St. Edmund Campion Catechism Group - Series 4 Lesson 16.3

Theology for Beginners: Chp 16. Grace, Virtues, Gifts
Theology for Beginners: All chapters
Catholic Encyclopedia: Conscience
Aquinas 101: How St. Thomas Aquinas understand conscience?The Fonts of Morality
Summa Theologica: Prima Pars Q79 article 13
Companion to the Summa: Vol II
Books & Articles: Prummer OP: Handbook of Moral Theology; IME: Law & Freedom
Slides: What is Conscience?


  1. Recap:

    Chapter 1: Why study theology?

    - Theology is wisdom which is the knowledge of all things in relation to their highest cause.

    - Theology is the greatest of all sciences by the sublimity of its object: God; and by the certitude of its conclusions: the certitude of faith.

    - Theology teaches us our finality: the finality of man is the supernatural perfection of all his faculties - the greatest among these are his intellect and will.

    - Theology helps us attain our finality in respect of ourselves by the perfect love of God.

    - Theology helps us attain our finality in respect of our neighbour: if we love God, then we love everything He loves.

    Chapter 2: Spirit

    - A spirit is an immaterial intelligent living being (types: God, the angels and the souls of men)

    - A soul is defined as the first principle of life of those material things which live (plants, animals and men). Plants, animals and men have souls, but only the souls of men are spirits.

    - Properties: a spirit does not change in its being, does not corrupt, does not die (and is therefore eternal), has no mass, no shape, and no place e say that spirits are subsistent, which means that they have all they need to exist - they do not need a body to exist (like a plant or animal soul).

    Acts: to know and love. No material organ is required for these activities.

    Chapter 3: The Infinite Spirit

    God is the Infinite Spirit. 

    - God is all knowing, all loving, all powerful

    - God is His own existence

    - God was not created, He does not change, He has no past and future, God perpeturally in the present.

    - God is naturally everywhere: by His essence (per essentiam), by His power (per potentiam), by His knowing (per scientiam)

    God is Actus Purus, He cannot ever be in potency to doing anything; He is His action.  St. Thomas says that He is Actus Purus – one , simple, infinite and perfect action which is always in the present.

    Chapter 4: The Blessed Trinity

    The Blessed Trinity is the term used to express the central doctrine on the Christian religion: the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, these Three Persons being truly distinct from one another. There is one being, with one nature and there are Three Persons. The Blessed Trinity is known only by revelation, but can subsequently be explored by reason.

    Chapter 5: The Three Persons

    In an attempt to understand as much as possible about the Blessed Trinity using revelation and our knowledge of the intellect and being (by the science of metaphysics), St. Thomas, building on theologians before him, makes a best attempt to reconcile the unity of God and the distinction of the Three Persons in God. God has one nature by which the Three Persons operate. The distinction of the Three Persons is discerned in the mutually opposed relations resulting from the act of God knowing Himself and loving Himself. The Persons, are distinguished as the subsistant relations or Paternity, Filiation and Passive Spiration.

    Most of us, however, do not have a sufficient grasp of metaphysics to understand this complex theory and so a simpler one is proposed: In the act of knowing Himself, God generates a mental Word which is identical to the Generator. In the generator we discern the Father, in the generated, we discern the Son. These are Persons Who will naturally love each other, this love being personified in the Holy Ghost

    Chapter 6Making the doctrine of the Trinity a living and loved reality

    For most people something like that happens when they embrace a mystery of the faith revealed to them by the Church:

     - first there is an intellectual response as they grasp the theological exposition of the mystery

     - then a vital response as the wonder and beauty of the mystery draws the observer in

     - then a loving response as the mystery becomes a light and a power in our lives.

    Chapter 7: Creation

    God created all things from nothing and sustains all things in existence from moment to moment - all for His glory. 

    Chapter 8: The nature of man

    Man is made in the image and likeness of God, possessing an intellect and a will. He is different from the animals because he loves the things he knows whereas animals are attracted to the thing they sense; and he can choose what to love whereas animals are attracted to things by nature. Man is capable of moral good or evil, whereas animals always act according to their nature. The ultimate purpose of man is to know and love God. The ultimate purpose of non-intelligent creatures is to adorn creation for the glory of God.

