Morality and Conscience



 Perugino1481.  Christ Gives the Keys to Peter

Article 4




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.

1749 Libertas hominem subiectum efficit morale. Homo, cum modo agit deliberato, est, ut ita dicamus, pater suorum actuum. Actus humani, id est, libere post conscientiae iudicium electi, sunt moraliter aestimabiles. Sunt boni aut mali.

I. The Sources of Morality

I. Fontes moralitatis

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.

1750 Actuum humanorum moralitas dependet:
— ex obiecto electo;
— ex fine intento seu ex intentione;
— ex circumstantiis actionis.
Obiectum, intentio et circumstantiae « fontes » constituunt, seu elementa constitutiva, moralitatis actuum humanorum.

1751 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.

1751 Obiectum electum est bonum in quod voluntas deliberate tendit. Est materia actus humani. Obiectum electum actum voluntatis moraliter specificat, prout ratio illud agnoscat et iudicet conforme vel non cum vero bono. Obiectivae normae moralitatis rationalem boni et mali enuntiant ordinem, quem conscientia testatur.

1752 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.

1752 Coram obiecto, intentio se collocat e parte subiecti agentis. Intentio, quippe quae ex fonte voluntario est actionis eamque per finem determinat, elementum est essentiale in morali aestimatione actionis. Finis est primus terminus intentionis et scopum indicat quem actio prosequitur. Intentio motus est voluntatis in finem; terminum respicit actionis. Ipsa est propositum boni quod ab actione incepta exspectatur. Ad actiones singulares non reducitur dirigendas, sed in eumdem scopum potest plures actiones ordinare; totam vitam potest ad finem ultimum disponere. Exempli gratia, servitium praestitum habet ut finem adiuvare proximum, sed potest simul amore Dei inspirari tamquam finis ultimi omnium nostrarum actionum. Eadem actio potest etiam pluribus inspirari intentionibus, sicut servitium praestare ad favorem obtinendum vel ad vanitatem exinde educendam.

1753 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

1753 Intentio bona (exempli gratia: proximum adiuvare) nec bonum nec iustum reddit modum agendi qui in se ipso esset deordinatus (sicut mendacium et maledicentia). Finis media non iustificat. Sic innocentis damnatio iustificari non potest tamquam medium legitimum ad populum salvandum. E contra, mala intentio superaddita (sicut gloria vana) malum reddit actum qui in se potest bonus esse (sicut eleemosyna61).

1754 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.

1754 Circumstantiae, in quibus consequentiae includuntur, elementa sunt secundaria actus moralis. Conferunt ad actuum humanorum bonitatem vel malitiam moralem aggravandam aut minuendam (exempli gratia, summa cuiusdam furti). Possunt etiam agentis attenuare vel augere responsabilitatem (sic propter mortis metum agere). Circumstantiae ex se qualitatem moralem ipsorum actuum mutare non possunt; nec bonam reddere possunt nec iustam actionem in se ipsa malam.



39 Cf.  Mt 6:24.


II. Good Acts and Evil Acts

II. Actus boni et actus mali

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.

1755 Actus moraliter bonus simul bonitatem praesupponit obiecti, finis et circumstantiarum. Finis malus actionem corrumpit, etiamsi eius obiectum in se bonum sit (sicut orare et ieiunare ut quis ab hominibus videatur).

Obiectum electionis potest per se solum totum agendi modum vitiare. Sunt concreti agendi modi — sicut fornicatio — quos eligere semper erroneum est, quia eorum electio deordinationem implicat voluntatis, id est, malum morale.

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.

1756 Erroneum ergo est de actuum humanorum moralitate iudicare, solummodo intentionem quae illos inspirat, vel circumstantias considerando (rerum ambitum, socialem pressionem, coactionem vel necessitatem agendi) quae quasi eorum sunt scaena. Actus sunt qui per se ipsos et in se ipsis, independenter a circumstantiis et ab intentionibus, ratione sui obiecti semper sunt graviter illiciti; sic blasphemia et periurium, homicidium et adulterium. Non licet malum facere ut exinde bonum proveniat.



1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three “sources” of the morality of human acts.

1757 Obiectum, intentio et circumstantiae tres constituunt « fontes » moralitatis actuum humanorum.

1758 The object chosen morally specifies the act of willing accordingly as reason recognizes and judges it good or evil.

1758 Obiectum electum actum voluntatis moraliter specificat prout ratio illud agnoscit et iudicat bonum vel malum.

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.

