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Is Pope Francis a Relativist?

October 3, 2013

In a second major interview, this time with a noted atheist Italian journalist, Pope Francis has made more waves.  Certain elements in the Church have started hunkering down assuming that this will be the Pope’s modus operandi for the foreseeable future.  They imagine several years of clarifying off–the-cuff papal statements given in uncontrolled fora that the media and, worse than that, the liberals in the Church are going to use as excuses to downplay or altogether reject central Catholic teachings, particularly of the moral variety.

Now, as has been pointed out, this new interview does suffer from translation issues, though apparently not as many as initially hoped.  Francis says a few odd things that appear to be mere issues of hasty translation work.  The most significant one being that Francis did not say, ” The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood,” as reported, but said rather, “Il Filgio di Dio (The Son of God) si é incarnato (became incarnate) per infondere (in order to infuse) nell’anima degli uomini (in the souls of men) il sentimento della fratellanza (the feeling of brotherhood).”

So, we don’t need to worry that the Pope has invented some (in my understanding anyway) new Christological heresy.  (A patristics scholar might be able to show that such a heresy is not new at all, but a simple rehashing of some error or other that besought the early Church.)

But what about Francis’s teachings about conscience?  Robert Royal suggests that Francis’s statement, “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place,”  is simply untrue.  Writes Royal:

Nazis, racists, abortionists, eugenicists, promoters of euthanasia, jihadists and terrorists of all kinds, and various other unfortunate human types all believe they’re right.  They’re wrong.  And no one in his right mind, let alone the pope, wants them to follow their own conception of good and evil.  It won’t make the world a better place.

Now let me say right off that I quite liked Royal’s conclusion, and I recommend you read his piece through to the end.  But, despite the rather straightforward logic of his concerns about Francis’s teaching about conscience, Royal seems to have rather misrepresented Church teaching on conscience, and, in the process, taught a very strange version of universalism.

Royal’s assertion that Francis is simply mistaken rests on the assumption that a good deal of the evil done in the world (perhaps even all of it, though he doesn’t say as much) is done in good conscience.  But, if this is actually the case, everyone is saved, because the Church teaches quite clearly that for a sin to actually be a sin it must be done in bad conscience, that is, with knowledge and consent of the will.

In fact, following Chesterton’s insight that I am what is wrong with the world, Francis is exactly right:  the world would be a better place if everyone followed their conscience because it is a very basic fact that I would be a better person if I always followed my conscience.  The fact that I don’t always follow my conscience is precisely why I need a saviour!

Now, this is not to deny that people can and do commit terrible atrocities because they somehow think it is the right thing to do.  But Church teaching on conscience is subtle enough to handle this.  If you have been convinced that you must, in conscience, abort this baby or bomb these civilians or defraud this business or lie to this electorate or whatever, then somewhere further up the line someone was not following their conscience.  And it may well have been you!

People who end up justifying genuine evil have very often ignored or flat out disobeyed their consciences long before the moment of gravity presents itself.  This is called vincible ignorance, and we are responsible for it.  We must still follow our consciences – because, honestly, what else can you actually ask someone to do?  “Do what you are convinced in conscience is wrong because I say so!”? – but we are responsible for ill-forming them precisely by not following them earlier.  Read any honest biography of a great sinner who has repented and you will find in it the awareness, however dim, that this was wrong all along and that one needed to consciously look away from reality to continue in it.  The Catholic conviction is that the natural law will assert itself.  Even in times of grave depravity, when the whole culture conspires to cover up a systematic sin like slavery or abortion, the natural law can reveal itself through the consciences of those who honestly seek to know the truth.

And if someone commits a grave evil in good conscience with no history of abandoning their own conscience, then their ignorance is invincible – in which case they have been lied to, damaged, abused, etc. by someone who did ignore their conscience, if not in the first generation removed, at some point in the past.  There is no moral evil in the world that does not stem from someone somewhere ignoring their own conscience.

In fact, conscience is what makes morality possible.  It is simply meaningless to speak of someone sinning without knowledge and consent.  This is why the Church does not condemn lions when they maul tourists or rabbits for garden theft.

Francis is right.  If everyone were to follow their conscience, it would make the world a better place.  Note, it would not make the world a perfect place, that is, it would not save the world.  If everyone had always and everywhere followed their consciences, the world would need no saving.  But once sin has entered the system, we humans cannot root it out.  This is the doctrine of Original Sin.  Without grace, sin will perpetuate itself and finally determine our reality in an ultimate sense.  But, and here perhaps is one of the jewels of Francis’s interview: “Even you, without knowing it, could be touched by grace.”


Brett Salkeld is Archdiocesan Theologian for the Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan. He is a father of four (so far) and husband of one.

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49 Comments
  1. October 3, 2013 10:00 pm

    This is one of the best explanations of this I’ve ever read. Thanks Brett!

    “We must still follow our consciences – because, honestly, what else can you actually ask someone to do? ‘Do what you are convinced in conscience is wrong because I say so!’? – but we are responsible for ill-forming them precisely by not following them earlier.”

    I would just add here that, in some cases, while it wouldn’t exactly make sense to “ask” someone to do this…our own conscience might oblige us to force them. That is to say, it doesn’t matter if a terrorist thinks he is doing right…law enforcement is still obliged to stop him to protect lives. If a priest is teaching bad things that will badly form other people’s consciences, then even if he is convinced he is right, the bishop has a duty to remove him from ministry, etc etc.

