Vasectomies Are History

February 3, 2008 § 80 Comments

I’ve done some additional research into the sex-after-vasectomy issue, which we most recently discussed here. (I was going to wait until I had some Latin translation done before posting, but then I figured what the heck, this is just a blog). The most pertinent factual material in a nutshell:

In 1587 Pope Sixtus V (saying “Pope Sixtus Five” out loud is kind of fun) issued the brief Cum Frequenter in response to a question arising out of Spain. In summary, the brief prohibited marriage on the part of “eunechi et spadoni” (without distinguishing between intentional and unintentional sterilization), saying that it was “manifest” that the “humor semini similis” of sterilized men, contrasted to the “verum semen” of the unsterilized, renders them incapable of contracting marriage. It was a very, uh, brief document (YOW!) and did not define those terms.

For centuries – up until 1977 – the tribunals routinely annulled the marriages of, and prohibited marriage of, men who had had vasectomies (an operation apparently known and practiced in a way at least similar to the modern form during and before the pontificate of Sixtus), or any other (accidental or intentional) impediment ruling out the production of semen which includes the products of at least one testicle.

In the 20th century the marriages of a significant number of men many of whom had been sterilized against their will by tyrannical governments were being routinely denied/annulled, as had been the juridical practice since Cum Frequenter. Then in 1977 the CDF issued a decree which was verbally approved by the Pope (Paul VI) in an audience. That decree answered two very specific questions:

“1. Whether the impotence which invalidates marriage consists in the incapacity, both antecedent and perpetual, whether absolute or relative, of completing conjugal intercourse.

2. If affirmative, whether the ejaculation of semen produced in the testicles is necessarily required for conjugal intercourse.

To the first question, the answer is affirmative; to the second, negative”

This is the only Magisterial statement (of which I am presently aware) which backs up the contention that sex after a vasectomy is morally licit as long as the person regrets the vasectomy. This strikes me as odd, because it doesn’t really address the question at all, issued as it was in the context of the annulment of marriages where the man had been sterilized against his will, and not addressing the issue of morally licit sexual acts at all. Presumably a marital act when the woman has an IUD in place or is on the Pill does consummate the marriage; but that doesn’t make it morally licit. In general liciety and consummation of marriage seem to be different considerations.

I haven’t found an English translation of Cum Frequenter yet (though I have access to a number of partial paraphrases), and I don’t speak Latin. But it seems to me that a great deal has to be assumed to get from the 1977 decree to the result “repentance is sufficient to render intentionally-vasectomized sexual acts morally licit as chosen behaviors.” Certainly the 1977 CDF decree does not directly say this or even directly imply it: we are left to reason our way to the right answer in the context of the many Magisterial statements which indirectly touch on the subject matter.

UPDATE: I corrected “Germany” to “Spain” in the post above, and I’ve posted the full Latin text of Cum Frequenter in the comments.

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§ 80 Responses to Vasectomies Are History

  • Anonymous says:

    If you can give a link to a Latin version of Cum Frequenter, I’d be happy to translate it.

  • Can any of this be considered, then, an issue on which the Catholic Church’s official position changed over time?

  • zippy says:

    Anon:
    Thanks.

    I don’t have soft copies of either document that I can copy/paste or link to. Neither is terribly long though, so I’ll try to type them in or have them typed in (the 1977 Decree in English and Cum Frequenter in Latin) some time soon.

    Phil:
    That is certainly one reasonable interpretation. Complicating matters is that the Rota, which (roughly) is in charge of the tribunals and the annulment process, is distinct from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which used to be called the Holy Office of the Inquisition). Saying “The official position of the Catholic Church” assumes the existence of an unequivocal “official position” addressing a specific issue under the same formulation in the first place.

    But I am inclined toward your proposed understanding: a statement was issued directly by the Pope (a “brief” is a relatively minor document of less authority than an encyclical or bull, though Cum Frequenter did come from the Pope himself), was applied for centuries in a certain way, and that juridical application was reversed by a doctrinal decree from the Holy Office (CDF) verbally approved by the (different) Pope. At the very least the juridical situation was reversed; whether this represents the reform of a reformable doctrine is probably a more controversial question.

