But it is by the truth of faith, also confirmed by our experience and reason, that the human person is free. This truth cannot be disregarded in order to place the blame for an individual’s sins on external factors such as structures, systems, or other people. Above all, this would be to deny the person’s dignity and freedom, which are manifested – even though in a negative and disastrous way – in his responsibility for the sin committed. There is nothing so personal and nontransferable in each individual as merit for virtue or responsibility for sin. Like all things human, the conscience can fail and encounter illusions and errors. It is a delicate voice that can be overpowered by a noisy, distracted way of life, or almost suffocated by a long-lasting and serious habit of sin.

Conscience needs to be nurtured and educated, and the preferred way to form it – at least for those who have the grace of faith – is to relate it to the biblical revelation of the moral law, authoritatively interpreted with the help of the Church and the Holy Spirit.


The truth is that one cannot remain a prisoner of the past, for individuals and peoples need a sort of “healing of memories” so that past evils will not come back again. This does not mean forgetting past events; it means reexamining them with a new attitude and learning precisely from the experience of suffering that only love can produce healing, whereas hatred produces only devastation and ruin.

Certainly, forgiveness does not come spontaneously or naturally to people. Forgiving from the heart can sometimes be heroic – the pain of losing a child, a brother or sister, one’s parents, or one’s whole family as a result of war, terrorism, or criminal acts can lead to the total closing off of oneself from others. People who have been left with nothing because they have been deprived of their land and home, refugees, and those who have endured the humiliation of violence cannot fail to feel the temptation for hatred and revenge. Only the warmth of human relationships marked by respect, understanding, and acceptance can help them to overcome such feelings. Thanks to the healing power of love, even the most wounded heart can experience the liberating encounter with forgiveness.

Continue to “On Jesus” or see full list of excerpts.

from Go In Peace, by John Paul II