14 August 2007

Conscience, intellect and will

I've been trying to keep things kind of light during the summer, partially because I've been so busy I don't have time to think seriously myself. I did read, A Study of Conscience, From Scripture and Documents of Vatican II, by Sister Immaculata of Jesus Crucified, OCD, Carmel of Our Lady of Divine Providence. Actually, I read it twice, it is quite short, only 45 small pages. But, I have a problem with terms and definitions. I'm certain I learned all these at one time, especially in college, but like many things lately, I can't remember them for anything.

I still don't clearly understand how these three: conscience, intellect and will; all act together. I think conscience is the arbiter of the will and intellect, but am hoping someone can explain it better. If you have a poorly formed or malformed conscience, it is unable to keep the appetites of the intellect and will in check?

So, here's a definition of conscience from the Pocket Catholic Dictionary, by (Father) John A. Hardon, SJ.

The judgment of the practical intellect deciding, from general principles of faith and reason, the goodness or badness of a way of acting that a person now faces.

It is an operation of the intellect and not of the feelings or even of the will. An Action is right or wrong because of objective principles to which the mind must subscribe, not because a person subjectively feels that way or because his will wants it that way.

Conscience, therefore, is a specific act of the mind applying its knowledge to a concrete moral situation. What the mind decides in a given case depends on principles already in the mind.

These principles are presupposed as known to the mind, either from the light of natural reason reflecting on the data of creation, or from divine faith responding to God's supernatural revelation. Conscience does not produce these principles; it accepts them. Nor does conscience pass judgment on the truths of reason and divine faith; it uses them as the premises from which to conclude whether something should be done (or should have been done) because it is a good, or should be omitted (or should have been omitted) because it is bad. Its conclusions also apply to situations where the mind decides that something is permissible or preferable but not obligatory.

Always the role of conscience is to decide subjectively on the ethical propriety of a specific action, here and now, for this person, in these circumstances. But always, too, the decision is a mental conclusion derived from objective norms that conscience does not determine on its own, receiving it as given by the Author of nature and divine grace.

Here's the definition for will:
The power of the human soul, or of a spiritual being, which tends toward a good or away from an evil recognized by the intellect. It is basically a rational appetite with several functions, namely the ability to intend, choose, desire, hope, consent, hate, love, and enjoy.

Have to go to a regular dictionary for a definition of intellect:
The capacity for understanding and knowledge; the ability to think abstractly or profoundly.


Terry Nelson said...

M. Immaculata is no longer part of OL Divine Providence community or the OCD - she is an independent hermit now days. I knew her as prioress when she wrote this pamphlet and her reasoning behind it was because so many people claimed to be living according to their conscience after V-II, doing as they pleased. M. Immaculata wanted to emphasize the necessity that one's conscience be formed by the commandments and teachings of the Church.

I never read the booklet however, she just talked to me about it - so that is what I know.

swissmiss said...

I was hoping you would be one person to help with the confusion I have on conscience! Thanks for the info on Sr. Immaculata. My father used to bring her around on her speaking schedule. When I started reading this booklet, I wondered if she was still alive and how she was. If you are interested, I can lend you the book.

Terry Nelson said...

I wonder if I know your dad?

Thanks for thee book offer - believe it or not, I have it someplace.