Thursday, December 29, 2005

30th anniversary of Persona Humana

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Catholic Church document, Persona Humana . This document was written in response to many questions about sexual ethics and proper human response to sexuality that arose during the sexual revolution. In the beginning of the document, we read, "The Church cannot remain indifferent to this confusion of minds and relaxation of morals." The Church was certainly not blind to the detrimental effects of the sexual revolution, which was not borne out of thin air, but fostered through the lobbying, propaganda and coercion of the birth control movement over several decades.

From section 3 of the document, we read:

The people of our time are more and more convinced that the human person's dignity and vocation demand that they should discover, by the light of their own intelligence, the values innate in their nature, that they should ceaselessly develop these values and realize them in their lives, in order to achieve an ever greater development.

This is commonly known as "conscience." Conscience is the moral authority within each person that acts based on the knowledge it has of the rightness or wrongness of a particular decision or circumstance. Many people have used "conscience" to mean any number of things, but most specifically an ignorant bliss which can easily excuse any evil or harmful action.

Dr. Donald DeMarco, a professor of philosophy in Canada, wrote a wonderful article addressing the impact of an ill-informed conscience on personal actions. It is worth quoting as we study the document that was the Church was blessed to receive 30 years ago today. This article, "Contraception and Being a Person," primarily addresses the way which contraceptive use violates the very meaning of personhood. His analysis of conscience is especially fitting.

This popular and commonly held view of conscience is false even to the meaning of the word "conscience". Etymologically, the word "conscience" (in Latin &It; con + scientia) literally means with knowledge. One's conscience cannot be formed in an intellectual void. Conscience, to be properly formed, requires knowledge…

Conscience is enfeebled when it is divorced from truth (or knowledge of what is true). At the same time, when conscience possesses truth, freedom is not compromised in the process. Conscience, truth, and freedom all thrive, so to speak, in each other's presence. One freely chooses to act in a certain way because his informed conscience tells him that it is the right way to act.

Many students have off several weeks at this time in order to take a break from studies, earn money for living the coming semester, travel and visiting with families. Why not take some time during these few weeks to organize a study group of this document? It is only a few pages in length (the small booklet edition I have is 26 pages long, however is now out of print. Please print it from the above link.) A fuller understanding of the logic, based on knowledge, behind the teachings of the Catholic Church on sexual ethics will help many to understand how to truly live human personhood.

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