“The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). A large, prominently displayed banner with this proclamation greeted my high school students every semester that I taught Morality class. I spent many of the ensuing months unpacking this verse and its implications. What is truth? Or better, who is truth? What does it mean to be free? Crucial to this inquiry was a thorough study of the Church’s teaching regarding conscience.
Any catechist would agree that we do not want to train our students to blindly follow a set of rules; instead, we want to be the conduits for them to develop a dynamic freedom to choose the ultimate good. This is the importance of properly teaching about conscience, which is “present at the heart of the person” and “enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil.”[i] If we merely memorize a list of laws and then try by our own power to live by them, we will always fail. New, unique moral challenges arise every day. However, if we have a well-formed conscience, then we have the ability to choose the good in every situation.