Thursday, May 30, 2013

Form Thee Thine Conscience

This chord might be abused.
Sooo....let's just ban guitars!
Image @
Thinking a bit more about my musings on NFP recently, it struck me that, perhaps, the main chord that resonates among (what I perceive to be ) the "anit-NFP crowd" is that NFP is being abused. Therefore, in light of the fact that people may not be not forming their consciences correctly and abusing the just reasons (not "grave" or even "serious" - see the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], No. 2368), we just need to rethink the Church's whole support of the NFP mindset and lifestyle.

As Catholics, we are obligated to form our consciences correctly. From the CCC:
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.
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.
1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, 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.
Forming one's conscience is not optional. The moral duty to do so:
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.
That's a lot we must do.
So what if people are abusing NFP? Is that a call to necessarily rethink the way the Church approaches NFP?
Not at all.
It is a call to rethink how we are shaping the consciences of the Church today.
With a properly formed conscience,
1778 ...In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right.
So with a properly formed conscience, in the judgments of
2368 ... just reasons ... It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity ... to the objective criteria of morality"
It's a drill! Burn it!
NFP+RP does not violate this in any of its objective criteria.
However, all good can be abused.
But it precisely the malformation of conscience that cuases the abuse of the Thing, and not the Thingitself that lends itself to abuse. NFP+RP is a tool with guidelines. Like a power drill and the accompanying manual, it can certainly be abused. But that does not make drilling holes in stuff any more inherently wrong than practicing the principles of NFP.
So please - let's re-frame this discussion not on the licitness of NFP (hint: it is totally licit), but rather on the proper formation of conscience.
This, after all, is bigger than just NFP. As James reminds us, "And whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all" (James 2:10).
So take heed, form thee thine own conscience, and take to heart our dear St. Paul's wisdom:
"But take heed lest perhaps this your liberty become a stumbling block to the weak" (1 Corinthians 8:9).

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