The Three Fonts of Morality (continued)

Free Will and Ends

Human free will is the source of each of the three fonts. The human person chooses, by an exercise of free will, an intended end. The person is not compelled to choose any particular end; he makes the choice freely — therein lies the potential for sin.

The human free will also chooses a concrete act, and included in that choice, like it or not, is the choice of the inherent moral meaning of the act. And that moral meaning (or moral nature) is itself determined by the moral object of the act. The one choice by the free will of any concrete act includes, necessarily and at least implicitly, the choice of the act, its nature, and its object. And this choice is intentional (deliberate, voluntary, knowing).

The person makes these choices, the intended end and the act, with the knowledge that actions have consequences, and that any particular act can be reasonably anticipated to include particular good and/or bad consequences. If the reasonably anticipated bad consequences morally outweigh the reasonably anticipated good consequences, the act would be immoral to choose in those circumstances. The circumstances may change, though, allowing the act to be done without sin.

All three fonts spring from the free will. Therefore, we can truly say that the intention of the will, in some sense, applies to each font. However, the intended end (finis agentis) — the purpose or reason for choosing the act — does not determine the moral object of the intentionally chosen act (finis actus). These are two different types of ends: the end chosen by the agent, and the end inherent to the chosen act.

In the second font, the concrete act is deliberately chosen, but the moral nature, as determined by the moral object, is inherent to that choice. One cannot choose a concrete act, intrinsically ordered toward an evil object, with the claim that that object is excluded from choice and therefore does not determine the moral nature of the chosen act. Neither can one take the intended end from the first font and claim that it is the true object of the chosen concrete act. For each font has its own end.

The first font springs from the will, but it is directed toward a particular end, the intended end, which resides in the subject. The second font springs also from the will, but it is directed toward a different type of end, the end which resides in the chosen act itself. The third font springs from the will, but it is directed toward the reasonably anticipated consequences of the chosen act, its end results.

Each font has its morality determined by a different type of end. But it is a common misunderstanding to confuse the intended end with the moral object. The intended end is the end of the person who acts, whereas the moral object is the end inherent to the act itself. The morality of each respective font is determined by its own end. But a good intended end (finis agentis) does not justify the intentional choice of an act with a bad moral object (finis actus) as the means to that end. These are two distinct ends, each in its own font of morality. Each font must be morally good.

Pope Saint John Paul II: “Let us say that someone robs in order to feed the poor: in this case, even though the intention is good, the uprightness of the will is lacking. Consequently, no evil done with a good intention can be excused.” [Veritatis Splendor, n. 78.]

When robbing the rich to feed the poor, the intended end is good: to provide for those in need. But the “uprightness of the will” is lacking because the will intentionally chose not only a good intended end, but also an act that is wrong by its very nature, an immoral type of act. The will is not upright if it knowingly chooses a bad type of act, even when the will also chooses a good intended end.

The fact that the will intentionally chooses a type of act does not imply that the will can choose one act and a different moral object. The person who robs the rich to feed the poor cannot claim that his act has the object of feeding the poor. Robbery is not inherently ordered toward helping those in need. If the intended end (first font) and one reasonably anticipated good consequence (in the third font) is that the hungry are fed, the moral object (second font) can still make the act a sin. All three fonts must be good for an act to be moral.

Attainment of These Ends

An act with a bad intention is always a sin; one bad font makes any act immoral. However, it is not the attainment of the intended end (finis agentis) that makes the act immoral by intention. The choice by the free will of that disordered intention is sinful, even if by chance the intended end is not achieved. If you intend to lead your neighbor into grave sin by donating to his favorite charity, and you fail, your act was nevertheless a grave sin due to a gravely disordered intention. It is not the attainment of the intended end that makes the act a sin, but the choice of the disordered intention.

Similarly, it is not the attainment of the object (finis actus) that makes the act moral or immoral, but rather the choice of the disordered act. The act is intentionally chosen, but its morality is determined by its intrinsic ordering toward its object, even if the object is not attained. Some acts are morally good, by their nature, such as prayer and almsgiving. Other acts are morally bad by their nature, such as murder, theft, and lying. But in every case, the inherent moral meaning of the act (its moral nature) is determined by its ordering toward the moral object, not by its attainment of that object.

The moral object is the end toward which the intentionally chosen act is inherently ordered. But even if the act never attains that end, the act remains intrinsically ordered toward that end. It is precisely this ordering toward a good or evil end (the moral object) that determines whether the act is good or evil, in and of itself, by the very nature of the act. An act possesses its moral object merely by being inherently ordered toward that object. The essential moral nature (or species) of the act is absolutely identical to this inherent ordering toward a good or evil moral object (finis actus).

Therefore, an act is intrinsically evil merely because it is ordered toward an evil end, regardless of whether or not the act achieves that end. An intrinsically disordered act is evil solely because it is ordered toward an evil moral object. This moral disorder of intrinsically evil acts is independent of intention, independent of circumstances, independent of other knowingly chosen acts, and independent of whether or not the act attains its object. Each human act, by its very nature, is ordered toward either a good moral object or an evil moral object. The moral object is distinct, but not entirely separate, from the act that is ordered toward that end. By the very fact that the human person chooses any act, he necessarily also chooses the moral nature of the act, which is determined by its moral object. This one intentional choice includes act, nature, object.

