Did you know?

There is a way to test your conscience, to see if it is working properly. Ask it repeatedly for judgements on such as, what you want to do tonight. If it decides, consistently, that what you want can be justified, it is not working. You must get it fixed — and soon, before it gives a dead reading on something important. Unless, tonight is important. Check local churches for availability of priests; but don’t wait till it is fixed to go to Confession.

I think my own conscience was working fairly well when I left home, decades ago; but it was a cheap post-Protestant model, which soon fritzed. Within a few years I was getting almost no charge from it whatever. I got it fixed, eventually — entirely overhauled with new parts — but it still gives me trouble. The alarm only sounds at audible volume in the most extreme cases. On many little daily challenges, it is nearly mute. I need the spiritual equivalent of a hearing aid to pick up the soft siren.

To the lasting regret of the more serious Catholics — however many are left — Rome Central has been telling us to follow our consciences, on one issue after another, using ripe old terms of art, such as “discernment” and “the  internal forum,” as opposed to e.g. the old hippie phrase, “If it feels good, do it.” Having worked ourselves into the inescapable corner, tied ourselves in the Gordian knot, we are invited to trust our heart for a way out of the mess we have created. But that is how we got into the mess in the first place. “For the heart is deceitful above all things,  and desperately wicked.”

“Who can know it?”

And what if you do know that your conscience isn’t working, but don’t want it fixed? Just want the setting moved from “No” to “Yes” with the help of a priest, so you can have things both ways, as you are used to having them. So you will not even have to queue for an annulment, which is so embarrassing. (Something might come up, that no one needs to know!)

Why can’t we just cut to the chase? Lots of other people do! And they, after all, aren’t nearly so holy as we know that we are, thanks to our “discernment.” We actually want to take Communion! Surely that should jump us to the front of the line.

But we have drifted to a place where no priest can help us, because none has authority any more. The priests themselves are instructed to “go along to get along,” and are more likely to be reprimanded for doing their job, than for neglecting it. Refusing Communion to unrepentant public sinners would be a good example of what that job once included, or in Canon Law, still includes.

The path of least resistance leads to no resistance. The unaided, uncalibrated conscience will, pretty much invariably, find you an excuse. Or more precisely, you find the excuse yourself; the conscience merely lets it pass.

For twenty centuries it has been, or was, the position of the Church, that only a conscience correctly formed in the received teaching, from Christ through his Apostles, could be counted as reliable. We had (still have) catechisms and canons to spell those teachings out. They were manuals which could be used to test if your conscience were working; or in an emergency, to fix it yourself.

Yes, we are in a mess. But it was quite foreseeable. Verily, it was foreseen.

The replacement of generative married sex with childless mutual masturbation had been an issue for some time. This was the controversy over contraception. If even married “heterosexuals” are doing it, then what of the others? Fornication within marriage is what contraception sets up. This was nailed bravely in Humanae Vitae, yet even as it was published, it was being laughed off. If the door of “conscience” could be opened to fornication thus, it could be opened to fornication of every other kind, as the document itself anticipated. It is no surprise that, for instance, the “gay mafia” in the Vatican are so determined to displace Pope Paul’s one gem: for the “gay revolution” proceeds through the same doctrinal hole. Everything becomes “a matter of conscience.” And instead of “grace everywhere,” we have the laughter of hyenas.

But did you know? That mocking laughter, which echoes down the corridors from 1968, proves that conscience isn’t working, and hasn’t been working for a long time.