Tuesday 28th May 2024

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

Ethical Theories Rejected By Veritatis Splendor

July 28, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By DON FIER

In last week’s installment, it was established that the morality of a human act depends on three sources or constituent elements: “the object chosen, either a true or apparent good; the intention of the subject who acts, that is, the purpose for which the subject performs the act; and the circumstances of the act, which include its consequences” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, [CCCC] n. 367).
As expressed by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, we may say they “are the what, the why, and the how of our behavior” (The Faith, p. 155).
Furthermore, it was shown that goodness must be present in all three sources simultaneously in order for the moral act to be good, but that a “chosen object can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety, even if the intention is good” (CCCC, n. 368).
The Compendium goes on to provide an excellent summary of correlative points that are integral to the Church’s traditional teaching on the sources of morality:
“It is not licit to do evil so that good may result from it. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself. On the other hand, a good end does not make an act good if the object of the act is evil, since the end does not justify the means. Circumstances can increase or diminish the responsibility of the one who is acting but they cannot change the moral quality of the acts themselves. They can never make good an act which is in itself evil” (ibid.).
This very point is reinforced by the Compendium: “There are some acts which, in and of themselves, are always illicit by reason of their object (e.g., blasphemy, homicide, adultery). Choosing such acts entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil which can never be justified by appealing to the good effects which could possibly result from them” (CCCC, n. 369).
“No matter what the motives for the action are and no matter what the circumstances, if an act is objectively wrong,” affirms Fr. Hardon, “it is a sin to do it” (The Faith, p. 156).
In other words, as authoritatively taught by Pope St. John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor (VS), “there are objects of the human act which are by their nature ‘incapable of being ordered’ to God” (VS, n. 80 § 1). On account of their object, such acts are termed by the moral tradition of the Church as “intrinsically evil” — no good intention or extenuating circumstance can make them otherwise.
There are many, however, who deny the reality of moral absolutes and intrinsically evil acts. They defend ethical theories called consequentialism and proportionalism, “which hold that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its ‘object’ — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behavior or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned” (VS, n. 79 § 1).
In fact, one of the main purposes that the Holy Father wrote Veritatis Splendor was to repudiate these flawed theories and to magisterially reaffirm “the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts” (VS, n. 115 § 3).
Before analyzing the underpinnings of consequentialism and proportionalism, it is interesting to observe that the prominent moral theologian Fr. Servais Pinckaers, OP, who served on the commission that drafted the moral section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), links questions concerning “intrinsically evil acts” to the widespread dissent that surrounded Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Fr. Pinckaers, in fact, goes even further back in time to the pontificate of Pius XII when he addressed “situation ethics,” or moral systems based on the relativity of the moral values of a person (see Morality: The Catholic View, pp. 52-53).
What is “situation ethics”? In the first volume of Fundamentals of Catholicism (FoC-1), Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ, explains that adherents of this view hold that “all human acts are basically indifferent — they are neither good nor evil in themselves. Their morality, they say, depends on the situation or circumstances. This is a very convenient system for the human ego, for what it means is that the individual at all times decides for himself what is good and what is bad. He recognizes, therefore, no ‘objective’ moral principles” (FoC-1, p. 136).
It was on April 18, 1952, that Pope Pius XII, in his “Discourse to the Participants in the Congress of the World Federation of Catholic Young Women,” issued a stern caution:
“The distinctive mark of this morality is that it is not based in effect on universal moral laws, such as, for example, the Ten Commandments, but on the real and concrete conditions or circumstances in which men act, and according to which the conscience of the individual must judge and choose. . . . [Advocates of] this new ethic, perhaps without being aware of it, act according to the principle that the end justifies the means” (nn. 4, 11).
It is with this background that we now examine more carefully the two currents of thought addressed in Veritatis Splendor.
There are important differences, to be sure, between consequentialism and proportionalism; however, they are similar in that both reject the idea that there are certain kinds of acts which are always and everywhere evil — acts that, unless repented, exclude people who knowingly and freely commit them from inheriting God’s Kingdom.
Specifically, consequentialism “claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice” (VS, n. 75 § 1).
Proportionalism, on the other hand, “by weighing the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the ‘greater good’ or ‘lesser evil’ actually possible in a particular situation” (ibid.).
Pope St. John Paul II categorically rejected consequentialism and proportionalism in Veritatis Splendor. “Such theories,” affirmed the Vicar of Christ, “are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. These theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition” (VS, n. 76 § 2).
“The weighing of the goods and evils foreseeable as the consequence of an action,” continues the Holy Father, “is not an adequate method for determining whether the choice of that concrete kind of behavior is ‘according to its species,’ or ‘in itself,’ morally good or bad, licit or illicit. The foreseeable consequences are part of those circumstances of the act, which, while capable of lessening the gravity of an evil act, nonetheless cannot alter its moral species” (VS, n. 77 § 1).
Earlier in the encyclical, John Paul II resolutely indicated that certain moral truths (e.g., the Ten Commandments, the “natural moral law” written on man’s heart) remain always valid. He wrote:
“The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behavior is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbor. It is prohibited — to everyone and in every case — to violate these precepts” (VS, n. 52 § 1).

