The task of the Church is to develop the human person’s God-given ability to listen to the voice of truth, said Pope Benedict XVI during a question-and-answer session with 400 priests of the dioceses of Belluno-Feltre and Treviso where he was nearing the end of his vacation.
A priest asked the Holy Father about dealing with widespread misconceptions about good and evil, saying that these moral concepts are confused with merely feeling good or feeling bad. The Pontiff responded that a “world without God becomes a world of arbitrariness and egoism. But where there is God, there is light and hope. Our life has a meaning that we cannot give it, but which precedes us, and guides us.”
He recommended a path of “patient education,” guiding people along the paths that “even a secularized conscience today can easily find.” And from there, the Pope said, “let us try to guide people toward more profound voices, the true voice of the conscience, which can be heard in the great tradition of prayer, the moral life of the Church.”
Benedict XVI acknowledged that today morality and religion “are almost replaced by reason,” and “the only criterion of morality and religion is the subject, the subjective conscience.” “In the end, only the subject, and his feelings, his experiences and the other criteria he has found, are deciding factors,” the Pope said. “In this way, however, the subject becomes an isolated reality, and the parameters change day after day.”
But, he explained: “In the Christian tradition ‘conscience’ means ‘with-knowledge.’ That is to say us, our being is open, it can listen to the voice of being itself, the voice of God.
“The voice, therefore, of great values is written in our being. And the majesty of man is found in the fact that he is not closed within himself; he is not reduced to material things; he is not able to be measured. Instead he has an interior openness to essential things, the possibility to listen.
“In the depth of our being we can listen not only to the needs of the moment, not only to material things, but to the voice of the Creator himself, and in this way we recognize what is good and what is evil.”
“Naturally,” Benedict XVI affirmed, “this ability to listen must be learned and developed. This is our task in the Church — to develop this high ability given by God to man to listen to the voice of the truth, the voice of values.”