  • It is correct to say that what consummates a marriage might be immoral, so that the Sacrament can be contracted validly but not licitly. Hence, an illicit action (because immoral) can consummate a valid marriage.But that isn’t the point being urged on you. The point being urged on you is one regarding the conjugal act itself, namely, that “ejaculation of semen produced in the testicles is not necessarily required for conjugal intercourse.” In other words, deliberately choosing to ejaculate something that is not verum semen CAN be a conjugal act. What this says is that it is not the substance being ejaculated, but the intention embodied in the ejaculation of this substance, that determines whether the act is conjugal.The reason that point is being urged on you is that it rebuts the physicalist interpretation that suggests one whose semen is rendered infertile can never against ejaculate as part of a conjugal act. Your point seems to be that what separates the morality of the cases is that these men were sterilized against their will while others are sterilized against their consent. But I would argue that this isn’t even the relevant question; the question is how the act embodies their current intent. If they in no way currently intend their infertility and if there is no physical reason why their act necessarily embodies such an intent (unlike sexual intercourse with an IUD in place, for example), then there is no reason why they cannot morally intend a conjugal act, which is all that is required.The only way the physical condition of the testicles, whether intentionally or unintentionally created, can be relevant to the moral act is if that physical condition inherently embodies some choice other than a conjugal act. And it simply doesn’t as far as I can tell. The only moral restriction on the actor is that he not intend contraception in his action.In point of fact, he has changed his choice of behavior, because he has changed how his behavior embodies his choice. Before, the ejaculatory act embodied a contraceptive intent. Now, the ejaculatory act embodies a conjugal intent. The physical act is such that it is amenable to both choices, but the choice of behavior determines whether it is licit.Now, one should of course be careful, since for someone who was intentionally sterilized, there is always the possibility that one would be culpable for returning to one’s previous contraceptive intent, effectively reveling in being sterile. That is, presumably, why NFP advocates recommend further changes in behavior to concretize the intention and to form the will in such a way that it will be less inclined to fall into that error. But at the end of the day, if it is not physically necessary for a conjugal act to involve the ejaculation of semen or even the intent to ejaculate semen (which is how I would read the 1977 document), then the choice to ejaculate fluid that has been rendered infertile without contraceptive intent is not immoral.

  • <>It seems to me though that that doesn’t take my interlocutors where they want to go, because it is far from obvious that it follows – at all – that sex after an intentional contraceptive vasectomy is morally licit as long as one’s interior disposition has changed.<>My entire point is that this obviously begs the question “why wouldn’t it be?” It seems to me that if one’s interior disposition has changed and if there is nothing physical in the act that causes the act itself to necessarily embody a contrary intention for anyone who intends to do the physical act (of course with the exception for a complete lack of intention even to do the physical act, i.e., involuntary action), then the interior change in disposition is entirely sufficient.<>Anyone who thinks my position is phyicalist has not been paying any attention to my arguments.<>I’ve been paying attention both here and at Dr. Liccione’s blog, and I have to confess that I retain the suspicion that your position is physicalist, because what you seem to be saying is that the change in interior disposition is not sufficient to render the act of sex after a vasectomy morally permissible. Obviously, it isn’t <>purely<> physicalist, and I don’t think anyone is accusing you of that. But with respect to the analogies that you draw with IUDs, explosive chocolate, and the like, you seem to be imputing a physical circumstance (namely, previous self-inflicted damage on the reproductive organs) created by a prior intention to a previous intention. But I can’t see anything in the physical nature of the impairment that makes it like an IUD, explosive chocolate, or the like such that it necessarily embodies a forbidden moral intent. It certainly DID when it was performed, but it doesn’t now. And it is the fact that a physical circumstance that in no way implies any present moral intent is somehow being made the basis for the moral “badness” of the act that seems to be physicalist. Now, it may be that I don’t understand your position, but it isn’t for lack of reading.

  • Typo: “created by a prior intention to a previous intention” should be “created by a prior intention to a present intention”

  • zippy says:

    A correction: the controversy which led to the issuance of Cum Frequenter arose in Spain, not Germany.

    Anon: here is the full Latin text (at least this is what I have) of Cum Frequenter. I’ve checked for typos but I might easily have missed something – if anything seems odd, or even if there is just a curiosity, by all means bring it up and I’ll check the text. Thanks again for the offer to translate:

    i) Pars expositiva.