When the moral object is evil, the act is called intrinsically evil (or intrinsically disordered) because the act, by its very nature, is ordered toward an end that is incompatible with love of God, who is Goodness itself, who is our final end. Whenever the object of an act is bad, then the second font is bad and the act is intrinsically evil. The moral object of an act is bad whenever it is incapable of being ordered to God, our ultimate end. The moral object is bad whenever it is incompatible with the goodness that God intends for human life, because this goodness and life should always be directed toward God as our final end. The moral object is bad whenever it is contrary to the moral law, which orders all our knowingly chosen acts in accord with the will of God and toward God as our final end.

Intrinsically evil acts are always immoral

When the moral object is evil, the second font is bad and the act itself is intrinsically evil and always immoral. Intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, even if the intended end, in the first font, is good, and even if the consequences, in the third font, are good. The overall act is always immoral whenever any font is bad. And so every intrinsically evil act is always immoral, regardless of the intention (first font) or the circumstances (third font).

Are intrinsically evil acts always gravely immoral? No, certainly not. The assertion that an act is intrinsically evil implies that the moral object is bad, but it does not imply anything about the gravity of the disordered act or its object. If the intention and circumstances are good, so that the gravity of a sin depends only on the object, the act could be, objectively, a mortal sin or a venial sin. Direct abortion is objectively a mortal sin. Most lies are objectively venial sins. A theft might be mortal or venial, depending on the value of the items taken and the harm done to the owner by their deprivation.

How can we place intrinsically evil mortal sins in the same category as intrinsically evil venial sins? The answer is that this type of categorization is not based on the severity of the sin. Instead, it is based on the type of disorder that makes the act sinful: its inherent ordering toward the moral object.

The same consideration applies to the other fonts. An act that is immoral due to a bad intention might be a mortal sin or a venial sin. An act that is immoral due to the reasonably anticipated consequences will be objectively a mortal sin if the bad consequences gravely outweigh the good consequences, or a venial sin if the disproportionate harm is substantially limited. The fact that an act is deemed sinful due to a disorder in one or more fonts does not reveal the gravity of the sin, at least not until we consider the moral weight of that particular disorder.

But an intrinsically evil act can never be knowingly chosen without sin. By comparison, an act that is immoral solely due to intention may be done if the person changes his intention. And an act that is immoral solely due to circumstances may be done if the circumstances change. Intrinsically evil acts are immoral by the very nature of the act, so it is always wrong to intentionally choose to commit such an act.

But how can we assert that it is always wrong to commit an intrinsically evil act, if that act happens to be venial? Would not a dire circumstance with great possible harm morally outweigh the limited gravity of the disordered act?

The technical answer, in terms of moral theology, is that the good and bad consequences in the font of circumstances are evaluated by proportion. If the good outweighs the bad, the font is good. Proportionality is used in evaluating circumstances because the good and bad here are benefits and detriments, not morally good or morally bad choices. We should never knowingly choose moral evil. But we can tolerate some harm in the consequences if the intention and the act are good, and if the benefits of the good consequences equal or outweigh the detriments of the bad consequences.

By comparison, the other two fonts are not proportionate. Any bad moral object makes the act wrong by its nature. An act may have more than one moral object. But if one of those objects is incompatible with the love of God or the love of neighbor as self, then the object is evil and so is the act. Two good moral objects can’t change the fact that another moral object in the act is evil. The choice of such an act is the choice of moral evil. Your acts are chosen with free will. You need not choose any evil act, so if you do so, you are morally culpable.

Then, in the font of intention, a person may have more than one intention in committing any single act. If one intention is bad, and one or more additional intentions are good, the font is still bad. Your intentions are chosen with free will. You need not choose any bad intention, so you are culpable if you do so, regardless of any good also found in your intention.

Any bad consequences in the font of circumstances are termed “physical evil”, not moral evil. Physical evil is harm or disorder, which should never be knowingly chosen as an end, but may be tolerated as an unintended consequence — if the totality of the foreseeable consequences does not do more harm than good. But any evil in the fonts of intention and object is moral evil. And the knowing free choice of moral evil is by definition a sin.

It might seem, from a practical or worldly point of view, that one ought to commit a venial sin if many innocent lives would be saved. But from a heavenly point of view, this is not the truth. For no innocent human life is truly lost to God. All who die in a state of grace live forever in eternal happiness in Heaven. And so, not a single resident of Heaven considers even a slight venial sin to be justified, not even by the saving of many innocent lives.

Nor should we on earth, who have the hope of eternal life in Heaven, claim to justify even small sins for any reason. We should always imitate Christ in all our moral decisions. Christ would not commit the slightest venial sin for any reason, not to save His own life, not to save many lives, not to save the whole world from Hell.

Saint Catherine of Siena: “The light of discretion (which proceeds from love, as I have told thee) gives to the neighbor a conditioned love, one that, being ordered aright, does not cause the injury of sin to self in order to be useful to others, for, if one single sin were committed to save the whole world from Hell, or to obtain one great virtue, the motive would not be a rightly ordered or discreet love, but rather indiscreet, for it is not lawful to perform even one act of great virtue and profit to others, by means of the guilt of sin.” [The Dialogue, n. 42.]

