Friday, December 5, 2008

"Cooperation with Evil", Part III

(Boy, I had to go and start this blog in one of the busiest times of year, didn't I?)

Anyway... we've explored the following, so far:

1) Faith, Hope and Love are acts of the will, not feelings. Feelings are good, but they can't "steer" your life. Thus, making decisions based on your feelings is--well--not smart.

2) An evil effect can never be intended, and can only be tolerated under strict conditions (the intended act is good or neutral, the evil effect is not intended, the good effect is not caused by the evil effect, and the need for the good effect is grave enough to justify tolerance of the evil effect). For example: fatally shooting an intruder is justified if your intent is to protect yourself and/or your family; fatally shooting him/her is not justified if your intent is to have a dead intruder at the end of the scene.

So, we get to some of the more sticky points--not the least of which is, "Can a Catholic justifiably vote for an unapologetically abortion-tolerant candidate (such as Barack Obama)?" Let's sweep up some loose ends, first:

The Catholic Church recognizes some very clear distinctions, when talking about evil and sin (some of these are just FYI, and don't directly feed into the main point--hey, I have to have a *little* fun! :) )...

  • "intrinsic" evil: evil regardless of the circumstances (e.g. abortion, contraception, torture, etc.)

  • "relatively" evil: evil in some circumstances, but not in others (e.g. breaking a window [perhaps to escape a fire], taking a loaf of bread from someone else's house [perhaps if you and/or your family are starving], etc.)

  • "grave" evil: seriously evil (a necessary component of mortal sin) (e.g. stealing a large sum of money, adultery, murder, etc.

  • "non-grave" evil: lesser evil (i.e. not involving a serious matter)(e.g. stealing a small sum of money, typical rudeness, etc.)

(Note: the Church has the Christ-given authority and responsibility to discern grave matter from lesser matter.)

  • "mortal" sin: a sufficiently free and informed choice to engage in an act (or omission) that is gravely evil

  • "venial" sin: a sufficiently free and informed choice to engage in an act (or omission) that is evil, but not gravely so--or, possibly, engaging in a gravely evil act (or omission) with insufficient knowledge or freedom

  • formal cooperation with evil: both enabling an evil act (through action/omission) and willing that act (e.g. voting for an abortion-tolerant politician because of his/her abortion stance)

  • informal cooperation with evil: enabling an evil act (through action/omission) without willing that act, per se (e.g. selling a gun to a person who intends to murder someone with it, without consenting to the murder)

  • material cooperation with evil: performing any action/omission which materially (i.e. "tactically") enables an evil act to happen (e.g. paying for a friend's abortion, or providing a ride to the abortion mill)

  • immaterial cooperation with evil: performing any act/omission which offers support to an evil act, but which does not contribute "tactically" to the performance of that action (some might argue that this would constitute a completely separate sin; e.g. being pleased that an abortion-tolerant politician has contracted a terminal illness--note: this is not to be confused with justifiable relief that the politician's pro-abortion activities will come to an end)

  • proximate (material) cooperation: any contribution (by action/omission) to an evil act without which the act could not have been done at all (e.g. buying poison for a suicidal friend)

  • remote (material) cooperation: any contribution (by action/omission) which assists an evil act in a nonessential way (e.g. verbally defending someone else's choice to abort a child)

So... given that sea of distinctions, how do we know what's morally allowed, and what isn't? Remember the following:

  1. Formal cooperation in evil (i.e. willing it) is never morally lawful.

  2. Material cooperation in evil is morally lawful only if it meets the conditions for an unintended "double effect" (see previous post for details).

(There are more factors, but this should do, for now.)

Now, then: where do some of the popular Culture of Death (TM) activities fall, in the moral scheme of things? I'll use Planned Parenthood as the key component in most of these first examples, since they're one of the clearest examples of an organization which performs gravely and intrinsically evil acts as a matter of course. I'll also be assuming that the given individual *knows* about the business "ends" of Planned Parenthood (and that they're not "blissfully ignorant").

"working as an abortionist for Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden (principal agent in a grave evil)

"working as a 'family planning' counselor for Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden (proximate material cooperation in a grave evil without proportionate/necessary cause, combined with formal cooperation for those who approve of and/or tolerate abortion)

"contributing financially to Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden (proximate material cooperation without proportionate/necessary cause)

"contributing financially to a company which donates to Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden, under most circumstances (you'd have to show how the need for such donations outweighs the gravity of aiding/abetting an abortion/contraception business, and you'd need to show how no feasible alternative charities exist)

"working as a janitor for Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden, under most circumstances (you'd have to show how your need for that employment outweighs the gravity of helping to maintain an abortion/contraception business, and you'd need to show how no feasible alternative employers exist)

"working as a janitor for a company which contributes to Planned Parenthood": morally allowable, in many circumstances--provided that a ready alternative (all other things being equal) does not exist. In general, this sort of participation is so remote as to remove an obligation to quit one's job... but it would still be morally necessary to work (in whatever way was possible) to have the company change its practices.

Okay... enough teasing. The main event:

"voting for Barack Obama in the previous election": morally forbidden.

Here's a short list of reasons why:

1) Barack Obama's positions support the intrinsic evils of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual "marriage", euthanasia, and (as Paul put it well) "recreational human cloning"... and each to a greater extent (categorically) than did his opponent. (Note: this does not imply that a vote for John McCain was obligatory; far from it. There were several fine moral alternatives [Alan Keyes, Chuck Baldwin, write-ins], or one could have withheld one's vote for president, altogether.)

2) Barack Obama's stance against the War on Terror (WOT), the War in Iraq, etc., does not constitute a rejection of an intrinsic evil, nor is a "cut and run" strategy (or any variation thereof) anything like a moral obligation (quite the opposite!) even if one *had* granted that the WOT was/is an unjust war. Even granted a supposed "illegitimacy" of the WOT, there is no single action which Barack Obama could take in this case which would ensure a morally acceptable outcome (e.g. pulling out would devastate the infrastructure of Iraq, it would leave hundreds of thousands of civilians prey to vendetta-seeking extremists who wish quickly to re-conquer the country, etc.), meaning that the "pro-Obama, anti-war" vote has nothing close to the moral weight necessary to counterbalance "cementing" the Culture of Death in America, the SCOTUS, and even the World (via U.N. treaties, etc.) through Barack Obama's positive advocacy of the same.

3) Barack Obama's stance on the economy is dubious, at best; no one is in any position to say that his plan (if he has one) is guaranteed success, or whether such a hypothetical "guaranteed success" would bring good that outweighs a "cemented toleration/promotion" of abortion "rights", or whether such a situation would reduce abortions in any meaningful way (quite the opposite, in all likelihood).

In short: even if one were to try to vote for Barack Obama and try to plead "remote material cooperation", the conditions for morally licit "double-effect" fail, at least insofar as a lack of "proportionate good effect" is concerned.... campaign promises of starry-eyed "hope" notwithstanding.

So... to those of the "Vox Nova" crowd and the like: tell me again why it's okay to vote for Barack Obama and still be considered a "good Catholic/Christian"?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

To Be Continued...

Just a quick note: I haven't forgotten you all! The normal frenzy of work, etc., has temporarily captured me... but I shall return soon! (Maybe Wednesday or Thursday? God willing...)