How does one compare or measure morality?

How does one measure morality and conclude that one person is better than another or better than himself at different times?

I have trouble with this because people are good and bad by their habits. That is doing one good thing or one bad thing doesn’t make a person into a “bad person”. Yet this is contradicted by how people always say that one mortal sin makes you a bad person. If that’s true, then how can badness and goodness be a habitual thing?

But if it is not true that all morals and immorality are habits, then what are we to make of the many statements of Aquinas and Aristotle to the contrary?

Again, if one mortal sin suffices to make someone bad, then it follows that moral comparisons hinge on the presence of mortal sins.

We are incapable of making this decision conclusively.

We can make assumptions about it thought. For instance, I can assume that I am better than a drug dealer because he is openly engaged in an illegal, immoral activity whereas I am not. But, in turn, I could be engaged in immoral activities privately and he could donate all the money he gets from selling drugs to charity and spend every night working at a homeless shelter.

We can never know, which is why it is a sin to judge others.

Though, I believe we all still do, to a degree, and for that we must all ask for forgiveness.

I don’t think one should spend even a moment of one’s time trying to determine who is “better or worse” than anyone else. A person should focus on their own actions and determine whether they are moral or not.

Back on topic.

The thread is not about judging others (depending on how you define people or “others”, for instance I can judge a person if by person you mean “that thing which is doing x insofar as it is doing x” and not “the individual Barbara insomuch as she is an individual”).

My question is about whether a person is bad by doing many bad things or only through one (mortal) sin? And if one says only a single mortal sin suffices for badness, then what does that entail about Aristotle’s view of what is bad?

How can I chat with someond

I know nothing of Aquinas or Aristotle…but I measure “morality” against the great Laws of Love. (Mt 22:36-40)

  1. Love God above all else ( and God Is Love)
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
    Upon these two laws rests everything else.

It isn’t always easy - and I am often a dismal failure personally - but one cannot do better than this.

Peace
James

Being good or bad is not about discrete “things” (specific sin).

(Below "you"is a general “you” not specific to the OP…;))

One is bad by being bad…it is about what you are not what you do…Doing is simply the reflection of your core “being”.
Of course our core being is an idealized image and we generally struggle with it…
Most people want to be “good”, or at least thought of as good, but struggle with this because we all do “bad” things at times.
Some simply embrace the bad as being good…

Of course then we run up against defining good and bad…and that is where I turn to the rules in my post above…

Peace
James

I don’t think anyone is ever better than another. If we go back to genesis and creation, we see that God created everything including humans as “very good”. Unfortunately, very good humans can do very bad behaviors, perhaps sabotage their goodness with lies and bad behaviors. We just need to get back in touch with it when we realize we screwed up.

God created every person and so no one is “bad”. People can be in a state of sin beased on their decisions, but can be relieved from that state through absolution. Trying to measure morality or immorality is a waste of time, in my opinion.

First, we must look at the fact that we are all sinners. Priests go to Confession. The Pope goes to Confession.

By having a properly formed conscience and reading and understanding what the Church teaches about right and wrong, we begin to develop a proper sense of guilt and shame and instead of ignoring our sins, bring them to God through Confession. I have heard Catholic commentators on Catholic Radio say that they might as well bring a tape recorder to Confession since they are habitually falling into the same sins. Frequent Confession, frequently receiving the Eucharist, prayer and reading your Bible are required. God can and will help the more we trust Him to.

We all fall short. But we are called to be holy, but in comparison to who or what? Jesus Christ. He is our yardstick, along with Tradition and authentic Church teaching.

We live in an immoral time right now. But it did not happen overnight. Catholics gradually became much more like the world around them. Yet, we must not lose hope for ourselves or each other.

Over the years, things were written by certain people that taught us the wrong things, and encouraged us to accept the bad.

amazon.com/The-Marketing-Evil-Pseudo-Experts-Corruption/dp/1581824599

The Ten Commandments are a good place to start and reading the New Testament. “Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ.”

Another myth that is being sold right now is that each of us are our own arbiters of truth, sometimes expressed in the nonsense comment: “What may be good for you may be bad for me.”

There are moral absolutes. Never forget that. And God’s infinity mercy is available to us right now.

Abortion is always wrong.
Euthanasia is always wrong.
Killing human embryos for research is always wrong.

And what is legal is not always moral, like abortion, which became legal in the United States in 1973.

Some of us struggle with illegal drugs, or alcohol, or sex outside of marriage. Yet there is one more thing that has never existed before in the history of the human race: the internet. It’s guaranteed that if it’s bad, you can find it there.

Finally, on these forums and in real life, the primary immorality most of us deal with revolves around the misuse of sex as God intended, in marriage.

Abortion

Artificial Birth Control.

Cohabitation with sex.

In-Vitro Fertilization

Pornography

Prostitution

Strip Clubs (that’s your neighbors’ daughters up there)

No-Fault Divorce (why try when you can even ‘do it yourself’ today?). I know too many women with at least two divorces. Sure, I can understand making a mistake once and being really, really careful the second time but I know women on marriage number three. Those aren’t judgments, those are facts

And TV and the movies? Profanity, adultery, fornication and meaningless “just sex” like going to the bathroom.

And schools. They’ll teach a kid about the right way to put on a condom, but odds are, at least 50% of the time, that kid does not have a stable home life. All he hears about is have lots of sex, lots of hook ups, and if the girl gets pregnant, he moves on, not as a responsible and moral individual, but like a dog who leaves the girl to take care of his pups, while he tracks down the next one.