Nothing whatsoever can cause an intrinsically evil act to become morally licit. Intention and circumstances have no effect on the moral object of the chosen act. Other chosen acts have no effect on the moral object of the particular act. Each knowingly chosen act is good only if all three fonts are good. If any font is bad, the act is immoral, despite any goodness in the other two fonts, and despite any goodness in other knowingly chosen acts.

Even if an intrinsically evil act were done with a good intended end, in circumstances where only good consequences resulted, the act itself would still be immoral because the moral meaning of the act is inherent to, and inseparable from, the act itself. Intrinsically evil acts are, by their very nature, ordered toward an evil moral object (an evil end). Whenever the moral object is evil (bad, immoral), the intentional choice of such an act is always a sin, even with the best intended end, and even in the most dire of circumstances. The moral object is always independent of intention, always independent of circumstances, and always independent of other knowingly chosen acts.

One can never justify any intrinsically evil act by claiming that the meaning inherent to the act has been changed by any intention, or by any circumstance, or by any other acts, or by any factor or context whatsoever. Nothing can change the inherent moral meaning of the second font concerning any particular act (i.e. the concrete act, the chosen behavior), because that moral meaning is inherent to, and inseparable from, the act itself. Nothing can change the moral object of a particular act, because that act is inherently ordered toward its object.

Pope John Paul II: “Consequently, circumstances or intentions can never transform an act, intrinsically evil by virtue of its object, into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice.” [Veritatis Splendor, n. 81.]

Pope John Paul II: “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.” [Evangelium Vitae, n. 62.]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church: “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.” [n. 1756.]

Whenever the second font is bad, the act itself is necessarily intrinsically evil because the second font considers only the essential moral nature of the act as determined by its object. An intrinsically evil act remains immoral regardless of intention (first font) and regardless of circumstance (third font).

The morality of each font is determined by the ends pertaining to that font. All good ends are capable of being directed toward God as our final end. Whenever any end in any font is not capable of being ordered toward God, that font is bad and the chosen act is immoral. And the evaluation of each font, as to whether or not its end can also be a means to God as the final end, is based on the love of God, which implies both the love of neighbor and an ordered love of self. Therefore, an ordered love of God, neighbor, and self is the ultimate basis for the three fonts of morality.

There is no other basis for the morality of an act apart from these three fonts. For any act to be moral, all three fonts must be good. If any font is bad, the act is immoral, even if the other fonts are good. Each and every knowingly chosen act is judged solely by the three fonts of morality. The three fonts of morality are the sole determinant of the morality of every knowingly chosen act, without any exception. Whoever contradicts this teaching has overturned the very foundation of every moral teaching in the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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30 Responses to The Three Fonts of Morality (continued)

  1. Tom Mazanec says:

    If you intend to lead your neighbor into grave sin by donating to his favorite charity, and you fail, your act was nevertheless a grave sin due to a gravely disordered intention.

    How would this be done? I could know that my neighbor is prochoice, and make a donation to NARAL in his name, but that does not cause my neighbor to sin. My neighbor might want to make me sin and make a donation to NARAL in my name…do I have to confess that Joe Bozo made a contribution to NARAL in my name to my confessor?

    • Ron Conte says:

      No, you don’t have to confess what someone else did. The example of a donation to charity leading someone astray is from Aquinas. You donate to charity in order to gain that person’s favor and trust, so as to subsequently lead them astray, I suppose.

  2. Marco says:

    “It might seem, from a practical or worldly point of view, that one ought to commit a venial sin if many innocent lives would be saved. But from a heavenly point of view, this is not the truth. For no innocent human life is truly lost to God.”

    So it doesn’t matter if i let an innocent die after horrible torture when i could i save him with a lie or another sin, for no innocent human life is truly lost to God.

    Also, since not a single resident of Heaven considers even a slight venial sin to be justified, i also have to believe that a dead mother would wish her son to let her grandson die after untold torture instead of saving him with a lie or another sin.

    Quite frankly, that seems like hell instead of Heaven.

  3. Marco says:

    I really can imagine Oscar Schindler’s mother in Heaven saying “no son, you shouldn’t save those Jews with your lies, let them go to their slaughter, for their lives are no lost to God, and this is what the all-loving God wants. You can save them, yes, but you shouldn’t, and if you do, you commit a sin”.

    Yikes

  4. Marco says:

    From the article

    “Saint Catherine of Siena: “The light of discretion (which proceeds from love, as I have told thee) gives to the neighbor a conditioned love, one that, being ordered aright, does not cause the injury of sin to self in order to be useful to others, for, if one single sin were committed to save the whole world from Hell, or to obtain one great virtue, the motive would not be a rightly ordered or discreet love, but rather indiscreet, for it is not lawful to perform even one act of great virtue and profit to others, by means of the guilt of sin.” [The Dialogue, n. 42.]”

    Wow, so there is not a single mother in this world who has the so called “light of discretion”, because you are not going to find even a single mother in the whole world who is willing to let her son or daughter die if the price to pay is sin.

    Or do you really think, Ron, that somewhere in the world we have a mother who, given the choice between seeing her son flesh die after horrible torture or lying or committing another sin in order to spare him that fate, would choose the first option?

