Given a choice between two evils, is it ever licit to advise toward the lesser evil?

Assuming your friend is dedicated on using heroin (meth, or whatever).

They ask you, “What is the safest way to use heroin?”

Assuming using heroin is sin, and your friend are going to use it, is it loving to point them toward a safer way to use heroin?

This is sort of an ends-justify-the-means conversation.

Given a choice between two evils, is it ever licit to advise toward the lesser evil?

if it must be one evil vs another evil, the lesser evil is aways better. But as long as you are also trying to prevent the evil in the first place.

Good question.

It is never licit to advise an evil of any type, even if it is the lesser of two evils, or the least of a hundred evils.

It IS licit to advice the greater of two goods, even if they both have a side effect of evil, by the principle of double effect.

The answer as to whether it is wrong or not lies in the intention. It is all right (and often necessary) to choose between two things that both have bad effects, but it is licit so long as your intention is to choose the greater good, not the lesser evil. The evil is just as side effect which you tolerate, not choose.

Here’s another scenario:

Your daughter is pregnant and after weeks of discussing you, she decides to go against your wishes and get an abortion.

She asks you to recommend an abortion clinic. Nearby there are abortion-mill clinics of questionable quality and a renowned hospital that also performs abortions.

Is it licit to advise your daughter to go to the hospital instead of the abortion mill?

Is it licit to accompany her to the abortion clinic?

Thanks for the responses so far. Can you cite any Church document that would support your position?

This is a much better response than mine! :thumbsup:

I would say yes to the former, because your intention is to ensure that at least her life is preserved, even if the life of her child isn’t. You are not contributing to the fact of the abortion taking place by doing this. But I’d say no to the latter, because you are engaging in “direct material cooperation” with the abortion.

The tricky case would be one in which the dubious abortion mill was a walking distance from your house, the hospital was further away, and the daughter didn’t have a car. I still think it would be wrong to drive her to the clinic, but I’m not in that situation (and I pray I never will be).

On second thoughts I realized that I didn’t pay enough attention to both questions. In the first case, if we’re assuming that she doesn’t know about local abortion facilities at all, then I would certainly refuse to “recommend” any. In the second case, I was reading “accompany” as “drive her there.” If it just meant “go with her to make sure she’s OK, not contributing to her ability to get there in any way” then of course that would be the right thing to do.


From which standpoint? If you advise sin (“should I sleep with my neighbor’s wife or just look at indecent material online”) you incur sin. It’s best to be honest:

“Neither is good; both are harmful. If you look online, you may get caught by your wife, but if you sleep with your neighbor’s wife you may get caught by your neighbor. Neither will end well for anybody involved so why don’t you go shopping for groceries and forget about it.”

If your friend keeps asking, perhaps that’s not a bad thing as it shows internal struggle with the choice, and besides for as long as your friend is engaged in this rather wasteful conversation, at least he’s not doing these other things.


It’s NEVER okay to choose, advise or encourage evil. If it’s evil, it’s evil.

The moral code we are to follow is very simple: do good, avoid evil.

I’m surprised nobody mentioned the thing that Pope Benedict said about gays using condoms.

As in, they shouldn’t be doing it, but if they are, at least condom use is a charitable act towards who they are doing it with to reduce disease.

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

I realize this problem is a different animal, but it seems to be the same species.

Evil is always evil thus it is sin. As a friend you must encourage them to stop and turn away from it. There is always a good path

It’s an interesting question, but it assumes there is no third alternative. You could say, “Before I help you with that, come with me to the detox clinic.” Or, “I will do everything I can to help you recover. If you agree to work with me, and it doesn’t work, then I will inform you of the safest way.” :shrug:

Ummm, contraception isn’t sinful for gays. Actually, it isn’t even possible, since conception is impossible.

Wearing a condom during Gay sex is not additional sin, beyond the sin of the sex itself.

God Bless

That’s what I said…

Answering the question is not to advise a course of action. So the quandary you fear does not arise.

“An abortion performed in this hospital is safer for mother than at that other place”. This states fact or opinion but does not advocate abortion. So answer is same as your first scenario.

No and No. IMO.

To advise her would be to encourage her. You may be enabling her and seemingly being soft in your position against abortion. The appropriate response is to reiterate that abortion is a great wrong and she should not do it, and that you cannot in any way help her do it.

If a friend said he/she was going to hold up a store, would you advise regarding gun choice, or drive the getaway car? No, of course not. You would persist in discouraging your friend (and would even call police if needed).

Of course, if she goes ahead with the abortion, it is then time to support her in a loving way to deal with any aftermarths. Again, not to encourage her in any way or reinforce what she did, but to help her through the psychological turmoil of it - not many people know, and secular media will continue to ignore the fact, that abortion is a leading cause of mental illness.

Funny you should use this example… Dr. Janet Smith shared the following:

If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it. It would reduce the likelihood of fatal injuries. But it is not the task of the Church to instruct potential bank robbers how to rob banks more safely and certainly not the task of the Church to support programs of providing potential bank robbers with guns that could not use bullets. Nonetheless, the intent of a bank robber to rob a bank in a way that is safer for the employees and customers of the bank may indicate an element of moral responsibility that could be a step towards eventual understanding of the immorality of bank robbing.

Clearly any advice or help that will have the effect of making the evil thing more likely to happen would be wrong.

But in the “hospital vs. abortion mill” scenario that’s not the issue. The baby will be just as dead either way. If anything, the hospital employees may be more likely to counsel the daughter on other options and give her a chance to change her mind.

To take your bank robber analogy, if your friend is going to take along an accomplice whom you know to be quite likely to murder your friend and make off with the loot himself, it would be quite right to advise him against this.


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