    I think it is these cases, however, where “where do we draw the line” becomes controversial re: ideological liberty and all that. We all know we can step in and stop even a sincere human sacrifice, but some people even who claim to believe life starts at conception don’t believe the State has a right to step in and stop “good conscience” abortions, and few people in the First World today would believe in any sort of coercive silencing of heresy even if it corrupts the conscience of youths, except for all sorts of exceptions like denying the holocaust in European countries or advocating terrorist jihad…and the Church (nor anybody else really) has not yet done a very good job articulating exactly what the consistent standard is for when external force is appropriate for overriding cases of poorly-formed-but-sincere conscience…

    • October 3, 2013 11:40 pm

      Thanks Sinner. And yes, our consciences can certainly tell us to stop well-intentioned evil. And yes, while there’s a lot of black and white here, there’s a lot of gray too.

    • October 4, 2013 4:17 am

      Joan of Arc was “corrected” by the Inquisitors at Rouen in what George Bernard Shaw rightly calls, in his introduction to his play St. Joan, a “fair trial,” according to the standards of the Catholic Church at that time. She refused to recant regarding what her “conscience” told her were the voices of her “saints.” Several decades later, the Catholic Church claimed that the trial was a travesty–which it was not–and decided that Joan was right to ignore the counsels of the theologians and assessors at her trial, and to maintain the supremacy of her “conscience.” As Shaw insists–and as I believe Pope Francis would agree–the “saints” or “prophets” are self-selected, and their revelations trump those of the institutional Church. The institutional Church often has no choice but to agree–especially when she canonizes her “heretics,” like Joan.

  2. Julia Smucker permalink*
    October 3, 2013 10:44 pm

    I would hope that Pope Francis meant to allude in some sense to natural law. I’m quite sure he didn’t mean to suggest that it is morally acceptable to follow truly perverted ideas of what good and evil are (such as the examples you and Robert Royal name), but I think it could have been more clearly stated. At any rate, you have unpacked it superbly.

  3. Dante Aligheri permalink
    October 4, 2013 6:37 am

    The other problem which you alluded to, but is right on the money so to speak, is that hearing one’s conscience is clouded by other, more base things. We cannot say with certainty that even people claim to follow their conscience that they actually were or what motivations collude. Yet, because we are not that person, we will never know. Only God. Nevertheless, A Sinner raises the point that regardless of one’s culpability the objective nature of sin still causes grave harm which must be judged as such and stopped.

  4. Ronald King permalink
    October 4, 2013 9:38 am

    I do not know the formal catholic theological concept of conscience but I do have the experience of the formation of conscience through the tradition of fear of God and fear of hell. Within that experience I always had an instinctive response that those who were forming my conscience were wrong. They did not know me and as a consequence I did not know myself. This instinct led me away from Catholicism. I now understand this instinct to be my conscience and throughout my life it has led me to determine what is God’s influence versus what is the human influence on my journey of faith. Pope Francis seems to understand that we human beings suffer from the effects of an identity crisis resulting from a history of fear and violence in human relationships. He seems to know that the only cure for that is love. It is love which instinctively opens us to being vulnerable and allows us to share our wounds in order to begin the healing of humanity and all of creation. It is love which creates order out of chaos.

  5. musculars@aol.com permalink
    October 5, 2013 1:30 am

    The role of conscience is rather complex but nevertheless rightly has the primacy of place in catholic thought. We are aware of the necessity of an informed conscience which happily is not twisted here nor by this pope to reduce conscience to insignificance. One can speak of objective evil and subjective perception or culpability but arriving at objective truth is beyond the comprehension of the finite mind as the whole of electromagnetic spectrum is not fully percieved by our natural vision. The legalistic abstractions simply are not functional in a true catholic understanding of the incarnate truth experienced in the concreteness of our limitations. Upon some abstractions of what is good the real human is sacrifced. It is there an ethic is lived out and its truth is tested. As far as I can see an ethic of love is the one that solely meets the test.

    • October 6, 2013 12:52 am

      Thank you, Musculars; if only all Catholics thought this way, I could happily re-join the Catholc ecclesia. Ronald King does, and perhaps Pope Francis will last long enough to change the Church and make it more receptive to the spirt of such as Ronald. However, I cannot belong to a religious body that reflexively mirrors the paranoia and legalilstic heartlessness of a Wojtylwa or a Ratzinger. To my mind, they were popes who thought that God was a Catholic, and obviously were of the same temperament as those who “justly” burnt Joan of Arc.

      • Ronald King permalink
        October 8, 2013 4:59 pm

        Dismas, you may reject the religious body that runs the Catholic Church but in my eyes you are certainly a member of the Communion of Saints.

  6. Greg Mayers permalink
    October 8, 2013 12:10 pm

    According to St Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, we are obliged to follow our conscience even when it is erroneous. When rumor reached Alphonsus that Rome was quite displeased with his opinion, he is reported to have said: I cannot take away the freedom that God gave his people.

  7. Anne permalink
    October 11, 2013 6:25 pm

    As I noted in another Vox Nova forum on this Pope, Francis is as much a product as a high-stakes player (by virtue of his place in the hierarchy) in the democratic revolution that’s swept virtually every South American nation in the past couple decades. Duly contrite about how implicated the Church had been in human rights violations perpetrated by the previous regimes, churchmen like Francis are now bending over backwards to show respect for individuals and their rights, including the rights of conscience. Such “mysterious” ways on the part of the hierarchy are totally in keeping with the new South American spirit, which hopefuly, with the help of that other Spirit, will blow through the whole Church.