    Just think about your own mother and ask yourself if she would have doubts in that situation, Ron, for i’m sure that you already know what she would answer.

    The problem with the morality described in this article is that it is harsh, distant, cold and completely alien to what, i dare say, 99,99% of people think and feel.

    It’s a morality without empathy, a morality where i can’t see even an ounce of love, to be honest.

    This kind of morality is fitting for androids, not for humans.

    I have always been able to reconcile the horrible truth of Hell and the fact that some humans go there with the love of God because i thought that God cannot oblige someone to go to Heaven, so if someone is determined to refuse God’s Grace till his last breath he is basically asking for damnation.

    But this is really giving me a lot of trouble, because i can’t reconcile this teaching with the love of God. At all. The more i think about it and the more this teaching seems horrifying.

    I wish there was a way out but apparently there isn’t and this is the worst thing, and i’m asked to believe that God imposes this kind of morality AND that he is all loving.

    Also, Pope Francis said that comandments are a path to freedom and that. They establish dialogue https://www.orlandodiocese.org/e-scroll/archive/pope-francis-commandments-are-path-to-freedom/

    What freedom do we have when we are required to let our loved ones die a horrible death and we can’t even save them? Is that the freedom Pope Francis was talking about?

    “The Commandments are a dialogue,” Pope Francis said. “The difference is not artificial.” Says the aforementioned link.

    What dialogue is there when God imposes that kind of morality upon us and we are required to live it even if it means complete destruction for us and our loved ones? Is that freedom? What freedom?

    We aren’t even free to save an innocent even if our empathy tells us “do it!”, if it means that we have to sin.

    Is that freedom?

    This seems the worst kind of slavery, to me. What freedom? What dialogue? All i can see is an harsh, merciless, brutal, cold, distant, loveless, empathyless categorical imperative.

    I’m really having an hard time, Ron, this teaching is giving me trouble, i’m having trouble with my Faith. I hope i will be able to find a way out.

    • Ron Conte says:

      “I’m really having an hard time, Ron, this teaching is giving me trouble, i’m having trouble with my Faith. I hope i will be able to find a way out.”
      If you wish to tell a venial lie, in a dire circumstance, you will not be condemned, you will not lose the state of grace, you will be quickly forgiven for that small sin.

      But your claim that adultery should be justified is quite different. That is a grave sin against God, which may result in the loss of the state of grace (if an actual mortal sin). If we justify grave sin on the grounds that someone’s life is threatened, we would be the slaves of anyone who made just threats. Consider the wider implications of your claim that a mortal sin is justified to save a life. Christians would be easily forced to commit all manner of offenses against God, to save one life or another. Christians would not die as martyrs, rather than give up the Faith. Would Jesus suffer and die for us, under your system of ethics? Are suffering and death to be avoided at the cost of giving up morality? And since morality is based on love, we end up with a system where love is abandoned whenever one would encounter suffering.

      The teaching on intrinsic evil is something that you should accept on faith, even if you cannot see its merits at this point in time.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      “If you wish to tell a venial lie, in a dire circumstance, you will not be condemned, you will not lose the state of grace, you will be quickly forgiven for that small sin.”

      My problem is with the claim that it is a sin in and of itself in that situation, because even if it is a venial sin this implies that it would have been better not to lie.

        At this point i’m wondering why no one in the entire hierarchy nor the catechism is explicitly forbidding Catholics to do undercover police work and Military Counter-Intelligence which by now hundreds of thousands of Catholics have done in Brazil, Mexico, New York, Chicago, LA, Cali, Bogota, Paris, Madrid, Rome etc. It is absurd to think the Church forbids a verbal modality of lying but never mentions the occupation most involved in that modality daily as being dangerous to salvation.  Implicit in the Church’s silence on undercover work is the Church’s acceptance of a less rigorous position.  Logically the catechism should forbid all undercover police work if the rigorist position is the only one…but neither the catechism nor the Bishops nor any Pope has declared against undercover police work as intrinsically disordered as an occupation.  Why not?

      Also, i have to say that, to me, claiming that what God wants from me is to deliver my family into the hands of murderers kind of makes God a monster. For me, it is highly blasphemous.

      Someone may say that he doesn’t believe that God would put someone in a situation in which all his choices would be moral evils. If someone were to say i would respectfully think that he lives in a cave, since this is exactly the matter of moral dilemmas. Thats why seminarians are taught “Casus Conscientiae” in their formation. These are not hypothetical, rare situations, those Nazi soldiers did ask that question millions of time to millions of people in the war. Cases like the “invading murderer/rapist” probably happen several times every day throughout the world. If God would put such a moral strain (like the one who would arise with absolutist position about lying) in people facing these situations, it would be very doubtful if we could still call Him Love.

      What God is this that makes a father think that the only moral option he has is to deliver his children into the hands of invading murderers? Tell me, please: what kind of God is that? Are we seriously suggesting (I say seriously) that Christ would want someone to sacrifice his innocent wife and children for the sake of some abstract principle about lying and intrinsically evil act?
      I find it incredible that we’re even contemplating there’s an argument here.
      Let me quote the Catechism “the gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims.” (CCC 4284)
      That’s why my argument was that, while lying is always against the truth, it can be sometimes the better thing to do. Sometimes, expecially when it prevents victims to suffer great harm, it seems the better thing to choose between the two evils (ie lying or letting innocents die), and i really fail to see how a sane person should claim that allowing an innocent to suffer untold harm is better than lying.

