Acts in (Reeses) Pieces
December 12, 2007 § 103 Comments
One of the consistent objections to the understanding I’ve articulated in the series of posts here, here, here, and most recently here is that the earlier act of getting a vasectomy, as preparation for a contracepted act of intercourse, is seen as utterly distinct from the actual sexual behavior which is later chosen. The idea seems to be that if you prepare for a wicked act and later wish that you hadn’t, actually performing the wicked act isn’t wicked — because you really, truly, genuinely wish it wasn’t.
I don’t think that works. Suppose I prepare to have someone murdered. I set the whole thing up with nanomachines in my victim’s body and corresponding nanomachines in mine. At any time in the future when I eat chocolate, my victim will be killed by the nanos in his body. The implantation of the nanos is irreversible.
Now suppose I go to Confession and repent. Am I now morally licensed to go eat a chocolate bar? After all, I genuinely regret and repent of what I did. Eating a chocolate bar is not in itself immoral, and the implanting of the nanos was something I did in the past, prior to Confession, and for which I have repented: I genuinely do regret it.
Nevertheless it is obvious that consummating the wicked act for which I prepared is immoral: it is impossible for me to choose that behavior without acting wickedly with a disordered will.
As a general matter, acts and preparations for acts take place over a period of time. Consummating an act of murder is (I hope) clearly morally wrong independent of whether one wishes one had not prepared for it and really likes chocolate: a person may claim that his interior “fundamental option” is oriented toward God in the act which consummates the murder, but in fact it is literally impossible for this to obtain. In reality the choice of behavior is intrinsically incompatible with a fundamental option oriented toward God.
And at least in principle the same thing may obtain in the case of consummating a vasectomy with a sterile act of intercourse. In fact if contracepted sex acts are intrinscially immoral, then it must obtain.