The media is part of the problem and is no longer a responsible and respectable part of society for the most part as it once was.

amazon.com/Noise-Media-saturated-Dominates-Dismantles-Families/dp/1932927948

My suggestions to help everyone know that morality is being defined and defended is to find Catholic Radio on your car radio or on the internet. Read a legitimate Catholic newspaper like the National Catholic Register:

ncregister.com/

If we can all stop meditating on the 24/7 wrong ideas coming out of our TVs, movies and even books and magazines, we can clear our heads and realize that there is a Catholic Culture and that there is real guidance out there. Our goal is heaven, not lots of orgasms with a lot of someones, none of whom we are married to.

Hope this helps,
Ed

I know what you wrote so let me restate my question:

we know that one bad round of golf doesn’t make someone a bad golfer. However when it comes to morals it seems that one mortal sin makes someone bad. Why is this?

For some reason mortal sin destroys a virtue.

Aquinas wrote that mortal sins destroy the cause of infused virtue. Does this mean that it doesn’t destroy the habit of virtue? But how can the habit survive the cause of the habit?

I really like this…A great analogy…
It is indeed true that one bad round does not make one a bad golfer.
But - consider - what makes one a “Good” Golfer…a “Great” Golfer…No one starts out as a “good golfer”…In fact many golfers say (tongue in cheek) that you have to practice hard just to work up to being a “bad” golfer.
So - what makes a person a “good golfer”?
It is first a love of the game - then practice and discipline sacrifice and the desire to be better - Not “better than others” but better than you were yesterday. One does not start out being a “good golfer”…
Now consider what such a golfer does when he does have a bad round. He immediately seeks to amend and to correct. He seeks out the help of others to analyze the problem etc. In short he does not give up trying to be a good / great golfer.

Of course in reality the analogy of a “bad round of golf” = mortal sin fails…
First of all we know he did not have a bad round on purpose. His intent was not to have a bad round. His heart desired only to have a good round…
So the “sin” did not lay in the score…the sin lay in some component that caused the bad score and even THAT was unintentional.
For the Christian this equates to coming to God and Loving him; desiring to grow closer to Him and to be perfected (growing in holiness). When we falter we do not give up but seek ways to amend and to improve.
A better analogy of “mortal sin” would be a golfer who studies and practices to be good and then, after running into some bad shots on the middle holes, breaks his clubs and throws them, bag and all, into the water hazard and leaves the course swearing that golf is the dumbest game in the world.

So you see (I hope) that mortal sin is less about having a bad round (oops) than it is about rejecting the game in toto…

Of course the standard disclaimer applies here…analogies are always limited…

For some reason mortal sin destroys a virtue.

Perhaps it would be more precise to say that the components that make a sin mortal indicate that a virtue has already died.

Consider: It is a mortal sin to commit murder. So how does a “basically good” person commit murder? This can only happen when Love (charity) dies in that person and is replaced by hate. Only after that occurs - only after charity dies - can the act take place.

Aquinas wrote that mortal sins destroy the cause of infused virtue. Does this mean that it doesn’t destroy the habit of virtue? But how can the habit survive the cause of the habit?

I’ll have to let someone else deal with this…

Peace
James

I think I have a hypothesis based on your post. A virtue is a disposition to good habits. So in your example I believe that the mortal sin is the destroyer of the love of golf, and it disqualifies someone from being praised for his game, since he no longer intends to golf as someone who enjoys the game, but as one who does it contrary to his will. So the destruction of the disposition to golf (love of the game) is the mortal sin that destroys the possibility of golfing as a habit. The venial sin is someone who is bad at trying to golf. A vice though would be any habit that is not in accord with a golfer.

(And indeed, from Aquinas’s treatise on habits, it’s not entirely clear if a habit is different from the virtue whose habit it is. For he calls both dispositions and he calls a virtue a habit.)

OK - let’s see if understand you…

A virtue is a disposition to good habits.

I think this is a nice distinction.

So in your example I believe that the mortal sin is the destroyer of the love of golf,

Yes - or in it’s more insidious form - replaces the love of golf with the love of something else that is destructive to your relationship to the game. For example someone gets so “puffed-up” with themselves that they care more about the trappings of fame than with continuing to practice…

and it disqualifies someone from being praised for his game, since he no longer intends to golf as someone who enjoys the game, but as one who does it contrary to his will.

If he chooses to continue to golf at all…

So the destruction of the disposition to golf (love of the game) is the mortal sin that destroys the possibility of golfing as a habit. The venial sin is someone who is bad at trying to golf.

Not sure I precisely follow this in the analogy but no matter…
The Mortal sin would be choosing to Love something more than the game…To the extent that it makes it impossible to properly participate in the game with the same heart and will as before.
Venial sin isn’t necessarily one who is “bad at trying to golf”…so long as they are trying their best. Venial sin might be something like fudging a score, or hitting a medium bucket of balls at practice when you should really hit a large…:smiley:

A vice though would be any habit that is not in accord with a golfer.

This sounds right…

(And indeed, from Aquinas’s treatise on habits, it’s not entirely clear if a habit is different from the virtue whose habit it is. For he calls both dispositions and he calls a virtue a habit.)

Well - as I say - I know next to nothing about Aquinas…Smart fellow by all accounts…Mostly I fly by the seat of my pants and just ty to keep things simple…:thumbsup:

Peace
James

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