Question Seventeen: Conscience
- Primo utrum conscientia sit potentia, vel habitus, vel actus.
- Secundo utrum conscientia possit errare.
- Tertio utrum conscientia liget.
- Quarto utrum conscientia erronea liget.
- Quinto utrum conscientia erronea in indifferentibus plus liget quam praeceptum praelati vel minus.
The question treats of conscience.
In the first article we ask:
Is conscience a power, a habit, or an act?
[ARTICLE II Sent., 24, 2, 4; S.T., 1, 79, 13.]
Quaestio est de conscientia. Et primo quaeritur utrum sit potentia, vel habitus, vel actus Difficulties (First Series) Et videtur quod sit potentia. It seems to be a power, for Dicit enim Hieronymus in Glossa Ezech., cap. I, 9, postquam de synderesi mentionem fecerat: hanc conscientiam interdum praecipitari videmus; ex quo videtur quod idem sit conscientia quod synderesis. Sed synderesis aliquo modo est potentia. Ergo et conscientia. 1. After mentioning synderesis, Jerome says: “We see that this conscience is cast down headlong at times.” From this it seems that conscience and synderesis are the same thing. But synderesis is in some sense a power. Therefore, conscience is, too. Praeterea, nihil est subiectum vitii nisi potentia animae. Sed conscientia est subiectum inquinationis peccati, ut patet ad Titum, I, 15: inquinata est eorum mens et conscientia. Ergo conscientia est potentia. 2. Only a power of the soul is the subject of a vice. But conscience is the subject of the defilement of sin, as is clear from Titus (1:15): “Both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” Therefore, conscience is a power. Sed dicebat, quod inquinatio non est in conscientia sicut in subiecto.- Sed contra, nihil potest numero idem esse inquinatum et mundum, nisi sit subiectum inquinationis. Sed omne quod mutatur de inquinatione in munditiam idem numero manens, quandoque est mundum et quandoque inquinatum. Ergo omne quod mutatur de inquinatione in munditiam vel e converso, est subiectum inquinationis et munditiae. Sed conscientia mutatur de inquinatione in munditiam; Hebr., IX 14: sanguis Christi (...) emundabit conscientiam nostram ab operibus mortuis ad serviendum Deo viventi. Ergo conscientia est potentia. 3. It was said that the defilement is not in conscience as in a subject. —On the contrary, nothing numerically the same can be defiled and clean, unless it is the subject of defilement. But everything which is changed from defilement to cleanness while remaining numerically the same, is clean at one time and defiled at another. Therefore, everything which is changed from defilement to cleanness, or the converse, is a subject of defilement and cleanness. But conscience is changed from defilement to cleanness, according to Hebrews (9:14): “How much more shall the blood of Christ... cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Therefore, conscience is a power. Praeterea, conscientia dicitur esse dictamen rationis, quod quidem dictamen nihil est aliud quam rationis iudicium. Sed iudicium rationis ad liberum arbitrium pertinet, a quo etiam nominatur. Ergo videtur quod liberum arbitrium et conscientia sint idem. Sed liberum arbitrium est potentia. Ergo et conscientia. 4. Conscience is said to be a dictate of reason, a dictate which is nothing else but the judgment of reason. But a judgment of reason pertains to free choice from which it gets its name. Therefore, free choice and conscience seem to be the same thing. But free choice is a power. Therefore, so is conscience. Praeterea, Basilius dicit, quod conscientia est naturale iudicatorium; naturale autem iudicatorium est synderesis; ergo conscientia est idem quod synderesis: synderesis autem est aliquo modo potentia, ergo et conscientia. 5. Basil says that conscience is “the natural power of judgment.” But the natural power of judgment is synderesis. But synderesis is in some sense a power. Therefore, so is conscience. Praeterea, peccatum non est nisi in voluntate vel ratione. Peccatum autem est in conscientia. Ergo conscientia est ratio vel voluntas. Sed ratio et voluntas sunt potentiae. Ergo et conscientia. 6. Sin exists only in the will or in the reason. But sin exists in conscience. Therefore, conscience is the reason or the will. But reason and will are powers. Therefore, conscience is, too. Praeterea, neque habitus neque actus dicitur scire. Sed conscientia dicitur scire; Eccle. VII, 23: scit enim conscientia tua, quia tu crebro maledixisti aliis. Ergo conscientia non est habitus neque actus; ergo est potentia. 7. Neither a habit nor an act is said to know. But conscience is said to know, according to Ecclesiastes (7:23): “For your conscience knows that you also hast often spoken evil of others.” Therefore, conscience is not a habit or an act. Therefore, it is a power. Praeterea, Origenes dicit, quod conscientia est spiritus correptor et paedagogus animae sociatus, quo separatur a malis, et adhaeret bonis. Sed spiritus nominat potentiam animae, vel etiam essentiam. Ergo conscientia aliquam potentiam animae nominat. 8. Origen says that conscience is “a correcting and guiding spirit accompanying the soul, by which the soul is kept free from evil and made to cling to good.” But spirit designates a power or even the essence of the soul. Therefore, conscience designates a power. Praeterea, conscientia vel est actus, vel habitus, vel potentia. Sed non est actus, quia actus non semper manet, sed nec est in dormiente, qui tamen conscientiam habere dicitur. Nec etiam est habitus; ergo est potentia. 9. Conscience is an act, a habit, or a power. But it is not an act, because it does not always remain in act, for its act is not present in one who is asleep. Yet one who is asleep is said to have conscience. Nor is it a habit. Therefore, it is a power. Difficulties (Second Series) Quod autem non sit habitus sic ostenditur. Nullus habitus rationis est de particularibus; sed conscientia est particularium actuum; ergo conscientia non est rationis habitus nec alicuius alterius potentiae, cum conscientia ad rationem pertineat. 1. That it is not a habit is shown in this way: No habit of reason deals with individual things. But. conscience is concerned with particular acts. Therefore, conscience is not a habit of reason. It is not a habit of any other power since conscience pertains to reason. Praeterea, in ratione non sunt nisi habitus speculativi et operativi. Sed conscientia non est habitus speculativus, cum habeat ordinem ad opus; nec etiam est operativus, cum non sit nec ars, nec prudentia: hos enim solos philosophus in VI Ethic., in parte operativa ponit. Ergo conscientia non est habitus. 2. In reason there are only speculative and operative habits. But conscience is not a speculative habit, since it has an ordination to activity. Nor is it an operative habit, since it is neither an art nor prudence. And the Philosopher puts only these in the operative part. Therefore, conscience is not a habit. Quod autem conscientia non sit ars, manifestum est. Quod vero etiam non sit prudentia, sic probatur. Prudentia est recta ratio agibilium, ut dicitur in VI Ethic. Non autem respicit agibilia singularia, quia cum sint infinita, non potest eorum esse ratio; et iterum sequeretur quod prudentia augeretur, per se loquendo, secundum considerationem plurimorum actuum singularium, quod non videtur esse verum; conscientia autem respicit opera singularia. Ergo conscientia non est prudentia. That it is not an art is clear. That it is not prudence is proved in this way: Prudence is the correct ordering of acts, as is said in the Ethics. But it does not consider individual actions, for, since there are an infinite number of these, there can be no ordering of them. Again, it would follow that prudence, taken in itself, would be essentially increased as it considered many individual actions. But this does not seem to be true. However, conscience considers individual actions. Therefore, conscience is not prudence. Sed dicebat, quod conscientia est habitus quidam, quo applicatur universale iudicium rationis ad particulare opus.- Sed contra, ad illud quod potest fieri per unum habitum, non requiruntur duo habitus. Sed habens habitum universalem potest applicare ad singulare, solummodo potentia sensitiva interveniente; sicut ex habitu quo quis scit omnem mulam esse sterilem, sciet hanc mulam sterilem esse, cum eam perceperit esse mulam per sensum. Ergo ad applicationem universalis iudicii ad particularem actum non requiritur aliquis habitus. Et sic conscientia non est habitus; et sic idem quod prius. 3. It was said that conscience is a habit by which the universal judgment of reason is applied to a particular undertaking.—On the contrary, two habits are not needed for something which one can do. But one who has habitual knowledge of a universal can make the application to singulars with the intervention of the sensitive faculty alone. Thus, from the habit by which one knows that all mules are sterile, he will know that this mule is sterile when through his senses he perceives that this is a mule. Therefore, a habit is not needed for the application of a universal judgment to a particular act. Thus, conscience is not a habit. We conclude as before. Praeterea, omnis habitus vel est naturalis, vel infusus, vel acquisitus. Sed conscientia non est habitus naturalis, quia talis habitus est idem apud omnes: conscientiam autem non habent omnes eamdem. Neque iterum est habitus infusus, quia talis habitus semper est rectus: conscientia autem quandoque non recta. Neque est iterum habitus acquisitus, quia sic in pueris conscientia non esset, nec in homine, antequam per multos actus habitum acquisivisset. Ergo conscientia non est habitus et sic idem quod prius. 4. Every habit is either natural, infused, or acquired. But conscience is not a natural habit because such a habit is the same in all men. But not all men have the same conscience. Again, it is not an infused habit, because such a habit is always correct. But conscience is sometimes erroneous. Again, it is not an acquired habit, because, if it were, conscience would not exist in children or in a man before he had acquired it through many acts. Therefore, it is not a habit. We conclude as before. Praeterea, habitus, secundum philosophum, ex multis actibus acquiritur. Sed ex uno actu quis habet conscientiam. Ergo conscientia non est habitus. 5. According to the Philosopher, a habit is acquired from many acts. But one has conscience from one act. Therefore, conscience is not a habit. Praeterea, conscientia poena est in damnatis, ut habetur I Corinth. III, 13, ss., in Glossa. Sed habitus non est poena, sed magis perfectio habentis. Ergo conscientia non est habitus. 6. The Gloss indicates that conscience in the damned is a punishment. But a habit is not a punishment; rather it is a perfection of the one who has it. Therefore, it is not a habit. Sed e contra, To the Contrary (First Series) videtur quod conscientia sit habitus. Conscientia enim, secundum Damascenum, est lex intellectus nostri. Sed lex intellectus est habitus universalium principiorum iuris. Ergo et conscientia est habitus. 1. Conscience seems to be a habit. For, according to Damascene, it is “the law of our understanding.” But the law of our understanding is the habit of the universal principles of law. Therefore, conscience i a habit. Praeterea, Roman. II, 14, super illud, cum enim gens quae legem etc., dicit Glossa: etsi gentiles non habent legem scriptam, habent tamen legem naturalem, quam quisque intelligit, et qua quisque sibi conscius est quid sit bonum et malum. Ex quo videtur quod lex naturalis sit qua aliquis sibi conscius est. Sed quilibet sibi conscius est per conscientiam. Ergo conscientia est lex naturalis; et sic idem quod prius. 2. The Gloss on Romans (2:14) says: “Although the Gentiles do not have the written law, they have the natural law, which each one understands and by which he is conscious of what is good and what is evil.” From this it seems that the natural law is that by which one is conscious. But everyone is conscious through consciousness (conscientia) . Therefore, conscience (conscientia) is the natural law. We conclude as before. Praeterea, scientia nominat habitum conclusionis. Sed conscientia quaedam scientia est. Ergo est habitus. 3. Science denotes habitual knowledge of conclusions. But conscience is scientific knowledge. Therefore, it is a habit. Praeterea, ex actibus multiplicatis generatur aliquis habitus. Sed aliquis frequenter operatur secundum conscientiam. Ergo ex talibus actibus generatur aliquis habitus, qui conscientia dici potest. 4. A habit is formed by repeated acts. But one acts repeatedly according to conscience. Therefore, from such acts a habit is formed, which can be called conscience. Praeterea, I Tim. I, 5: finis praecepti est caritas de corde puro, conscientia bona et fide non ficta, Glosa: de conscientia bona, id est spe. Sed spes est habitus quidam. Ergo et conscientia. 