      In Mexico (thankfully i don’t live there) there are cops who have to choose between giving information and intel to the drug cartels or watching their families be skinned alive or killed in other insane ways.

      And they are forced to do that, since Mexico is a Narco State, it’s not like the USA or other European States where corruption is relatively low and you can find another way out.

      What choice do they have? If they choose to give informations to the cartels they sin, if they choose not to give informations they fail in their duty to protect their families, and if they decide to kill themselves with their families to escape this crap world together they still commit a grave sin.

      Isn’t this a situation in which someone has to choose only between different moral evils? And let me tell you, these situation actually happen, i’m Italian and i live in Italy but for certain reasons i’m very informed about the situation in those third world countries.

      “But your claim that adultery should be justified is quite different. That is a grave sin against God, which may result in the loss of the state of grace (if an actual mortal sin). “

      I made the example of the woman who committed adultery to save her husband to highlight the same problem: sometime you have to choose between two evils, which are to be weighed against each other.

      And i’ve said that, even if we can say that adultery is always an evil in and of itself, i fail to see how it would have been better to act differently in that situation.

      Adultery is a grave sin against your neighbor, but i fail to understand how the decision not to commit pshysical adultery is a greater act of loyalty than the decision to suffer what is basically rape to save your loved one.

      “If we justify grave sin on the grounds that someone’s life is threatened, we would be the slaves of anyone who made just threats. “

      Again, see the case of the Mexican cops made above. And tell me who would watch their children skinned alive.

      “Christians would not die as martyrs, rather than give up the Faith.”

      I can choose to sacrifice myself for the Faith, but i cannot choose to sacrifice innocent people who have nothing to do with it.

      “Would Jesus suffer and die for us, under your system of ethics?”

      But the woman in the case made above has not the chance to suffer for her husband, she has only to watch him die like an animal otherwise she commits a sin. Furthermore, she even risks her eternal salvation (even though i think that in the example made above there are enough mitigating factors to ensure that she wasn’t guilty of actual mortal sin).

      She would be willing to suffer or even die to protect her loved one but she can’t.

      Returning to the example about lying, practically every parent in this world would choose to suffer an horrible death to save his children. But apparently he is not even allowed to lie for that purpose. He could kill an assailant in self defence to protect his children but he couldn’t lie to him.

      “Are suffering and death to be avoided at the cost of giving up morality? And since morality is based on love, we end up with a system where love is abandoned whenever one would encounter suffering.”

      Quite the contrary, I’m saying that it’s love that forces us to act in certain ways sometimes. If someone didn’t care about his children he would just watch them while the cartels are skinning them alive or the nazi are putting them into a gas chamber (when maybe he/she could have saved them with a lie or with another sin) without even flinching, too bad that human persons have something called “empathy” which simply doesn’t allow us to act like cold androids who make cold calculations.

      So my point was exactly the opposite: my point was that love sometimes compells us to act in a certain way.

      If God had created hearthless androids, humans without empathy, yes, we wouldn’t have this problem.

    • Ron Conte says:

      What do you propose as an alternate system of ethics? Would all acts be judged as to their morality based only on intention and circumstances?

    • Marco says:

      “What do you propose as an alternate system of ethics? Would all acts be judged as to their morality based only on intention and circumstances?”

      Not really. Acts like lying, adultery or giving informations to criminal syndicates are certainly immoral acts in and of themselves. In Heaven there will be no such acts, obviously.

      What i do have trouble with is the claim that these moral evils shouldn’t be weighed against other moral evils in some particular circumstances.

      I do have a lot of trouble with this claim because it makes God a kind of…. monster.

      Yes, if all people were to follow the teaching of the Church there would be no moral dilemma, because there would be no cartels or other criminals who in certain corrupt State can force you to do those things. If all people had followed the teaching of the Church, WWII and the Nazi party would have never existed.

      What i’m saying is that since we all know that the children of this world are more ruthless than the children of light (Luke 16:18), even the children of light can find themselves in situations in which they can only choose between different moral evil, very unfortunately.

      Hence the example about the woman who wants to save her husband or the good cop who wants to fight crime but he is left alone since he is working in a narco state which doesn’t protect him and doesn’t allow him a way out.

      What i’m saying is that, while certain acts remain evil in and of themselves, a person of good will can be forced to choose them and this doesn’t mean that said person is evil or not virtuous.

      Therefore i have trouble with the claim that “The will is not upright if it knowingly chooses a bad type of act, even when the will also chooses a good intended end“ and i also have trouble with the claim that God doesn’t want us to weigh the different moral evils against each other, because this would even imply that God makes a father think that the only moral option he has is to deliver his children into the hands of ruthless murderers (in the case of the cop threatened by the cartels) and many other aberrations.

      I just think that God knows very well that we live in a crap, fallen, cruel world (expecially people who live in third world countries, people who live in countries like the Us, France, Spain, Italy, England, Germany ecc have already won the lottery), and that we are sometimes forced to act in certain ways by the very love and empathy that he has given to us.

