Priests Special: Evaluating Moral Actions 2 – Human Actions, Virtues and Conscience

A continuation from Evaluating Moral Actions 1

Evaluating moral actions entails two things:

  1. How we should live, and
  2. How the moral subject or person acts. The three conditions for determining the morality (as either good or bad) of an action are:
    • Intention
    • Action
    • Circumstance

The “Act of Man” is different from “Human Act”

  1. The Act of Man refers to involuntary actions: like breathing, dreaming, sneezing, breaking the wind, etc
  2. Human act refers to voluntary actions. Every human act is a moral action. This means every action undertaken by the human person involves:
    • Freedom
    • Knowledge

It has been argued in some quarter that human freedom is mitigated or limited by any certain conditions that makes it possible for man to act as a free agent, for example:

  • Instinct (e.g already in the middle of an act before the will takes over)
  • Conditioning or Inculturation….the impact of the environment, culture and nurture on an individual
  • Genetic determination….Material elements of our natural composition that influences or affects the way we act… e.g schizophrenia and other psychological conditions, etc
  • Spiritual influences or other immaterial forces…e.g angels and demons

While acknowledging the reality of these factors, the Church insists that they do not annihilate free will.

Proposition on the Morality of human actions:

  • If every human act is a moral act…
  • …and every moral action is or has the potential to be good or bad
  • Therefore, every good or bad action is a moral human act
  • These patterns of behaviour are called habits (when they are done with consistency). Good habits we call virtue and bad habits we call vice. By virtue we not only mean doing good but also being good. By vice we not only mean doing evil but also becoming evil…
  • Consequently, What We Do Affects Who We Become And How We Act Arises From Who We Are.


Cardinal Virtues (from the word ‘’cardo’” which means hinge” of all other virtues). This is open to all human beings and one does not need grace or need to be a Christian to acquire them….They are

Theological virtues…virtues not possible to attain outside the Grace of God

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love (1 Cor. 13)

Conscience (How Should We Live?)

According to the Church, the world is like a maze and we need a moral compass to navigate through. The Conscience is our moral compass that helps us to make practical judgment and choose what is right.

The Conscience is formed and informed by the following:

  1. Divine Revelation: The person of Jesus and his teachings especially the new commandment “To Love as He Loved us”. Christian morality teaches us that morality is not just about following a bunch of rules or avoiding doing evil, it consists in an inexhaustible striving to embody the very love of Christ himself…. Like St. Augustine’s “Love and do what you will.”
  2. Natural Law: This doesn’t mean laws of nature but “Rational creative participation in moral law written in all human hearts and can be apprehended by reason.” IT CALLS US TO DO GOOD AND AVOID EVIL. Also, it teaches the Golden Rule….Do to others as you would want done to you.
  3. The Magisterium and Tradition
  4. Sacred Scripture and Tradition
  5. Prayer

Go to part 3.

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