’s within the human experience, my human mind can reason about it, and so can anyone else’s. There are differences in minds but I never heard until tonight that a man must be a woman in order to know anything at all about having children or that they have no idea of what it entails. This notion contradicts the very idea of reason itself, puts it in a tiny box and flings it out to sea.

      By the way, informing one’s conscience does not depend upon one’s experience primarily, and must be accompanied by forming one’s conscience, which means learning, accepting, understanding—and willing to be guided by—the teachings of the Church.

      The church has had a stranglehold on women for a long time, look where it’s gotten it….

      Now that claim I have heard before and I reject it completely. If anything the Church has had a liberating effect on the lives of women, but in the true sense of the word, not in the modern upside down, inside out sense of the word. For one thing, Christians from the earliest days frowned upon abandoning and exposing children to the elements to die, which happened mostly to female children then, and still happens around the world in places where Christians are in the minority and lack political authority.

      The Church, the Body of Christ, sees in all human persons a reflection of the image of God, male and female, young and old, well or ill, and teaches that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Stranglehold on women? There is one, indeed, but it is not the Church that has it.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting, Rita. We do not see eye to eye but I appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with you. God bless you and peace be with you.


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