Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. Catechism 1776.
- Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil... It is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act... 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.
- Catholics recognize that there is profound disagreement in the community about many moral issues, including the abortion issue. This [disagreement] does not however reduce the issues to ones of personal choice... It is important to understand the difference between conscience and personal preference or arbitrary private intuition... Conscience is the inner core of human beings whereby, compelled to seek the truth, they recognize the objective standards of moral conduct, indeed the dictates of God's law, and make a practical judgment of what is to be done here and now in applying those standards... Catholics seek to inform their consciences according to reason and revelation as guided by Church teachings... For the Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher of truth.
- Conscience uses the objective principles of the moral law to judge the morality of acts in specific circumstances. Conscience is not itself the source of the moral law. This is a common point of misunderstanding. Many who reject Church teaching will say, "I'm just following my conscience." What they usually mean is that they're looking to their conscience as the source of moral principles, which is a serious error... A fundamental principle of Catholic morality is that you must follow your conscience. But be careful: there's a strong tendency for all of us to distort the full meaning of that principle! We tend to use it as a giant loophole for doing any old thing that we'd like.
- Conscience does not always judge properly. Out of ignorance or bad reasoning, it can judge wrongly. Erroneous judgment is often our own fault, and can have many causes, among them damage caused by repeated and habitual sin, following the bad example of others, rejection of Church teaching, or neglect of charity.
- We choose God or reject him specifically in the morality of our actions. We must choose to do good in order to choose God, grow in freedom, sanctify ourselves, and let God's grace work in us to make us "children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life."
- Even when we choose wrongly, conscience calls us to seek God's merciful forgiveness so that we can begin again.
Secular humanism has a different view of conscience: It is a matter of the individual's perception, not God's law.
- Freedom of conscience is the freedom to follow God's and the Church's teachings without coercion from state authorities. Catholics adhere to the truths taught by the Church by personal assent, not by compulsion. God's teachings passed on through the Church cannot be "updated" for "modern times". Those teachings are as permanent as is God Himself, regardless of the desires of those who want to do as they wish when they wish.