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I have to say that for me and, I believe, for many other [religious of my order], there exists an even greater benchmark than the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. We used to speak of a well-formed conscience and a pure heart shaped by prayer and the love of God. Unfortunately, that has fallen out of favor in recent years. We [specific religious order] have stood at the “edge” since our beginnings while nurturing a great love for the Church.

When you speak about standing at the “edge,” it clearly doesn’t mean standing at the edge of the world, detached from its allures, looking toward heaven in good Christian faith and with pure love for the Church. Instead, you’re speaking about a desire to dilute theology to accommodate popular political sentiment, and in that sense, “standing on the edge” means only that you already have one foot in hell.

That’s a sad thing, and yet that’s the consequence of original sin. Conscience really has no meaning except in the context of our baptism into freedom from the slavery to sin. When we are ever mindful of our promises to reject all the works of the devil and to live a holy, chaste lifestyle, then conscience can warn us when we are in danger of betraying those baptismal promises.

If we try to follow any “conscience” not illuminated by those baptismal promises, we will be walking in spiritual darkness, following a guide undisciplined by self-denial and obedience to the Magisterium of the Church. Without faithfulness to the tradition of the Church, there simply cannot be a “well-formed conscience” because conscience is formed by the faith that has been handed down to us. If we renounce the tradition of the Church, we will be led so far into a distortion of the Gospel message of love and mercy that we will end up falling right over its edge into self-gratification and sin.

God placed us in this world with free will so that we would be capable of true love. And yet, given all my clinical experience and knowledge of the psychology of the unconscious, it’s no surprise to me—a great sadness, yes, but no surprise—that most persons use their free will to send themselves straight to their doom.


St. Catherine of GenoaAnd when I hear it said that God is good and He will pardon us, and then see that men cease not from evil-doing, oh, how it grieves me! The infinite goodness with which God communicates with us, sinners as we are, should constantly make us love and serve Him better; but we, on the contrary, instead of seeing in His goodness an obligation to please Him, convert it into an excuse for sin which will of a certainty lead in the end to our deeper condemnation.


—Saint Catherine of Genoa
The Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa,
Chapter XV


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