1759 « Nullum malum bona intentione factum excusatur ».62 Finis non iustificat media.

1760 A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together.

1760 Actus moraliter bonus simul obiecti, finis et circumstantiarum praesupponit bonitatem.

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.

1761 Sunt rationes agendi concretae quas eligere semper erroneum est, quia earum electio inordinationem implicat voluntatis, id est, malum morale. Non licet malum facere ut exinde bonum proveniat.



Article 5




1762 The human person is ordered to beatitude by his deliberate acts: the passions or feelings he experiences can dispose him to it and contribute to it.

1762 Persona humana per suos actus deliberatos ordinatur ad beatitudinem: passiones vel affectiones quas experitur, illam possunt ad hanc disponere atque ad hanc conferre.

I. Passions

I. Passiones

1763 The term “passions” belongs to the Christian patrimony. Feelings or passions are emotions or movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil.

1763 Vox « passiones » ad patrimonium pertinet christianum. Affectiones vel passiones designant sensibilitatis commotiones vel motus qui ad agendum inclinant vel ad non agendum in ordine ad id quod ut bonum vel ut malum sentitur vel fingitur.

1764 The passions are natural components of the human psyche; they form the passageway and ensure the connection between the life of the senses and the life of the mind. Our Lord called man’s heart the source from which the passions spring.40

1764 Passiones elementa humanae psychologiae sunt naturalia, ipsae efformant locum transitus et fulciunt vinculum inter vitam sensibilem et vitam spiritus. Dominus noster cor hominis designat tamquam fontem unde motus oritur passionum.63

1765 There are many passions. the most fundamental passion is love, aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed. the apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it.

1765 Passiones multae sunt. Passio maxime fundamentalis est amor attractione boni provocatus. Amor desiderium causat boni absentis et spem illud obtinendi. Hic motus in fruitione boni possessi et in gaudio de illo expletur. Mali apprehensio odium, aversionem causat et metum mali futuri. Hic motus expletur in tristitia mali praesentis et in ira quae illi opponitur.

1766 “To love is to will the good of another.”41 All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. Only the good can be loved.42 Passions “are evil if love is evil and good if it is good.”43

1766 « Amare est velle alicui bonum ».64 Omnes aliae affectiones suum habent fontem in hoc motu originali cordis hominis in bonum. Nihil aliud amatur nisi bonum.65 « Proinde mala sunt ista, si malus amor est; bona, si bonus ».66



40 Cf.  Mk 7:21.
41 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 26, 4, corp. art.
42 Cf. St. Augustine, De Trin., 8, 3, 4: PL 42, 949-950.
43 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 14, 7, 2: PL 41, 410.


II. Passions and Moral Life

II. Passiones et vita moralis

1767 In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will. Passions are said to be voluntary, “either because they are commanded by the will or because the will does not place obstacles in their way.”44 It belongs to the perfection of the moral or human good that the passions be governed by reason.45

1767 Passiones, in se ipsis, nec bonae sunt nec malae. Moralem non recipiunt qualificationem nisi quatenus a ratione vel a voluntate revera pendent. Passiones dicuntur voluntariae « vel ex eo quod a voluntate imperantur, vel ex eo quod a voluntate non prohibentur ».67 Ad boni moralis vel humani perfectionem pertinet, passiones ratione regulari.68

1768 Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case. the upright will orders the movements of the senses it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them. Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.

1768 Magni animi sensus neque moralitatem neque sanctitatem decidunt personarum; receptaculum sunt inexhaustibile imaginum et affectionum in quibus exprimitur vita moralis. Passiones sunt moraliter bonae cum ad actionem conferunt bonam, et malae in casu contrario. Recta voluntas ad bonum et ad beatitudinem sensibiles ordinat motus quos ipsa assumit; mala voluntas passionibus succumbit deordinatis easque exacerbat. Commotiones et sensus possunt in virtutes assumi, vel in vitiisperverti.

1769 In the Christian life, the Holy Spirit himself accomplishes his work by mobilizing the whole being, with all its sorrows, fears and sadness, as is visible in the Lord’s agony and passion. In Christ human feelings are able to reach their consummation in charity and divine beatitude.

