Circumstances of Act

I was recently at confession. I attempted to have a discussion with Father about the circumstances (not intentions or acts of omissions, which are separate questions to be considered). I asked father whether smoking was immoral in the circumstances. He said it was. I then asked him, how did you judge the circumstances of the act?

I pointed to enjoyment and happiness that can be pursued in the circumstances of the act and asked him how he quantified intangible effects. Father immediately said “pursue that enjoyment elsewhere.” I then pivoted with him, instead of staying on topic, I went to sins of omissions with him and asked: “what about playing football and getting injuries, is it an omission to not pursue enjoyment elsewhere?” Father was clearly pivoting to sins of omissions, the choice of doing one action instead of another. But as I noted above, I was asking about the circumstances of the specific act of smoking, not analyzing the entirely different/separate act of the sin of omission from pursing smoking instead of another means of enjoyment! That wasn’t my question at all. Father then went on to give an explanation of the intentions of the actor. But as I said above, my question was about circumstances, not intentions.

So here is my question:
(1) How can we figure out where the line is such that an action that has some positive effects, say enjoyment, is too risky and harmful IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES to be justified?

Perhaps smoking is less harmful than drugs like steroids or methamphetamines, but smoking is more harmful than marijuana. So where is the line? Is the line somewhere between marijuana and smoking, so that smoking is immoral but marijuana is moral? Or is the line somewhere between smoking and meth, so that smoking is moral but meth is immoral?

The same question could be asked about lots of activities. Is football too dangerous to justify playing it? Is the line somewhere between football and MMA/ boxing? (football is moral, boxing is immoral) Or is the line somewhere between football and basketball? (basketball is moral, football is immoral). Or is the line between MMA and fighting with wooden bats (MMA moral/ fighting with wooden bats is immoral).

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit