The Church has long understood that a properly functioning conscience appeals to an objective set of moral norms outside itself: “Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right.” (CCC 1778)
Through manipulation of language, promoters of the culture of death have successfully accomplished numbing the moral sense of a majority of people around the world. We have become increasingly indifferent to evil. The natural moral law which commands us to do good and avoid evil has given way to mere subjectivism — if you feel good about it, then it must be good.
This mentality has become pervasive in the culture, fueled by mass communications and directed toward undermining the natural moral law in order to create a society freed from any moral tradition, a so-called free society that chooses its own destiny. The result is that people simply don’t know how to react, what to say or how to answer and defend themselves against the violence that is becoming commonplace.
Addressing this mentality in Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI drew attention to the foundational problem of Marx and Lenin and the utopia they proposed for the salvation of humanity:
He [Lenin] forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also free for evil… man in fact is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favorable economic environment. (22)
Man needs an objective truth outside himself that serves as a compass guiding him in his daily language and decisions. If man’s sociological, political, technological and economic advances are not equally matched in his ethical formation and inner growth, then, “It is not progress at all, but a threat for man and the world.” (22)
In our desire to shift hearts and minds away from the language of the culture of death and reignite man’s conscience, we must use language that upholds and proclaims the origin and dignity of the human person. The success of the culture of death depends primarily upon its ability to persuade many that terms like “pro-choice” or “the right to choose” are just about one person’s freedom, with no one else’s life at stake. Many have been denied access to common scientific evidence that definitively attests to the fact that life begins at the moment of conception. This new human being is an individual with his own genetic code, separate from that of his mother.
A well-formed conscience allows man to hear a voice, not merely his own, calling him to love and to do what is good. This voice resonates in his heart and provides the answers that he seeks, helping him distinguish good from evil. Ultimately he sees and gratefully appreciates the dignity and value of every life because he understands the worth of his own. In freedom, he confronts his passions and decisions with a conscience enlightened by a truth outside himself. He rejects the seductive voice of evil and chooses the narrow path that leads to life. Thus, he contributes to the transformation of his world and his culture.