  8. R. Fernandez - E permalink
    October 22, 2013 4:37 pm

    This was a great post! In the beginning, it tugged at my opinions a bit, and I was skeptical of how this would end. I couldn’t tell where Robert had necessarily gone wrong in his statement – it sounded pretty good to me. But the explanation was beautifully done and well said. I never thought about that. The point that any evil or bad thing has, essentially, come from someone, somewhere ignoring or not correctly developing their conscience. It makes perfect logical sense though, and that’s what I love about this post. So much of what we hear today about morally correct concepts of behavior almost always make people defensive. And a lot of that has to do with how they are presented to us. We either don’t understand it, or we simply refuse to. But this explains it in ways that truly are logical. Not only, but it also explains the exceptions. Exceptions that, might I add, are completely unarguable. Such as the lion not being condemned for attacking, and the rabbit not being looked down on for garden theft; however sad or annoying these things may be, no one blames the animals for being animals. But we are humans, and either someone has failed us along the road, or we have failed ourselves. I think we should all understand our conscience, and these quotes certainly help.

  9. D.El-Desoky-E permalink
    October 22, 2013 10:23 pm

    One’s conscience definitely plays a vital role in the rightness or wrongness of one’s actions. In the process of discernment of even the simplest of scenarios, a sound conscience with truthful knowledge and consent of the will always effects the intention of one’s behavior. Pope Francis’s words were certainly misinterpreted. Many actions are intrinsically evil; abortion, euthanasia, and terrorism are only some of the simplest examples. These acts of evil may have been rooted in someone’s opinion of what is right, but contradict the fundamental norms of morality. The conscience is lacking in all of these actions. “Vincible ignorance” is the aspect which is driving these actions to be naturally rooted in evil; it is simply the lack of knowledge or as stated in the article a broken conscience. An action cannot be justified based on a mere intention but the true moral content of the action. So as Pope Francis stated, if everyone really did follow a correct conscience all of the problems and conflicts of the world would truly be solved, but sadly this is not the case. Although we are inherited with Original Sin from our first parents we are also inherited with an immense amount of dignity which can drive us to be in union with The Lord; all we have to do is use our conscience.

  10. J. Hart - E permalink
    October 23, 2013 9:28 am

    I believe that people have misinterpreted Pope Francis’ words and changed them so he looks wrong. He assumes that people already have a formed a good conscience and knows what is right and what is wrong. The people Robert Royal writes about did not have a good conscience so they think that killing others is good. Even though they thought they were helping their people, their actions were very wrong. Just because your intentions are good does not mean the actions are good.
    Your conscience is like a light bulb flashing to grab your attention and make you think about your actions. Pope Francis is right because when people do not listen to their conscience it either they can not see the light flashing or the light is not bright enough. So they can not realize their bad actions are evil and are harming others. When you do not listen to your conscience you lessen your responsibility. Pope Francis is right when he says the world would be a better place if everyone listened to their conscience because people would know what is good and what is evil. They would know to always choose good actions over the bad ones.

  11. C.sulli permalink
    October 23, 2013 2:12 pm

    I agree with Pope Francis, he is right. If everyone followed their conscience, the world would be a better place. I also agree that the world wouldn’t necessarily be perfect, but it would, in fact, be better. If everyone truly followed their conscience, we would have a better world.
    C.sulli-E

  12. Laura T.-Pd. E permalink
    October 23, 2013 7:02 pm

    Pope Francis states it beautifully: “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” This statement is completely true when learning about Catholicism. This quote however could perhaps be misinterpreted. In his statement Robert Royal is correct. The actions of the Nazis, racists, abortionists, etc, are truly evil, but how can the Pope’s quote be correct if these people believed what they were doing to be good. Here is one major difference between the those people and those who do make morally good choices. The difference is the formation of their consciences. In Catholicism, good choices are always results of a well-formed conscience. Those who commit evil actions but who think they are doing good do NOT have a well formed conscience, and that makes all the difference. Pope Francis assumes we know he is talking about people with well-formed consciences. So if we read the quote from Pope Francis with this idea in mind, he is correct in saying the world would be a better place if people followed their week-formed, good conscience.

  13. k. pillittere Period E permalink
    October 23, 2013 9:15 pm

    k. pillittere
    period E

    I honestly think that there is way too much thought put into such simple and blunt statements that complicate more than it should be. This is in retrospect an example of what the Pope himself is talking about. Everyone is entitled in their own opinion. The pope was just stating simply if everyone had a moral fiber core there would not be as many problems in the world as there are today. If everyone sat back before they said anything, if everyone sat back and listened to what people have to say and not immediately attack or disrupt them about it, then the world would function with a lot less conflict. Everyone’s opinion though can be an example of what their morals are or how their conscious are guided. Mostly, bad decisions or actions are done on impulse and not thought. To quote Mr. Fantastic from Fantastic Four “Analyzing every little step before taking one, is the true key to perfection and no errors.” Thinking before you act and taking in consideration of other and their feelings would be the most Christian like things a person can do. After all, we all are our brother’s keepers.

