Conscience and the Holy Spirit: A theological anthropology applied to mental health care ethics

Mark Earl Ginter, Marquette University


This dissertation approaches moral conscience using a revision of psychologist Josef Rudin's basic framework. In Rudin's schema, conscience has two aspects: (1) as a basic human disposition, and (2) as a personal act of judgment. As a basic human disposition, moral conscience has three dimensions: (a) the interpersonal formation of conscience, (b) the intrapersonal phenomenology of conscience, and (c) the transcendent metaphysics of conscience. These correspond to the three dimensions of human experience: (a) the somatic, (b) the psychic, and (c) the pneumatic. Using this triadic experiental anthropology, this dissertation argues that conscience has an intrinsic relationship to the Holy Spirit. Derivatively, according to the first aspect, conscience is the residual imprint of the Holy Spirit, metaphorically speaking. According to the second aspect, the principle of theodynamics holds that the Holy Spirit emancipates, enlightens, and empowers conscience's judgments. Chapter One reviews empirical psychological research in English up to 1994. Studies are selected which use "conscience" and "religion" as variables. Chapter Two provides an exposition of psychologist O. H. Mowrer's perspective on human moral conscience. The revision of Rudin's schema provides the framework for systematizing Mowrer's cognitive social learning theory. Chapter Three provides an exposition of Yves M.-J. Congar's perspective on theologal moral conscience as a basic human disposition. In this systematization of Congar's Pneumatological arnthropology, the Holy Spirit heals and elevates human moral conscience to theologal moral conscience. Chapter Four discusses the aspect of conscience as a personal act of judgment. This includes presentations on Pauline triadic anthropology, the countervailing forces of sin and conversion, and the authority and freedom of conscience. Chapter Five applies this theory of renewing moral conscience by presenting an outline of a preferential option for the mentally ill; by answering the questions raised in the Introduction concerning psychotherapy as conscience re-formation, freedom of conscience, patient autonomy, and informed consent in psychotherapy; and by offering an integrative therapeutic model for the treatment of persons with dissociative identity disorder.

Recommended Citation

Ginter, Mark Earl, "Conscience and the Holy Spirit: A theological anthropology applied to mental health care ethics" (1997). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9811384.