Evil

Someone posted on their Facebook the other day a question about evil.  More specifically, what is evil.  I wanted to answer the question, but I realized that, off the top of my head I didn’t really have an answer other than anything outside of the will of God.  Which is true.  But I think there is much more the the question and the answer than just that.  Though it is technically the answer, I’m sure she was searching for a secular answer.  That is a much, much harder nut to crack because it’s hard to define something if there is no objective foundation on which to base your answer.

The Catechism says this about morality:

THE MORALITY OF HUMAN ACTS

1749 Freedom makes man a moral subject. When he acts deliberately, man is, so to speak, the father of his acts. Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil.

I. THE SOURCES OF MORALITY

1750 The morality of human acts depends on:

– the object chosen;

– the end in view or the intention;

– the circumstances of the action.

The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the “sources,” or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts.

1751 The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.

1752 In contrast to the object, the intention resides in the acting subject. Because it lies at the voluntary source of an action and determines it by its end, intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: it is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken. Intention is not limited to directing individual actions, but can guide several actions toward one and the same purpose; it can orient one’s whole life toward its ultimate end. For example, a service done with the end of helping one’s neighbor can at the same time be inspired by the love of God as the ultimate end of all our actions. One and the same action can also be inspired by several intentions, such as performing a service in order to obtain a favor or to boast about it.

1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving). (Cf Mt 6:24)

1754 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent’s responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.

II. GOOD ACTS AND EVIL ACTS

1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting “in order to be seen by men”).

The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts – such as fornication – that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.

1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

IN BRIEF

1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three “sources” of the morality of human acts.

1758 The object chosen morally specifies the act of willing accordingly as reason recognizes and judges it good or evil.

1759 “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.

1760 A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together.

1761 There are concrete acts that it is always wrong to choose, because their choice entails a disorder of the will, i.e., a moral evil. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

The problem with evil in modern society is the “dictatorship of relativism”.  We refuse to acknowledge objective truth and therefore all morality is relative.  The problem with that is that it not only excludes the idea of evil, but essentially makes a mockery of the concept of doing something wrong.  Right and wrong are subjective terms that change their meanings daily within a person, and at the whim of whichever majority is in charge of making rules.  With no objective basis from which to judge things, nothing is ever wrong to do. Murder, lying, stealing, etc. have no meaning.  Sure, there are core beliefs that, for the most part, are shared throughout humanity, but they still mean nothing if we hold that truth is subjective.  I’m venturing back onto the slippery slope here, but how long before we start seeing murder as okay and legal so long as it meets and end we want?  We already do by with abortion.  Some countries are already running down that path with euthanasia.  When will it become the moral norm in society to euthanize our parents because it’s cheaper than taking care of them?  This is one of the reasons I believe so much in the Catholic faith.  There is objective truth, a truth that points out the dignity of the human person and thus recognizes, objectively, that murder is evil, regardless of when you are murdering the person or the circumstances (granted, there is just war theory, but that’s a different topic).

In the end, relativism not only lacks substance, but it is irrational.  A rational reading of truth and morality would recognize that there is some objective basis on which we as humans base a truth in morality.  This rational and objective basis has to recognize the dignity of the human person, otherwise humans become nothing more than a means to an end.  And the end will keep changing based on whomever is in power.

I think I’ve rambled enough for now.

Advertisements

The New Slavery

That was what came to my mind this morning as I was in the shower thinking about something someone posted on Facebook.  Someone posted that they thought the Constitution was outdated and needed to be replaced.  I was aghast and taken aback by that.  I was thinking about it in the shower, was thinking about how the problem isn’t with the Constitution, it’s with the people who want to pervert the Constitution.  Which then led me to the people who want to pervert it keep getting re-elected because they keep promising people more entitlements.  Free Healthcare, free housing, free phones, free money, free food.  And the people keep voting for them.  Not because they like the person, per se, or that the person is a good candidate, but because they like the freebies that they keep getting from them.  The problem with that is that the people who get elected into office and giving them the freebies continue to consolidate their power.  They slowly take away more rights until the people are enslaved to the government, much like they are now. The government surveils us, takes our money, takes our land, anything they want at their own will, chalk it up to “National Security” and the cost of the entitlement programs.  And we lose our freedoms and become slaves to the government.  It’s a different type of slavery, but it is slavery nonetheless.

I was also thinking about religious freedom as this is applied. America was founded by people who came here because their religion was being run out of England.  They wanted to continue in their beliefs, continue worshiping the way they wanted to, so they left and founded a new country.  We enshrined those beliefs in our Constitution in the Bill of Rights — more specifically, the very first one.  The problem is, those religious freedoms are being eroded every day.  People say things like, “you can’t be oppressed if you were the people who ruled the country for many years.”  That is a straw man argument.  In the words of Thoreau to his tailor when she told him ‘they’ didn’t make his particular outfit anymore:

“It is true, they did not make them so recently, but they do now.”