  14. B.smith-- E permalink
    October 23, 2013 9:25 pm

    As Catholics, we have been taught that in order to make the correct and moral decisions, we must follow what our good conscious tells us. The key word there is “good”. Assuming that everyone knew the difference between a good conscious and a bad one, then yes, the world would be a better place if we all followed our good conscious all the time. Unfortunately and partly due to the fact that original sin does exist, not everyone has a correctly and morally formed conscious. Someone with a incorrectly formed conscious may think that it’s okay to sin. A person with a formed conscious is well aware of the difference between right and wrong. They know what they should have done to make the moral decision; choosing to sin is completely a choice they made. This is the point that I think Pope Francis was trying to get across. Robert Royal simply misinterpreted his saying. Although he was correct in saying that if everyone did what they thought was the right choice, the world would be chaotic. Sadly, there are people who believe in that statement. As Catholics, we should follow our good conscious. This is what Pope Francis was advocating.

  15. C.sulli permalink
    October 23, 2013 9:36 pm

    Evil only occurs from people ignoring their conscience. Royal did make a point by saying that all the people doing bad things, think that they are doing right, but that isn’t always the case, if people were taught from the beginning, good from bad then no problems would occur. If someone commits a sin, and truly has no idea that they have committed a sin, then they are not truly responsible for the sin that they have committed. If they did ignore their conscience when it was telling them that the action was bad then they have committed evil and are responsible for their sins. Our consciences can stop evil. Somewhere along the way, we have been taught good from bad. Therefore, we definitely would have a better world to live in if everyone followed their conscience . All in all, royal has a point, but in the end, pope Francis was still right.
    C. Sulli -E

  16. A. Braud permalink
    October 23, 2013 9:47 pm

    Some very valid points were made in this article. I agree wholeheartedly with the statements that said the world would be a better place if everyone followed their conscience. How people such as terrorist could think what they were doing was for the common good was always a mystery to me, but now I understand how their thought process works. I also now understand that if we fail to educate these people of the wrong they are doing, we then become the sinners as well. The passage clearly states that the root of all sin is the failure of an individual to examine their conscience, but it also gives another definition to the word sin. Many look at sinning as nothing more than breaking a commandment or doing something they should not do, but this article gives a deeper meaning to that. It elaborates on the fact sinning is not just something wrong that is done, but the process of a person examining their conscience, acknowledging that performing a certain action would be wrong, and then deliberately doing it anyway despite what their conscience telling them otherwise. It also touches on the aspect of consent. It states that the second thing that is required for an action to be a sin is the consent of the sinner, which is to say no one is forcing you to sin and you are doing it of your own free will. This passages made me look at the idea of examination of conscience and sinning in a new, interesting way.
    A. Braud
    Period E

  17. Jessie d permalink
    October 23, 2013 10:15 pm

    Thanks for your blog

  18. Aimee Z permalink
    October 23, 2013 10:50 pm

    Francis is completely right when he says that the world would be a better place if everyone followed their conscience because it is a very basic fact that I would be a better person if I always followed my conscience. You’re conscience is something that tells you and reminds you of the right things to do in a situation and to avoid the wrong things. In fact, morality is made possible due to our conscience. It is simply meaningless to speak of someone sinning without knowledge and consent. Sometimes people commit terrible crimes and never feel guilty for it. Ones conscience would normally know that committing a serious crime is against the law and that they should defiantly not do it. Even if the act is good, the intention for doing the act selfishly makes doing the act wrong. If everyone in the world today and even back then followed their conscience the world would be at peace and everyone would get along and their would most likely be no wrong doing. Every human was born with original sin. Once that sin is in us, there’s a little devil sitting on our shouldn’t saying to to do the wrong act and then there’s an angel on the other shoulder trying to convince them to do the right thing. I think Pope Francis was right.

  19. A. Cheema Pd F permalink
    October 24, 2013 7:05 am

    My viewpoint on Pope Francis’ quote changed a lot from the beginning to the end of this article. At first, I came to think one thing, which was the fact that what he said wasn’t exactly true because not everyone has good intentions. Though, as I read further into the article my opinions changed quite a lot. The way this article has been detailed and given so much reason has shown that Pope Francis actually wasn’t wrong. I think it’s just something that you really need to think about, and break into pieces. But when it comes down to whether he was wrong or right. I can easily say that he wasn’t wrong. What he stated was greatly thought out and true. The writer explained greatly what Pope Francis was trying to get out with this quote. Also, one thing I really like about this article was what the writer stated in the end, “If everyone were to follow their conscience, it would make the world a better place. Note, it would not make the world a perfect place, that is, it would not save the world.” So, I agree, Francis is right.