      Therefore, i don’t think that the only things that matter are intention and circumstances, i just think that, unfortunately, sometimes the better thing to do and, i believe, what God wants us to do, is that we choose the lesser of the two evils instead of refusing to act at all and allowing a much greater evil.

      God forgive if I’m wrong, but this is the only way i found to reconcile all of this with the all-loving nature of God.

  5. Matt Z. says:

    It looks as though Marco, you have fallen into the heresy of proporionalism:
    Veritatis Splendor sums up the error nicely: “[Proportionalism], while acknowledging that moral values are indicated by reason and by Revelation, maintain[s] that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behavior which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values.”

    http://www.aboutcatholics.com/beliefs/proportionalism/

    • Marco says:

      No, reread my last post https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/the-three-fonts-of-morality-continued/#comment-6684

      Lying ecc is never a moral act in and of itself.

      But I cannot think that a loving God wants a father think that to deliver his children into the hands of murderers anymore than i can believe in a square circle.

      The propositions:

      1. God wants a father to deliver his children into the hands of murderers so that he can watch them while they are skinned alive (when he could saved them with a lie).

      2. God is love.

      Are mutually incompatible.

      And everyone can see why.

    • Marco says:

      Also, let me point out that i’ve said nothing more than what Pope Francis has already said in Amoris Laetitia 303

      “ Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a cer- tain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.“

      But then again, if you are willing to believe that a loving God wants someone to to deliver his children or other innocents into the hands of murderers, be my absolute guest.

      Since i value the principle of non contradiction i can’t believe that.

  6. Matt Z. says:

    Everything happens via Gods will, save sin(read Uniformity with Gods Will by St.Alphonsus.) So if robbers come and ransack my house, it is because God permitted it. It is Gods will that it happened, although God does not will the sin of the robber. God never wills one to sin, that would be completely against the nature of God. It seems like your admitting that certain acts are sins, while also saying God wills sin under certain circumstances. Imagine what the world would be like if people believe God wills sin, people would make all sorts of excuses to sin, and they do.

    • Marco says:

      “God never wills one to sin, that would be completely against the nature of God. It seems like your admitting that certain acts are sins, while also saying God wills sin under certain circumstances.”

      I’m thinking this, you are putting words in my mouth.

      I just think that God cannot will that i delivery my sons to be tortured in the hands of murderers so that i don’t lie.

      Why? Because i don’t think that God is a psychopath.

      And because a lioving God cannot will such thing. The morality you seem to believe in is a monstrosity who would work for soulless androids, not for humans.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Marco, your position seems to be that of Proportionalism, or close to it:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportionalism

    • Marco says:

      “So if robbers come and ransack my house, it is because God permitted it.”

      And he also wants that i deliver my sons into their hands so that they will be tortured inhumanly (see the example above about the drug cartels).

      If the answer is yes, he would be monster, a psychopath. I don’t think that God is a psychopath.

      See, the Catholic faith values rationality, a lot. And i cannot think that God is both a monster and all loving, sorry, the principle of non contradiction doesn’t allow that.

    • Marco says:

      Oh, and one last thing

      “It seems like your admitting that certain acts are sins, while also saying God wills sin under certain circumstances.”

      No, i’m just saying that God is not a psychopathic monster, that’s all i’m saying. And i also believe, as Pope Francis said, that commandments are a path to freedom, not a path to the worst kind of slavery ever conceived by human mind.

      If God wanted us to deliver our sons into the hands of torturers when we could have saved them, we would be slaves, not sons. What kind of love is that?

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      “Marco, your position seems to be that of Proportionalism, or close to it:”

      No, my position is the same position we can find in Al 303

      “ Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a cer- tain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.“

      God knows our limits, he knows that he himself gave us the empathy and love which both compell us to act in certain ways. Therefore how can he asks us to go against our nature? It literally doesn’t exist a parent who would sacrifice his innocent sons for an abstract cathegorical imperative about the act of lying.

      Why is that? Human nature is not totally depraved (this is one of the tenets of Calvinism), we can understand the value of the moral law. But arguing that someone should watch his children while a psychopath is dumping them into a meat grinder when he could have saved them with a lie is pure insanity and it is judged as such by every single parent in the world.

      But, let’s pretend for a moment that the aforementioned teaching is true: this would make God a monster, since he allowed me and my sons to fall into that horrible situation AND he requires me to watch my children getting skinned alive. Literally everyone can see that there is no love in that, only merciless logic completely detached from reality itself and from the reality of the human condition.

      It really isn’t rocket science.

    • Marco says:

      Also, Ron, i’m not a proportionalist because i believe that a person in that situation is certainly NOT free to act in a different way, and precisely because of our nature.

      A moral act is, by definition, an act that is committed with pure knowledge and free will (freedom to act or not to act). Since it’s embedded in our human nature that the lives of our children shouldn’t be sacrificed for an abstract and cold categorical imperative completely detached from love, mercy and empathy (because only an empathyless psychopath would be able to sacrifice his innocents son to avoid a lie), we cannot be morally accountable for that act, not even venially. And, since everyone can see why a parent is certainly NOT free in that situation (because love and empathy compell us to act even more than merely pshysical constraints), in said situation the act of lying cannot be considered a moral act at all, since we aren’t free to act otherwise and none of us would ever act otherwise.

