The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has for many years published a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. It is intended as a “teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics. This statement represents our (the Church’s) guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy.” It does not tell you who to vote for, but rather gives Catholic guidelines for help in making that decision. The complete document can be found at: www.faithfulcitizenship.org
What follows is a short synopsis taken directly from the document:
What is Conscience?
“The Church equips its members to address political and social questions by helping them to develop a well-formed conscience. …Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere “feeling” about what we should or should not do. Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil.”
Conscience is a judgment of practical reason that helps us to recognize and seek what is good, and to reject what is evil.
Conscience does not simply “come to us”! Throughout our lives, we have to spend time forming our consciences so that we can make well-reasoned judgments about particular situations.
How Do I Form My Conscience?
We need to form our consciences in an ongoing manner. How do we do this?
1) When examining any issue or situation, we must begin by being open to the truth and what is right.
2) We must study Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church.
3) We must examine the facts and background information about various choices.
4) We must prayerfully reflect to discern the will of God.
5) The prudent advice and good example of others support and enlighten our conscience.
6) The authoritative teaching of the Church is an essential element.
7) The gifts of the Holy Spirit help us develop our conscience.
8) Regular examination of conscience is important as well.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“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.”