  20. H. DiCarlo permalink
    October 24, 2013 8:12 am

    In this post, I liked when it said that if everybody followed their conscience then the world would be a better place. Because the world really would be a much better place if we all had faith in God and in faith ourselves to do the right thing. Unfortunately, most of the world does the wrong thing when it comes down to it. Morality comes from our conscience. People always have a choice to do right or wrong. People make the decisions about their own life, no one else. Therefore, a person couldn’t blame another person for making them do the wrong thing because it is ultimately their own decision. The world would be better if everyone stopped making the wrong decisions and turning against God while doing so, but we are human and humans always make mistakes, but we can always turn to God for help us through rough times. No one is fully evil, it is through our decisions that make us “evil.” If we ever feel as though we are starting to turn away from God, we can pray to him and he will always be there with us. I liked this article because it made me think about how conscience helps us.
    H.DiCarlo
    Period B

  21. Molly permalink
    October 24, 2013 9:40 am

    Pope Francis article is a very good and interesting article. I agree with Pope Francis because if everyone followed their conscience then people would make better decisions. Some people conscience tells them right stuff to do, but people tend to second guess themselves. This leads to doing evil things, Royal did make it clear that people do bad things. Even when people have committed a sin, and they do not know if they have committed a sin it is not truly evil. Some people think they are doing the right thing when in reality they are doing the wrong thing. Some people do know right from wrong, and good from evil. In our lifetime we have been taught good from evil, and we have been in situations that we have had to make a decision that was either good or bad. Our conscience helps us to not make bad and evil decisions. It helps us to make good decisions so that we are not stuck in a bad situation in the long run. Never go with your gut feeling because it is usually the evil action of doing something bad. This is what I feel about Pope Francis’ article. -MSANDERS -E

  22. A. Mmahat permalink
    October 24, 2013 11:15 am

    Francis’s is right when he says, “the world would be a better place if everyone followed their conscience because it is a very basic fact that I would be a better person if I always followed my conscience.” This statement could easily be read into too much detail. Some people might believe that they are following their conscience, but they could be simply creating their own rules by making themselves think their action is good. Also, making decisions based on what feels right or acting on a hunch is wrong. Just because something does not seem bad to you does not mean that it is the right thing to do. When Royal said that people that do evil things, think that they are doing nothing wrong, he was somewhat correct. If a person commits a sin, and truly does not know that they committed a sin, then they are not held responsible. But in another case when someone has full knowledge that what they are doing is bad, then they are morally wrong and are responsible for their sin. We are responsible for disobeying our conscience. However, if everyone had always followed their consciences, the world would need no saving. As humans, we are inclined to make mistakes and sin. I believe if everyone follows their conscience as much as possible it is enough to make the world a better place.

  23. C. Maiden Pd.B permalink
    October 24, 2013 6:43 pm

    Conscience is very important in all faiths not just the catholic faith, but to all faiths. In Chuch I have learned that we should not just do things off a hunch or because it felt right in the moment. You must consult with God to make sure you are making the right decision, and that what you are doing will benefit everyone around you and not just you. If everyone were to never listen to their conscience the world would be truly be a hell on earth. It also shows how statements can be twisted into ways that people want to interpret it to suit them. Just as people interpret things political leaders say to fit their mood or how they want to hear it. In church we also learned that your conscience which is like a light bulb goes on when you might be doing something questionable and that this is a gift that God gave to humans because animals do not know right from wrong they just do things without thinking or worrying about consequence. I believe that with the proper up bringing a person could have a wonderful conscience but that you should not convict someone if they do not follow their conscience. As long as they repent in what ever way they see fit then God will forgive them and they will have a clean sheet in God’s eyes.

  24. C. Waldweiler- B permalink
    October 24, 2013 8:06 pm

    I think that people did not understand what Pope Francis was trying to say. It is true that everyone has their own ideas of what is good and what is evil, but that does not mean you can go do something illegal just because you thought it was “good”. An evil doing is an evil doing no matter how good the original intention was. And those people who do bad because they think it is right thing to do have a badly formed conscience. I do believe that Pope Francis’s statement, “the world would be a better place if everyone follows their conscience because it is a very basic fact that I would be a better person if I always followed my conscience,” can be achieved. But it can only be achieved if we all start understanding what is good, what is bad, and what is breaking one of the Ten Commandments. I believe people can get over this vincible ignorance and start listening to their conscience. But, of course, we are bound to make mistakes where we do not listen to our conscience because of original sin; however we can constantly keep trying to listen and figure out if what we are about to do is a bad or good thing. Once people can start forming good consciences that can tell the difference between good and evil that will be the time when the world will start to become a better place for everyone and everything; just like Pope Francis said.

  25. M. Knudsen- F permalink
    October 24, 2013 8:32 pm

    In his interview, the Pope says, “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” It very well relates to our society today and the Catholic teachings, but some might misinterpret his teaching just as Robert Royal did. Yes, Royal was correct, but he missed the whole “well-formed conscience bit,” in which the Pope referring to.
    The actions of Nazis, eugenicists, abortionists, jihadists, and other extreme groups are definitely evil, but how can the Pope be correct if these people do not even know they are doing wrong. These people, in their minds, believe that their actions and ways of living are completely correct. The gap between these groups of people and good conscientious people becomes clear when one understands that there is the difference between the formation of consciences of these individuals and groups. Through prayer and good works and well thought-out choices, a good conscious is developed. These people who think they are doing right by killing the innocent and flying planes into buildings ABSOLUTELY DO NOT have a well formed conscience. This is where the problem with today’s world lies. Pope Francis made the assumption that we, as Catholics, knew he was talking about people with a well-formed conscience. Therefore, we must understand the quote from him with that idea in our minds. The pope is absolutely correct when stating everyone would lead better lives and the world would be a better place if those who had well-formed and developed consciences followed them. Pope Francis just forgot to mention how one should follow his or her conscience if it is well-formed in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