The Spirit Of The Gospel

John Paul II reinforced the existence of absolute and universally binding moral precepts in his 1995 encyclical letter “On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life”:
“God’s commandments teach us the way of life. The negative moral precepts, which declare that the choice of certain actions is morally unacceptable, have an absolute value for human freedom: they are valid always and everywhere, without exception. They make it clear that the choice of certain ways of acting is radically incompatible with the love of God and with the dignity of the person created in his image. Such choices cannot be redeemed by the goodness of any intention or of any consequence; they are irrevocably opposed to the bond between persons; they contradict the fundamental decision to direct one’s life to God (cf. CCC, nn. 1753 -1755; VS, nn. 81-82)” (Evangelium Vitae, n. 75 § 1).
Fr. Baker prudently encapsulates the underlying basis for the Church’s perennial teaching on consequentialism, proportionalism, and situation ethics: “The Catholic Church has consistently and continually rejected subjectivism and relativism in morality” (FoC-1, p. 136).
Indeed, as affirmed in an official Church document promulgated in 1975 by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics):
“The Church throughout her history has always considered a certain number of precepts of the natural law as having an absolute and immutable value, and in their transgression she has seen a contradiction of the teaching and spirit of the Gospel” (Persona Humana, n. 4 § 3).

+ + +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is a Consecrated Marian Catechist.)

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Catechism

Today . . .

Pedophile advocacy group praises Germany’s new law softening punishment for child pornography

(LifeSiteNews) — In 2010, Jan Flesichhauer and Wiebke Hollersen penned a chilling essay for Der Spiegel titled “How the Left Took Things Too Far.” “One of the goals of the German 1968 movement was the sexual liberation of children,” they wrote. “For some, this meant overcoming all sexual inhibitions, creating a climate in which even pedophilia was considered progressive.”   That climate involved discussions about whether sex with children might be healthy for the children and musings that this could…Continue Reading

Here’s Harrison Butker’s Full Speech Celebrating Pro-Life Christian Values

Some sports stars make headlines for drug abuse or acts of violence, but one football player is taking heat for publicly promoting Christian values. On Saturday, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker delivered the commencement at the Catholic Benedictine College, encouraging young graduates to stand firm in their faith and live out authentic Christian virtues. Now, the National Football League (NFL) is playing defense and condemning Butker’s speech as offensive. The NFL’s senior vice president and top diversity, equity,…Continue Reading

DeSantis declares Florida ‘will not comply’ with Biden rule forcing ‘gender identity’ on schools

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Florida “will not comply” with the Biden administration’s recently finalized rule forcing widespread recognition and accommodation of LGBT “identities” on the American education system, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis declared. In February, President Joe Biden’s U.S. Department of Education submitted to the U.S. Office of Management & Budget its finalized Title IX rule. Late last month, the administration published the rule, which expands the federal

U.S. birth and fertility rates drop to record lows, according to CDC report

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 26, 2024 / 16:45 pm Provisional data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week showed that the fertility rate in the United States hit a record low and the total number of births in the country was the lowest it’s been in decades.  According to the report, slightly fewer than 3.6 million babies were born in 2023, or 54.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15 through…Continue Reading

