Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Holy Name of Jesus—3 December AD 2009

Formation 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.”[1] And to Joseph sometime after their espousal: “thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins.[2]  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.”[3]  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 will.”[4]

    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.[5]  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.[6]  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,[7] and permits the killing of animals for food[8] and ritual sacrifice.[9]  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 serious penalties.[10]

    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.”[11]

    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.[12]  Nor is it law when the legislature exceeds its authority in enacting it, which is clearly the case here.[13]  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!


[4]   Eleanor Clift, “The Target: Nancy Pelosi doesn't care if you like her. All that matters is getting the job done,” NEWSWEEK--Published Dec 21, 2009 From the magazine issue dated Jan 4, 2010

[10]   A somewhat modern, but useful, list of citations:

[12]   Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-Ilae, q. xciii, art. 3, ad 2m.


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