I mean the same thing by “directly killing” as theologians mean, and as JP II did when he wrote:
“Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral.” JP II, VS (57)
When you read this Ender (which I am sure you have on several occasions over the years), did you rely on the dictionary sense of “direct” and conclude it covered physically direct actions (like shooting a child), but not physically indirect ones (like shooting holes in the child’s lifeboat)? Probably not, since you correctly concluded earlier that these two acts are morally the same. And if we then consider the Pope’s statement above, we probably are forced to conclude that in the moral theology context, both those acts are a “direct killing”. It might also suggest to us that what would be termed “indirect killing” need not be gravely immoral.
What cases do we know of when innocent humans are killed by a deliberate (voluntary) act but which are not gravely immoral? Here are some:
- in a just war, military leaders bomb a legitimate target, anticipating the likely death of innocent civilians; These death are indirect killings - the act is not intrinsically evil (and its morality depends on intention and circumstances) because the act itself is not inherently directed to the evil moral object of killing the innocent;
- under threat of an epidemic, medical officials propose to vaccinate widely, notwithstanding the risk of some deaths from adverse side-effects to the vaccine. These deaths could be called physically direct, but they are morally indirect because the chosen act itself (providing vaccination) is inherently directed to the moral object of preventing disease, not at killing the innocent.
- Licit treatment of ectopic pregnancy.
The terms “direct/indirect” are not referring to physical directness, but to moral directness. Moral directness, not physical directness, is an essential attribute of intrinsically evil acts.
An intrinsically evil act is inherently directed at an evil end: its moral object. This is the sense in which we say all intrinsically evil acts are (morally) direct. Another act may have the same end result, but if that act is not inherently ordered to the same moral object then that act is not intrinsically evil.
The relationship between any act and its moral object is direct because the act itself is inherently ordered toward that moral object. This has nothing to do with physical directness.