1769 In vita christiana, Ipse Spiritus Sanctus opus perficit Suum, totam movens personam, eius doloribus, timoribus et tristitiis inclusis, sicut in Domini agonia apparet et passione. In Christo, humanae affectiones possunt suam recipere consummationem in caritate et beatitudine divina.

1770 Moral perfection consists in man’s being moved to the good not by his will alone, but also by his sensitive appetite, as in the words of the psalm: “My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”46

1770 Perfectio moralis implicat ut homo ad bonum non solum sua voluntate, sed etiam suo sensibili appetitu moveatur secundum haec psalmi verba: « Cor meum et caro mea exsultaverunt in Deum vivum » (Ps 84,3).



44 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 24, 1 corp. art.
45 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 24, 3.
46  Ps 84:2.




1771 The term “passions” refers to the affections or the feelings. By his emotions man intuits the good and suspects evil.

1771 Vox « passiones » affectiones designat vel sensus. Per suas commotiones homo bonum praesentit vel malum suspicatur.

1772 The principal passions are love and hatred, desire and fear, joy, sadness, and anger.

1772 Praecipuae passiones sunt amor et odium, desiderium et metus, gaudium, tristitia et ira.

1773 In the passions, as movements of the sensitive appetite, there is neither moral good nor evil. But insofar as they engage reason and will, there is moral good or evil in them.

1773 In passionibus quatenus sensibilitatis motibus nec bonum habetur morale nec malum. Sed in illis bonum morale vel malum habetur prout illae pendent vel non pendent a ratione et a voluntate.

1774 Emotions and feelings can be taken up in the virtues or perverted by the vices.

1774 Commotiones et affectiones possunt in virtutes assumi, vel in vitiis perverti.

1775 The perfection of the moral good consists in man’s being moved to the good not only by his will but also by his “heart.”

1775 Boni moralis perfectio est hominem ad bonum non solum sua voluntate, sed etiam suo «corde » moveri.

Article 6




1776 “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment.... For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God.... His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”47

1776 « In imo conscientiae legem homo detegit, quam ipse sibi non dat, sed cui oboedire debet, et cuius vox, semper ad bonum amandum et faciendum ac malum vitandum eum advocans, ubi oportet, auribus cordis sonat [...]. Nam homo legem in corde suo a Deo inscriptam habet [...]. Conscientia est nucleus secretissimus atque sacrarium hominis, in quo solus est cum Deo, cuius vox resonat in intimo eius ».69

47 GS 16.




I. The Judgment of Conscience

I. Iudicium conscientiae

1777 Moral conscience,48 present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil.49 It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

1777 Conscientia moralis,70 praesens in personae corde, ei iniungit, tempore opportuno, bonum peragere malumque evitare. Electiones etiam iudicat concretas, eas approbans quae bonae sunt, illas denuntians quae sunt malae.71 Veritatis testatur auctoritatem relate ad Bonum supremum, cuius attractionem persona humana experitur et cuius praecepta recipit. Homo prudens, cum conscientiam moralem exaudit, Deum loquentem potest audire.

1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:

1778 Conscientia moralis est rationis iudicium quo persona humana qualitatem moralem actus agnoscit concreti quem illa factura est, quem efficit vel quem perfecit. Homo in omnibus quae dicit vel facit, fideliter sequi tenetur quod ipse iustum et rectum esse scit. Homo, per suae conscientiae iudicium, praescripta Legis divinae percipit et agnoscit:

Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise.... [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.50

Conscientia « est nostri spiritus lex, sed quae nostrum superat spiritum, quae nobis praescriptiones facit, quae responsabilitatem et officium, timorem significat et spem. [...] Ipsa est nuntia Illius qui, in ordine naturae sicut in illo gratiae, nobis per velamentum loquitur, nos instruit et gubernat. Conscientia est omnium Christi vicariorum primus ».72

1779 It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection:

1779 Oportet unumquemque adeo sibimetipsi esse praesentem ut suae conscientiae vocem audiat et sequatur. Haec interioritatis exigentia eo magis est necessaria quod vita nobis saepe adducit periculum ut ab omni reflexione, examine vel reditu in nos substrahamur:

Return to your conscience, question it.... Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.51

« Redi ad conscientiam tuam, ipsam interroga. [...] Redite ergo intro, fratres; et in omnibus quaecumque facitis, intuemini testem Deum ».73

1780 The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience. Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality (synderesis); their application in the given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already performed. the truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason, is recognized practically and concretely by the prudent judgment of conscience. We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with this judgment.