    Cum Frequenter in istis regionibus Eunechi quidam, et Spadones, qui utroque teste carent, et ideo certum ac manifestum est, eos verum semen emittere non posse, quia impura carnis tentigine, atque immundis complexibus cum mulieribus se commiscent, et humorem forsan quemdam similem semini, licit ad generationem, et ad matrimonii causam minime aptum effundunt, Matrimonia cum mulieribus, praesertim hunc ipsum eorum defectum scientibus contrahere praesumant, idque sibi licere pertinaciter contendant, et super hoc diversae lites, et controversiae, ad tuum, et Ecclesiasticum forum deducantur, requisivit a Nobis Fraternitas tua, quid de huiusmodi connubis sit statuendum.ii) Pars dispositiva.Nos igitur attendentes, quod secundum Canonicas sanctiones, et naturae rationem, qui frigidae naturae sunt, et impotentes, iidem minime apti ad contrahenda matrimonia reputantur, quodque praedicti Eunuchi, aut Spadones, quas tamquam uxores habere non possunt, easdem habere ut sorores nolunt, quia experientia docet, tam ipsos dum se potentes ad coeundum iactitant, quam mulieres, quae eis nubant, non ut caste vivant, sed ut carnaliter invicem coniungantur prava, et libidinosa intentione, sub praetextu, et in figura Matrimonii turpes huiusmodi commixtiones affectare, quae cum peccati, et scandali occasionem praebeant, et in animarum damnationem tendant, sunt ab Ecclesia Dei prorsus exterminandae. Et insuper considerantes, quod ex Spadonem huiusmodi, et Eunuchorum coniugiis nulla utilitas provinet, sed potius tentationum illecebrae, et incentiva libidinis oriuntur, eidem Fraternitati tuae per praesentes committimus, et mandamus, ut coniugia per dictos, et alios quoscumque Eunuchos, et Spadones, utroque teste carentes cum quibusvis mulieribus, defectum praedictum sive ignorantibus, sive etiam scientibus, contrahi prohibeas, eosque ad Matrimonia quomodocumque contrahenda inhabiles auctoritate nostra declares, et tam locorum Ordinariis, ne huiusmodi coniunctiones de cetero fieri quoquomodo permittant, interdicas, quam eos etiam, qui sic de facto contracta, nulla, irrita, et invalida esse decernas. Eos etiam qui sic iam contraxerunt, si appareat illos non ut caste simul vivant, contraxisse, sed actibus carnalibus, et libidinosis operam dare, simulve in uno, et eodem lecto cum praedictis mulieribus dormire convicantur, omnino similiter separari cures.

  • zippy says:

    The point being urged on you is one regarding the conjugal act itself, namely, that “ejaculation of semen produced in the testicles is not necessarily required for conjugal intercourse.”

    I agree with that though, so I’m not sure where the urging is coming from. We all seem to agree that the morality of the act under the natural law does not hinge on the physical fact of whether or not there happen to be sperm in the semen. The supposition that I disagree with that is wrong. I fully assent to the 1977 Decree (indeed I think it is an obvious result as a matter of reason), and I’m not defending a return to the juridical practice under Cum Frequenter; I am merely pointing out that those who think the 1977 decree implies what they say it implies are mostly just making unsupported assumptions.

    …if it is not physically necessary for a conjugal act to involve the ejaculation of semen or even the intent to ejaculate semen (which is how I would read the 1977 document),…

    This is a side point, but I think that is an incorrect reading. It is impossible to tell the difference between sterile semen and ordinary semen without using a microscope. Thus it cannot be per se immoral under the natural law to ejaculate semen which has no sperm in it: inspecting one’s semen in a microscope is manifestly not a requirement of the natural law. It seems to me though that that doesn’t take my interlocutors where they want to go, because it is far from obvious that it follows – at all – that sex after an intentional contraceptive vasectomy is morally licit as long as one’s interior disposition has changed.

    The constant mantra of contra-physicalism is tiresome. Anyone who thinks my position is phyicalist has not been paying any attention to my arguments.