5. On the first Epistle to Timothy (1:5), “Now the end of the commandment is charity, from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith,” the Gloss says: “A good conscience, that is, hope.” But hope is a habit. Therefore, conscience is, too. Praeterea, illud quod est in nobis per immissionem a Deo, videtur esse habitus infusus. Sed, secundum Damascenum in IV Lib., sicut fomes est per immissionem a Daemone, ita conscientia per immissionem a Deo. Ergo conscientia est habitus infusus. 6. That which is implanted in us by God seems to be an infused habit. But, according to Damascene,” just as the tendency to sin is implanted in us by the devil, so conscience is implanted in us by God. Therefore, conscience is an infused habit. Praeterea, secundum philosophum in II Ethic., omne quod est in anima, est potentia vel habitus, vel passio. Sed conscientia non est passio; quia passionibus nec meremur nec demeremur, nec laudamur nec vituperamur, ut ibidem philosophus dicit. Neque iterum est potentia, quia potentia non potest deponi, conscientia autem deponitur. Ergo conscientia est habitus. 7. According to the Philosopher, everything which is in the soul is habit, faculty, or passion. But conscience is not a passion, for by such things we do not merit or demerit, nor are we praised or blamed for them, as the Philosopher also says. Nor is conscience a power, for a power cannot be set aside, but conscience can be set aside. Therefore, conscience is a habit. To the Contrary (Second Series): Sed e contra, videtur quod conscientia sit actus. Conscientia enim dicitur accusare vel excusare. Sed non accusatur aliquis vel excusatur, nisi secundum quod actu aliquid considerat. Ergo conscientia actus aliquis est. 1. Conscience seems to be an act, for it is said to accuse and excuse. But one is not accused or excused unless he is actually considering something. Therefore, conscience is an act. Praeterea, scire quod consistit in collatione, est scire in actu. Sed conscientia nominat scientiam cum collatione; dicitur enim conscire, quasi simul scire. Ergo conscientia est scientia actualis. 2. Knowledge which consists in comparison is actual knowledge. But conscience denotes knowledge with comparison. For one is said to be conscious (conscire), that is, to know together (simul scire) . Therefore, conscience is actual knowledge. Responsio. REPLY Dicendum, quod quidam dicunt conscientiam tripliciter dici. Quandoque enim conscientia sumitur pro ipsa re conscita, sicut etiam fides accipitur pro re credita; quandoque pro potentia qua conscimus; quandoque etiam pro habitu; a quibusdam etiam dicitur quod quandoque pro actu. Et huius distinctionis haec videtur esse ratio; quia cum conscientiae sit aliquis actus, circa actum autem consideretur obiectum, potentia, habitus, et ipse actus; invenitur quandoque aliquod nomen quod ad ista quatuor aequivocatur: sicut hoc nomen intellectus quandoque significat rem intellectam, sicut nomina dicuntur significare intellectus; quandoque vero ipsam intellectivam potentiam; quandoque vero habitum quemdam; quandoque etiam actum. Some say that conscience can have three meanings. For, at times it is taken for the thing itself of which one is conscious, just as faith is taken for the thing believed. Sometimes it is taken for the power by which we are conscious, and sometimes for the habit. And some say that it is also taken for the act. The reason for this distinction seems to be that, since there is an act of conscience, and since an object, a power, a habit, and the act itself are considered with reference to the act, we sometimes find a name which is used equivocally for all four of these. Thus, the name understanding sometimes signifies the thing understood (intellectam), as names are said to denote concepts (intellectus); sometimes, it signifies the intellective power itself; sometimes, a habit, and, sometimes, an act. In huiusmodi tamen nominationibus sequendus est usus loquendi; quia nominibus utendum ut plures, ut dicitur II Topic. Istud quidem secundum usum loquentium esse videtur ut conscientia quandoque pro re conscita accipiatur, ut cum dicitur: dicam tibi conscientiam meam; id est quod est in conscientia mea. Sed potentiae vel habitui hoc nomen attribui proprie non potest, sed solum actui; in qua significatione sola concordant omnia quae de conscientia dicuntur. However, with names such as these, the commonly accepted meaning should be followed, because words should be used in their more common signification, as is said in the Topics. But the name conscience, according to common usage, seems at times to be used for the thing of which one is conscious, as when one says: “I will reveal my conscience to you,” that is, what is in my conscience. But this title cannot properly be given to the power or the habit, but only to the act. For all the things which are attributed to conscience fit only this meaning. Sciendum est enim, quod non consuevit idem nomen esse actus et potentiae vel habitus, nisi quando actus aliquis est proprius alicuius potentiae vel alicuius habitus; sicut videre est proprium potentiae visivae, et scire in actu habitus scientiae: unde visus quandoque nominat potentiam, quandoque actum; et similiter scientia. Si autem sit aliquis actus qui conveniat pluribus aut omnibus habitibus vel potentiis, non consuevit a tali nomine actus aliqua potentia vel aliquis habitus denominari: sicut patet de hoc nomine usus; significat enim actum cuiuslibet habitus. Actus quidem cuiuslibet habitus et potentiae usus quidam est illius cuius est actus; unde hoc nomen usus ita significat actum, quod nullo modo potentiam vel habitum. We must bear in mind that it is not customary to have one name for a power, an act, and a habit, unless the act is proper to the power or habit, as to see is proper to the power of sight, and to know is proper to the habit of knowledge. As a result, sight sometimes means the power and sometimes the act. Knowledge is used in a similar way. However, if there is an act which is proper to many or all habits or powers, it is not customary to indicate a power or a habit by such a name of the act. This is clear with the noun use, for it denotes the act of any habit and power, since use belongs to that of which it is the act. Hence, this name use so signifies an act that it does not mean a habit or a power at all. Et similiter esse videtur de conscientia. Nomen enim conscientiae significat applicationem scientiae ad aliquid; unde conscire dicitur quasi simul scire. Quaelibet autem scientia ad aliquid applicari potest; unde conscientia non potest nominare aliquem habitum specialem, vel aliquam potentiam, sed nominat ipsum actum, qui est applicatio cuiuscumque habitus vel cuiuscumque notitiae ad aliquem actum particularem. This seems to be the case with conscience. For the name conscience means the application of knowledge to something. Hence, to be conscious (conscire) means to know together (simul scire). But any knowledge can be applied to a thing. Hence, conscience cannot denote a special habit or power, but designates the act itself, which is the application of any habit or of any knowledge to some particular act. Applicatur autem aliqua notitia ad aliquem actum dupliciter: uno modo secundum quod consideratur an actus sit vel fuerit: alio modo secundum quod consideratur an actus sit rectus vel non rectus. Et secundum quidem primum modum applicationis dicimur habere conscientiam alicuius actus, in quantum scimus illum actum esse factum vel non factum; sicut est in communi loquendi usu, quando dicitur, hoc non est factum de conscientia mea, idest nescio vel nescivi an hoc factum sit vel fuerit. Et secundum hunc modum loquendi intelligitur quod habetur Gen. XLIII, 22: non est in conscientiis nostris quis pecuniam posuerit in saccis nostris; et Eccle. VII, 23: scit conscientia tua te crebro maledixisse aliis. Et secundum hoc dicitur conscientia testificari aliquid; Rom. IX, 1: testimonium mihi perhibente conscientia mea et cetera. Moreover, knowledge is applied to an act in two ways. According to one way, we consider whether the act exists or has existed; according to the other, whether it is correct or not. According to the first mode of application, we are said to have conscience [that is, consciousness] of an act inasmuch as we know that the act has been placed or has not been placed, as happens in the common manner of speaking when one says: “As far as my conscience [consciousness] is concerned, this has not taken place; that is, I do not know or I did not know whether this took place.” It is according to this manner of speaking that we understand the passage in Genesis (4 3:2 2): “We cannot tell [ non est in conscientiis nostris ] who put it (the money) in our bags”; and the passage in Ecclesiastes (7:23): “For your conscience knows that you also hast often spoken evil of others.” It is according to this that conscience is said to bear witness of some thing, as in Romans (9:1): “my conscience bearing me witness...” Secundum vero alium modum applicationis, quo notitia applicatur ad actum, ut sciatur an rectus sit, duplex est via. Una secundum quod per habitum scientiae dirigimur ad aliquid faciendum vel non faciendum. Alio modo secundum quod actus postquam factus est, examinatur ad habitum scientiae, an sit rectus vel non rectus. Et haec duplex via in operativis distinguitur secundum duplicem viam quae etiam est in speculativis; scilicet viam inveniendi et iudicandi. Illa enim via qua per scientiam inspicimus quid agendum sit, quasi consiliantes, est similis inventioni, per quam ex principiis investigamus conclusiones. Illa autem via qua ea quae iam facta sunt, examinamus et discutimus an recta sint, est sicut via iudicii, per quam conclusiones in principia resolvuntur. According to the second mode of application, by which knowledge is applied to an act, so that one knows whether the act is right or not, there is a double course. There is one according to which we are directed through the habit of scientific knowledge to do or not to do something. There is a second according to which the act, after it has taken place, is examined with reference to the habit of knowledge to see whether it was right or not. This double course in matters of action is distinguished according to the double course which exists in things speculative, that is, the process of discovery and the process of judging. For the process by which through scientific knowledge we look for what should be done, as it were taking counsel with ourselves, is similar to discovery, through which we proceed from principles to conclusions. The other process, through which we examine those things which already have been done and consider whether they are right, is like the process of judging, through which we reduce conclusions to principles. Secundum autem utrumque applicationis modum nomine conscientiae utimur. Secundum enim quod applicatur scientia ad actum ut dirigens in ipsum, secundum hoc dicitur conscientia instigare, vel inducere, vel ligare. Secundum vero quod applicatur scientia ad actum per modum examinationis eorum quae iam acta sunt, sic dicitur conscientia accusare vel remordere, quando id quod factum est, invenitur discordare a scientia ad quam examinatur; defendere autem vel excusare, quando invenitur id quod factum est, processisse secundum formam scientiae. We use the name conscience for both of these modes of application. For, in so far as knowledge is applied to an act, as directive of that act, conscience is said to prod or urge or bind. But, in so far as knowledge is applied to act, by way of examining things which have already taken place, conscience is said to accuse or cause remorse, when that which has been done is found to be out of harmony with the knowledge according to which it is examined; or to defend or excuse, when that which has been done is found to have proceeded according to the form of the knowledge. Sed sciendum, quod in prima applicatione qua applicatur scientia ad actum ut sciatur an factum sit, est applicatio ad actum particularem notitiae sensitivae, ut memoriae, per quam eius quod factum est, recordamur; vel sensus, per quem hunc particularem actum quem nunc agimus, percipimus. Sed in secunda et tertia applicatione, qua consiliamur quid agendum sit, vel examinamus iam facta, applicantur ad actum habitus rationis operativi, scilicet habitus synderesis et habitus sapientiae, quo perficitur superior ratio, et habitus scientiae, quo perficitur ratio inferior; sive simul omnes applicentur, sive alter eorum tantum. Ad hos enim habitus examinamus quae fecimus, et secundum eos consiliamur de faciendis. Examinatio tamen non solum est de factis, sed etiam de faciendis; sed consilium est de faciendis tantum. But we must bear in mind that in the first application, in which scientific knowledge is applied to an act to know whether it has taken place, it is application to a particular act of sensitive knowledge, as of memory, through which we recall what was done, or of sense, through which we perceive the particular act in which we are now engaged. But in the second and third applications, by which we deliberate about what should be done, or examine what has already been done, the operative habits of reason are applied to an act. These are the habit of synderesis and the habit of wisdom, which perfect higher reason, and the habit of scientific knowledge, which perfects lower reason. Of these, either all are applied at the same time, or only one of them is applied. We examine what we have done according to these habits, and, according to them, we take counsel about what should be done. Examination, however, concerns not only what has been done, but also what is to be done. But counsel concerns only what is to be done. Answers to Difficulties (First Series) Ad primum igitur dicendum, quod cum dicit Hieronymus: hanc conscientiam praecipitari videmus, non demonstratur ipsa synderesis, quam dixerat esse conscientiae scintillam; sed demonstratur ipsa conscientia, de qua supra fecerat mentionem. Vel potest dici, quod quia tota vis conscientiae examinantis vel consiliantis ex iudicio synderesis pendet, sicut tota veritas rationis speculativae pendet ex principiis primis. Ideo conscientiam synderesim nominat, in quantum scilicet ex vi eius agit: et praecipue quando volebat exprimere defectum quo synderesis deficere potest: non enim deficit in universali, sed in applicatione ad singularia; et sic synderesis non in se deficit, sed quodammodo in conscientia. Et ideo in explicando defectum synderesis, synderesi conscientiam coniunxit. 1. When Jerome says: “We see that this conscience is cast down headlong at times,” synderesis, which he calls a spark of conscience, is not indicated, but conscience itself, which he had mentioned earlier. Or we can say that the whole force of conscience, as examining or taking counsel, depends on the judgment of synderesis, just as the whole truth of speculative reason depends on first principles. Therefore, he calls conscience synderesis in so far as conscience acts by reason of its power. This answer is especially apt because he wanted to show how synderesis can fail. For it does not err in regard to universal principles, but only in regard to the application to individual acts. Thus, synderesis does not err in itself, but, in a sense, errs in conscience. Therefore, he joins conscience with synderesis to explain this failure of synderesis. Ad secundum dicendum, quod inquinatio non dicitur esse in conscientia sicut in subiecto, sed sicut scitum in cognitione; dicitur enim aliquis habere conscientiam inquinatam, quando alicuius inquinationis sibi est conscius. 2. Defilement is not said to be in conscience as in a subject, but as the thing known is in knowledge. For one is said to have a defiled conscience when he is conscious within himself of some defilement. Ad tertium dicendum, quod secundum hoc conscientia inquinata emundari dicitur, secundum quod aliquis qui prius fuit sibi peccati conscius, postmodum scit se esse a peccato mundatum; et ita dicitur habere conscientiam puram. Est igitur eadem conscientia quae prius erat immunda, et postmodum munda; non quidem ita quod conscientia sit subiectum munditiae et immunditiae, sed quia per conscientiam examinantem utrumque cognoscitur; non quod sit idem actus numero quo prius sciebat aliquis se esse immundum, et post scit se esse purum; sed quia ex eisdem principiis utrumque cognoscitur, sicut dicitur esse eadem consideratio quae ex eisdem principiis procedit. 3. A defiled conscience is said to be cleansed, in so far as one who was earlier conscious of sin knows later that he has been cleansed from the sin. Thus, he is said to have a pure conscience. Accordingly, it is the same conscience which first was unclean and later clean, not, however, in the sense that conscience is the subject of cleanness and uncleanness, but that through examination made by conscience both are known. It is not that it is numerically the same act by which one knew he was unclean before and knows he is clean afterwards, but that both are known from the same principles, just as consideration which proceeds from the same principles is called the same. Ad quartum dicendum, quod iudicium conscientiae et liberi arbitrii quantum ad aliquid differunt, et quantum ad aliquid conveniunt. Conveniunt quidem quantum ad hoc quod utrumque est de hoc particulari actu; competit autem iudicium conscientiae in via qua est examinans; et in hoc differt iudicium utriusque a iudicio synderesis. Differt autem iudicium conscientiae et liberi arbitrii, quia iudicium conscientiae consistit in pura cognitione, iudicium autem liberi arbitrii in applicatione cognitionis ad affectionem: quod quidem iudicium est iudicium electionis. 4. The judgments of conscience and of free choice differ to some extent and correspond to some extent. For they correspond in this, that both refer to this particular act. However, the judgment of conscience applies to it in so far as conscience examines it. On this point the judgment of both conscience and free choice differ from the judgment of synderesis. They differ from each other, since the judgment of conscience consists simply in knowledge, whereas the judgment of free choice consists in the application of knowledge to the inclination of the will. This is the judgment of choice. Et ideo contingit quandoque quod iudicium liberi arbitrii pervertitur, non autem iudicium conscientiae; sicut cum aliquis examinat aliquid quod imminet faciendum, et iudicat, quasi adhuc speculando per principia, hoc esse malum, utpote fornicari cum hac muliere; sed quando incipit applicare ad agendum, occurrunt undique multae circumstantiae circa ipsum actum, ut puta fornicationis delectatio, ex cuius concupiscentia ligatur ratio, ne eius dictamen in electionem prorumpat. Et sic aliquis errat in eligendo, et non in conscientia; sed contra conscientiam facit: et dicitur hoc mala conscientia facere, in quantum factum iudicio scientiae non concordat. Et sic patet quod non oportet conscientiam esse idem quod liberum arbitrium. Thus, it sometimes happens that the judgment of free choice goes astray, but not the judgment of conscience. For example, one debates something which presents itself to be done here and now and judges, still speculating as it were in the realm of principles, that it is evil, for instance, to fornicate with this woman. However, when he comes to apply this to the act, many circumstances relevant to the act present themselves from all sides, for instance, the pleasure of the fornication, by the desire of which reason is constrained, so that its dictates may not issue into choice. Thus, one errs in choice and not in conscience. Rather, he acts against conscience and is said to do this with an evil conscience, in so far as the deed does not agree with the judgment based on knowledge. Thus, it is clear that it is not necessary for conscience to be the same as free choice. Ad quintum dicendum, quod conscientia dicitur esse naturale iudicatorium, in quantum tota examinatio vel consiliatio conscientiae ex naturali iudicatorio dependet, ut prius dictum est. 5. Conscience is called the natural power of judgment in so far as the whole examination or counseling of conscience depends on the natural power of judgment, as we said earlier. Ad sextum dicendum, quod peccatum est in ratione et voluntate sicut in subiecto, in conscientia autem alio modo, ut dictum est. 6. Sin is in the reason and the will as in a subject, but it is in conscience in a different way, as has been said. Ad septimum dicendum, quod conscientia dicitur scire aliquid non proprie sed secundum illum modum loquendi quo dicitur scire illud quo scimus. 7. Conscience is said to know something not in a proper sense, but in the sense that knowledge is predicated of that by which we know. Ad octavum dicendum, quod conscientia dicitur esse spiritus, idest spiritus nostri instinctus, prout spiritus ratio dicitur. 8. Conscience is called spirit, that is, an impulse of our spirit, just as reason is called spirit. Ad nonum dicendum, quod conscientia nec est potentia nec habitus, sed actus. Et quamvis actus conscientiae non sit semper, nec sit in dormiente, tamen actus ipse manet in sua radice, idest in habitibus applicabilibus ad actum. 9. Conscience is neither a power nor a habit, but an act. And, although the act of conscience does not always exist, and does not exist in one who is asleep, the act itself remains in its principle, that is, in habits which can be applied to act. Answers to Difficulties (Second Series) Rationes autem illas quae probant conscientiam non esse habitum, concedimus. 1-6. We concede the difficulties which prove that conscience is not a habit. Answers to Difficulties to the Contrary (First Series) Ad primum vero quod in contrarium obiicitur, quod scilicet sit habitus, dicendum quod conscientia dicitur esse lex intellectus nostri quia est iudicium rationis ex lege naturali deductum. 1. Conscience is called the law of our understanding because it is a judgment of reason derived from the natural law. Ad secundum dicendum, quod aliquis sibi ipsi conscius esse dicitur per legem naturalem eo modo loquendi quo aliquis considerare dicitur secundum principia; sed per conscientiam, eo modo loquendi quo aliquis dicitur considerare ipso actu considerationis. 2. One is said to be conscious within himself through the natural law, in the sense in which one is said to deliberate according to principles, but he is conscious within himself through conscience, in the sense in which he is said to deliberate by means of the very act of consideration. Ad tertium dicendum, quod quamvis scientia sit habitus, tamen applicatio scientiae ad aliquid non est habitus, sed est actus; et hoc significatur nomine conscientiae. 3. Although scientific knowledge is a habit, its application to something is not a habit, but an act. And this is what is indicated by the word conscience. Ad quartum dicendum, quod ex actibus non generatur habitus alterius modi ab illo habitu a quo actus eliciuntur; sed vel aliquis habitus eiusdem rationis, sicut ex actibus infusae caritatis generatur aliquis habitus acquisitus dilectionis, vel etiam habitus praeexistens augmentatur: sicut in eo qui habet habitum temperantiae acquisitum ex actibus temperantiae, ipse habitus augmentatur. Et ita, cum actus conscientiae procedat ex habitu sapientiae et scientiae, non generabitur inde aliquis habitus alius ab eis, sed illi habitus perficientur. 4. From these acts there does not arise a habit of a different mode from the habit by which the acts are elicited, but either a habit of the same nature is formed, as the habit of love is formed from acts of infused charity, or an already present habit is strengthened, as in one who has acquired the habit of temperance from repeated acts, the habit itself is strengthened. Accordingly, since the act of conscience proceeds from a habit of wisdom and science, a new habit will not be formed from them, but those habits will be perfected. Ad quintum dicendum, quod cum conscientia dicitur esse spes, est praedicatio per causam, in quantum scilicet conscientia bona facit hominem esse bonae spei, ut Glossa, ibidem, exponit. 5. When conscience is called hope, the predication is causal in nature, inasmuch as a good conscience makes a man be of good hope, as the Gloss explains. Ad sextum dicendum, quod etiam ipsi habitus naturales insunt nobis ex immissione divina; et ideo cum conscientia sit actus proveniens ex habitu naturali ipsius synderesis, dicitur conscientia ex divina immissione esse, per modum quod omnis cognitio veritatis quae est in nobis, dicitur esse a Deo, a quo principiorum primorum cognitio naturae nostrae est indita. 6. Even natural habits exist in us because they were put there by God. Consequently, since conscience is an act proceeding from the natural habit of synderesis, God is said to have imprinted it in the way in which He is said to be the source of all knowledge of truth which is in us. For God endows our nature with the knowledge of first principles. Ad septimum dicendum, quod in illa divisione philosophi actus in habitu includitur, eo quod habitus ex actibus generari probaverat, et similium actuum eos esse principium; et sic conscientia nec est passio nec potentia, sed actus, qui ad habitum reducitur. Rationes autem quae probant conscientiam esse actum, concedimus. 7. Act is included in habit in that division of the Philosopher because he had proved that habits are formed from acts, and that habits were the principle of similar acts. Accordingly, conscience is not a passion nor a power, but an act, which is reduced to a habit. Answers to Difficulties to the Contrary (Second Series) We concede the difficulties which prove that conscience is an act.
Q. 17: Conscience
In the second article we ask:
Can conscience be mistaken?
[ARTICLE II Sent., 24, 2, 4; 39, 3, 1, ad 1; 39, 3, 2; Quodl., III, 12, 26.]
Secundo quaeritur utrum conscientia possit errare Difficulties Et videtur quod non. It seems that it cannot, for Naturale enim iudicatorium nunquam errat; sed conscientia est naturale iudicatorium secundum Basilium; ergo non errat. 1. The natural power of judgment is never mistaken. But, according to Basil, conscience is “the natural power of judgment.” Therefore, it is not mistaken. Praeterea, conscientia addit aliquid supra scientiam: id autem quod addit, nihil diminuit de ratione scientiae. Sed scientia nunquam errat, quia est habitus quo semper verum dicitur, ut patet in VI Ethic. Ergo nec conscientia errare potest. 2. Conscience adds something to scientific knowledge. Moreover, that which it adds in no way detracts from the nature of scientific knowledge. But scientific knowledge is never mistaken, since it is the habit by which one always speaks the truth, as is clear in the Ethics. Therefore, neither can conscience be mistaken. Praeterea, synderesis est scintilla conscientiae, ut dicitur in Glossa Ezech. I, 9. Ergo conscientia comparatur ad synderesim sicut ignis ad scintillam. Sed eadem est operatio et motus unius ignis et scintillae. Ergo et conscientiae et synderesis. Sed synderesis non errat. Ergo nec conscientia. 3 Synderesis is “a spark of conscience,” as Jerome says. Therefore, conscience is related to synderesis as fire is to a spark. But the activity and movement of a fire and of a spark [from it] are the same. Therefore, the activity and movement of conscience and synderesis are also the same. But synderesis is never mistaken. Therefore, neither is conscience. Praeterea, conscientia, secundum Damascenum, IV Lib., est lex intellectus nostri. Sed lex intellectus nostri est certior quam ipse intellectus; intellectus autem semper rectus est, ut dicitur in III de anima. Ergo multo fortius et conscientia semper recta est. 4. According to Damascene, conscience is the “law of our understanding.” But the law of our understanding is more certain than the understanding itself, and, “understanding is always correct,” as is said in The Soul. Therefore, with much greater reason, conscience is always correct. Praeterea, ratio ex ea parte qua synderesim attingit, non errat. Sed ratio coniuncta synderesi facit conscientiam. Ergo conscientia nunquam errat. 5. Reason, in so far as it is coincident with synderesis, does not make mistakes. But reason joined to synderesis constitutes conscience. Therefore, conscience never makes mistakes. Praeterea, in iudicio statur dicto testium. Sed in iudicio divino testis est conscientia, ut patet Rom. II, 15: testimonium illis reddente conscientia sua, et cetera. Cum igitur iudicium divinum nunquam possit falli, videtur quod et conscientia nunquam errare possit. 6. The testimony of witnesses is decisive in court. But conscience is the witness in the divine court, as is clear from Romans(2:15): “their conscience bearing witness to them.” Therefore, since the divine court never can be deceived, it seems that conscience can never err. Praeterea, in omnibus, regulam ad quam alia regulantur, oportet habere rectitudinem indeficientem. Sed regula quaedam humanorum operum est conscientia. Ergo oportet conscientiam esse semper rectam. 7. In all things, the rule which regulates other things must be infallibly correct. But conscience is a rule of human actions. Therefore, conscience must always be correct. Praeterea, spes innititur conscientiae, sicut habetur per Glossam I Tim. I, 5 super illud: de corde puro et conscientia bona etc.; sed spes certissima est ut habetur Hebr. VI, 18 ubi dicitur certissimum habemus solatium qui confugimus ad tenendam propositam nobis spem, quam sicut etc.; ergo conscientia indeficientem rectitudinem habet. 8. Hope depends on conscience, according to the Gloss” on the first Epistle to Timothy (1:5): “From a pure heart, and a good conscience...” But hope is most certain, according to Hebrews (6:18): “we have the most certain comfort, who have fled for refuge to hold fast the hope set before us.” Therefore, conscience is infallibly correct. Sed contra. To the Contrary Est quod dicitur Ioan. XVI, vers. 2: venit hora ut omnis qui interficit vos, arbitretur obsequium se praestare Deo. Ergo his qui occidebant apostolos, dictabat conscientia quod eos occiderent. Sed hoc erat erroneum. Ergo conscientia errat. 1. In John (16:2) we read: “The hour cometh, when whosoever kills you, will think that he doth a service to God.” Therefore, their conscience told those who killed the Apostles that they would please God by this action. But this was a mistake. Therefore, conscience makes mistakes. Praeterea, conscientia collationem quamdam dicit. Sed ratio in conferendo decipi potest. Ergo conscientia potest errare. 2. Conscience includes comparison. But reason can be deceived when it makes comparisons. Therefore, conscience can make mistakes. Responsio. REPLY Dicendum quod sicut dictum est, conscientia nihil aliud est quam applicatio scientiae ad aliquem specialem actum. In qua quidem applicatione contingit esse errorem dupliciter: uno modo, quia id quod applicatur, in se errorem habet; alio modo ex eo quod non recte applicat. Sicut etiam in syllogizando contingit peccatum dupliciter: vel ex eo quod quis falsis utitur, vel ex eo quod non recte syllogizat. Sed hoc quidem quod falsis utatur, ex una quidem parte contingit, ex alia autem parte non contingit. Dictum enim est supra quod per conscientiam applicatur notitia synderesis, et rationis superioris et inferioris, ad actum particularem examinandum. As is clear from what has been said, conscience is nothing but the application of knowledge to some special act. Error, however, can occur in this application in two ways; in one, because that which is applied has error within it, and, in the other, because the application is faulty. Thus, in using a syllogism, mistakes can happen in two ways: either from the use of false premises, or from faulty construction of the syllogism. But this use of something false takes place only in one of the premises and not in the other. For, as has been said, through conscience the knowledge of synderesis and of higher and lower reason are applied to the examination of a particular act. Cum autem actus sit particularis, et synderesis iudicium universale existat; non potest applicari iudicium synderesis ad actum, nisi fiat assumptio alicuius particularis. Quam quidem particularem quandoque subministrat ratio superior, quandoque vero ratio inferior; et sic conscientia perficitur quasi quodam syllogismo particulari: ut si ex iudicio synderesis proferatur, nihil prohibitum lege Dei est faciendum; et ex superioris rationis notitia assumatur, concubitum cum ista muliere esse contra legem Dei; fiet applicatio conscientiae concludendo, ab hoc concubitu esse abstinendum. However, since the act is particular and the judgment of synderesis is universal, the judgment of synderesis can be applied to the act only if some particular judgment is used as the minor premise. Sometimes, higher reason furnishes this particular judgment; sometimes, lower reason does. Thus, the act of conscience is the result of a kind of particular syllogism. For example, if the judgment of synderesis expresses this statement: “I must not do anything which is forbidden by the law of God,” and if the knowledge of higher reason presents this minor premise: “Sexual intercourse with this woman is forbidden by the law of God,” the application of conscience will be made by concluding: “I must abstain from this intercourse.” In universali quidem synderesis iudicio, errorem esse non contingit, ut ex supra dictis patet; sed in iudicio superioris rationis contingit esse peccatum; sicut cum quis exstimat esse secundum legem Dei, vel contra, quod non est: ut haeretici qui credunt iuramentum esse a Deo prohibitum. Et ita error accidit in conscientia propter falsitatem quae erat in superiori parte rationis. Et similiter contingere potest error in conscientia ex errore existente in inferiori parte rationis; ut cum aliquis errat circa civiles rationes iusti vel iniusti, honesti vel non honesti. Ex hoc autem quod non recto modo applicatio fiat, etiam in conscientia error contingit; quia sicut in syllogizando in speculativis contingit formam debitam argumentandi praetermitti, et ex hoc in conclusione accidere falsitatem: ita etiam contingit in syllogismo qui in operabilibus requiritur, ut dictum est. Error has no place in the general judgment of synderesis, as is clear from what we have said earlier, but a mistake can occur in the judgment of higher reason, as happens when one judges something to be licit or illicit which is not, as heretics who believe that oaths are forbidden by God. Therefore, mistakes occur in conscience because of the error which existed in the higher part of reason. Similarly, error can occur in conscience because of error which exists in the lower part of reason, as happens when one is mistaken about civil norms of what is just or unjust, good or bad. Error also occurs because conscience does not make a correct application to acts. For, as in constructing speculative syllogisms one can neglect the proper form of argumentation, and thus arrive at a false conclusion, so he can do the same in practical syllogisms, as has been said. Sciendum tamen, quod in quibusdam conscientia nunquam errare potest; quando scilicet actus ille particularis ad quem conscientia applicatur, habet de se universale iudicium in synderesi. Sicut enim in speculativis non contingit errare circa particulares conclusiones quae directe sub principiis universalibus assumuntur in eisdem terminis, ut in hoc quod est, hoc totum esse maius sua parte, nullus decipitur; sicut nec in hoc, omne totum est maius sua parte; ita etiam nec in hoc quod est, Deum a me non esse diligendum, vel, aliquod malum esse faciendum, nulla conscientia errare potest; eo quod in utroque syllogismo, tam speculabilium quam operabilium, et maior est per se nota, utpote in universali iudicio existens; et minor etiam in qua idem de seipso praedicatur particulariter; ut cum dicitur: omne totum est maius sua parte. Hoc totum est totum. Ergo est maius sua parte. Still, we must remember that in some things conscience can never make a mistake, namely, when the particular act to which conscience is applied has a universal judgment about it in synderesis. For, as in speculative matters, error does not occur when we are dealing with particular conclusions which are derived directly from universal principles and expressed in the same terms—as for instance, no one is deceived in the judgment: “This whole is greater than its part,” just as no one is deceived in the judgment: “Every whole is greater than its part”—so, too, no conscience can err in the judgments: “I should not love God” or “Some evil should be done.” For, in each of these syllogisms, the speculative as well as the practical, the major premise is self-evident in so far as it exists in the universal judgment, and the minor, by means of which the particular predication of identity is made, is also self-evident. This is the case when one says: “Every whole is greater than its part. This whole is a whole. Therefore, it is greater than its part.” Answers to Difficulties Ad primum igitur dicendum, quod conscientia dicitur esse naturale iudicatorium, in quantum est conclusio quaedam ex naturali iudicatorio deducta, in qua potest error accidere, etsi non propter errorem naturalis iudicatorii, tamen propter errorem particularis assumptae, vel propter indebitum modum ratiocinandi, ut dictum est. 1. Conscience is called the natural power of judgment in so far as it is a conclusion derived from that power. And in this conclusion there can be error; not, however, because of error in the natural power of judgment, but because of an error of the particular judgment used in the minor premise or because of a faulty reasoning process, as has been said. Ad secundum dicendum, quod conscientia addit supra scientiam applicationem scientiae ad actum particularem; et in ipsa applicatione potest esse error, quamvis in scientia error non sit. Vel dicendum, quod cum dico conscientiam, non implico scientiam solummodo stricte acceptam prout est tantum verorum, sed scientiam largo modo acceptam pro quacumque notitia, secundum quod omne quod novimus, communi usu loquendi scire dicimur. 2. Conscience adds to scientific knowledge the application of that knowledge to a particular act. There can be error in the application, although there is not error in the scientific knowledge itself. Or we should say that, when I say conscience, I do not imply scientific knowledge (scientia) alone, taken strictly in so far as it deals only with things which are true, but taken in the broad sense for any knowledge (notitia) . In this sense, according to the common use of the word, we say that we know (scire) everything with which we are acquainted (novisse) . Ad tertium dicendum, quod sicut scintilla est id quod purius est de igne, et quod supervolat toti igni, ita synderesis est illud quod supremum in conscientiae iudicio reperitur; et secundum hanc metaphoram synderesis scintilla conscientiae dicitur. Nec oportet propter hoc ut in omnibus aliis se habeat synderesis ad conscientiam sicut scintilla ad ignem. Et tamen etiam in igne materiali aliquis modus accidit igni propter admixtionem ad materiam alienam, qui non accidit scintillae ratione suae puritatis; ita etiam et aliquis error potest accidere conscientiae propter commixtionem eius ad particularia, quae sunt quasi materia a ratione aliena, qui non accidit synderesi in sui puritate existenti. 3. Just as the spark is that part of fire which is purer and hovers above the whole fire, so synderesis is that which is supreme in the judgment of conscience. And it is according to this metaphor that synderesis is called a spark of conscience, nor is it necessary for the relation between synderesis and conscience to be the same as that between a spark and fire in all other respects. Yet, even in material fire the fire receives some modification because a foreign element is added to it, a modification which a spark, because of its purity, does not receive. So, too, some error can find its way into conscience because it has to do with particulars, which are, as it were, matter foreign to reason. This error does not occur in synderesis existing in its purity. Ad quartum dicendum, quod conscientia dicitur lex intellectus secundum id quod habet ex synderesi; et ex hoc nunquam errat, sed aliunde, ut dictum est. 4. Conscience is called the law of understanding by reason of that which it has from synderesis. It is never this, but something else which is the source of error, as has been said. Ad quintum dicendum, quod licet ratio ex hoc quod coniungitur synderesi, non erret, tamen ratio superior vel inferior errans potest synderesi applicari, sicut minor falsa adiungitur maiori verae. 5. Although reason does not err because it is united to synderesis, still, when higher or lower reason is mistaken, it can be applied to synderesis, just as a false minor premise is united with a true major. Ad sextum dicendum, quod in iudicio statur dicto testium, quando dicta testium non possunt per aliqua manifesta indicia argui falsitatis. In eo autem qui in conscientia errat, testimonium conscientiae arguitur falsitatis ex ipso dictamine synderesis; et sic non stabitur dicto conscientiae errantis in divino iudicio sed magis dictamini naturalis legis. 6. The testimony of witnesses is decisive in court when it cannot be shown false through other clear evidence. But, in one whose conscience is erroneous, the testimony of his conscience is shown to be false by the very dictate of synderesis. Thus, in the divine court not the testimony of a mistaken conscience, but the dictates of the natural law, will be decisive. Ad septimum dicendum, quod conscientia non est prima regula humanorum operum, sed magis synderesis; conscientia autem est quasi regula regulata; unde nihil mirum, si in ea error accidere potest. 7. Not conscience, but synderesis, is the first rule of human activity. Conscience, however, is a kind of rule which is itself regulated. Hence, it is not strange that it can make mistakes. Ad octavum dicendum, quod spes illa quae super rectam conscientiam fundatur, certitudinem habet; et haec est spes gratuita. Spes autem quae super erroneam conscientiam fundatur, est illa de qua dicitur, Prov., X, 28: spes impiorum peribit. 8. The hope which is based on a correct conscience has certainty, and this hope is freely given hope. However, the hope which is based on a false conscience is that of which it is said: “The hope of the wicked shall perish” (Proverbs 10:2 8).
Q. 17: Conscience
In the third article we ask:
Does conscience bind?
[ARTICLE Quodl., III, 12, 26; S.T., 1, 79, 13.]
Tertio quaeritur utrum conscientia liget Difficulties Et videtur quod non. It seems that it does not, for Nullus enim ligatur ad aliqua faciendum nisi aliqua lege. Sed homo non facit sibi ipsi legem. Ergo, cum conscientia sit ex actu hominis, conscientia non ligat. 1. No one is bound to do anything except by some law. But man does not make the law for himself. Therefore, since conscience arises from the act of man, it does not bind. Praeterea, ad consilia aliquis non ligatur. Sed conscientia se habet per modum consiliationis; ita enim videtur conscientia praecedere electionem, sicut consilium. Ergo conscientia non ligat. 2. One is not bound to follow the counsels. But conscience operates as a counsel, for conscience seems to precede choice in the way counsel does. Therefore, conscience does not bind. Praeterea, nullus ligatur nisi ex aliquo superiori. Sed conscientia hominis non est superior quam ipse homo. Ergo homo ex sua conscientia non ligatur. 3. One is bound only by something superior. But the conscience of a man is not superior to the man himself. Therefore, a man is not bound by his conscience. Praeterea, eiusdem est ligare et solvere. Sed conscientia non sufficit ad hominem absolvendum. Ergo nec etiam ad ligandum. 4. The same thing binds and frees [from an obligation]. But conscience cannot free a man [from an obligation]. Therefore, it cannot bind him, either. Sed contra. To the Contrary Eccle., VII, 23: scit conscientia tua; Glossa: qua iudice nemo nocens absolvitur. Sed praeceptum iudicis obligat. Ergo et conscientiae dictamen ligat. 1. The Gloss on Ecclesiastes (7:23), “Your conscience knows,” says: “No one who is guilty is set free by this judge.” But the command of a judge is binding. Therefore, the dictate of conscience binds. Praeterea, super illud Rom., XIV, 23: omne quod non est ex fide etc., dicit Origenes: vult apostolus ut nihil dicam, nihil cogitem, nihil agam, nisi secundum conscientiam. Ergo conscientia ligat. 2. On Romans (14:23), “All that is not of faith... “ Origen says: “The Apostle desires that I Say, think, or do nothing against conscience. Therefore, conscience binds. REPLY Responsio. Dicendum, quod conscientia procul dubio ligat. Ad videndum autem quomodo liget, sciendum est, quod ligatio metaphorice a corporalibus ad spiritualia assumpta, necessitatis impositionem importat. Ille enim qui ligatus est, necessitatem habet consistere in loco ubi ligatus est, et aufertur ei potestas ad alia divertendi. Unde patet quod ligatio non habet locum in illis quae ex se necessaria sunt: non enim possumus dicere ignem esse ligatum ad hoc quod sursum feratur, quamvis necesse sit sursum ipsum ferri. Sed in his tantum necessariis ligatio locum habet quibus ab alio necessitas imponitur. Conscience is certainly binding. But, to see how it binds, we must bear in mind that binding, taken metaphorically from corporeal things and applied to spiritual, means imposing necessity. For he who is bound must necessarily stay in the place where he is bound, and the power to go off to other places is taken away from him. Hence, it is clear that binding has no place in things which have internal necessity. For we cannot say that fire is bound to rise, although it is necessary for it to rise. Binding, then, has place only in things which are necessary with a necessity imposed by something else. Est autem duplex necessitas quae ab alio agente imponi potest. Una quidem coactionis, per quam aliquis absolute necesse habet hoc facere ad quod determinatur ex actione agentis; alias coactio non proprie diceretur: sed magis inductio. Alia vero necessitas est conditionata, scilicet ex suppositione finis; sicut imponitur alicui necessitas ut si non fecerit hoc, non consequatur suum praemium. Now, there is a twofold necessity which can be imposed by an outside agent. One is the necessity of coercion, through which someone with absolute necessity does that which the agent forces him to do. Otherwise, it is not properly called coercion, but inducement. The other necessity is conditional, on the presupposition, that is, of an end to be attained. In this way, necessity is so imposed on one that, if he does not do a certain thing, he will not receive his reward. Prima quidem necessitas, quae est coactionis, non cadit in motibus voluntatis, sed solum in corporalibus rebus, eo quod voluntas naturaliter est a coactione libera. Sed secunda necessitas voluntati imponi potest; ut scilicet necessarium sit ei hoc eligere, si hoc bonum debeat consequi, vel si hoc malum debeat evitare. Carere enim malo in idem computatur cum habere bonum in talibus, ut patet per philosophum in V Ethicorum. The first necessity, that of coercion, has no place in movements of the will, but only in physical things, because by its nature the will is free from coercion. The second necessity, however, can be imposed on the will, so that one must, for example, choose this means if he is to acquire this good, or avoid this evil. For, in such matters, avoiding evil is considered equivalent to achieving some good, as is clear from the Philosopher. Sicut autem necessitas coactionis imponitur rebus corporalibus per aliquam actionem, ita etiam ista necessitas conditionata imponitur voluntati per aliquam actionem. Actio autem qua voluntas movetur, est imperium regentis et gubernantis. Unde philosophus dicit, in V Metaph., quod rex est principium motus per suum imperium. Moreover, as necessity of coercion is imposed on physical things by means of some action, so, too, it is by means of some action that conditional necessity is imposed on the will. But the action by which the will is moved is the command of the one ruling or governing. Consequently, the Philosopher says that by means of his command the king is the source of movement. Ita igitur se habet imperium alicuius imperantis ad ligandum in rebus voluntariis illo modo ligationis qui voluntati accidere potest, sicut se habet actio corporalis ad ligandum res corporales necessitate coactionis. Actio autem corporalis agentis numquam inducit necessitatem in rem aliam nisi per contactum ipsius actionis ad rem in quam agitur; unde nec ex imperio alicuius regis vel domini ligatur aliquis, nisi imperium attingat ipsum cui imperatur; attingit autem eum per scientiam. Similarly, too, where the will is concerned, the relation between the command of a ruler and the imposition of the kind of obligation by which the will can be bound is like the relation between physical action and the binding of physical things through the necessity of coercion. However, the action of a physical agent never imposes necessity on another thing except by the contact of its action with the object on which it is acting. So, no one is bound by the command of a king or lord unless the command reaches him who is commanded; and it reaches him through knowledge of it. Unde nullus ligatur per praeceptum aliquod nisi mediante scientia illius praecepti. Et ideo ille qui non est capax notitiae praecepti, non ligatur praecepto; nec aliquis ignorans praeceptum dicitur esse ligatus ad praeceptum faciendum, nisi quatenus tenetur scire praeceptum. Si autem non teneatur scire, nec sciat, nullo modo ex praecepto ligatur. Sicut igitur in corporalibus agens corporale non agit nisi per contactum, ita in spiritualibus praeceptum non ligat nisi per scientiam. Et ideo, sicut est eadem vis qua tactus agit, et qua virtus agentis agit, cum tactus non agat nisi per virtutem agentis, nec virtus agentis nisi mediante tactu; ita etiam eadem vis est qua praeceptum ligat et qua scientia ligat: cum scientia non liget nisi per virtutem praecepti, nec praeceptum nisi per scientiam. Unde, cum conscientia nihil aliud sit quam applicatio notitiae ad actum, constat quod conscientia ligare dicitur in vi praecepti divini. Hence, no one is bound by a precept except through his knowledge of the precept. Therefore, one who is not capable of the knowledge of a precept is not bound by the precept. Nor is one who is ignorant of a precept bound to carry out that precept except in so far as he is required to know it. If, however, he is not required to know it, and does not know it, he is in no way bound by the precept. Thus, as in physical things the physical agent acts only by means of contact, so in spiritual things a precept binds only by means of knowledge. Therefore, just as it is the same power by which touch acts and by which the power of the agent acts, since touch acts only by the power of the agent and the power of the agent acts only through the mediation of touch, so it is the same power by which the precept binds and by which knowledge binds, since the knowledge binds only through the power of the precept, and the precept only through the knowledge. Consequently, since conscience is nothing else but the application of knowledge to an act, it is obvious that conscience is said to bind by the power of a divine precept. Answers to Difficulties Ad primum igitur dicendum, quod homo non facit sibi legem; sed per actum suae cognitionis, qua legem ab alio factam cognoscit, ligatur ad legem implendam. 1. Man does not make the law for himself, but through the act of his knowledge, by which he knows a law made by someone else, he is bound to fulfill the law. Ad secundum dicendum, quod consilium dupliciter dicitur. Quandoque enim consilium nihil est aliud quam actus rationis inquirentis de agendis; et hoc consilium hoc modo se habet ad electionem sicut syllogismus vel quaestio ad conclusionem, ut patet per philosophum in III Ethicor. Hoc autem modo acceptum consilium non dividitur contra praeceptum: quia de his quae sunt in praecepto etiam consiliamur in hunc modum; unde ex tali consilio contingit aliquem obligari. Sic autem dictum consilium invenitur in conscientia quantum ad unum modum applicationis; cum scilicet inquiritur de agendo. 2. Counsel has two meanings. Sometimes, counsel is nothing other than the action of reason inquiring about things to be done. In this sense, the relation of counsel to election is the same as that of a syllogism or question to a conclusion, as is clear from the Philosopher. Taken in this sense, counsel is not opposed to precept, for we take counsel in this way about matters of precept. Hence, obligation can arise from such counsel. It is in this sense that counsel is found in conscience in so far as it is applied to one function of conscience, when, namely, it makes an investigation into some action. Alio modo dicitur consilium persuasio vel inductio ad aliquid agendum, non habens vim coactivam. Et sic consilium contra praeceptum dividitur, cuiusmodi sunt amicabiles exhortationes; et ex isto etiam consilio aliquando etiam conscientia procedit. Applicatur enim aliquando scientia huius consilii ad particularem actum. Sed cum conscientia non liget nisi ex virtute eius quod in conscientia habetur, conscientia quae ex consilio sequitur, non alio modo potest obligare quam ipsum consilium; ex quo aliquis obligatur ut non contemnat, sed non ut impleat. In the other sense, counsel is called persuasion or inducement to do something when it does not have compelling force. In this sense, counsel is opposed to precept. Friendly exhortations are of this sort, and, sometimes, conscience proceeds from that type of counsel. For the knowledge of this counsel is sometimes applied to a particular act. But, since conscience does not bind except in virtue of that which is in conscience, conscience which follows from counsel cannot bind in any other way than the counsel itself. Consequently, one is bound not to despise it, but he is not obliged to follow it. Ad tertium dicendum, quod quamvis homo seipso non sit superior, tamen ille de cuius praecepto scientiam habet, eo superior est, et sic ex sua conscientia ligatur. 3. Although man is not higher than himself, the one whose precept he knows is higher than man. This is how he is bound by his conscience. Ad quartum dicendum, quod tunc conscientia erronea non sufficit ad absolvendum, quando in ipso errore peccat, ut quando errat circa ea quae scire tenetur. Si autem esset error circa ea quae quis non tenetur scire, ex conscientia sua absolvitur; sicut patet in eo qui ex ignorantia facti peccat, ut cum quis accedit ad alienam uxorem, quam credit suam. 4. When a man sins in making the error itself, a false conscience is not enough to excuse him. This is the case when he makes a mistake about things which he is required to know. However, if the error is about things which he is not required to know, he is excused by his conscience, as is clear when one sins from ignorance of a fact, as when one approaches another’s wife, whom he thinks is his own.
