Can one be too averse to particular inherently evil types of action?


Mass murder is worse than adultery. Does that mean that we ought to be more averse to orchestrating mass murder than engaging in adultery? If so, then imagine that we are supposed to harbor 10 units of aversion to orchestrating mass murder. Is the person that harbors 11 units of aversion to engaging in adultery guilty of harboring too much aversion to engaging in adultery?

Or should we be equally averse to orchestrating mass murders and engaging in adultery?

Thanks for any help,


Fortunately, there is no such thing in Catholic moral theology (or any moral theology ever invented) as harboring 10 units of aversion to something. So it is kind of ridiculous that we could be quantifying exactly how averse we are to certain things. St. Thomas Aquinas never laid out a “hierarchy of aversion” so I think it’s safe to say that being averse to evil, in any degree, is sufficient.

“Units of aversion”.

Sign me up.

I think the closer to God you’re drawn, the more aversive sin is going to appear, but it’s complicated, because you’ll simultaneously have an increased empathy and awareness both towards sinners and towards your own sin.

Haha thanks I really liked this response. But there is supposed to be a natural thought at the heart of my question. It is this. Some grave sins are graver than others. Doesn’t it make sense to suppose that the strength of the aversion should be proportionate to the gravity of the sin?

That might be an alternate formulation of the question if grave sin and intrinsically morally wrong action are two different categories. But hopefully the motivation for the question is clear enough either way.

Sins goes deeper in gravity, since the darkest form of sin is motivated out of malevolence, but that gravity can’t be neatly categorized according to particular deeds, such as rape or murder or theft or cursing. It is true that an act is pleasing to God not so much by the greatness of the deed, but by the charity by which it is performed. The opposite is true for sin, so that the wickedness of the deed is greater according to the motivation, such as if done out of pure malevolence.

Units of aversion??? Is that like auditing with an e-meter?

The smallest white lie is intrinsically evil, though it is only a venial sin. But an extremely grave sin like genocide is also intrinsically evil. So the term intrinsic evil does not tell us the gravity of the sin.

The more disordered the act, the more averse to the act we ought to be. But once the gravity of sin becomes mortal, we should have sufficient aversion to never commit the act, regardless of whether it is more or less severe compared to other mortal sins. The reason is that our aversion to sin ought to include a compete rejection of all that is gravely morally disordered. So, once we completely reject a sin, there is no further aversion. Even so, we should recognize that one mortal sin has a greater moral disorder than another.

JP2: "Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being; the former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment “You shall not kill”.

But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree." [EV 13]

Some acts are inherently grave, such as skipping Mass or fornicating, but ultimately, it works the same way with sin as it does with charity. The nobleness of an act in God’s sight isn’t on the greatness of the deed but on that charity in which it is done, which is something St Therese expounded upon heavily. Picking up a straw out of obedience is more noble than martyrdom done out of self-will. An act done out of malevolence, the Catechism states, is the worst kind of sin.

O my God, I am heartily sorry I have offended thee and I detest all my sins

No, it is not true that only the motivation or intention of the act determines its degree of sinfulness. There are three fonts of morality. The greater the moral disorder in any font, and the greater the moral disorder in the overall act (including all three fonts), the more sinful the act.

You might say that one’s degree of aversion to x-ing is determined by the degree to which he regards x-ing as unworthy of being done. But if we ought to regard some mortal sins as more greatly disordered than others then it would seem we ought to regard some mortal sins as even less worthy of being done than others. It would follow that we ought to be more averse to some mortal sins than others.

Every mortal sin has zero worthiness to be done. You can still have a greater moral disorder, as one mortal sin compares to another. But the comparison is not by degrees of worthiness, since every mortal sin is entirely unworthy. That is why every actual mortal sin deprives the soul of the state of grace and deserves eternal punishment.

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