Sunday, January 1, 2017

Why Moral Absolutes Matter

From The Catholic Report:
At the core of the now-famous dubia submitted to Pope Francis by four cardinals is the question of moral absolutes. By “moral absolutes,” Catholicism doesn’t mean vague generalizations such as “don’t offend others” or even more specific claims like “don’t steal unnecessarily.” Instead the Church has something very particular in mind: that there are intrinsically evil acts which admit of no exception whatsoever. 

Back in 1984, Saint John Paul II affirmed, “The whole tradition of the Church has lived and lives on the conviction” that “there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.” An example of such an exceptionless norm is the direct killing of an innocent person. Even if an act of directly killing an innocent person might save an entire city from destruction, such an act remains intrinsically wrong. It can therefore never be freely chosen—period. 

As the late pope’s words indicate, this understanding of moral absolutes has always been Catholicism’s position. It’s also earned the Church considerable criticism over the centuries, including from some Catholic theologians in more recent decades. Some consider this teaching to be impractical or idealistic. Others believe it is acceptable to, for example, directly kill innocent lives in some circumstances in order to attain apparently higher goals. But Catholicism’s insistence that certain acts may never be done has also been affirmed by other Christians, Jews, and even pagans. Socrates famously claimed, “It is better to suffer wrong than to do it.” Perhaps he understood something which some Catholics don’t. (Read more.)

No comments: