“A PATH LENT”  The primacy of conscience

Carlo Maria Martini

The primacy of conscience


Among the many biblical stories that the liturgy of the Church proposes to us in the days before the three days of Thursday, Friday, and Holy Saturday Easter Sunday, I first choose one of the Old Testament, from the Book of Tobit.

Tobia is a jew who, in the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, was deported along with his fellow countrymen in the East, to Nineveh, in the plains of the Tigris and Euphrates, and there lived as an exile and a modest life but full of hope . 

The text then continues with the long history of the sufferings of Tobia, faithful man, charitable, full of attention to others, entering a big test from which will come only through a series of events all told in the Book. The message that comes to us through the passage of Scripture is that of the primacy of conscience. There is a poor man, exiled, who could rightly fear being re-searched and imprisoned; However, instead of facing a fact that touches its neighbor, a brother killed that nobody wants to touch it, he, in obedience to conscience, buries him facing all the possible consequences of his act. It is therefore a gesture that emphasizes the primacy of conscience, the primacy of what the man feels inside mandatorily as a value.

It would be nice to be able to follow this path up the description of the history of the Passion, when Jesus of Nazareth, faced the Sanhedrin and questioned about his identity, obeys the testimony of their truth and declare openly the Son of God, thereby to confront the death. They are always identical elements primacy of conscience. And a very important aspect which seems to me appropriate to entertain us briefly why back alive in the contemporary condition. Sometimes we have a reductive conception of consciousness and he speaks in terms skeptical, a little ‘deprezzativi, confusing it with the pure subjectivism: I act according to what seems right to me, that I like or that comes in very useful. In fact the conscience lets us know that law which is fulfilled in the love of God and neighbor. A fundamental law, put God in our hearts. Conscience is not what comes to mind; is the supreme principle extended to divine measure (we might call it the principle of solidarity, the principle of respect for the principle of honor, of duty, the principle of consistency). And God Himself as love, as fidelity, as the ultimate guarantor of all truth, who enters in man and becomes a source of initiative and discernment.

For this consciousness it is something inviolable, and yet it is not something imaginative, strange, unpredictable. And the recognition of the great commandment to love God and neighbor, the recognition of the great values – truth, honesty, justice, charity – as they are intuited, understood and become a source of life, judgment and action, in dialogue with God and in front of God. he wrote the second Vatican Council: “in fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the other men to seek the truth and to resolve according to truth the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals and from social “ (Gaudium et spes, 16). The consciousness not only is no leakage phenomenon, but the unit operates; in the name of the same consciousness, believers and non-believers come together to try as you can now realize the values of service, honor, loyalty, respect for others. Often we interpret the consciousness just as the voice that reminds us of an already made law, which just apply. Instead, we are told that human life presents new situations, new problems, for which it is not enough to appeal to an abstract law, but must be sought, based on the fundamental principle of the love of God and neighbor and all values derived from it, that course of action that best promotes life, serves the unity among peoples, creating peaceful relations; in a constant harmony and in a constant dialogue and exchange between all people of good will.

We can then understand why, for example, John XXIII began to address some of his encyclicals, as well as bishops and Christians, to all men and women of good will. Because all men have in common this consciousness, this perception of values. Hence the need to educate the new generations to make certain choices and avoid others, to look for certain behaviors and acquire others. Above all it is important to form the consciences of young people through all instances of authentic value of the person (silence, prayer, meditation, reflection …). The instances of overcrowding, the noise, the person’s anonymous account instead, dull the conscience, are unable to become aware of itself, exclude the possibility to feel and listen.

We are at a turning point of Western civilization and world civilization in which the future will be in the clarity of consciences. I have often said that the future of the world is in the interior. In fact, since the future we will increasingly be entrusted to information, good information management, and since all human decisions will be made from choices increasingly aware and able to plan for the future, the fate of the future will be in the consciousness, in ‘interiority, in the ability to recognize the value. Where once you could think of to drive the masses with generic slogans, of being able to simply hold in subjection with impositions, today we have seen the collapse of systems that lasted for decades; people have found a sense of freedom, of his own entity and has rebelled against the purely external impositions.

So, anything that improves the man permanently must pass through the inner conviction, for consciousness, that is educated, I repeat, through moments of silence, meditation, reflection, and with all those human relationships that prevail reasonableness, the true estimate of the person’s attitude, the promotion of values and, by those who demand such behavior, consistency, loyalty, loyalty. Consciousness spreads by contagion . Through strong personalities they are formed conscience of conscience. In the days that bring us closer to Easter, the Church certainly accomplishes a great job of conscience formation, as it invites everyone to look at the consciousness of Christ, which is the highest achievement of interiority, of the consistency of a death, the clarity of purpose, the extent of human and divine vision of human destinies. The consciousness of Jesus is the clearest, the most loyal, even to the sacrifice of life; It is one in which the mystery of God, the love of God leads to unequivocally human language.