Moral reasoning

Catechism:
1759 “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention”

In other words, the end does not justify the means. You may do a bad act with a good intention, but it’s still a bad act.

But aren’t all acts good in some circumstances? If you are hiding a runaway slave in your attic and a member of the KKK asks if you have a slave in your house, isn’t it right to lie in that circumstance? Even though one of the commandments is not to lie?

Or–I know this is a ridiculous example–what if a mad scientist has made some huge nuclear machine and says that unless you do something immoral–for example, desecrate a religious object-- he will obliterate the planet earth?

In this case, couldn’t you do these “wrong” actions and wouldn’t it be right?

=fhkjds;7599400]Catechism:
1759 “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention”

In other words, the end does not justify the means. You may do a bad act with a good intention, but it’s still a bad act.

But aren’t all acts good in some circumstances? If you are hiding a runaway slave in your attic and a member of the KKK asks if you have a slave in your house, isn’t it right to lie in that circumstance? Even though one of the commandments is not to lie?

Or–I know this is a ridiculous example–what if a mad scientist has made some huge nuclear machine and says that unless you do something immoral–for example, desecrate a religious object-- he will obliterate the planet earth?

In this case, couldn’t you do these “wrong” actions and wouldn’t it be right?

Moral Theology [as would Christ] allows for “The Greater Good” decision to be made WHEN APPROIATE.

Good and evil are both relative things. While we are obligated to sek Good and avoid evil; life is not always so clear cut. ALWAYS do what yor conscience understands to be the “Greater Good.”

God Bless,
Pat

Pat,
Good and evil are NOT relative. Moral relativism seems to be what you are condoning here–yet it has been vigorously condemned by the Catholic Church. By your reasoning, it would be acceptable to abort an unborn child if the single mother was in danger of dying; after all, it would be “better” for the the mother to live and be able to take care of her existing children, right? Wrong. Some things are objectively immoral and evil–such as abortion, or desecrating a religious object. The Catechism clearly states that it is never acceptable to perform an objectively gravely immoral action in order to bring about an objective good–whether that good is greater or not.

It is never right to do ‘wrong’ actions. Is your life more important than God? Luke 17:33

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism

'Meta-ethical relativists believe not only that people disagree about moral issues, but that terms such as “good,” “bad,” “right” and “wrong” do not stand subject to universal truth conditions at all. Rather, they describe societal conventions and personal preference. Meta-ethical relativists are, firstly, descriptive relativists: they believe that, given the same set of facts, some societies or individuals will have a fundamental disagreement about what one ought to do (based on societal or individual norms). What’s more, they argue that one cannot adjudicate these disagreements using some independent standard of evaluation — the standard will always be societal or personal.

This view is contrasted by moral universalism, which argues that, even though people disagree, and some may even be unpersuadable (e.g. someone close minded), there is still a meaningful sense in which an action may be more ‘moral’ than another. That is, they believe there are objective standards of evaluation that seem worth calling ‘moral facts’ - regardless of whether they are universally accepted.’

The seven Maccabeus brothers died a horrible death denying to eat pork (2 Mac 6:18 ff)

The early Christians endured torment and death, themselves and often their families just to deny a little incense before the statue of the Caesar.

Cardinal Mindszenti’s immediate successor Zoltan Meszleny endured months pf torment and ultimately death, just because he denied several signatures and appointments required by the communists.

There are some things which should not be done, no matter what.

St. Peter tells us in his letter that no man can do evil to bring about good. This is a moral compass by which we can judge our acts. Now, according to Aquinas there are a lot of things that make up a human act. Different people parse them out slightly differently but generally we can say the following:

In General:

  1. Circumstance

Pertaining to the Will:

  1. The Object
    2a) Delight
    2b) Intention
  2. The Agent
    3a) Choice
    3b) Consent
    3c) Command
    3d) Use
  3. Knowledge
    4a) Council

For our purposes the way in which they are all categorized is irrelevant. What is essential, however, is that we analyze an act based on these parts of an act. Now, according to Aquinas, if any one of these parts is objectively evil then the whole act is objectively evil. This is the judgement of the act itself. There are only good acts or evil acts.

