Fighting for the Right to Follow Our Conscience

As Catholics, our faith does not only require our worship on Sundays, but it informs everything that we do throughout our lives. And we have a duty to practice our faith in our homes, our workplace, and our community every day.

But Catholic healthcare professionals and Catholic employers are often forced to choose between cooperating in the evil of abortion or leaving their profession altogether. It is important that people of all faiths not be forced to act against their conscience, and as a country we must protect Americans from being forced to violate their deeply held convictions.

Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ reflected on the ways in which a well-formed conscience shapes our lives, and why it is important to contact our representatives today to protect conscience rights in our country. Fr. Matthew said:

“The Church says that conscience is essential, that conscience is incredibly important, and that you and I must be faithful to our well-formed consciences. Notice that I added that qualifier there. Our well-formed consciences.

That is to say, it’s not that we just do whatever we feel like doing. It means there’s a responsibility to follow our conscience and to make sure our conscience is formed well. So this is kind of a dual-duty that comes together.

It’s very important when we talk about having well-formed consciences that we remember the well-formed part of it. Because that is a constitutive part of moral theology – that we’re formed to know the difference between good and evil, and to know how to cooperate with the Lord’s plan for us. Fr. Matthew Spencer

But there is a different side of conscience that we often don’t think about. Conscience should drive us to do more than we would otherwise do. A well-formed conscience would be uncomfortable with the slothfulness that often enters into our life. A well-formed conscience would be challenging the excesses of our life that we become so comfortable with.

When we follow our well-formed conscience, it’s far more than simply excusing ourselves from some things. It should be challenging us, and pushing us forward to do more for God. It’s something that we oftentimes forget about.

Following our conscience doesn’t mean that we can just be more permissive about things. But instead, it means I’m going to be more demanding of myself. I’m going to rise above the brokenness that often infects our lives, or corrupts our decisions and actions.

You and I, we have to have well-formed consciences. We have to follow them so that we can do good in the world. And we have to have the ability to follow them. That is to say, we need to have the freedom in our mind and in the land we live to follow our conscience.

This is something we are particularly sensitive to as Catholics. Because we have experienced it as a Church. We’ve experienced unjust persecution, and the inability to practice what we believe and hold fast to that. In the past we’ve been forced, or people have tried to force us, to do things that we can’t in good conscience do.

This is why the bishops are yet again inviting us to let our legislators know how important being able to follow our conscience is. The USCCB has announced an invitation to call our legislators and express our support for a decision on the Conscience Protection Act.

This is important. This is not a political issue, per se. This is an important issue of moral rights, that we have to use political participation to ensure. That’s an important thing to realize here.

This is one that I’m very sensitive to, because I see what happens when these rights are not available. I see it in other countries and other parts of the world where Catholics don’t have the freedoms that you and I have. They don’t have the ability to follow their conscience and do what the Church teaches us. In some cases, they are forced to do things that violate God’s law. You and I enjoy a certain amount of freedoms in this area.

It’s important, because you and I need to continue to be able to practice and live out our faith.  You and I recognize the need for a well-formed conscience, and the need to follow our conscience so that we will become the saints that God wants us to be. We also need to ensure that the Church and Catholic organizations are able to live out those values in their own life.”

The USCCB is inviting the faithful to contact their legislators today to ask them to support the Conscience Protection Act. Members of Congress can be reached by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected with your representative or senator.

Or you can email and call your Members of Congress quickly and easily at

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.