Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Intrinsic Evil vs. prudential judgement

This is an old confusion. Many scarcely literate Catholics suffer from it. Some of those that understand the difference obfuscate it to support their political agenda (I'm thinking of all those Catholic supporters of John Kerry in 04 that seemed to advocate some secularized interpretation of the flawed "Seamless garment" theory. Some how prolife to them meant keeping medicaid benefits up with inflation, not protecting all persons from womb to tomb.)

Some of this confusion occurered over at Amy's, on a reflection of a Mirror of Justice Post concerning Conscience and Governor Jeb Bush

Other said it there fairly well, but lets review, shall we.

Intrinsic evil means an act in and of itself is evil. There is no proportional circumstance under which such an act may be good. Such intrinsically evil acts drive a nail into our Crucified Lord during his passion, and all such grieve him today. Intentional murder is one of these acts. Abortion is the intentional murder of an unborn child. Thus, abortion is always wrong.

Other acts are not intrinsically evil. That means there are certain circumstances when an act may occur and it would not be evil. Here, a person must consider whether the object of such an act is good, whether his intention in commiting such an act toward a good objective is good, and finally whether the consequences of such an act do not result in greater evil than good. (If anyone can re-catechize me on this point, I'm all ears. Provide citations from CCC and Papal Enclyclicals, however.)

Thus, we come to capital punishment. According to the catechism:

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

2267Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."68

Capital punishment may be moral if it is used by the state to distribute justice to the guilty in order to protect society, since no other way exists to secure justice and protect society. If Capital punishment is used in any other way, such as part of a re-election campaign or to feed our desire for vengeance, then it would be immoral in that use of it.

Contrast this with abortion:

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,"77 "by the very commission of the offense,"78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

Abortion is never permited. Ever. There is no circumstance in which it can be performed as a moral act.

In summary then:

Abortion=intrinsic evil
capital punishment=prudential decision

Any questions.

Oh, in case you're wondering, I hold to the Faith on the matter of Capital punishment. If someone is to be executed for his crime, show me that there is no other way to meet justice and protect society simultaneously. Make sure its indisputable. Otherwise, lock him up for life without parole, if his crime is that heinous.