Now, according to the question of the “OP” it is necessary to see that his question is not about the act but rather it is about the praise or blame conferred upon an agent for the act that they bring into use. This is a very different question than about the nature of act itself. This has to do, not with the objective aspect of the act but with the subjective. In other words, it is about judging if the person acted rightly or wrongly in a particular circumstance. Now, there is a further principle and that is: No objectively evil act can ever be good. What this means is that there is no level of ignorance or mitigation of culpability that can cause an objectively evil act to somehow become good in this particular circumstance. Rather, the mitigating circumstances will make the culpability of the agent less but most likely it will never full wipe it out completely.

So, let’s take a concrete example:

  1. A person performs an act of fornication.
  2. Fornication is an objectively evil act.
  3. This person performed an evil act = true.

So, now we ca say that we have identified that the person did something bad. Now the question is about praise or blame. In this case there can be no praise because of the above principle that an objectively evil act cannot ever be judged to be a good act. So we ask the question:

  1. Is there a reason for thinking that the persons responsibility is mitigated?
  2. If no, then full blame.
  3. If yes, then partial blame.

So, given the position of Aquinas there is no way for, say, lying, even to a bad person or institution, to ever be a good. However, given the previous example of hiding people and lying to persecutors of those people the evil is mitigated – but according to Aquinas it is still an evil act because of the objective status of the act itself, which is evil.

I notice no one has touched the “hiding a runaway slave/lying to the KKK” scenario :wink:

Yes, thank you IBombAtomically. Nobody has answered my question.

mosher-- “St. Peter tells us in his letter that no man can do evil to bring about good.”

So then, I should not break the commandment that tells me not to lie, even if I have the good intention of saving the runaway slave in the attic?

First, I do not know of any slaves that can runaway in the United States that would be hunted down by the KKK but if this was so you could tell the KKK that you had no runaway slaves in your home as they do not have a right to know.

To lie a person must have the right to the truth.

Actually, if you read my post again carefully you will notice that I addressed it.

Yes, lying is an evil act. Think of it as an act of violence against Truth. In the specific situation you provide you are assuming that there are only two possible courses of action. But, in real life limitations of that sort are never the case. You could always choose to not respond or some other action. Human choices are not binary.

I’ve heard this line of reasoning before. There is a problem with it on at least two levels. The first is that to tell an un-truth (lie) is to use ones capacity to use language in a disordered way. Language is ordered to the communication of some knowledge. However, knowledge is only knowledge, properly speaking, if it is true knowledge. Following this line to its conclusion: to speak a lie is to violate the natural moral law in so far as it is concerned with the proper use of faculties. Second, the nature of truth itself is communal and not private. Truth, like property has a common destination. This is because truth is participatory just like being, or goodness, or unity.

There is a further problem that is more difficult to deal with but should be mentioned. If it were the case that the "non-right to knowledge’ position is correct, then who becomes the arbiter of the right to knowledge? We cannot say that we have such an ability to make such judgments. To posit the individual agent as he who determines who has a right to this knowledge or that knowledge is to promote a type of moral solipsism.

While lying is a sin, it is not always a mortal sin.

From the Catechism.

2488 The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the Gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it.

If someone does not have the right to the truth, and yes we must to judge if they do, then a lie to them is venial in nature. In the case of the escaped slave and the KKK, or the hiding jews and the Nazis at the door, the sin is not mortal in nature.

No, no, no Pat. Relativism is the source to all wrongdoings in this world. All of them.
Good things are good and evil things are always evil. You cannot love two Gods or God or a prophet at the same time.

There can only be One. One action is good and one is always wrong. It is so important to separate this and understand it fully.

And this comes from a sinner that has and will have to learn things the hard way in order to grow and hopefully someday be able to really do good for others and serve God in the way He may wish to.

God bless you.

If the survival of planet earth requires that I deliberately commit a sin, venial or mortal, that tells me that it is God’s will that the planet be destroyed.