Just because it was so in the past, doesn’t mean it still holds true.  Religion in America is under attack, and it is under attack by nefarious forces.  Forces that don’t want to destroy religion because they don’t want to be controlled by it, we’ve passed laws to prevent that, but people who want to destroy religion because they don’t want to feel guilty when religious people say they are doing something wrong.  Even further, religious people don’t have to tell them they are doing something wrong, or even intimate it in any way, they don’t want anyone who believes in objective truth because they don’t want their actions to be wrong in any way.  It is the “dictatorship of relativism” that Pope Benedict XVI spoke about.  These people won’t rest until religion is gone.  They make friends with religions that are enemies of the religion they are enemies with (the enemy of my enemy is my friend), never realizing that they are making a deal with the devil, and the devil will have his payment.  It won’t be a pleasant payment, either.  All of the invective they accused the religion they hate of will be dished out by the religion they supported and they will be persecuted even more than they thought they were before.  It’s a nasty little cycle.

I had to get that off of my chest.  I have many other thoughts on it, but I’m not ready to go into them just yet.

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke

599193_507184259323626_1690620567_n

I read an article last night and pondered it for a while.  I was going to post last night, but I was interrupted by a baby who woke up and made her presence, and demand for attention, known.

The article’s title is, The Gentle Lion of Wisconsin — An Appreciation of Cardinal Burke, and can be found here:  http://staustinreview.org/2017/01/19/gentle-lion-wisconsin-appreciation-cardinal-burke/

First, let me say that I find his devotion to St. John Fisher to be a very interesting and, in our modern word, fitting one.  Especially thinking back to yesterday’s post and Cardinal George’s exhortation.  Would that more of us had a devotion to this particular saint, especially in the political climate of the United States since about the year 2000.

Those aren’t what I really want to talk about. I want to talk about the Church and the World, especially in light of this article and the thoughts I had last night.

First, this quote spurred thoughts:

“He is pitted, in the mind of the press, if that doesn’t sound oxymoronic, as the Pharisee, opposing all the openness and generosity of the “new Church.” That this caricature bears little resemblance to reality does not matter to an almost completely secular and liberal media. For them, there can be only conflict – using political terms which are meaningless in the Church – between “conservative” versus “liberal” – “intolerant” versus “open”.”

The beginning of the next paragraph states, “In the life of the Church, there are only two labels which matter: orthodox or heterodox.”  I think that quote, along with the above quote go very well together in describing my ruminations last night.  While we as lay Catholics tend to see various factions in the Church that we label ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’, or other choice words, the church truly does have only two factions: orthodox or heterodox.   We have the Ratzingers and the Burkes who stand for orthodoxy within the Church, stand for revealed truth and an unwavering desire to see to it that we maintain the truth revealed to us by God and Jesus Christ.  Then we have a heterodox branch who would see some less than savory protestant ideals brought into the church, ideals that run contrary to objective truth.  The problem with these protestant ideals is that they lean more towards relativism in truth.  It’s morally okay because I believe it to be morally right.  What makes these thoughts even more repugnant is how quickly minds change, and thus how quickly truth changes.  It creates “a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.” (Note 1)  We can already see the tendrils of this dictatorship reaching out into society and beginning to unravel the fabric of societies.  As we begin to believe that truths are relative, then we begin to believe that the laws are relative, too, and the institutions that support those laws are relative.  That leads us to picking and choosing which laws we want to obey, which, ultimately, leads to anarchy and chaos.  I look around and see it everyday.  As the loss of truth goes in the Church, so goes the loss of truth in society.  In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:

How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true. (Note 2)

That wasn’t originally what I wanted to talk about, but it crept into my thoughts as I ruminated more.  Sadly, what I wanted to talk about runs somewhat counter-intuitive to what I just posted.

We do live in a secular society, there is nothing we can do to change that.  However, there are some issues that this article on Cardinal Burke brought to my mind.  The Church fights everyday to change the laws to protect the unborn, protect the Church’s view of marriage, and many other things.  However, these ideas of the Church run counter the the secular nature of our society.  I will confess that I am a Libertarian and I believe the state has no business regulating these.  The Church does have a place to regulate them—on the members of the Church, not the members of society writ large.  This is where I’m probably going to take some flak from the Church and other Catholics.

The Church has a responsibility to uphold objective truth as revealed through Jesus, natural law, sacred scripture, tradition, etc.  Part of revealed truth is that man has free will (CCC 1730).  We have the ability to make our own choices and one of those choices is whether or not we are going to accept objective truth and live our lives in accordance with it (i.e. in accordance with the commands of God), or if we are going to ignore them and live for ourselves and suffer the consequences of our sin.  The Church has a responsibility to teach the truth and lead people to the truth, but it doesn’t have a responsibility to force people to live one way or another, doing so violates free will — and would be a sin on our part (CCC 1738).   Does that mean that the Church shouldn’t try to change laws?  No, just like any other citizen in a country, they have the right to express their opinions and appeal to their elected officials.  But I don’t think the Church should think it right to force Catholic beliefs on everyone else who doesn’t share Catholic beliefs (and neither does the Church, see CCC 1738).

I’ve been writing this throughout the day, so it may seem fractured (much as my state of mind dealing with a one year old throughout the day), please forgive that.


Notes:

1. Cardinal Ratzinger, Joseph, Homily at Mass for Electing Supreme Pontiff, 18 April 2005. Accessed at  https://www.ewtn.com/pope/words/conclave_homily.asp

2. Ibid.