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Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience Hardcover – September 18, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Williams, a Catholic priest, ethicist and CBS News Vatican analyst, challenges the popular notion that conscience is always an inerrant guide in this thoughtful look at a timely topic. Proposing that conscience recognizes, but does not determine, good and evil, Williams dissects its role, showing how conscience is formed and can even be corrupted. Although he holds that conscience is deserving of respect as that place where a person is alone with God, he says it does not automatically respond correctly and is in need of training through prayer and moral education. Such instruction, he writes, is to be found in the Bible and natural law as well as in the teaching of the Catholic Church. Williams says consciences must be evaluated regularly and offers practical steps to conduct periodic self-tests. He deals with conscientious objection and its application as well. Readers willing to accept or consider the book's basis in Catholic teaching will find this to be an excellent guide for dealing with the panoply of moral choices presented by contemporary culture. (Sept. 18) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."


"An engaging, very practical guide to getting and keeping a 'right conscience.' As always, Williams combines clear thinking and excellent content with a vivid, wonderfully readable style." --Charles Chaput, OFM, Cap, archbishop of Denver

In a season of great confusion about right and wrong, Williams offers a clear, accessible and challenging introduction to the moral life. Warmly recommended for the morally serious of all ages. --George Weigel, Ethics & Public Policy Center

"An invaluable aid to refreshing our ethical sense. Winsome and well-argued, this book is a must-read for anyone seeking moral clarity in private and public life." --Rick Santorum, former US Senator

"Sometimes even believing Christians feel as if they're wandering around in a moral fog. Fr Williams's book breaks through the confusion with astonishing insight and clarity. I wish I had read it long ago." --Eduardo Verástegui, actor

"In his refreshingly clear style, Father Williams convincingly shows how moral integrity is the key to a free society and genuinely happy citizens." --Jim Nicholson, former US Ambassador

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: FaithWords (September 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446582018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446582018
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

THOMAS D. WILLIAMS PhD is an internationally renowned Catholic Theologian, speaker and writer. He taught theology for more than a decade at at Rome's Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum where he served as Dean of the Theology School for 7 years. Dr. Williams is widely known for his on-air commentary and analysis for NBC, CBS News and Sky News in the UK. Dr. Williams is the author of fifteen books, and hundreds of articles. He lives in Rome with his wife and family.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Standing between roles as theologian and Catholic commentator qualifies Father Thomas Williams to write on human conscience's influence and effect. His recent National Review and National Catholic Register articles on Humanae Vitae's 40th anniversary and the "Catholic" Democratic platform referenced how the "still, small voice" influences human decision.

"Knowing Right From Wrong" suffers from some uneven writing tone, bogging down in a chapter on "conscienous objection" near its end. But Williams' book (subtitled "A Christian Guide to Conscience") teaches invaluable truth on conscience's care, feeding, training, and purpose.

True to his media saavy (he covered Pope John Paul II's passing and Pope Benedict XVI's US visit for CBS-TV), Williams stuffs his book with allegories to isolate conscience-ruled life from morally relative, sand-shifted substitutes. He references pop culture icons Cyndi Lauper and Billy Joel ("Sorry Cyndi, nobody just wants to have fun...life needs a purpose."), classic children's tales like "Pinocchio" and "The Snow Queen," films like "Fiddler On The Roof," and "The Godfather"'s infamous last 30 minutes to demonstrate how weakened conscience compartmentalizes and risks our lives and destinies.

Weighing pop culture and psychology against timeless truth, Williams heeds advice given seminal Catholic figure Fulton Sheen as his ministry started: "Keep current, understand what the modern world is thinking about;...then plunge deeply into ...the wisdom of the ancients and you will be able to refute its errors.
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Format: Hardcover
Knowing Right from Wrong is written in everyday language, yet offers deep and powerful wisdom that one can use in every day life. I feel so much closer to Christ after just reading a quarter of the book. I love it. Get one for yourself and one for everyone you know.
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Format: Hardcover
Most people are unhappy because they have a great void in their lives: They miss God.
God is somebody that loves us always, He forgives us and gives us a second chance. And we must be worthy of Him. How? It is not easy, but we can found the answers in Father Thomas Williams's book. Knowing right from wrong is not too difficult, after all, but we need a guide. This book is a wonderful guide. As Father Thomas explains, we can recognize a wrong behaviour from the very beginning, and individuate the signs. In this way we can act immediately, as we do with an illness: If we treat it from the very beginning we have better chances to recover.
The search for excellence, trying to make the best of ourselves, being better with our family, more ethical in our work, more charitable with our friends... Readers will find all this and more in Father Thomas Williams's book.
It is a book that changed my life, it will change also yours.
Liana Marabini
(Monte-Carlo, Principality of Monaco)
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Format: Hardcover
(12/10/13 ADDENDUM: I find Thomas Williams' situation very, very odd. With his marriage this past weekend, my prayers are for him, his new wife, their young son, and others in their family.

5/22/12 ADDENDUM: Today's AP report goes a long way toward explaining why I was able to pick up "this magnificent book in a bargain store." The latest revelation about scandalous behavior of certain LCs is disgusting)

I am dumb struck that I picked up this magnificent book in a bargain store. Father Williams' text is comprehensive, concise, easy-to-read, and packed with wisdom. Yet, even a masterpiece can have - what strike me as - a few blemishes.

1. "The Idea of Christian Conscience"
Father Williams quotes the venerable Jiminy Cricket of Pinnochio fame: "What are a conscience? I'll tell ya. A conscience is that still small voice people won't listen to" (p. 2). In other words, it is "that natural tendency that urges us with the force of a mandate to do good and avoid evil. This compelling interior inclination was not taught to us by anyone (though much of its content is learned...)" (p. 6).

Blemish Alert with regard to a comment about tattoos: "there is nothing intrinsically right or wrong about...body adornments" (p. 10). On this matter, comments in # 2297 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition seem pertinent: "Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.
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Format: Hardcover
"Knowing Right From Wrong" is a beautifully written and informative non-fiction work about conscience. Unfortunately, I can't really recommend it because we're supposed to live by the Word of God and His leadership and guidance. Although I don't think this makes the conscience completely obsolete, I don't believe it should get as much attention as it does in this book. Still, Thomas D. Williams, LC, ThD has penned some very poignant moments from his own memories that make this a thoughtful read. This work also includes questions for reflection and study at the end of each chapter.
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