Fr. Sylvester Tan, S.J.’s brilliant paper on unconscious sin in Chrétien’s Li Contes del Graal makes the following point about how St. Bernard understood the role of ignorance in his theology of sin:
Unlike some of the scholastic theologians of his day, Bernard is not interested in using ignorance to justify the failings of those who do not know God. Rather, out of a genuine concern for the well-being of those sinners, Bernard sees ignorance as an impediment to salvation that must be removed before any person is to attain true life, whether in this life or the next. Bernard takes to heart the words ‘be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48) and exhorts all his listeners to rid themselves of all that would keep them from loving God, regardless of whether they can find an excuse whereby they ought not to be held accountable for indulging, or having indulged, in this or that vice.
There are some remarkable parallels between the controversy between St. Bernard and Abelard on this point, the controversy between Jansenists and Jesuits recounted in Pascal’s Provincial Letters, and current debates on Amoris Laetitia. One of these days I hope to write at length about them.