of a Correct Conscience
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - English
Mass Text - Latin
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.
This name was designated by God the Father for His Incarnate Son. We
know that it was revealed by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary at the
Annunciation: “Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt
bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus.”
And to Joseph sometime after their espousal: “thou shalt call his name
JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins.”
According to Jewish custom—one that we still share to some degree—the name
reflected the essence of the person, and “Jesus” meant a savior or
deliverer—one who would “save His people from their sins.”
This morning it is important that I tell you something
about how people are supposed to form a correct conscience, and act upon it,
so I won’t be able to say much more about the Holy Name. But perhaps
we can make it part of the lesson by asking ourselves how it is that we know
that we are supposed to treat the Holy Names of God with proper reverence.
Why don’t we use the names of God as swear word or an expletive?
That should be a rather trivial question, but let us
follow it to its conclusion. Probably the first answer that you might
propose is that the second Commandment tells us quite directly: “Thou shalt
not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” You might also answer
that the Church teaches us respect for the Holy Name, both by reiterating the
Commandment, and in a positive way by means of Its prayers, hymns, and feast
days like this one. But even before God revealed the Commandments to
Moses, a reflective and thinking person would have realized that respect for
the God who created us is part of the Natural Moral Law. One might not
know Him as “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”; one might not know Him as
“Jesus”; but certainly a thinking person would recognize that
whatever name He gave to the Creator of all things ought to be treated with
reverence. We form our conscience about the use of the Holy Name based on
the Natural Moral Law, and on Divine Positive Law revealed by God through His
prophets and His Son, and on what His Son’s Church teaches us. Any one
of these should be enough—they should all be in agreement—but it helps to
have all three sources so that there is less room for any error.
Natural Moral Law, Divine Positive Law, and the teaching
of the Church.
Now the reason for this exercise on how one ought to form
a correct conscience is that, as you know, our nation is on the brink of being
forced into socialized medicine, and that we are likely to be forced
to pay taxes for immoral medical procedures, and that we are likely to be forced
to accept such procedures for ourselves or to perform them on others. It
is possible that the more radical provisions will come somewhat later and not
with a bill that passes this year. I leave it to you as citizens to
contact your senators and representatives to demand that it not happen at all.
What is particularly repugnant in this is that many in
Congress who call themselves “Catholics” are trying to justify not only
socialism and the rationing of healthcare, but also provisions for taxpayer
funded abortion, contraception, sterilization, and euthanasia. Some
government advisors go even further, supporting infanticide and the
elimination of (quote‑unquote) “defectives.”
These supposedly “Catholics” (supposedly “Americans”) have ceased to
recognize the “unalienable Rights” with which all men and women
have been “endowed by their Creator.” Instead of a society that
recognizes God‑given rights, they are trying to form a society in which
the ruling class decides what will produce the greatest good for the greatest
number—with an emphasis, of course, on the greatest good for the ruling
class, which exempts itself from many of its own laws.
With regard to abortion, in a recent interview, the
Speaker of the House said:
I am a practicing Catholic ... I feel what I was raised
to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all
endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our
actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free
Indeed, “we are all endowed with a free will,” as Madame Speaker tells us, and
with “a responsibility to answer for our actions.” But our free
will must be guided by a well formed conscience—our free will makes us
capable of choosing between good and evil, but it in no way gives us a
moral excuse for choosing evil.
Please note very well:
many women are victims of abortion—forced to destroy their babies by
social pressure, or the demands of an overbearing boyfriend or parents—many
such women live with great regrets thereafter. The White House
“Science Czar” has expressed a written opinion that single women should be
forced to have abortions.
Many women are not given the opportunity to exercise free will, whether
informed by a conscience or not.
Natural Moral Law, Divine Positive Law, and the teaching
of the Church.
Four hundred years before Christ, the pagan physician
Hippocrates required his students to swear an oath, promising, among other
things that “I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.”
He was a pagan, yet it was clear to Hippocrates that the Natural Moral Law
forbid killing innocent babies. His oath was recited by medical school
graduates all over the world for well over two thousand years—a pretty good
consensus on the Natural Moral Law.
The Divine Positive Law says simply: “Thou shalt
not murder.” “Murder” is the correct word here, for the Law demands
the killing of serious criminals,
and permits the killing of animals for food
and ritual sacrifice.
God Himself commands that one must not destroy innocent human life.
The teaching of the Church is abundantly clear, from the
writings of the Fathers of the Church, the theologians, the Popes, and in
canon law—killing a child in the womb is murder, and is to be punished with
One cannot, simultaneously, claim to be a Catholic, and
invoke free will without an informed conscience, in order to justify the
murder the innocent—not after conception, and not before natural death.
The same analysis can be made of the Socialism that
underlies the government’s conception of “health care.” Apart from
the voluntary monastery or religious community, Socialism is a species
of theft. Without his consent, Socialism takes a man’s property and
runs his life by means of coercion with the power of government—the threat
of fine, imprisonment, or even worse. It is a sort of “Robin Hood”
thing, stealing from those who have, and giving to those who have not, but with
the addition of a large and wasteful bureaucracy. Certainly it violates
the unalienable rights of men and women to life and property and privacy under
Natural Moral Law. It violates God’s Commandment: “Thou shalt not
steal.” It has been condemned by the Popes of Catholic tradition.
“No one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”
No one here today knows exactly where this all will
go—but we should all be very concerned. As citizens, I ask you to be
as well informed as possible, and make your concerns known to your
representatives at the state and federal level.
As Catholics, I ask you to look at all of these things,
not just with free will, but with a well informed conscience. We may
have to revisit this in the near future, but for the moment I will tell you
that a civil law that violates God’s law is not a law at all.
Nor is it law when the legislature exceeds its authority in enacting it, which
is clearly the case here.
There are also suggestions of bribery and perjury in the details. One might
ask if any of this is legitimate?
But for the moment—from the Catholic point of view try
to remember these three criteria for forming an informed conscience: Natural
Moral Law, Divine Positive Law, and the teaching of the Church.
And please do act on the theme of this Mass, keeping the
Holy Name of Jesus and the Names of the Divine Persons as holy things and
cherished possessions. We are going to need God’s help, so be sure to
use His name in prayer—a lot!