    Chapter 9: The Supernatural Life

    Man is made for the Beatific Vision (that perfect possesion of God in heaven) but with his fallen nature he is radically incapable both of attaining this end and remaining in this state of perfect happiness. By sanctifying grace, man begins a supernatural life here below. He is transformed by grace and receives supernatural virtues and the Gift of the Holy Ghost with grace. He begins to live and act with the life and actions of God. He enters on to the path to heaven and progresses towards it. If he die in a state of grace, then the supernatural life within him is perfected to the point of perfect bliss in union with God.

    Chapter 10: The Fall

    Despite sanctifying grace, supernatural virtues, Gifts of the Holy Ghost, and the praternatural gifts, Adam fell for the temptation to become like God. This was the sin of pride. He was left bereft of everything supernatural and praeternatural, and therefore incapble of attaining that for which he was made: the Beatific Vision. The act against the injunction of God is called Original Sin, the consequence of this act (the deprivation of grace and gifts) is also called Original Sin. The Divine Will ordained that the Original Sin (consequence) be suffered by all the offspring of Adam. 

    Chapter 11: The Redeemer

    Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity Who operates through a divine nature as God, and through a human nature as man. The two natures are hypostatically united in the Person which allow him to act as a man but with acts of infinite value because His Person is divine. By taking to himself his human nature at the Incarnation, Jesus Christ was able to redeem mankind.

    Chapter 12: The Redemption

    The Redemption is the (a) freeing of man from the debt (in justice to God) of sin, and (b) the restoration of man's supernatural union with God. Our Lord Jesus Christ objectively redeemed all mankind by His Incarnation, Life, Passion & Death, Resurrection and Ascension into heaven. It is for man to participate in this act of redemption by living a life of faith, hope and charity through the means that the Church provides (teaching, laws and liturgy). Such a life constitutes mans subjective redemption.

    Chapter 13: The Visible Church

    The visible Church is a hierarchy of baptised souls united under one head (Jesus Christ) who adhere to the teaching of the Church, submit to the authority of the Church, and worship God with the liturgy of the Church. Members of the visible Church may be living members (when they are in a state of sanctifying grace) or dead members (when they are in mortal sin).

    Chapter 14: The Mystical Body of Christ

    The Church binds chosen men and angels together into one body, but unlike any other union in the universe, the reason of unity is above the order of nature, and immeasurably more intimate - it is the unity of living the same Life. Every living member of the Church lives by participating in the Divine Life (by sanctifying grace). Inevitable with this unity of Life, there is a unity of love and obedience and intention, but these are consequences rather than causes of unity. The unity by grace is called the Mystical Body of Christ.

    Chapter 15: The Mother of God

    Mary is called the Mother of God because she is the mother of Jesus Christ according to His human nature. Jesus Christ is God, therefore, Mary is the Mother of God. For this reason she was preserved from Original Sin at her conception, preserved from corruption at the end of her earthly life, and assumed body and soul into heaven. She is given the title of Co-Redemptorix on account of the closeness of her participation in the act of Redemption; she is called Mediatrix of all grace on account of her divine motherhood and her uniquely privilged role as intercessor with her Son.

    Chapter 16.1 Grace, virtues and gifts

    To share in God's perfection, to be inclined towards God, and to know & love God, we must become co-natural with God so that we share in His being, powers, and actions. We share in His being by sanctifying grace; we share in his power by supernaturalised faculties; and we share in His actions by acts of supernatural virtue or acts impelled by the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.

    Chapter 16.2 How Grace is lost.

    The supernatural life of grace is lost by Original Sin and Mortal Sin. Sin is an offence against God by any thought, word, deed, or omission against the law of God. Sin may be Original Sin or Actual Sin. Original Sin as an act was committed by Adam, but in its effects (absence of grace & praeternatural gifts, wounded human nature) it affects every man at the moment of conception (except the Blessed Virgin Mary). Actual sin is an act committed by any man. Actual sin may be Mortal Sin of Venial Sin. A Mortal Sin is an act of total rebellion against God (like declaring war against a state). A Venial Sin is breaking a law of God without breaking allegiance to God (like breaking the speed limit of a state).

  2. Definitions

    Emotion: A movement of the passions , a feeling, a sensory stimulus inclining a senscient being either to or away from an object (eg. desire, fear, hope, despair, joy, anger).