      Is like saying that someone should be held morally accountable if someone obliged him to accuse another person by means of torture. We know that torture breaks down everyone and brings someone to confess things which aren’t true at all https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/28/chicago-police-department-false-confessions-torture

      In the situation described above, it is even worse than physical torture, it is mental and spiritual torture of the worst kind, therefore no person can be held accountable for doing what human nature itself dictates in those situations.

      A parent is not free to sacrifice his innocent children in order to avoid lying just like every human being is not free to avoid certain physical and mental responses to some kind of stimulations.

      If God had really wanted us to lie even if it means that we will have to watch our children getting brutally skinned alive, he would have wired our brain and our soul in a different way, he would have created us without empathy and love, he would have created a race of cold blooded psychopaths.

      But he didn’t do that.

      What you and Mark apparently don’t realize, is that certain absolutist positions, when taken at face value, make God a monster, and this is the best way to scare people away from Catholicism.

      The alleged God who would wish me to watch my children getting skinned alive because i have to put the categorical imperative which forbids lying before them, is no less a moral monster than the Calvinist God who creates people for the sole purpose of sending them to Hell.

      And the sad thing is that you don’t realize that.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Marco, you keep repeating the same argument over and over. Please stop saying that the doctrine of the Church on intrinsic evil makes God out to be a monster. That view is not compatible with Catholic teaching, esp. the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II. I’m not going to post anymore comments of this type. Sorry.

    • Marco says:

      Ron, my argument is that under certain circumstances that acts is not an intrinsically evil act because it’s not a human moral act at all, since you don’t have the necessary freedom.

      Are you telling me that someone is really free to choose between seeing his son killed in this way http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2014/10/body-with-skinned-face-is-confirmed-as.html and lying?

      If the answer is no, then it’s not possible that God holds someone accountable for something he cannot do. God does not command the impossible, this is is also a teaching of the Church.

    • Ron Conte says:

      That is not how free will is defined (the deliberate component of an actual sin) in Church teaching. That is not how impossible is defined either. Your position is contrary to Church teaching. Your arguments make sense to your own mind and heart. But I live by faith in the teachings of Christ and His Church.

    • Marco says:

      Someone should tell this man https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-holocaust-survivor-and-the-lucky-lie-that-saved-his-life-10209730.html that he committed a sin, and that the loving God he thinks wanted his salvation, will punish him for it in the afterlife

      “Wolnerman, then 13, noticed that the old, young and sickly were in a line to the left. When Mengele asked his age, Wolnerman said, “I am 18.” Mengele pointed his stick to the right. The left line was eventually sent to the gas chambers. “I didn’t have brains to say this,” said Wolnerman on a recent afternoon in his condominium in Des Moines. “I believe God told me. If not, I wouldn’t be here.” “

      Yeah Ron, this poor soul is totally misguided, am i right? Little did he know that the all loving God would have wanted him to be tortured inhumanly by Mengele (to have a quick summary click here http://www.mengele.dk/children/experiments.htm ) and that he will have to suffer in Purgatory for that lie.

    • Marco says:

      “That is not how free will is defined (the deliberate component of an actual sin) in Church teaching. ”

      Catechism of the Catholic Church 1735

      “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.”

      If someone in that situation doesn’t have a nullified culpability (which means that it wouldn’t even be a venial sin, for them) then i really don’t know what to say. What kind of situation has more duress and fear than the one described above?

      Also, Saint Paul teaches, in 1 Corinthians 10:13

      “None of the trials which have come upon you is more than a human being can stand. You can trust that God will not let you be put to the test beyond your strength, but with any trial will also provide a way out by enabling you to put up with it.”

      But we all know that in this world you won’t find a single parent who will willingly let his own son die after horrible torture in order to avoid lying.

      If my position is contrary to the teaching of the Church, then the teaching that God doesn’t command the impossible would be false, because he would indeed command the impossible, asking us to act against what our conscience, our love and our empathy dictate us. Why did God give us this conscience and this empathy, then?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Your conscience, empathy, and love are that of a fallen sinner (just like all of us), and so you can err. This is one of those teachings that must be taken on faith. I’m sure that Jesus, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Aquinas, Augustine, and many other holy persons also would not commit an intrinsically evil act, even to save lives. The teaching is not cruel. It is difficult to live in all its fullness, but not impossible.

      If you wish to tell a venial lie, it is a small matter. You are not right in calling anyone cruel or other terms just because the recognize that the lie is contrary to the Nature of God who is truth (and is therefore a small sin). But I think the main issue with the teaching on intrinsic evil is not a venial lie to prevent grave harm, but rather the idea that a gravely immoral act would be justified.

      Please stop making the same argument over and over.

    • Marco says:

      Also

      “I live by faith in the teachings of Christ and His Church.”

      If i’m not mistaken, one of the tenets of catholic teaching is that Faith and Reason are not opposed to each others.

      Sure, Faith is greater than Reason, but Faith goes never against reason. Many of the teachings of our Church are supranational (the immaculate conception, the Trinity and many others), but they are not irrational.

      But i really can’t what is rational in the claim that God is love and at the same time he wants an innocent kid to avoid lying even if this means that he will be subjected to extreme torture by Mengele, or that he wants a father to deliver his sons into the hands of drug cartels torturers (which are even worse than the nazis).

