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College VP featured in SMC talk

Abby Richardson | Thursday, February 8, 2007

Recognizing the difference between right and wrong was simply the starting point for Wednesday night’s Theology on Fire Discussion.

Saint Mary’s Associate Vice President and Dean of Faculty and College Professor Joe Incandela stepped out of his administrative duties to share personal stories and advice about moral choices, conscience, constituency and conflict.

He defined conscience as a personal indicator of “what is good, what to avoid [and] what to pursue” – an ingrained sense of purpose and obligation, he said.

Conscience would not be necessary, however, without free will – choices that “take us closer to destination, or literally we are damned,” he said. “Choices [bring] us closer or further away from God. When we go against our conscience, we diminish who we are.”

Incandela said it is important to realize how our actions are definitive of who we are, and should be done with good intentions.

“Our actions affect our beliefs,” he said, “and our beliefs affect our actions. … The only things we do are those that we see as good.”

To foster good character, Incandela said one must learn and practice morally good skills – traits that define moral character.

Like a coach guides a team, he said, the plays of your life must be learned from others’ guidance.

“It matters a great deal what community we are part of,” Incandela said. “None of us form our conscience on our own.”

Defining your personal community, he said, allows you to see what kind of character you possess.

Being part of a community calls you to compromise – “a debate between standing out and fitting in,” Incandela said.

At the lecture’s conclusion, Incandela asked students to reflect on his words.

“I thought that tonight was beneficial because Professor Incandela related our conscience and beliefs directly to our actions,” junior Kelly Payne said. “Realizing that our actions affect our beliefs is an important factor in how we live our daily lives.”

Incandela also said it is important to realize actions and beliefs mutually affect each other.

“We don’t do things that are out of our character,” he said. “Our character is the accumulation of moral choices.”