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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Consciences Inflamed with Love

We must follow our consciences, but the heart frozen to a cause instead of warmed by the truth is not free to love. Catholics who act against human dignity in the voting booth often justify themselves by claiming that they are following their consciences and that they did everything they could to form their consciences in accord with the Church. They reason, but their reasoning is callous and this cold indifference is revealed by the degree to which their actions rob others of the dignity that is owed them. Only the chill of darkness can form the heart so cold.

Although humbly presenting the truth is always a moment of actual grace that may solicit conversion, it is a mistake to presume that this kind of moral failure results from a simple lack of information. Often such souls have stuffed themselves with all kinds of data and statistics. In one hand, they hold vast array of "facts" at their command like weapons in an arsenal. In the other, they are so weighed down with so many individual data points (all of which are proved by science we are told) that they cannot see the forest for the trees - and so they are lost in it. Our efforts to find a way of this jungle of muddled thought are only fruitful to the extent they are drenched in prayer.

The cause of bad judgment is most often not merely informational. Better information technology cannot even remotely address the primordial ignorance against which humanity struggles. This ignorance numbs the depths of one's conscience. It consists in the diminished capacity to grasp the truth, to see through the facts to reality itself, to behold situations for what they really are. Until the blindness of ignorance is addressed with something more than the merely factual, individual judgment is subject to what is socially convenient and acceptable - standards easily manipulated by corrupt cultural and political powers.

This blindness is the effect of sin. The guilty ego is like a star that has collapsed into itself. The absence of light that ought to be there creates a distortion field between the soul and reality - especially the reality of the neighbor who has been entrusted to my care.

No matter how much information we gather and data we organize, as long as we are plagued with this cold darkness, we never adequately understand those to whom we bear the responsibility to love nor can we clearly see what they are owed. This is no private, individual or esoteric experience. Because so many consciences are frozen in this darkness, pre-born babies, the elderly, the sick, the handicapped and all the other most vulnerable are no longer safe in our society while we entertain ourselves with violence, brutality and all kinds of sexual aggression.

Truth is not a data point or the product of my cleverness, the truth is what is: verum est ens. Ultimate truth is knowing ultimate reality - and such knowing is transformative because ultimate reality has a claim on the human heart. This is because ultimate truth is filled with the eternal love. With this true love, the human heart was made to be animated. By this loving light, the heart was fashioned to behold the wonders of what God has done.

God has called us into communion with Him and being vulnerable to this call through faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord of Life changes everything about our lives. The cold world needs the warmth of this saving light. It is this saving knowledge which ought to form the conscience -- aflame with truth, the heart can judge rightly about the circumstances and intentions that surround every moral act: it has the warmth and light it needs to love.

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