WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Ends and means: the basis of personal and social ethics

The possibility of finding a positive vision in Christianity in terms of sexual morality when all we hear in the religious context is ‘no’ against society’s ‘yes’ was explored by Gerald Gleeson.

Dr Gleeson told the colloquium that central to the personal questions of who we are was the need to understand our nature – what we are as well as ethical questions about how we should act.

The polarities of human existence generated the tension between person (who) and nature (what).

In terms of moral decisions Gleeson asked whether Catholics have freedom of conscience. He described conscience as an ability to judge what is right. The final judgement one makes is informed by feelings of obligation, guilt, remorse, and the place of personal responsibility. A good conscience, he said, was formed by the truth.

Further he said a person of good conscience was open to all sources of truth, was exercised with a tradition and community, and tried to make the church’s teachings their own.

Gleeson believed that to reach a conscience judgment, people needed to draw on all their background moral beliefs, including church teachings, about the right and wrong ways to act, to think and to feel.

We need to consider whether we believe bad actions are generally wrong, or whether some bad actions are always wrong? In other words, a good end does not justify a bad means, he said.