Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Cooperation with Evil", Part II

Okay... Hollywood Lies are defined, and we're ready (God willing) for part II of the "How on earth does a Christian form his/her conscience properly?"

Start with the most basic of moral principles:

Moral Law #1: The end (i.e. goal) of an action never justifies evil means.

In practical terms, this means that no one is ever morally allowed to intend an evil act (or outcome), no matter what the potential "payoff" might be. If I could save a billion people from agonizing deaths by the murder of a single innocent child, it would be morally wrong for me to do that. If I could save a billion people from agonizing deaths by the euthanasia of an Alzheimer's patient who was to die in 6 months anyway... it would be morally wrong for me to do that. NO ONE can intend an evil act, even if the potential "payoff" is mind-numbingly "good". Evil is evil, and it must not be chosen. To say otherwise is to say to God, "You designed and You run the universe so badly that I need to break Your Laws in order to do Your Will (i.e. what is good)!" A few moments' reflection will show how absurd that idea is.

Note: make every effort to keep in mind the proper place of emotions; they are good things, created by God, but they were never designed to replace your intellect (the power by which you "know" things), or your free will (the power by which you "choose" things). Just as Faith, Hope and Charity ultimately reside in the Will, so do sins reside in the will. For example: "feeling" angry is not a sin; but the free *choice* to *nurture* that anger (i.e. hold a grudge, or inflame your anger into unjust wrath) is a sin.

I mention this, because one of the most common (and fierce) objections to these principles is the cry, "I couldn't possibly bear to do (or not to do) [x, y, or z]!" That's your heart, taking... you know, the thing that's "deceitful above all things"? Don't trust it to run your life. The heart needs to be directed by the will, which needs to be informed by the intellect; that may seem "cold and unfeeling" (it isn't!), but that's how not to fall into moral evil. Too many "heart-led" people have "followed their foolish hearts" and killed their unborn children, or murdered their disabled and/or elderly relatives/friends, or violated and betrayed their marriages in order to "follow their hearts" to "new soul-mates". In short: the heart is good; but it's not a good driver.

Moral Law #2: If an action has multiple effects--both good and evil--the evil effects are not sinful to the extent that they are not willed.

This is often called the "principle of double-effect". If you intend an action to cause [good outcome x], but it also causes [evil outcome y], the action is not necessarily sinful for you, provided that it satisfies four basic conditions:

1) the intended action is good, or at least morally neutral
2) the evil effect is not intended
3) the good effect is not caused by the evil effect
4) there is sufficiently grave reason for permitting the evil effect

(See HERE for details, on this.)

So... let's try a few examples, to flesh out this principle. (In the below, when I say "lawful", I mean morally lawful; civil law is irrelevant, to the extent that it violates the moral law, anyway.)

Situation #1: Is it lawful to kill an embryonic human baby (for the purpose of "harvesting" his/her embryonic stem cells), so that potential (or even guaranteed) cures for others may result--even to the extent of saving lives?

Answer: NO. The saving of lives is certainly a good intention; but no matter how many lives are saved (i.e no matter what the "potential or actual payoff"), it is never lawful to intend the death of any other person (see condition #1). Even if every last human on earth were threatened with death from agonizing disease, and if only one embryonic child's death were necessary to save all of humanity from terrible suffering and death, it would still be immoral.

Situation #2: Is it lawful to kill an unborn baby by abortion, if he/she was conceived through rape or incest?

Answer: NO. Even if the intended effect were "relief of the mother from alleged psychological distress" (which is a false hope, anyway), it is never lawful to intend the death of any other person (see condition #1), and no appeals to emotion will avail against this truth.

In my next section, I'll try to tackle the thornier issue of "to what extent can someone vote for abortion-tolerant [or tolerant of other intrinsic evils] politicians?"... which is one of the main reasons I started this 3-part series in the first place! To be continued...

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Cooperation with Evil", Part I

As some readers of Paul's Masterful Blog may have detected in my comments, already: I have some rather large issues with anything that smacks of "cooperation", "compromise", or even (a particular weasel-word, when used with moral absolutes) "negotiation" with the culture of death. Do I dialogue with other people? Absolutely... and charity (note: "charity" = "self-sacrificial seeking of another person's best good--not to be confused with "niceness", "mildness", or any other oft-synonym of Political Correctness) certainly should be the rule, there. But a great many Catholics in the USA, at least, have gotten rather muddled on this point, and can no longer tell the difference between the obligations of God, and the demands of a secular culture that's making corrupt demands.

Perhaps a refresher course of basic terms would be in order. It's a big refresher course. "Twelve credits might not be enough, it's so big..." (Okay, name the movie!)

Here are what I "affectionately" call "The Three Hollywood Lies (TM)"; those who are even passingly familiar with St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, will pick up a pattern to these, rather readily...

Hollywood Lie #1: "Faith is a feeling."
Hollywood (and its ilk) says, "Your faith in God is a function of the feelings you can whip up; if you're feeling distant from God, you are distant from God, and you'd better get that fixed!"

Reply: Hogwash. Faith is a *choice*--an act of the WILL--and it has nothing especially to do with "feelings". No, not even the "deepest feelings of your heart" (and no denigration of those is meant!). How about the old (and all-too-common) dodge of, "No, no... I don't mean just superficial, fly-by-night feelings; Like, I mean the... (*insert sounds, words and gestures that imply emotionally "gushing" over something, here*)... really DEEP feelings, like, at the very core of your very BEING, y'know??" Sorry... wrong answer. Those feelings have a real and good place in life (God made them, after all), but they no more belong in the "driver's seat" of your faith than would a 5-gallon can of gasoline belong in the driver's seat of your new Prius. Emotions (e-motion) give you needed energy to cling to the good, or to fight/flee from evil. They don't do your choosing for you. Your free will, informed by a non-secular intellect, is still on for that job.

Hollywood Lie #2: Hope is a Feeling.
This is a particularly timely item, given that the main slogan of the Candidate of Death has been "HOPE" [sic].

Hope is not wishing (no, not even on a star--sorry, Pinocchio fans!), nor is it fervently, fervently wanting something to happen reeeeeeeeally badly. Hope is--you might have guessed it--a *choice*--an act of the will, by which we can be assured that God will keep His promises, because He is all-able to to keep them, He has promised them, and He can neither deceive nor be deceived. God is the *only* true basis of hope; no one else is. (Sorry, "Catholics" [sic] for Obama, and Vox Nova: the Secular Messiah doesn't count, and the Catholic Catechism--to which you allegedly adhere, as faithful Catholics--says so. The secular messiah *does*, however, make a very schnazzy Antichrist; point to ponder?)

And the deadliest of all three (which will be eminently predictable, by now... though usually the hardest for secularists to swallow):

Hollywood Lie #3: Love is a Feeling.

From the top of the highest roof to the bottom of the lowest valley, let this be shouted: LOVE IS NOT A FEELING!!! IT ISN'T, IT ISN'T, IT ISN'T!!!! NO!!! NEVER WAS, ISN'T NOW, AND NEVER WILL BE!!!!!"


Love (a.k.a. "charity", mentioned earlier) is a *choice*--an act of the will--to sacrifice oneself for the best good of another. That's it. That's how God loves. God gets nothing out of the bargain that He didn't already have (except aggravation), when He loves us; just so, are we to love others. "Love one another,", Jesus the True and Only Messiah says, "as I have loved you."

Is that quite clear? Love is not an emotion, or a collection of emotions... no, not even the "deepest" ones. Those are called "affections", and they're good and proper, in their place... but love is far beyond that. (That's a helpful hint to those in relationships of any kind; if you think "love" lasts only until you stop feeling a certain way, I pity your relationship's life-expectancy. Feelings come and go, and then come back again; that's just what they do. Love, on the other hand, never fails.)

More to come on this...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Prayer request

Could I ask everyone to pray for a special intention, which came up suddenly? I just heard, today, that two students (who go to the school system in which I teach), along with their father, died in a private plane crash, earlier today... while the mother and other siblings were driving home to meet them. It's going to be a rough few days.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescant in pace.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord;
and let light perpetual shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.