    Perception: A mental image made up of sensory data, like a photograph.

    Faculty: A power of acting (eg. the intellect, the will, the memory, the estimative, the locomotive, the digestive etc).

    Judgement: An act of the intellect which affirms the truth or falsity of a proposition. One of the three acts of the intellect 1. Simple apprehension, 2. Judgement, 3. Reasoning).

  3. What is conscience?

    Is conscience an emotion, a perception, an instinctive faculty, or a judgement? See the full answer.

    Definition: Conscience is just the intellect’s determination of how to act in light of its knowledge of general moral principles, whether applied consciously or just as a matter of habit.

    The act of conscience applies moral principles (the primary moral principles [eg. do good and avoid evil] are know by the virtue of synderisis) to a concrete situations to determine the morality of an act.

  4. Why do we have feelings of righteousness or guilt when we follow or ignore our conscience?

    - Acts in accordance with, or against, one's conscience are often accompanied by a passion (emotion) as nature's way of assisting us in the act of doing the right thing or shunning the wrong thing. Just as love is most often accompanied by affection and hatred is often accompanied by revulsion, so a feeling of either righteousness or guilt often accompanies a moral act.

    - The emotions of righteousness or guilt, however, do not necessarily manifest themselves or perhaps do not correspond to the act of conscience (as mentioned above)"

       - We sometimes feel guilty when we know we have done nothing wrong (eg. when falsly accused of a crime)

       - We sometimes do not feel guilty when we know we have actually done wrong (eg. psychopaths, or those used to evil) 

  5. Should we always follow our conscience?

    It is important to understand the sense of this question. It may be better undertood if it were phrased differently: "Should we always do what is right as our intellect judges?

    The answer is clearly yes, but it is important to understand that the conscience (the judgement of what to do in the light of moral principles) needs to educated (just as we need to learn the times tables before we attempt ). An educuted conscience is called an informed conscience.

  6. Informed conscience

    An informed conscience is a judgment which is made with

    (i)   knowledge the correct moral principles (= laws)

    (ii)  knowledge of the facts of the particular case.

    Everyone has a duty to inform their conscience with the moral principals and facts. Neglect of this duty is a sin.

  7. An uncertain conscience

    Conscience will not necessarily have certitude on account of either:

    (a) not being informed or

    (b) the difficulty of applying the correct moral principles to a particular case (eg. in the question of whether one can receive a covid-19 vaccine).

    In such a case, counsel must be sought if there is time, otherwise, a best estimation must be made.

  8. An erroneous conscience

    One must always follow one's informed conscience, but sometimes this might be accidentally wrong due to errors:

    (i)   concerning moral principals (eg, "It's okay to go to a Russion Orthodox Church on a Sunday if I can't get to a Catholic Church.")

    (ii)  concerning the facts (eg. "This church is a Ukraininan Catholic Church" when it is actually a Ukrainian Orthodox Church).

    (iii) or concerning the application of the wrong principles to a case (eg. applying the principles of a just war to conduct in a boundary dispute with one's neighbour).

    (iv) or concerning the application of the right principles in the wrong way (eg. applying the principles of double-effect wrongly to permit a heart translplant).

    Following an erroneous conscience in good faith is materially sinful but not formally sinful.

  9. A bad conscience

    A bad conscience is a judgement which does violence to correct moral principles in an attempt to justify sinful behaviour (eg. trying to justify articificial contraception, abortion, shopping on Sundays etc.). Those who claim to be Catholic and yet deny the official teaching of the Church are in bad conscience.

  10. Conscience and the Second Vatican Council

    Dignitatis Humanae

    1. A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man,(1) and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty. 

    2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

    - Nothing is said about the necessity for man to inform his conscience with the truth taught by the Catholic Church. 

    -  If man is inclined by his conscience to act against the common good, then he should driven by coercion to act differently. This is true in the domain of religious practice as well as every other (eg. a man who attempts to broadcast the islamic call to prayer should be silenced).

    The root of the error of the Council is to be found in a false understanding of freedom. 

    - True notion of freedom: In potency: the possibility of choosing good. In act: the act of choosing good.

    - Falso notion of freedom: In potency: the possibility of choosing (anything). In act: the act of choosing (anything - good or evil)