Man was created free and always relishes in himself the taste for freedom which is expressed, in particular, in his choices and decisions. It can even be said that an act is human only insofar as the act is free.
- Nowadays, many people think that because they are free, no one has the right to tell them what is good or evil. Obviously, certain rules are still more or less accepted, for example, the one that prohibits murder or the scandalizing of children, but this is not the case in all matters.
Very often our judgment is influenced by the most widespread opinion and behaviour of others. Surely, an opinion is not true simply because many share it. Deep down we feel that this is not always the case. Sometimes we engage ourselves in certain actions, which in the depths of our heart, we reprove ourselves for.
- We do not invent good and evil. They are not dependent on our own opinion or on the opinion of others. Because it is created, there is an order in the world, sometimes referred to as natural law. This is expressed in the Book of Genesis when it describes the fundamental commandment which God gave in the Garden of Eden: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Gen 2:17). Thus, it can be said that original sin (see also Q. 31) consists in man’s attempt to replace God in determining good and evil.
- Since we do not determine good or evil, how can we distinguish one from the other? Every person is endowed with what we call a conscience. It is “the most secret centre of man, the sanctuary where he is alone with God and where His voice can be heard.” (Vatican II, The Church Today, 16) It is the conscience that directs each person to orientate himself towards the good. For this to happen, we need to listen. Furthermore, our conscience must be enlightened and trained in the habit of doing good acts (virtues) and by the inspiration of the Spirit of God received in prayer: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” (Jer.31:33). And finally, we need to listen to the Church who guides us in discerning good and evil in the light of Christ.