1780 Dignitas personae humanae rectitudinem conscientiae moralis implicat et exigit. Conscientia moralis perceptionem complectitur principiorum moralitatis (synderesim), eorum applicationem in occurrentibus circumstantiis per practicam rationum et bonorum discretionem et proinde iudicium de actibus concretis conficiendis vel iam confectis latum. Veritas de bono morali, declarata in lege rationis, practice et concrete per prudens iudicium conscientiae agnoscitur. Homo, qui secundum hoc iudicium eligit, prudens appellatur.

1781 Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. the verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God:

1781 Conscientia responsabilitatem actuum effectorum permittit assumere. Si homo malum committit, iustum conscientiae iudicium potest in eo testis manere de universali veritate boni, simul ac de malitia eius electionis singularis. Sententia iudicii conscientiae pignus manet spei et misericordiae. Illa, culpam testans commissam, in memoriam revocat, veniam esse petendam, bonum adhuc faciendum et virtutem incessanter gratia Dei colendam:

We shall . . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.52

« In conspectu Eius placabimus corda nostra, quoniam si reprehenderit nos cor, maior est Deus corde nostro et cognoscit omnia » (1 Io 3,19-20).

1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”53

1782 Homo ius habet secundum conscientiam et libere agendi, ut decisiones morales personaliter assumere possit. Homo « non est ergo cogendus, ut contra suam conscientiam agat. Sed neque impediendus est, quominus iuxta suam conscientiam operetur, praesertim in re religiosa ».74



48 Cf.  Rom 2:14-16.
49 Cf.  Rom 1:32.
50 John Henry Cardinal Newman, “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk,” V, in
   Certain Difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching II (London:
   Longmans Green, 1885), 248.
51 St. Augustine, In ep Jo. 8, 9: PL 35, 2041.
52 1  Jn 3:19-20.
53 DH 3 # 2.


II. The Formation of Conscience

II. Conscientiae efformatio

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. 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. the education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

1783 Conscientia certior fieri et iudicium morale illustrari debent. Conscientia bene efformata recta est et verax. Sua enuntiat iudicia rationem sequens, secundum verum bonum a Creatoris sapientia volitum. Conscientiae educatio est necessaria hominibus qui influxibus negativis sunt subiecti et a peccato tentati ut suum iudicium praeferant proprium et auctoritate praeditas reiiciant doctrinas.

1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. the education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.

1784 Conscientiae educatio munus est totius vitae. A prioribus annis, ipsa puerum suscitat ad cognitionem et praxim interioris legis a morali conscientia agnitae. Prudens educatio virtutem docet; ipsa a metu, a caeco sui amore (« egoismo ») et a superbia, a culpabilitatis exacerbationibus et complacentiae motibus praeservat, quae ex debilitate et humanis oriuntur culpis, vel ea sanat. Conscientiae educatio libertatem praestat et pacem cordis gignit.

1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.55

1785 In conscientiae efformanda, Verbum Dei lux itineris est nostri; illud in fide et oratione proprium facere oportet atque in praxim adducere. Debemus quoque nostram examinare conscientiam respiciendo ad crucem Domini. Dona Spiritus Sancti succurrunt nobis, qui aliorum testimonio et consiliis adiuvamur atque Ecclesiae doctrina auctoritate praedita ducimur.75



54 Cf.  Ps 119:105.
55 Cf. DH 14.


III. To Choose in Accord With Conscience

III. Secundum conscientiam eligere

1786 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1786 Conscientia, coram electione morali posita, potest sive iudicium rectum rationi et Legi divinae conforme ferre sive, e contra, iudicium erroneum quod ab eis discedit.

1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.

1787 Homo quandoque in condicionibus invenitur quae iudicium morale minus certum et decisionem efficiunt difficilem. Ipse tamen semper quaerere debet quod iustum est et bonum, atque voluntatem Dei in Lege divina expressam discernere.

1788 To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts.

1788 Ad hoc, homo conatur facta experientiae et signa temporum per prudentiae virtutem, per personarum prudentium consilia et per Spiritus Sancti Eiusque donorum adiutorium interpretari.