Q. 17: Conscience
In the fourth article we ask:
Does a false conscience bind?
[ARTICLE II Sent., 39, 3, 3; Quodl., III, 12, 27; VIII, 6,13; IX, 7,15; Ad Rom., c. 14, lect. 2; Ad Gal., c. 5, lect. 1; S.T., I-II, 19, 5.]
Quarto quaeritur utrum conscientia erronea liget Difficulties Et videtur quod non. It seems that it does not, for Quia ut dicit Augustinus, peccatum est dictum vel factum vel concupitum contra legem Dei. Ergo nihil ligat ad peccatum nisi lex Dei. Sed conscientia erronea non est secundum legem Dei. Ergo non obligat ad peccatum. 1. Augustine says that sin is a word, deed, or desire contrary to the law of God. Therefore, nothing binds under pain of sin except God’s law. But a false conscience is not in accordance with God’s law. Therefore, it does not bind under pain of sin. Praeterea, Rom., XIII, 1, super illud: omnis anima potestatibus etc., dicit Glossa Augustini, quod inferiori potestati non est obediendum contra praeceptum superioris; sicut non est obediendum proconsuli, si contrarium imperator praecipiat. Sed conscientia erronea est inferior ipso Deo. Cum igitur conscientia praecipit contraria praeceptis Dei, praeceptum conscientiae errantis nullo modo obligare videtur. 2. On Romans (13:1), “Let every soul be subject to higher powers,” Augustine says that we should not obey a lower power contrary to the commandment of a higher power, just as we should not obey the proconsul if his order is contrary to that of the emperor. But a false conscience is inferior to God. Therefore, when conscience gives orders contrary to the commands of God, the command of a mistaken conscience seems to impose no obligation whatever. Praeterea, secundum Ambrosium, peccatum est transgressio legis divinae, et caelestium inobedientia mandatorum. Ergo quicumque deviat ab obedientia legis divinae, peccat. Sed conscientia erronea facit deviare ab oboedientia potestatis divinae; quando scilicet aliquis habet conscientiam faciendi illud quod est lege divina prohibitum. Ergo conscientia erronea magis inducit in peccatum observata, quam liget in peccatum si non observetur. 3. According to Ambrose, sin is “a transgression of the divine law and disobedience to the heavenly commands.” Therefore, whoever disobeys the divine law sins. But a false conscience makes a man disobey the divine power when, for instance, his conscience tells him to do something which is forbidden by the divine law. Therefore, a false conscience leads one into sin if he follows it, rather than binds him under pain of sin if he does not follow it. Praeterea, secundum iura, si aliquis habet conscientiam quod uxor sua attineat sibi in aliquo gradu prohibito, et conscientia illa sit probabilis, tunc debet eam sequi etiam contra praeceptum Ecclesiae, etiam si excommunicatio addatur: si autem non sit probabilis conscientia, non ligatur ad hoc quod eam impleat, sed debet magis Ecclesiae obedire. Sed conscientia erronea, praecipue de per se malis, nullo modo est probabilis. Ergo talis conscientia non ligat. 4. According to the law, if a man’s conscience tells him that he and his wife are related within the forbidden degrees of kindred, and that conscience is probable, then he must follow it against a precept of the Church, even if an excommunication is attached to the precept. However, if his conscience is not probable, he is not bound to follow it, but should obey the Church. But a false conscience, especially about things which are intrinsically evil, has no probability at all. Therefore, such a conscience does not bind. Praeterea, Deus est misericordior quam aliquis dominus temporalis. Sed dominus temporalis non imputat homini ad peccatum illud quod ex errore committitur. Ergo multo minus per conscientiam errantem aliquis penes Deum obligatur ad peccatum. S. God is more merciful than a temporal lord. But a temporal lord does not accuse a man of sin in something which he did by mistake. Therefore, in God’s sight a man is much less obliged under pain of sin by a mistaken conscience. Sed dicebat, quod conscientia erronea ligat circa indifferentia, non autem circa ea quae sunt per se mala.- Sed contra, ideo in illis quae sunt per se mala, conscientia errans dicitur non ligare, quia dictamen naturalis rationis est in contrarium. Sed similiter etiam naturalis ratio dictet contrarium conscientiae erroneae quae circa indifferentia errat. Ergo similiter ista non ligat. 6. It was said that a false conscience binds with reference to indifferent things, but not with reference to things which are intrinsically evil.—On the contrary, a mistaken conscience is said not to bind when dealing with things which are intrinsically evil because the dictate of natural reason opposes it. But natural reason in like manner opposes the false conscience which is mistaken about indifferent things. Therefore, that, too, does not bind. Praeterea, opus indifferens se habet ad utrumlibet. Sed quod est ad utrumlibet, non est necessarium fieri vel non fieri. Ergo ad opera indifferentia aliquis non obligatur ex necessitate per conscientiam. 7. An indifferent action may be accepted or rejected. But there is no necessary obligation to do or omit an action which may be accepted or rejected. Therefore, conscience imposes no necessary obligation to indifferent actions. Praeterea, si aliquis ex erronea conscientia contra legem Dei faciat, non excusatur a peccato. Si igitur ille etiam qui contra conscientiam sic errantem ageret, peccaret; sequeretur quod sive ageret secundum conscientiam erroneam, sive non ageret, peccatum incurreret; ergo esset perplexus ut peccatum evitare non posset; quod videtur impossibile, quia nullus peccat in eo quod vitare non potest, secundum Augustinum. Ergo impossibile est quod conscientia taliter errans liget. 8. If from a false conscience one acts contrary to the law of God, he is not excused from sin. Accordingly, if one who acted against his conscience, even when it was mistaken, were to sin, it would follow that, whether he acted according to his false conscience or not, he would sin. Therefore, he would be so perplexed that it would be impossible for him to avoid sin. But this seems impossible, because, according to Augustine: “No one sins in that which he cannot avoid.” Therefore, it is impossible for such a false conscience to bind. Praeterea, omne peccatum ad aliquod genus peccati reducitur. Sed si alicui dictat conscientia quod fornicetur, abstinere a fornicatione non potest ad aliquod genus peccati reduci. Ergo non peccaret sic contra conscientiam agens; ergo conscientia talis non ligat. 9. Every sin belongs to some genus of sin. But, if conscience tells one that he should fornicate, to abstain from fornication cannot be classified in any genus of sin. Therefore, he would not sin in thus acting contrary to his conscience. Therefore, such a conscience does not bind. Sed contra. To the Contrary Est quod dicitur Rom. XIV, vers. 23: omne quod non est ex fide, peccatum est, Glosa idest secundum conscientiam peccatum est, etiam si bonum sit in se. Sed conscientia quae prohibet illud quod in se est bonum, est conscientia erronea. Ergo talis conscientia ligat. 1. On Romans (14:23), “For all that is not of faith is sin,” the Gloss says: “That is, it is a sin in conscience, even if it is good in itself.” But conscience which forbids that which is good in itself is false. Therefore, such a conscience binds. Praeterea, observare legalia post tempus gratiae revelatae non erat indifferens, sed per se malum: unde dicitur Gal. V, 2: si circumcidamini, Christus nihil vobis proderit. Sed tamen conscientia de circumcisione servanda obligabat; unde ibidem subditur: testificor autem omni circumcidenti se, quoniam debitor est universae legis faciendae. Ergo conscientia erronea ligat etiam in per se malis. 2. Observance of the legal prescriptions of the Mosaic law in the new dispensation of grace was not indifferent but intrinsically evil. Hence, Galatians (5:2) says: “If you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” Nevertheless, conscience prescribing the observance of circumcision was binding. Hence, in the same Epistle (5:3) we read: “And I testify again to every man circumcising himself, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” Therefore, a false conscience binds in things intrinsically evil. Praeterea, peccatum principaliter in voluntate consistit. Quicumque autem vult transgredi praeceptum divinum, habet malam voluntatem. Ergo peccat. Sed quicumque credit aliquid esse praeceptum, et vult transgredi, habet voluntatem non servandi legem. Ergo peccat. Qui autem habet erroneam conscientiam sive in his quae sunt per se mala, sive in quibuscumque, credit id quod est contrarium suae conscientiae esse contra legem Dei. Ergo, si vult facere illud, facere vult contra legem Dei, et ita peccat; et ita conscientia, quantumcumque erronea, obligat ad peccatum. 3. Sin is principally in the will. But whoever decides to transgress a divine commandment has an evil will. Therefore, he sins. Whoever believes that something is a command and decides to violate it wills to break the law. Therefore, he sins. Moreover, one who has a false conscience, whether in things intrinsically evil or in anything at all, believes that what is opposed to his conscience is contrary to the law of God. Therefore, if he decides to do that, he decides to act contrary to the law of God, and, so, he sins. Consequently, conscience, no matter how false it is, obliges under pain of sin. Praeterea, secundum Damascenum, conscientia est lex intellectus nostri. Sed facere contra legem est peccatum. Ergo et facere contra conscientiam quomodocumque. 4. According to Damascene: “Conscience is the law of our understanding.” But to act contrary to a law is a sin. Therefore, it is also a sin to act against conscience in any way. Praeterea, aliquis ex praecepto ligatur. Sed hoc quod conscientia dictat, hoc factum est praeceptum. Ergo, quantumcumque conscientia sit erronea, ligat. 5. One is bound by a precept. But that which conscience dictates becomes a precept. Therefore, conscience binds, no matter how false it may be. Responsio. REPLY Dicendum, quod circa hoc diversae sunt opiniones. Quidam enim dicunt, quod conscientia potest errare vel in his quae sunt per se mala, vel in indifferentibus. Conscientia igitur errans in his quae sunt per se mala, non ligat; in indifferentibus autem ligat. Sed qui hoc dicunt, non videtur intelligere quid sit conscientiam ligare. Secundum hoc enim ligare conscientia dicitur, quod aliquis, nisi conscientiam impleat, peccatum incurrit; non autem hoc modo quod aliquis implens recte faciat. Alias enim consilium obligare diceretur: implens enim consilium recte agit; sed tamen ad consilia dicimur non ligari, quia qui consilium praeterit, non peccat; ad praecepta autem ligari dicimur, quia non servantes praecepta, peccata incurrimus. Non igitur propter hoc conscientia dicitur ad aliquid faciendum ligare, quod si illud fiat, ex tali conscientia bonum sit: sed quia si non fiat, peccatum incurritur. There are different opinions on this matter. For some say that conscience can be mistaken both in things which are intrinsically evil and also with regard to indifferent things. Furthermore, a mistaken conscience does not bind in things which are intrinsically evil, but does bind with regard to indifferent things. But those who say this do not seem to understand in what sense conscience imposes an obligation. For conscience is said to bind in so far as one sins if he does not follow his conscience, but not in the sense that he acts correctly if he does follow it. Otherwise, a counsel would be called obligatory, for one who fulfills a counsel acts correctly. Still, we do not say that we are bound to counsels, since one who neglects what is of counsel does not sin. But we say that we are bound to precepts because, if we do not keep them, we commit sin. Therefore, conscience is not said to bind in the sense that what one does according to such a conscience will be good, but in the sense that in not following it he will sin. Non videtur autem possibile quod aliquis peccatum evadat, si conscientia, quantumcumque errans, dictet aliquid esse praeceptum Dei sive sit indifferens sive etiam per se malum; si contrarium, tali conscientia manente, agere disponat. Quantum enim in se est, ex hoc ipso habet voluntatem legem Dei non observandi; unde mortaliter peccat. Quamvis igitur talis conscientia, quae est erronea, deponi possit; nihilominus tamen dum manet, obligativa est, quia transgressor ipsius peccatum de necessitate incurrit. Moreover, it does not seem possible for a man to avoid sin if his conscience, no matter how mistaken, declares that something which is indifferent or intrinsically evil is a command of God, and with such a conscience he decides to do the opposite. For, as far as he can, he