      When we love someone we wish all the best for him/her, and we do all we can to make them happy and fulfilled. Instead God, according to what you are saying, would “love” my children even more than i love them and yet, at the SAME time, he would ask me to deliver them into the hands of murderers if i cannot save them without lying. And yet he loves them immeasurably, this is what i’m required to believe.

      Something doesn’t add up, clearly. If we are made in God’s image, why no parent in the world would agrees. that delivering his children into the hands of torturers is the moral and right thing to do in order to avoid lying? You didn’t answer to this. If God’s natural law is engraved in our hearts, why does this teaching seem so repugnantly cruel?

      My questions are genuine, Ron. This teaching me is giving me trouble because this is the first time in my life that i’m having doubts concerning the love of God, and i hate this situation. This teaching, worded and crafted in this absolutist way, is distancing me from God, i can feel it, that’s why i need to find a way out. I know that God can’t be evil or loveless and yet this teaching seems to suggest something different. Don’t think that i’m having a good time right now.

    • Marco says:

      “Your conscience, empathy, and love are that of a fallen sinner (just like all of us), and so you can err. “

      I can err, obviously, but can nearly all people on earth right now be erring as well?

      “I’m sure that Jesus, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Aquinas, Augustine, and many other holy persons also would not commit an intrinsically evil act, even to save lives.”

      I’ve read many books about the lives of the Saints, they are capable of making miracle to convert other people, and Jesus is God himself, of course he wouldn’t lie, he doesn’t need to.

      But make a poll if you wish, go to every country you want and make interviews with devout Catholics and ask them if they would be willing to watch their children getting skinned alive in order to avoid lying. And then tell me the results.

      “The teaching is not cruel.”

      If this teaching is not cruel, then nothing is.

      “It is difficult to live in all its fullness, but not impossible.”

      Absolutely. A cool blooded person without empathy could easily follow this teaching, for he would only follow naked logic and cold abstraction.

      “If you wish to tell a venial lie, it is a small matter. “

      I already knew that, but this is not the problem.

      “You are not right in calling anyone cruel or other terms just because the recognize that the lie is contrary to the Nature of God who is truth (and is therefore a small sin)”.

      I also recognized this, let me quote myself from another post of this topic

      “Acts like lying, adultery or giving informations to criminal syndicates are certainly immoral acts in and of themselves. In Heaven there will be no such acts, obviously.
      What i do have trouble with is the claim that these moral evils shouldn’t be weighed against other moral evils in some particular circumstances.”

      Yes, God is truth, and yes, there will be no lies in Heaven, my point was that in this fallen world people find themselves in situations in which i find it unthinkable to believe that God wants them to act in a certain way.

      I never had problems with the claim that telling a lie is contrary to the Nature of God who is truth. I have problems with the claim that God doesn’t even want us to weigh said evil against other evils, and that someone can be held even venially accountable on a personal level for having lied to save an innocent.

      “But I think the main issue with the teaching on intrinsic evil is not a venial lie to prevent grave harm, but rather the idea that a gravely immoral act would be justified.”

      The immoral act is not justified per se, but i just think that it should be weighed against other evils. I also think that normal persons aren’t free to act otherwise in certain circumstances, therefore i don’t believe that someone who lies in one of the hypotheticals made in the other posts should be held accountable, not even venially.

      Maybe i have been misunderstood, but i never said that lying can be a morally good act in and of itself, it’s just that allowing a much graver evil when you could have prevented seems to me a graver sin, and also an act of unbelievable spiritual arrogance and pride.

      We know from Church teaching that it is impossible to avoid all venial sins (the teaching of the Church is that you can avoid, with God’s Grace, every actual mortal sin, so i think that the teaching about the impossibility of avoiding all venial sins covers both light matters -such as the lies of these hypotheticals- and grave matter committed with mitigating factors which reduce guilt), it is even an infallible teaching

      “If anyone says that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace,[124] and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or on the contrary, that he can during his whole life avoid all sins, even those that are venial, except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard to the Blessed Virgin, let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, Canon XXIII)

      Therefore i cannot see how, given this premises, refusing to lie to save the life of an innocent person wouldn’t be spiritual arrogance and pride.

      I hope my argument is more clear, Ron.

    • Ron Conte says:

      No more comments on this topic.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      And that’s why i brought the case of this man https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/the-three-fonts-of-morality-continued/#comment-6708 to the table. I also believe that God helped him to survive, not because his lie was magically turned into a good act in and of itself, but because i think that God’s love valued his life and his well being more than his loyalty to an abstract categorical imperative. And this doesn’t mean that God wished him to sin either, because in that situation (he said “I didn’t have brains to say this”) his culpability was most likely nullified therefore he hasn’t sinned at all, not even venially. His “lie”, given his concrete situation and his concrete physical and mental condition, was no more a sin than someone accidentally and unwillingly uttering a blasphemy in an unknown language (for example in my country there are some people who teach foreigners to utter blasphemy by fooling them into thinking that those words mean something completely different. I’ve seen this first hand, unfortunately).

    • Marco says:

      “No more comments on this topic.”

      No problem, my arguments have not been refuted from what i can see. I stand by my point.

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