1789 Some rules apply in every case:
- One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
- the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”56
- charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.”57 Therefore “it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.”58

1789 In omnibus casibus quaedam applicantur regulae:
— Nunquam licet malum facere ut ex eo bonum proveniat.
— « Regula aurea »: « Omnia [...], quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines, ita et vos facite eis » (Mt 7,12).
— Caritas semper proximi et eius conscientiae continet observantiam. « Peccantes in fratres et percutientes conscientiam eorum infirmam, in Christum peccatis » (1 Cor 8,12). « Bonum est non [...] [facere] id, in quo frater tuus offendit aut scandalizatur aut infirmatur » (Rom 14,21 vulg.).



56  Mt 7:12; cf.  Lk 6:31;  Tob 4:15.
57  1 Cor 8:12.
58  Rom 14:21.


IV. Erroneous Judgment

IV. Iudicium erroneum

1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1790 Homo semper certo suae conscientiae debet oboedire iudicio. Si contra hoc deliberate ageret, se ipsum damnaret. Sed evenit conscientiam moralem in ignorantia versari et erronea ferre iudicia de actibus ponendis vel iam commissis.

1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.”59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

1791 Haec ignorantia saepe responsabilitati personali potest imputari. Hoc evenit, « cum homo de vero ac bono inquirendo parum curat, et conscientia ex peccati consuetudine paulatim fere obcaecatur ».77 His in casibus, persona, mali quod committit, est culpabilis.

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.

1792 Ignorantia Christi et Eius Evangelii, mala exempla ab aliis praebita, passionum servitus, postulatio male intellectae autonomiae conscientiae, reiectio auctoritatis Ecclesiae eiusque doctrinae, defectus conversionis et caritatis origo esse possunt deflexionum iudicii in modo morali agendi.

1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

1793 Si — e contra — ignorantia est invincibilis, vel iudicium erroneum sine subiecti moralis responsabilitate, malum a persona commissum non potest ei imputari. Ipsum nihilominus manet malum, privatio, deordinatio. Est ergo necessarium operam dare ut conscientia moralis a suis erroribus corrigatur.

1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time “from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.”60

1794 Conscientia bona et pura illuminatur fide vera. Nam caritas simul procedit « de corde puro et conscientia bona et fide non ficta » (1 Tim 1,5):78

The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.61

« Quo magis ergo conscientia recta praevalet, eo magis personae et coetus a caeco arbitrio recedunt et normis obiectivis moralitatis conformari satagunt ».79



59 GS 16.
60  1 Tim 5; cf. 8:9;  2 Tim 3;  1 Pet 3:21;  Acts 24:16.
61 GS 16.




1795 “Conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (GS 16).

1795 « Conscientia est nucleus secretissimus atque sacrarium hominis, in quo solus est cum Deo, cuius vox resonat in intimo eius ».80

1796 Conscience is a judgment of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act.

1796 Conscientia moralis est iudicium rationis quo persona humana moralem actus concreti agnoscit qualitatem.

1797 For the man who has committed evil, the verdict of his conscience remains a pledge of conversion and of hope.

1797 Pro homine qui malum commiserit, iudicium conscientiae eius pignus manet conversionis et spei.

1798 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. Everyone must avail himself of the means to form his conscience.

1798 Conscientia bene efformata recta est et verax. Sua enuntiat iudicia rationem sequens, secundum verum bonum a Creatoris sapientia volitum. Unusquisque media assumere debet ad suam conscientiam efformandam.

1799 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1799 Conscientia, ante electionem moralem posita, potest ferre sive iudicium rectum rationi et Legi divinae conforme sive, e contra, iudicium erroneum quod ab eis discedit.

1800 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.

1800 Homo iudicio certo conscientiae suae semper debet oboedire.

1801 Conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgments. Such ignorance and errors are not always free of guilt.

1801 Conscientia moralis potest in ignorantia manere vel erronea ferre iudicia. Hae ignorantiae et hi errores non semper a culpabilitate sunt exempti.

1802 The Word of God is a light for our path. We must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. This is how moral conscience is formed.

1802 Verbum Dei gressibus nostris est lumen. Oportet illud in fide et oratione proprium facere, et in praxim ducere. Sic conscientia moralis efformatur.

















Donum filii