has by this very fact decided not to observe the law of God. Consequently, he sins mortally. Accordingly, although such a false conscience can be changed, nevertheless, as long as it remains, it is binding, since one who acts against it necessarily commits a sin. Diversimode tamen recta conscientia et erronea ligat: recta quidem ligat simpliciter et per se; erronea autem secundum quid et per accidens. However, a correct conscience and a false conscience bind in different ways. The correct conscience binds absolutely and for an intrinsic reason; the false binds in a qualified way and for an extrinsic reason. Dico autem rectam ligare simpliciter, quia ligat absolute et in omnem eventum. Si enim aliquis conscientiam habeat de vitando adulterio, istam conscientiam sine peccato non potest deponere, quia in hoc ipso quod eam deponeret errando, graviter peccaret; ea autem manente, non potest praeteriri in actu sine peccato. Unde absolute ligat et in omnem eventum. Sed conscientia erronea non ligat nisi secundum quid quia sub conditione. Ille enim cui dictat conscientia quod teneatur ad fornicandum, non est obligatus ut fornicationem sine peccato dimittere non possit, nisi sub hac conditione, si talis conscientia duret. Haec autem condicio removeri potest et absque peccato. Unde talis conscientia non obligat in omnem eventum: potest enim aliquid contingere, scilicet depositio conscientiae, quo contingente, aliquis ulterius non ligatur. Quod autem sub conditione tantum est, secundum quid esse dicitur. I say that a correct conscience binds absolutely because it binds without qualification and in every circumstance. For, if one’s conscience tells him to avoid adultery, he cannot change that conscience without sin, since he would commit a serious sin in the very error of changing such a conscience. Moreover, as long as it remains, it cannot actually be set aside without sin. Thus, it binds absolutely and in every event. But a false conscience binds only in a qualified way, since it binds conditionally. For one whose conscience tells him he must fornicate is not obliged in such a way that he cannot omit the fornication without sin except on condition that such a conscience remains. But this situation can be changed, and without sin. Hence, such a conscience does not oblige in every event. For something can happen, namely, a change of conscience, and, when this takes place, one is no longer bound. That which is only conditional is said to be qualified. Dico etiam quod conscientia recta per se ligat, erronea autem per accidens; quod ex hoc patet. Qui enim unum vult vel amat propter alterum, illud quidem propter quod amat reliquum per se amat; quod vero propter alterum amat quasi per accidens, sicut qui vinum amat propter dulce, amat dulce per se, vinum autem per accidens. Ille autem qui conscientiam erroneam habet credens eam esse rectam (alias non erraret), inhaeret conscientiae erroneae propter rectitudinem quam in ea credit; inhaeret quidem, per se loquendo, rectae conscientiae, sed erroneae quasi per accidens: in quantum hanc conscientiam, quam credit esse rectam, contingit esse erroneam. Et exinde est quod, per se loquendo, ligatur a conscientia recta, per accidens autem ab erronea. I also say that a correct conscience binds for an intrinsic reason, and a false conscience binds for an extrinsic reason. This is clear from the following. For one who wishes or desires something because of something else desires that because of which he desires the others for an intrinsic reason, and the other for an extrinsic reason, as it were. Thus, one who loves wine because of its sweetness loves sweetness for an intrinsic reason, and wine for an extrinsic reason. But one who has a false conscience and believes that it is correct (otherwise, he would not be mistaken), clings to his false conscience because of the correctness he believes is there, and, strictly speaking, clings to a correct conscience, but one which is false accidentally, as it were, in so far as this conscience, which he believes to be correct, happens to be false. It is for this reason that, strictly speaking, he is bound by a correct conscience, but accidentally by a false conscience. Et haec solutio potest accipi ex verbis philosophi in VII Ethic., ubi quasi eamdem quaestionem quaerit, utrum scilicet dicendus sit incontinens qui abscedit a ratione recta solum, vel qui abscedit etiam a falsa. Et solvit quod incontinens per se recedit a ratione recta, per accidens autem a falsa; et ab una quidem simpliciter, ab alia autem secundum quid. Quia quod per se est, simpliciter est; quod autem per accidens, secundum quid. We can find this solution from what the philosopher says when he asks almost the same question, that is, whether one is guilty of excess only if he departs from right reason, or also if he departs from a mistaken reason. His solution is that one who departs from right reason goes to excess essentially, and one who departs from mistaken reason goes to excess accidentally. And a man departs absolutely from the former and with some qualification from the latter, for what is essential is absolute, and what is accidental is qualified. Answers to Difficulties Ad primum igitur dicendum, quod quamvis id quod dictat erronea conscientia, non sit consonum legi Dei, tamen accipitur ab errante ut ipsa lex Dei. Et ideo, per se loquendo, si ab hoc recedat, recedit a lege Dei; quamvis per accidens sit quod a lege Dei non recedat. 1. Although that which a false conscience dictates is out of harmony with the law of God, the one who is mistaken considers it the law of God. Therefore, taking the thing in itself, if he departs from this, he departs from the law of God, although it would be accidental that he does not depart from the law of God. Ad secundum dicendum, quod ratio illa procedit quando superioris et inferioris sunt distincta praecepta, et utrumque per se distinctim pervenit ad eum qui praecepto obligatur. Quod hic non contingit; quia conscientiae dictamen nihil aliud est quam perventio praecepti Dei ad eum qui conscientiam habet, ut ex dictis, art. 1 et 2, patet. Esset autem simile in exemplo proposito, si praeceptum imperatoris nunquam ad aliquem pervenire posset nisi mediante proconsule, et proconsul quod praecipit non praeciperet nisi quasi recitans imperatoris praeceptum. Tunc enim idem esset contemnere praeceptum imperatoris et proconsulis, sive proconsul verum diceret, sive mentiretur. 2. The argument proceeds correctly when there are distinct commands from higher and lower sources, and both, as essentially distinct, reach the one who is obliged by the command. But this is not the situation here, since the dictate of conscience is nothing other than the delivery of a divine command to him who has the conscience, as is clear from what we have said. In the proposed example the cases would be similar if the command of the emperor could never reach a man except through the proconsul, and the proconsul would not order anything except in so far as he repeated the emperor’s commands. Then, it would be the same thing to despise the command of the emperor and the command of the proconsul, whether the latter spoke the truth or lied. Ad tertium dicendum, quod conscientia erronea errans in his quae sunt per se mala, dictat contraria legi Dei; sed tamen illa quae dictat, dicit esse legem Dei. Et ideo transgressor illius conscientiae efficitur quasi transgressor legis Dei; quamvis etiam conscientiam sequens, et eam opere implens, contra legem Dei faciens mortaliter peccet: quia in ipso errore peccatum erat, cum contingeret per ignorantiam eius quod scire debebat. 3. A false conscience which is mistaken in things which are intrinsically evil commands something which is contrary to the law of God. Nevertheless, it says that what it commands is the law of God. Accordingly, one who acts against such a conscience becomes a kind of transgressor of the law of God, although one Who follows such a conscience and acts according to it acts against the law of God and sins mortally. For there was sin in the error itself, since it happened because of ignorance of that which one should have known. Ad quartum dicendum, quod quando conscientia non est probabilis, tunc debet eam deponere; sed tamen dum manet, si contra eam faciat, mortaliter peccat. Unde per hoc non probatur quod conscientia erronea non liget dum manet, sed solum quod non ligat simpliciter et in omnem eventum. 4 When a conscience is not probable, it should be changed. But, as long as such a conscience remains, one sins mortally if he acts against it. Hence, this does not prove that a false conscience does not bind as long as it remains, but that it does not bind absolutely and in every event. Ad quintum dicendum, quod ex illo argumento non concluditur quod conscientia erronea non liget ad peccatum si non impleatur; sed quod si impleatur, excusat a peccato. Unde non est ad propositum. Concludit autem verum, quando ipse error non est peccatum: utpote cum contingit ex ignorantia facti. Si autem ex ignorantia iuris, sic non concludit, quia ipsa ignorantia peccatum est; sic enim etiam apud saecularem iudicem non excusatur qui ignorantiam legis quam scire debet, allegat. 5. We do not conclude from that argument that a false conscience does not bind under pain of sin if it is not followed, but that, if it is followed, it excuses from sin. Consequently, the argument is not to the point. When the error itself is not a sin, the conclusion is true, as when the error is due to ignorance of some fact. But, if it is ignorance of a law, the conclusion is wrong because the ignorance itself is a sin. For before a civil judge, also, one who thus appeals to ignorance of a law which he should know is not excused. Ad sextum dicendum, quod licet in ratione naturali sit unde possit procedi ad contrarium eius quod erronea conscientia dictat, sive sit error circa indifferentia, sive circa per se mala; tamen actu naturalis ratio non dictat; si enim dictaret contrarium, non erraret conscientia. 6. Although in natural reason there is a basis for proceeding to the opposite of that which a false conscience dictates, whether the mistake is about indifferent things or things intrinsically evil, natural reason does not actually dictate the opposite. For, if it did dictate the opposite, conscience would not be mistaken. Ad septimum dicendum, quod quamvis opus indifferens, quantum in se est, ad utrumlibet se habeat; tamen huic qui exstimat hoc opus cadere sub praecepto, efficitur non indifferens propter suam aestimationem. 7. Although an indifferent action, in so far as the act itself is concerned, can be accepted or rejected, still, when one thinks that such an action has been commanded, it loses its indifference because of his judgment. Ad octavum dicendum, quod ille qui habet conscientiam faciendi fornicationem, non est simpliciter perplexus, quia potest aliquid facere quo facto non incidet in peccatum, scilicet conscientiam erroneam deponere; sed est perplexus secundum quid, scilicet conscientia erronea manente. Et hoc non est inconveniens, ut aliquo supposito, homo peccatum vitare non possit; sicut supposita intentione inanis gloriae, ille qui tenetur eleemosynam dare, peccatum evitare non potest: si enim dat ex tali intentione, peccat; si vero non dat, transgressor est. 8. One whose conscience tells him to commit fornication is not completely perplexed, because he can do something by which he can avoid sin, namely, change the false conscience. But he is perplexed to some degree, that is, as long as the false conscience remains. And there is no difficulty in saying that, if some condition is presupposed, it is impossible for a man to avoid sin; just as, if we presuppose the intention of vainglory, one who is required to give alms cannot avoid sin. For, if he gives alms, because of such an intention, he sins; but, if he does not give alms, he violates the law. Ad nonum dicendum, quod quando conscientia erronea dictat aliquid faciendum, dictat illud sub aliqua ratione boni, vel quasi opus iustitiae, vel quasi temperantiae, et sic de aliis; et ideo transgressor incurrit in vitium contrarium illi virtuti sub cuius specie conscientia illud dictat. Vel si dictat illud sub specie divini praecepti, vel alicuius praelati tantum, incurret peccatum inobedientiae conscientiam transgrediens. 9. When a false conscience says that something must be done, it commands this under some aspect of good, either as a work of justice, or temperance, and so forth. Therefore, one who acts against such a conscience falls into the vice opposed to the virtue to which his conscience thinks it belongs when commanding it. Or, if such a conscience orders something under the guise of a command of God, or only of some superior, he commits the sin of disobedience by going against it.
