The conscience, and that which is called synderesis (knowledge of the basic principles of the moral law), are formed in childhood. Even before a child reaches the age of reason, nascent ideas of right and wrong are there in his mind. But they are still children, and therefore need to be guided morally. For this reason, children, even infants, can and must be disciplined (in the sense of “taught,” morally as well as intellectually). All this Catholic common sense was lost with the Enlightenment idea of the “noble savage.” In more recent times, Dr. Spock and his groovy theories of child-rearing did even more damage.
But now we find out that, “An astonishing series of experiments is challenging the views of many psychologists and social scientists that human beings are born as ‘blank slates’ — and that our morality is shaped by our parents and experiences.”
You mean even modern science is beginning to see that the moral law is “written on the heart”? Not exactly. They seem to think it’s written on the brain. Putting aside their philosophically pre-conceived materialism for the moment, what they are discovering suggests they are “not far from the kingdom of God,” (Mark 12:34) — at least on this one point.
Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in Connecticut, whose department has studied morality in babies for years, said: ‘A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.
‘With the help of well designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life.
‘Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bones.’
God made us to know truth and to love the good. That He is both of these, from whom we come and toward whom we tend, does not even require revelation. (But that He is actually three Hes does require revelation.)
Morals are not all nature without nurture . Children must be taught from earliest youth, not merely allowed to take their own moral path based upon their innate goodness. Otherwise they will grow to be what most of our race are: morally confused and conflicted. (You know, original sin and all that.) From Father Wojciech Giertych, OP, we learn this:
The formation of conscience begins in childhood. The five-year old is capable of assessing he has done something wrong; therefore he has the right to have his conscience formed. It is wrong to say that children are innocent and angels, which is from the Enlightenment and is contrary to experience. They have a right to catechesis and sacramental confession.
Father Giertych, by the way, is the present theologian to the pontifical household, that is, the Pope’s own theologian.
“It is good for a man, when he hath borne the yoke from his youth” (Lam. 3:27). God “pre-yokes” us with rudiments of the moral law written on our hearts. In early childhood and youth, it is the parents’ duty to form that yoke completely. Having reached the age of reason, and especially adulthood, it is our duty to complete and live by it.