  26. M. Rostetter--B permalink
    October 24, 2013 8:47 pm

    Pope Francis should have been a little clearer and more elaborate in explaining what he meant by his quote. It may have been misinterpreted or translated wrongly. He says that people have their own ideas as to what is good and evil. This is not true because of natural law and the knowing that some acts as always evil. It is not always easy to follow our conscience though because of original sin. Parts of the world may become a better place if all people followed their conscience and pursue the true good. The problem is, not everyone has a well formed conscience ready to make moral decisions. People freely choose to sin and disobey and go against their conscience. Even though as Catholics we know how to examine and form a good conscience so we can make moral decisions, some others may not and this results in a bad conscience and immoral decisions. We should help others learn to think about their actions, because deep down they truly know what is the right thing to do but internally struggle with their conscience. As humans created with original sin, it is sometimes hard to follow our conscience and make correct moral decisions. But as Catholics, we have the knowledge and free will to know what is right and follow our well-formed, morally good conscience that God has graced us with.

    M. Rostetter–B

  27. S. Corass pd. B permalink
    October 24, 2013 9:51 pm

    I agree with Pope Francis’ quote that “the world would be a better place if everyone followed their conscience because it is a very basic fact that I would be a better person if I always followed my conscience.” I agree with this because when a person doesn’t follow his/her conscience, it allows him/her to stray from what God wants him/her to do in life. The world would be perfect if everyone followed his/her conscience, but because of The Fall, we don’t have anything that is perfect. But, I believe that the world would be boring if everyone were perfect. As much as everyone would like to be perfect, I would rather be imperfect because at least I wouldn’t be boring. Following our conscience is definitely the right thing to do, but not everyone is going to do that. This is because we have the ability to think about and reflect on our actions. We don’t always immediately act on our impulses. Although, sometimes it is good to act on impulses, other times, it is the worst thing to do. Being able to follow your conscience is a great thing and I think everyone should try his/her best to follow in what God wants for him/her.

  28. J. Carvajal- B permalink
    October 24, 2013 10:25 pm

    I agree with Pope Francis’s statement,“Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” As human beings, we all have different ideas of what is right and wrong. That is what our society struggles with the most. Francis talks about how following the good and fighting the evil will make the world a better place and I agree. If we all had good consciences then we would make good choices all the time. All the people that Royal stated obviously were under the impression that what they were doing was right. We know that they had very bad consciences. I truly believe that if we all prayed to God to form good consciences the world would be so much better. I also believe that sometimes people may be confused and not know when they are choosing right or wrong. Sometimes people just do not have well informed consciences. Royal was correct in his statement but did not look at the whole picture. He did not fully grasp what Francis was saying.

  29. N. Fonte - B permalink
    October 24, 2013 10:35 pm

    Certain people will reject the catholic teachings, but mostly moral variety. People misunderstood what Pope Francis was trying to say in the first place. They thought he was trying to says that the son became incarnate in other men to feel what brotherhood is like rather than the feeling of brotherhood being put into the souls of the men. Pope Francis is also trying to say that we need our conscience to determine what is good and what is evil. We also must chose to let God lead us to making the good decision and help us defeat what is not good for us. Robert Royal disagrees because he thinks that evil is already taken our lives and that we cannot get good from this. When we disagree with our conscience, end up being the root of evil in themselves we are responsible for following our conscience and making sure we always chose the good side of things. Our conscience usually tells us what natural law says about certain things. It speaks the truth of the world and shows us how to live our life the way God wants us to live it and to live it the catholic way.

  30. E. Gilmore--B permalink
    October 24, 2013 11:03 pm

    In the beginning, the blog corrects an error made in translation that could give the audience the wrong impression and cause confusion, which in fact reflects the whole topic of the blog in general. The subject matter of one’s conscience is difficult and confusing to grasp, especially if you are trying to do so without the faith. In general everything in life will end up like that if we take God out of the equation. Conscience means “with knowledge”, so if we lack knowledge we are lacking in our reasoning as well. We can not be expected to make true, good decisions by following our conscious if we lack knowledge of what is considered good and evil. We are not perfect beings nor are we all knowing beings, so it would make sense that we might not always follow our conscience. But when we do make that mistake we must go to confession to repent for our wrong doings and hopefully we will learn from past mistakes to make present and future decisions. I do agree with Pope Francis that if we were to all just do the right thing one hundred percent of the time, and follow our non-corrupt conscience then there would be less evil in the world. Evil would not be totally diminished, but there would be a great deal less of it prowling about the world, causing destruction.

  31. Jamie Defourneaux Pd. B permalink
    October 25, 2013 3:32 am

    As people we all have the choice to choose between right and wrong, but the difference between every human is what decision they make. Some say that the world would be a better place if we all followed our conscience, but all of our consciences are different. It all depends on your upbringing and how you were raised. Some consciences are well formed and can help you make good moral decisions while others have been damaged in some way. This might make them think that sin is sometimes the right thing to do because they do not think of it as being bad. Although, it is never justified to kill someone or abort a baby somebody might think that they are doing the right thing. The Church says that for a sin to truly be a sin it must be done in bad conscience, that is with knowledge and consent of the will. When Pope Francis states this I do not think he was saying that it is okay to do those things, I think he was saying that all consciences are different. When Pope Francis says “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place,” is very true. We should all try to fight the evil away and do what is truly good not just for us, but for everybody. I believe that this would help the world become a better place.

