Conscience and Freedom
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
Our country has had a long history of recognizing the importance of religious liberty. Indeed, as we are probably well aware, these concerns have existed and been articulated from before her founding. 
While there have been occasional threats to these rights since that founding, in the last decade or so, these concerns have gotten more and more attention. This is largely due to political policies being debated or laws being passed that would threaten religious liberty. While there has been a brief respite from these concerns for the last several years, they are increasingly being mentioned again, due to new policies and laws that once again pose a threat to one of our most basic human rights.
When we stop and look at what religious liberty actually means in practical terms, we recognize that it goes far beyond our ability to worship as we wish. Certainly, it includes the ability to worship according to the dictates of our particular religion. But when it comes down to it religious liberty is primarily about the ability to follow not just the ceremonial rubrics of our religion, but primarily the ability to act upon what our conscience tells us. This is something altogether different. 
Our conscience is the part of us that identifies what is good and evil. It is meant to guide our actions and our choices. But to do so effectively it must be informed by the moral truths our religion teaches. 
These truths are not simply about what we must avoid as evil, but what must be done as good. And this is where conscience can become complicated, and apparently, even a threat to some.
Living according to the truth seems a fundamental human aspiration to be sure. But since humans do not always agree about what is true and what is not, it has the potential to become contentious. If this potential contentiousness didn’t exist, none of this would be worth writing or speaking about.
The catechism speaks of our conscience as “... man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1776) Our conscience is a sacred place — the place that God speaks to us in a particular way, and where we can hear Him speak — even if not perfectly or completely. Our conscience might end up being imperfect, fallible and even confusing at times. Even someone with a very well-formed conscience can still struggle to know the right thing to do.
On top of that, our consciences can be wrong sometimes. If this is the case it is likely the result of not having them fully formed or even incorrectly formed. It might simply be that we are facing a new situation that our conscience has no experience with and so it may not have all the information it needs to know right from wrong. And yet, even these situations can still help us in the long run.
Our struggle to know good and evil in a previously unknown set of circumstances can lead us to gain new knowledge which adds ever greater depth to our conscience.  Having a desire for truth and an openness to it once it is encountered can be our greatest allies in the ongoing formation our conscience needs. It is  a continual work in progress. 
At the end of the day, we must follow our conscience  —  even with its ability to be erroneous sometimes. Insofar as it points toward the good and away from evil, it represents the best path to take or avoid at a given time in our life. If later it proves to be mistaken, then we can realign it. But in the meantime, keeping our conscience well formed, and following it, remains imperative for living our best moral life — even if doing so proves difficult or we find ourselves at odds with others in the meantime.