If Only You Spoke Hovitos
January 9, 2007 § 15 Comments
John Allen worries that the Magisterium is heading toward functional pacifism in war and an absolute-in-practice ban on the use of the death penalty:
At the level of application, at least, it would seem the debate is almost over, and the abolitionists are winning.
Usually this sort of discussion goes off the rails before it even gets started. Allen uses moral categories like “ontic absolutes” and “practical absolutes” (I rather suspect that the latter term is self-contradictory) in making the case that when the Magisterium describes the circumstances necessary for an execution to be just She is being too strict, and anyway people can disagree about circumstances. I note for the record that the Magisterium doesn’t use these categories (“ontic absolutes” and “practical absolutes”) when she talks about moral theology. The Magisterium talks about moral theology in terms of the object (chosen behavior), intentions, and circumstances of human acts. I humbly suggest that when people try to “do” Catholic moral theology without using the terms that the Magisterium uses (or cognates of those terms), they are probably astray after the first sentence.
Also for the record, now that we are moving toward the use of Catholic terminology to talk about Catholic moral theology, people don’t disagree only about circumstances: they also disagree, with just as much vehemence and sincerity (or their lack), about what behavior was chosen (the object of a given act) and with what intentions.
This idea that the principles that the Magisterium teaches about circumstances are a more – or less – legitimate subject for argument than objects and intentions is simply false. It is just that for some people the object of the act they want to do (or to formally support) is their Gethsemane; for some the intentions; and yes, for some, the circumstances. And a taxonomy of American moralists could probably be constructed based on which one of those each moralist most diligently works to obfuscate.
(HT: Sacramentum Vitae)