  32. October 25, 2013 6:54 am

    I strongly agree with this passage. I have seen people try to convince themselves that something they were doing was not wrong, when in fact, what they were doing was wrong. This explanation perfectly described what I have witnessed and even brought me to understand it a bit better. I now not only see this from a psychological, but also from a theological point of view. It really gave me a better understanding of the way conscience and sin works. I particularly like the quote that was included from Robert Royal’s piece. It brought into light the grey area that could exist had the pope’s quote been left unexplained. Royal’s logic was proven to be faulty, however, by the explanation of the trickle effect of disobeying or ignoring a conscience. I find that this passage really cleared up any possible misconceptions of the pope’s quote and clearly explained the church’s viewpoint on forming the human conscience in today’s society. It really brings out an understanding of the responsibility of people to form their conscience and listen to it. It reminded me that if people pray and ask for guidance, God will help out and point us in the right direction to correctly form and follow our conscience.

  33. A. Trosclair Pd. E permalink
    October 25, 2013 9:36 am

    This is a great blog! I didn’t know how I felt about it at first but now I do. We can just say that Robert had gone wrong with his statement. I couldn’t quite pick out where at first, but then the explanation of it all made the post pretty clear. Whoever translated Pop Francis’s words obviously did not do a good job and made a lot of people think he was saying something that could have been considered Christological Heresy. But it was all a simple mistake considering it was merely just translated wrong. At first I was like why would a pope say that, but once I read the explanation I thought it was very well spoken to show everyone it was just a simple mistake in translation. It does well with saying that evil usually always comes from someone or something. Someone might not always know they are doing evil, or realize it because they are trying to do something good but don’t realize that it is intrinsically evil. This blog honestly teaches a good deal about conscience. But it seemed like people were trying to make the pope look wrong in a way. The lesson to learn here is basically just because something seems wright doesn’t make it right. That’s why we have a conscience. To help us discern what we are doing and maybe help us make a better choice. The pope is right about conscience. Because some people don’t listen to theirs enough or not at all.

  34. C. Giardina Period F permalink
    October 25, 2013 9:38 am

    In this article the Pope says, “If everyone were to follow their conscience, that would be enough to make the world a better place.” Now this, can be completely misunderstood. While Robert Royal’s argument was accurate, he didn’t understand the Pope’s point. We have to understand that the Pope was NOT trying to say that the world will be perfect; the world may very well never be PERFECT; but it will be a little more safe, and make people a little more happy. I also liked how the author discussed how all of the people that Royal was talking about all of those people were evil, but did not have the “well-formed conscience” that they are supposed to have. These people drop bombs on people and kill innocent lives and think its right, are NOT doing these things in good conscience. That is a big problem in our society today. Many people do not understand the difference between right and wrong, because somewhere in their lives someone did not teach them how to have a “well-formed conscience.” This world may never be a perfect place, but if we at least try to follow our conscience and just listen to God, we will have a chance at achieve ing grace. As the Pope said, “Even you, without knowing it, can be touched by grace.”

  35. Heather Fountain permalink
    October 25, 2013 9:41 am

    I agree with Pope Francis. If every one followed what their conscience tells them to do the world would be a better place. The Pope says, “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” But, just because you have good intentions of doing something wrong or illegal doesn’t make it right. I believe that what your conscience tells you to do is what God is telling you to do. I agree with Pope Francis because I believe that God controls your conscience. And I don’t think that God would tell you to do wrong. I believe that Gods tells you the right choice, but you must decide for yourself whether you want to do right or wrong. And nobody can stop you if you make the wrong choice. I do not believe that if everyone followed there conscience if would make the world a “perfect” place but would help make the world a better place and help eliminate some evil.
    -Heather Fountain
    -Period F

  36. M. Bercegeay- B permalink
    October 25, 2013 9:52 am

    Everyone’s conscience is messed up. The only persons conscience whose was good and never had any fault was Jesus. Yes, you are born with a conscience, but many people do not have fully developed their consciences. Everyone has an idea of good and evil. Many people have a warped sense of “good.” If you go to help someone because you want to get praise, you believe you did good because you helped that person right? Well, you did not your act was wrong and your conscience should have showed you that, but since people do not see the true good, actions are getting worse. People keep making up new excuses for what they are doing. People that have not fully developed consciences think all of their acts are good and that they should be and have to be doing this. I agreed with Pope Francis when he said the world would be a better place if everyone followed their consciences. As Pope Francis says yes this would be true if everyone had a upright and correct conscience. Since humans do not have upright consciences the world is a bad place and the hope in humanity is getting lower and lower.

  37. K.juneau--F permalink
    October 25, 2013 11:30 am

    This is a very strong article. Pope Francis’ quote on conscience in my opinion is true. Everyone thinks different things are good while others may not. We all have a different perception of good and bad. Pope Francis tells us that we must do good and fight the bad and that that’s what will make this world a better place. That quote sounds good and right to me. Until I read what Royal’s response was. The terrible people in this world think that what they are doing is right. But, we both know it’s not. Abortionist think that killing a baby is right and okay. We don’t want people like that in our world, they won’t make it a better place. But I think we are misunderstanding what Pope Francis is saying. I agree, I think to make the world a better place we should follow our conscience. Royal had a good argument, but I think Pope Francis is right. The world will never be a perfect place, but it will be better if we all follow our conscience. I think Royal thought too much into what Pope Francis was saying. I think the Pope is right.