Plantagenet

Edited to add that when a state of war exists, one is not required to disclose information that will be harmful to the good guys. It is not a violation of the commandment to misidentify yourself to the enemy. Moses sent spies into the Promised Land. Presumably, they were not required if asked, to explain who they were and why they were there. So truth telling is not always required. Lying is forbidden. One figures out a way to answer without doing either.

But my soul is more important than the physical planet. My soul is immortal and the planet is temporary. If there is a choice between my burning forever and the planet burning burning up a little early, I am saving my soul. No desecration of religious objects for any reason.

I fully agree. Notice, in my post I didn’t qualify the subjective gravity of the sin, i.e., mortal/venial. Culpability is a very different question than the objective quality of the act. Before we can assign the agents level of culpability, i.e., the subjective character of the act, we must determine its objective character. In this case the act is lying which is simply defined as deliberately speaking a falsehood. Such an act, as a violation against truth is an objectively evil act. By this we know that it can never be mitigated to the point of it somehow, circumstantially, becoming a praisable act. Now, that we know this we can look at the particular circumstance which is just a take on the, now popular, example of hiding Jews from Nazi solders. It is possible to say that if the person put in such a circumstance choose to lie he may be excused from full culpability because of the unique and intense circumstances. However, he cannot be excused from the violation against the truth.

This may sound like a perplexus but it is not. He is not, if fact, damned if he does and damned if he does not. Like I mentioned elsewhere, we can’t view human acts as binary. Human acts have both an objective component and a subjective component but the subjective is always conditioned by the objective.

Jesus told us not to worry about what to say, but that the Holy Spirit would teach us how to respond in situations such as this. How about this?

“I have no slaves in my home.” (Intended meaning: these are redeemed individuals, no longer slaves, but by my action, they are free.) So this would not be a lie because of the intended meaning in the responder’s answer.

I think that is a game of semantics. The person being ask the question knows very well that the people he is being asked about are in his home.

As I said, at most it is a venial sin but it is a sin nonetheless.

The only way that a wound against the truth can not be a sin is if the person making the statement does not know it. That is a man hides the runaway slaves in his attic. The KKK knocks on the doors and asks the wife if there are runaways slaves being hidden in the home. The husband did not tell his wife so when she answers no there is no sin whatsoever.

=timeandeternity;7599462]Pat,
Good and evil are NOT relative. Moral relativism seems to be what you are condoning here–yet it has been vigorously condemned by the Catholic Church. By your reasoning, it would be acceptable to abort an unborn child if the single mother was in danger of dying; after all, it would be “better” for the the mother to live and be able to take care of her existing children, right? Wrong. Some things are objectively immoral and evil–such as abortion, or desecrating a religious object. The Catechism clearly states that it is never acceptable to perform an objectively gravely immoral action in order to bring about an objective good–whether that good is greater or not.

THANKS, I NEEDED THAT!

It is NOT what I was trying to say; BUT clearly as you indicate; what I did express poorly and INCORRECTLY.:blush:

What I was TRYING to say :blush:

Is we all must folow our INFORMED CONSCIENCE…

THANKS SO MUCH for the correction,:slight_smile:

God Bless,
Pat

[quote=ByzCath]I think that is a game of semantics. The person being asked the question knows very well that the people he is being asked about are in his home.
[/quote]

I’m not so sure I agree. Why is it requiesite to answer to question according to the understanding of the questioner, rather than the knowledge of the respondent? I can’t see how his answer, which he renders according to his own interior truth, is a sin?
**
Another example: Someone knocks on the door and asks, “is your mother home?”
The child answers, “No.” In this case, the child does not have to answer according to the questioner’s understanding, but according to his mother’s instruction to tell him she is not there. So the child says, No - (intended meaning, she is not home to YOU). He doesn’t owe the questioner anything, IMO.

I am talking about the knowledge of the respondent. In your example, the runaway slaves are there but the respondent, who knows they were slaves, considers them freemen. So the respondent is playing the semantics game when responding to avoid sin.

Your next example is still a sin as it is a distortion of the truth. For the child (and the mother who ordered him to lie) not to lie he would need to respond either that she is not home for him or that she told him to say that she is not home.

As I said, you are playing a semantics game.

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