Kamala Harris Heads to Arizona to Promote Abortions Up to Birth

Kamala Harris is visiting Arizona today to showcase the Biden-Harris Administration’s radical support of unlimited abortion. “Kamala Harris has become the abortion czar of the Biden Administration,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee. “Instead of joining with the pro-life movement to build programs and safety nets to help promote real solutions for women and their preborn children, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have engaged in fearmongering and propaganda,” Tobias continue

The King of Kings

Cindy Paslawski We are at the end of the Church year. We began with Advent a year ago, commemorating the time awaiting the coming of the Christ and we are ending these weeks later with a vision of the future, a vision of Christ the King of the Universe on His throne before us all.…Continue Reading

7,000 Pro-Lifers March In London

By STEVEN ERTELT LONDON (LifeNews) — Over the weekend, some seven thousand pro-life people in the UK participated in the March for Life in London to protest abortion.They marched to Parliament Square on Saturday, September 2 under the banner of “Freedom to Live” and had to deal with a handful of radical abortion activists.During the…Continue Reading

An Appeal For Prayer For The Armenian People

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke on August 29, 2023, issued this prayer for the Armenian people, noting their unceasing love for Christ, even in the face of persecution.) + + On the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, having a few days ago celebrated the…Continue Reading

Robert Hickson, Founding Member Of Christendom College, Dies At 80

By MAIKE HICKSON FRONT ROYAL, Va. (LifeSiteNews) — Robert David Hickson, Jr., of Front Royal, Va., died at his home on September 2, 2023, at 21:29 p.m. after several months of suffering and after having received the Last Rites of the Catholic Church. He was surrounded by friends and family.Robert is survived by me —…Continue Reading

The Real Hero Of “Sound of Freedom”… Says The Film Has Strengthened The Fight Against Child Trafficking

By ANA PAULA MORALES (CNA) —Tim Ballard, a former U.S. Homeland Security agent who risked his life to fight child trafficking, discussed the impact of the movie Sound of Freedom, which is based on his work, in an August 29 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. “I’ve spent more than 20 years helping…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: This lesson on medical-moral issues is taken from the book Catholicism & Ethics. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well. The email and postal addresses are given at the end of this column. Special Course On Catholicism And Ethics (Pages 53-59)…Continue Reading

Color Politics An Impediment To Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The USCCB is rightly concerned about racism, as they should be about any sin. In the 2018 statement Open Wide Our Hearts, they affirm the dignity of every human person: “But racism still profoundly affects our culture, and it has no place in the Christian heart. This evil causes great harm to its victims, and…Continue Reading

Trademarks Of The True Messiah

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this essay on September 2, and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + In Sunday’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.First: The Pattern That…Continue Reading

A Beacon Of Light… The Holy Cross And Jesus’ Unconditional Love

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON Each year on September 14 the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The Feast Day of the Triumph of the Holy Cross commemorates the day St. Helen found the True Cross. It is fitting then, that today we should focus on the final moments of Jesus’ life on the…Continue Reading

Our Ways Must Become More Like God’s Ways

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9Phil. 1:20c-24, 27aMatt. 20:1-16a In the first reading today, God tells us through the Prophet Isaiah that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially when we look at what the Lord…Continue Reading

The Devil And The Democrats

By FR. DENIS WILDE, OSA States such as Minnesota, California, Maryland, and others, in all cases with Democrat-controlled legislatures, are on a fast track to not only allow unborn babies to be murdered on demand as a woman’s “constitutional right” but also to allow infanticide.Our nation has gotten so used to the moral evil of killing in the womb that…Continue Reading

Crushed But Unbroken . . . The Martyrdom Of St. Margaret Clitherow

By RAY CAVANAUGH The late-1500s were a tough time for Catholics in England, where the Reformation was in full gear. A 1581 law prohibited Catholic religious ceremonies. And a 1584 Act of Parliament mandated that all Catholic priests leave the country or else face execution. Some chose to remain, however, so they could continue serving the faithful.Also taking huge risks…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)