Q. 17: Conscience
In the fifth article we ask:
Does conscience in indifferent matters bind more than the command of a superior, or less?
[ARTICLE II Sent., 39, 3, 3, ad 3; Ad Rom., c. 14, lect. 2.]
Quinto quaeritur utrum conscientia erronea in indifferentibus plus liget quam praeceptum praelati, vel minus Difficulties Et videtur quod minus. It seems to bind less, for Subditus enim religiosus vovit oboedire praelato suo. Sed tenetur votum reddere ut in Psalm. dicitur: vovete et reddite. Ergo videtur quod tenetur praelato obedire contra conscientiam; et ita magis praelato quam conscientiae. 1. A religious subject vows obedience to his superior. But he is required to keep his vow, as is said in Psalms (75:12): “Vow ye, and pay [them] to the Lord your God.” Therefore, one seems to be obliged to obey a superior against his own conscience, and, thus, one is more obliged to obey a superior than conscience. Praeterea, praelato semper est obediendum in his quae non sunt contra Deum. Sed indifferentia non sunt contra Deum. Ergo in his tenetur obedire praelato; et sic idem quod prius. 2. A superior must always be obeyed in things which are not against God’s will. But indifferent things are not against God’s will. Therefore, one is obliged to obey a superior in these matters. We conclude as before. Praeterea, potestati superiori magis est obediendum quam inferiori, ut habetur in Glossa, Rom. XIII, 2. Sed anima praelati est superior quam anima subditi. Ergo magis ligatur subditus ex imperio praelati quam ex conscientia propria. 3. The higher power should be more obeyed than the lower power, as the Gloss says. But the soul of a prelate is higher than the soul of a subject. Therefore, the subject is bound more by the command of the superior than by his own conscience. Praeterea, subditus non debet iudicare de praecepto praelati, sed magis praelatus de actibus subditi. Iudicaret autem subditus de praelati praecepto, si propter suam conscientiam ab eius praecepto recederet. Ergo quantumcumque conscientia contrarium dictet in indifferentibus, magis est praelati praecepto standum. 4. A subject should not pass judgment on the command of a superior, but the superior should judge the acts of the subject. But the subject would judge the command of the superior if he refused the command because of his own conscience. Therefore, no matter what conscience dictates in indifferent matters, the command of the superior should prevail. Sed contra. To the Contrary Vinculum spirituale fortius est quam corporale, et intrinsecum quam extrinsecum. Sed conscientia est vinculum spirituale intrinsecum, praelatio autem est vinculum extrinsecum et corporale, ut videtur, quia secundum temporalem dispensationem omnis praelatio agitur; unde, cum ad aeternitatem ventum fuerit, evacuabitur, ut habetur ex Glossa, I Corinth. XV, 24. Ergo, videtur quod magis est obediendum conscientiae quam praelato. A spiritual bond is stronger than a physical bond, and an intrinsic bond stronger than an extrinsic bond. But conscience is an intrinsic spiritual bond, whereas the office of the superior is physical and extrinsic, as it seems, because all his authority is based on a dispensation which is limited to time. Hence, when we reach eternity, it will cease, as the Gloss indicates. Therefore, it seems that one should obey his conscience rather than a superior. Responsio. REPLY Dicendum, quod huius quaestionis solutio satis ex his quae dicta sunt, potest apparere. Dictum est enim supra, quod conscientia non ligat nisi in vi praecepti divini, vel secundum legem scriptam, vel secundum legem naturae inditi. Comparare igitur ligamen conscientiae ad ligamen quod est ex praecepto praelati, nihil est aliud quam comparare ligamen praecepti divini ad ligamen praecepti praelati. Unde, cum praeceptum divinum obliget contra praeceptum praelati, et magis obliget quam praeceptum praelati: etiam conscientiae ligamen erit maius quam ligamen praecepti praelati, et conscientia ligabit, etiam praecepto praelati in contrarium existente. The answer to this question is clear enough from what has been said. For it has been mentioned above that conscience binds only in virtue of a divine command, either in written law or in the law inherent in our nature. Therefore, to compare the bond of conscience with the bond resulting from the command of a superior is nothing else than to compare the bond of a divine command with the bond of a superior’s command. Consequently, since the bond of a divine command binds against a command of a superior, and is more binding than the command of a superior, the bond of conscience is also greater than that of the command of a superior. And conscience will bind even when there exists a command of a superior to the contrary. Tamen hoc diversimode se habet in conscientia recta et erronea. Conscientia enim recta simpliciter et perfecte contra praeceptum praelati obligat. Simpliciter quidem, quia eius obligatio auferri non potest, cum talis conscientia sine peccato deponi non possit. Perfecte autem, quia conscientia recta non solum hoc modo ligat, ut ille qui eam non sequitur peccatum incurrat, sed etiam ut ille qui eam sequitur sit immunis a peccato quantumcumque praeceptum praelati sit in contrarium. Nevertheless, the situation is not the same in the case of a correct conscience and that of a false conscience. For a correct conscience binds absolutely and perfectly against the command of a superior. It binds absolutely, because one cannot be freed from its obligation, for such a conscience cannot be changed without sin. And it binds perfectly, because a correct conscience binds in the sense not only that one who follows it does not commit sin, but also that he is free from sin, no matter what command of a superior there is to the contrary. Sed conscientia erronea ligat contra praeceptum praelati etiam in indifferentibus secundum quid et imperfecte. Secundum quid quidem, quia non obligat in omnem eventum, sed sub conditione suae durationis: potest enim aliquis et debet talem conscientiam deponere. Imperfecte autem, quia ligat quantum ad hoc quod ille qui eam non sequitur, peccatum incurrit; non autem quantum ad hoc quod ille qui eam sequitur, peccatum evitet, cum praeceptum praelati est in contrarium, si tamen ad illud indifferens praeceptum praelati obliget: in tali enim casu peccat, sive non faciat, quia contra conscientiam agit, sive faciat, quia praelato inobediens est. Magis autem peccat si non faciat, conscientia durante, quod conscientia dictat; cum plus liget quam praeceptum praelati. But a false conscience binds against the command of a superior even in indifferent matters with some qualification and imperfectly. It binds with some qualification, because it does not bind in every event, but on condition that it endures. For one can and should change such a conscience. It binds imperfectly, because it binds in the sense that the one who follows it does not commit a sin, but not in the sense that one who follows it avoids sin when there is a command of a superior to the contrary, and the command of the superior still binds to that indifferent thing. For in such a case he sins in not acting, because he acts against his conscience, and in acting, because he disobeys the superior. However, he sins more if he does not do what his conscience dictates, as long as that conscience remains, since it binds more than the precept of the superior. Answers to Difficulties Ad primum igitur dicendum, quod ille qui vovit obedientiam, tenetur obedire in his ad quae bonum obedientiae se extendit; nec ab ista obligatione absolvitur per errorem conscientiae, nec iterum a conscientiae absolvitur ligamine per istam obligationem: et ita manet in eo duplex contraria obligatio. Quarum una, scilicet quae est ex conscientia, est maior, quia intensior; minor vero quia solubilior; alia vero e contrario. Obligatio enim illa quae est ad praelatum, solvi non potest, sicut conscientia erronea potest deponi. 1. One who vows obedience must obey in those things to which the vow of obedience extends. He is not freed from that obligation by a mistake of conscience, nor, on the other hand, is he freed from the bond of conscience by that obligation. Thus, there remain in him two opposite obligations. One of these, conscience, is greater, because more intense, and less, because more easily removed; the other is just the opposite. For the obligation to obey the superior cannot be removed, whereas a false conscience can be changed. Ad secundum dicendum, quod quamvis opus illud per se sit indifferens, tamen ex dictamine conscientiae fit non indifferens. 2. Although of itself the work is indifferent, it loses its indifference because of the dictate of conscience. Ad tertium dicendum, quod quamvis praelatus sit superior subdito, tamen Deus, sub cuius praecepti specie conscientia ligat, est maior quam praelatus. 3. Although a superior is higher than a subject, God, in virtue of whose command conscience binds, is greater than the superior. Ad quartum dicendum, quod subditus, non habet iudicare de praecepto praelati, sed de impletione praecepti, quae ad ipsum spectat. Unusquisque enim tenetur actus suos examinare ad scientiam quam a Deo habet, sive sit naturalis, sive acquisita, sive infusa: omnis enim homo debet secundum rationem agere. 4. The subject does not have to judge about the command of the superior, but only about its fulfillment, which is his concern. For each is bound to examine his actions according to the knowledge he has from God, whether natural, acquired, or infused. For every man should act according to reason.