  38. K.Johnson- F permalink
    October 25, 2013 11:36 am

    Pope Francis’ comment “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil” made me take a step back. I agree that people dug too deep into the Popes translation when he said this but that’s not what he intended. He is blatantly telling us something that everyone needs to hear. We might not know why evil people are making the decisions that their making. But I loved the idea of looking at why people make the decisions that they do in a different way. The idea that everyone’s bad decision has come from someone along the way ignoring their own conscience really did make you think. There’s always that one person that taught their generation that evil things are good things. And that’s where we need to come in. To fight the evil along the way and show what good and evil truly are. We need to not try to translate Pope Francis’ words, but take them to heart and really think what we need to do here on earth.
    Thanks for this article!(:

  39. J. Mancuso Pd.F permalink
    October 25, 2013 11:41 am

    As people, Catholics, believers and non-believers, our views on what is wrong, and what is right has been distorted through the years. People have really strayed from the very great gift that God has instilled in us, our conscience. A lot of use it in the wrong way or do not even bother to listen (or follow) it at all. What I have taken from Pope Francis’s speech is that he really wants to help us realize that we have this gift, and it should be used in the right way. Most of us have not been taught correctly, to acknowledge and actually listen to our conscience, which is one reason why we have to much evil and hate in our world. I think that if we choose to follow our conscience and ask for the help of Gods graces then we can re-form some of the hate and evil in the world

  40. S. Cemenja Pd.F permalink
    October 25, 2013 3:02 pm

    I think this was a very good article and I enjoyed reading it! I agree with what Pope Francis said about your conscience, “If everyone were to follow their conscience, it would make the world a better place.” Of course by following your conscience the world would be a safer place for everyone. On the news you would not hear about as many bad things as do in today’s world, such as robberies or killings. However, this does not mean that we would have a perfect world if everyone followed their conscience. Robert Royal wrote about people that did not have a great conscience, such as people who think that doing bad things to people is a good thing. For example, they thought that killing people was a good thing because they thought that they were helping each other, but that is most definitely not the case. Just because your intentions are good does not make your actions good. The ends do not justify the means. If you are in a situation where you could do something bad, you need choose the moral option. It may not be the easiest thing to do, but in the end you will be rewarded.

  41. M. Mason Pd. F permalink
    October 25, 2013 4:10 pm

    As a result of the world we live in today, our consciences seem to get distorted. I agree with Francis that “everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” Everyday, we see the decisions of a person that may have thought was the right thing to do, but we know that it probably was not the best decision. The world would be a better place if people did not ignore their consciences and did what they knew was right instead of what is wrong, but, as humans, we are incapable of not sinning. We are tempted to do what we should not and sometimes we choose to follow the devil instead of God. It takes a lot to develop a good conscience, and the only way to do that is to make mistakes and learn from them. When a mistake it made, you tend not to make the same mistake a second time. When your good conscience is developed, making decisions becomes easier and you tend to draw closer to God and further from temptation.

  42. K. Conley- F permalink
    October 27, 2013 11:18 am

    I agree completely with this passage! “If everyone were to follow their conscience, then the world would be a better place.” That is my favorite line of this article. It has so much meaning and power to it. The world would be a better place because I believe that your conscience is God telling you what’s good and what’s bad. Your conscience is always good. It will lead you in the right path if you listen to it. You can not be tempted to do the wrong thing, you have to fight that temptation and listen to your conscience. He also said that everyone has their own idea of good and evil and that one must follow the good and fight the evil. This is just like choosing between heaven or hell. Would you choose the good which is heaven, or the bad that is hell? I completely agree with everything that pope Francis said, and I enjoyed this article.

  43. C.Williams permalink
    October 28, 2013 7:23 am

    Regarding to the two statements that are brought up in this blog, I think both of them are good arguments about good overcoming evil. The only flaw that I think there is in the blog is with the second statement. I think that the bad people in the world, truly in their hearts, know that what they are doing is wrong. The paragraph that follows Robert Royals statements, I completely agree with. He stays, “Royal seems to have rather misrepresented Church teaching on conscience, and, in the process, taught a very strange version of universalism”. I think that he is completely accurate and I agree with him. I think that we should all listen to what the Church tells us because we love God and follow his teachings, so why are we trying to challenge what they have to say if we are true Catholics? I think that is a big challenge with some people because they can never just hear something and agree with it; they always have to find a flaw in it. We need to stop doing that because that is not what Jesus, or all the saints, ever did. They believed, right off the bat, what they heard and did not second guess it. In the end we should listen to what the Pope and our Catholic teachings tell us.

  44. A Barbot permalink
    October 28, 2013 4:46 pm

    This is a very touchy subject, because with everything in the world everybody only believes what they believe and does not want to listen to others. I believe in what pope Francis has to say is right because, there is a reason God wanted us to follow him,It is where we will be the happiest. Although some stuff royal said was true. If you really think about how each and every single individual thought and did what they wanted to do this world would be so messed us in so many different ways. Royal did make some exenllent point with some of his t bad guy examples though. But they were never told or thought or showed different because no one wanted to stand up. Our main focus in life is to get to heaven and by getting to heaven we don’t listen to ourselves we have to do what god wants and follow what he think is right. Both guys make very good points but in the end pope Francis won my vote, because heaven is the place I want to be and I want to make sure I get there with every thing done right and in order.

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