Monday, June 30, 2008

"Intrinsic Evil" Is Not Worse Than "Regular" Evil

I have noticed in comments on this blog and places like "Relevant" Radio, that many people have a bias which states: "Intrinsic evil is worse than regular evil." "If you only have a choice between intrinsic evil and another evil, choose the other evil." "Vote for pro-life candidates because abortion is an intrinsic evil and war could be okay sometimes."

I must admit that I am not a big believer in intrinsic evils. I think there are actions that appear to have no situation in which they could be permissible, but like Thomas Aquinas, I do not believe in intrinsic evils, per se, where the circumstances are never considered.

In any case, I think there is a gross misunderstanding of intrinsic evil as it is understood by many Catholics. ALL INTRINSIC EVIL MEANS IS THAT ONE NEED NOT CONSIDER THE SITUATION. IT IS NOT MORE WRONG THAN A REGULAR EVIL WHERE YOU CONSIDER THE SITUATION.

A case in point: Masturbation is an intrinsic evil by Church standards. It's wrong in all circumstances. The scourging an innocent man (such as Jesus) is not an intrinsic evil, but I think you would be hard pressed to find a moral theologian (who believes masturbation is sinful) who would say the former is a worse act because it is an intrinsic evil.

Something that is intrinsically evil could be worse than a "normal" sinful act, but the fact that it is "intrinsically" evil should not be used as the reason for it being worse. It's just bad theology.

A Faithful Catholic


Terrence Berres said...

"The scourging [of] an innocent man (such as Jesus) is not an intrinsic evil"

Did you mean that literally or did you mean scourging is not an intrinsic evil?

Faithful Catholic said...

Both, the scourging of Jesus was of course a very evil thing, but it is not an intrinsic evil. When considering the circumstances, that the man was innocent along with the severity of the scourging - this was an extremely evil and gruesome act.

Perhaps it could be tolerated if the subject was 5 years old and he was being spanked for running into traffic as a reminder not to run into traffic for his own good.

Dad29 said...


You are merely repeating the malum in se definition, more or less.

Of course, you're also trying to elide the differences between those who advocate malum in se and those who advocate something NOT malum in se, like a just war.


Jack said...

Of course, F.C. you are obviously right, and the two comments are so clearly absurd, I will pass on this post.Except: The commenters clearly want the Church to be the anti-sex Church and an arm of the Republican party which cheapens our religion. Jack

Terrence Berres said...

F.C. would you then say that while one could speak generally about the evil of punishing the innocent not depending on circumstances, the concept of intrinsic evil is applied more specifically to a particular act or kind of act?

Roy McPhail said...

I'm so sick of the ridiculous ranking of various forms of evil for the sake of making this inept administration look good and getting Republicans elected from now to infinity regardless of their actions (or lack thereof) in office. Don't worry about the condition of the country, folks, just keep voting Republican or you're an unfaithful/bad Catholic headed for hellfire. If the Republicans screw up miserably, keep returning them to office anyway as long as they say those 3 magic words "I am prolife". It doesn't matter how they ACT it's what they SAY that's important. Irrelevant Radio and EWTN are magnets for the hard core Kool Aid drinkers, the secret shadow government/super highway/black helicopter crowd. Many of their callers sound like the lunatic fringe with rosaries. Why bother with these self styled "Catholic" networks when you can go directly to the RNC website and drink it in there without the prayerful pretense.

Jack said...

Bravo, Roy. I hate to see our religion become nothing but a front for the crazy right wing Republicans. The way they ignore and/or oppose the Church by making only one issue--anti-abortion--the sum and substance of catholic teaching toward others makes a mockery of their "professed catholicism."

Princess Vera said...

A Roman Catholic, among other things, should believe in the Pope's infallibility in official teaching. If you do not, then how can you call yourself Roman Catholic? Let's look at examples from some encyclicals by our previous Pope, JP2.

Pope John Paul II's Christifideles Laici: "Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination." (38)

Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae: "It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop." (101)

As you can see, it is not that abortion is the only issue - it is simply that if the fundamental right to life is violated, then any other action or outcry for the common good is simply false - because it does not address the fundamental problem. All other rights are founded upon the life principle - hence why it is the most important.

It's true that "extreme" Catholics may see it as a single-issue vote. I don't see why this is a problem - if the Church tells them that one must first uphold the right to life BEFORE other issues can possibly be solved, then they are justified in excluding other issues, upon which Catholic leaders, in Rome and in the U.S., place less importance. If abortion is eradicated, then faithful pro-life Catholics will be able to turn to other important issues - they will not ignore them.

A side note - JP2 was not the first Church leader to oppose abortion, as you can see here:

This teaching has been passed down for centuries. To dilute the pro-life teaching IS to dilute the Catholic faith.

I am not a crazy, right-wing Catholic. Or perhaps I'm crazy, if I want to listen to Church teaching in order to inform my conscience. I carefully considered all issues before coming to the conclusion, that, while I abhor war and the continuing problem of poverty, I, in accordance with Catholic teaching, believe that no other rights can be fully or justly upheld unless the right to life is FIRST upheld. And it's not that I don't understand the problems of war and poverty. In fact, my mother grew up in a third-world, war-torn country - Vietnam (which is now a second-world [Communist] country). Hence, to say that all Catholics who consider pro-life issues most important are "crazy right-wingers" who dilute Catholic teaching is a huge insult and a misunderstanding of USCCB writings, as well as a deliberate ignorance of teachings given to us from Rome.

Faithful Catholic said...

PV, I respect the thought and effort you put into your post. I would point out one thing that I think you should look into. While it is true that I personally do not buy into the infallible teaching dogma concerning the pope, I do know and understand how it officially works.

1) The Pope needs to be speaking in regards to faith and morals. AND 2) The Pope needs to state that he's speaking infallibly. John Paul II never spoke using infallibility. Since papal infallibility was passed at Vatican I, popes have only used it twice.

PV, keep learning about the faith. We need thoughtful and faithful Catholics like you in the Catholic Church.