  • <>Because the person voluntarily, himself, chose to destroy his own fertility for the express purpose of rendering himself capable of engaging in inherently infertile sexual acts.<>And so what? Destroying his own fertility does not, at least as I read the 1977 response, render one physically incapable of choosing a conjugal act. If one later repents of one’s contraceptive action, then one’s prior wrong is an unintended and accidental circumstance every bit as much as being involuntarily sterilized by someone else. There is no person currently intending contraception, and as I understand it, no physical impediment such that one cannot possibly choose a conjugal act now. What you seem to be saying is that because there is a physical relic of one’s prior bad choice, one cannot now make a choice with a correct intent. But it seems to me that if there is no physical impediment to choosing a conjugal act and no interior disposition contrary to a conjugal act, then there simply is nothing illicit in choosing to perform that act.<>There are plenty of examples where this kind of moral conclusion follows, and I’ve given some in the numerous comment threads on the subject.<>I’m not aware of any that did not involve an irreversible physical consequence that inherently presented a physical impediment to some sort of action or a physical necessity of harm to another. This doesn’t seem to be the case. To put it bluntly, where’s the harm at the time of the sexual act in question?<>Mind you the question doesn’t really deserve an answer: “why not” is a gratuitous premise upon which to conclude that something is definitely licit.<>As I understand it, it seems that one is entitled to gratuitously presume that one’s actions are not immoral absent some reason to think that they are. My concern is that I don’t even see a reason. I don’t understand why the fact that one was intentionally sterilized in the past is even relevant today if one repents of that intent, given that there are no irreversible physical consequences impeding one’s choice of action. It certainly isn’t obvious to me why the fact that one’s sterility was procured voluntarily rather than involuntarily has anything to do with anything as regards one’s present contraceptive intent or lack thereof. I can’t grasp the theory or Magisterial guidance to which you are appealing. So indeed I do think it “deserves an answer” simply on the presumption that no act is immoral without some reason for it to be.<>My position, by the way, is not “this is definitely illicit”, but “the arguments that this is definitely licit are nonsequiters”.<>As far as I can tell, it’s not being offered as an argument that the act is definitely licit, but rather as a rebuttal to your rationale for arguing that it might be illicit. In other words, I can’t see why your distinction between someone who is voluntarily sterilized and someone who is involuntarily sterlized is even relevant at present, even though it was certainly relevant in the past.<>Physicalism is only physicalism when it is pure physicalism, since it denies the role of the acting subject as an acting subject. “Somewhat physicalist” is a category like “somewhat pregnant”.<>This strikes me as obviously false. One can be partially physicalist simply by attempting to relegate some particular element of a moral choice to physical factors independent of interior disposition. In this case, simply because of the physical and accidental fact that one person’s physical impediment resulted from a bad choice, the fact that two people with identical dispositions (in terms of identical desire not to contracept) engaging in physically identical acts are being treated disparately seems to smack of physicalism. The purely physical difference of a past one no longer intends is being used to determine morality.<>What seems to be the case to me is that those who disagree with me think that what we choose to physically do with our bodies cannot be judged immoral per se: that there are no evil acts, only evil intentions. I reject that, as does the Magisterium.<>Then I can easily assure you that what seems to you to be the case is actually not. Voluntarily ejaculating somewhere other than a vagina is immoral <>per se<>. It doesn’t matter why you did it, so long as you weren’t physically forced against your will. What you seem to be asserting, however, is that a repentant man after a vasectomy and an unrepentant man after a vasectomy cannot be choosing different behaviors solely based on the difference in interior disposition. That strikes me as highly implausible. I maintain that if one repents of having done something that produces accidental circumstances, then those accidental circumstances are unintentional for purposes of one’s present choice. Effectively, it makes what was previously chosen now unchosen. There are some unintentional circumstances that can restrict one’s choice even if involuntary, but since sterility is evidently not one of them, this case does not appear to fall under that rubric. Unchosen sterility is not an impediment to choosing a conjugal act, and if one repents, then one’s sterility is no longer chosen but unchosen. I concur that if the lasting physical consequences are such that they would physically render the moral act impossible <>even if the circumstances were unchosen<>, then the consequences of one’s act might be lasting. But it certainly looks physicalist to say that a circumstance that is morally relevant <>only if chosen<> cannot be corrected by simply repenting of one’s prior choice.

  • zippy says:

    <>Destroying his own fertility does not, at least as I read the 1977 response, render one physically incapable of choosing a conjugal act.<>Neither does taking the Pill. This putative counterclaim doesn’t address what is at issue at all, as far as I can tell. It is completely irrelevant.<>If one later repents of one’s contraceptive action, then one’s prior wrong is an unintended and accidental circumstance every bit as much as being involuntarily sterilized by someone else.<>You appear to have assumed that this is not only logically conceivable but actually possible in the context of the human person and his human nature. That assumption is far from compulsory.<>To put it bluntly, where’s the harm at the time of the sexual act in question?<>In repeating an act which one has previously confessed as a mortal sin, without any change of behavior.<>This strikes me as obviously false.<>I am forced to conclude that that must be because you don’t know what < HREF="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/" REL="nofollow">“physicalism”<> means.<>What you seem to be asserting, however, is that a repentant man after a vasectomy and an unrepentant man after a vasectomy cannot be choosing different behaviors solely based on the difference in interior disposition.<>That is exactly right. Identical chosen behavior is identical chosen behavior, independent of any putative change strictly in interior disposition alone.< HREF="http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html" REL="nofollow"><>Whatever the case, it is wrong to say that particular acts are not enough to constitute mortal sin.<><>

  • <>Neither does taking the Pill. This putative counterclaim doesn’t address what is at issue at all, as far as I can tell. It is completely irrelevant.<>My point is that the physical nature of the act is not so changed that the act becomes inherently non-sexual. Unchosen physical impediments have to be a great deal more severe than sterilization to render an act intrinsically immoral.<>You appear to have assumed that this is not only logically conceivable but actually possible in the context of the human person and his human nature. That assumption is far from compulsory.<>I can’t see any natural impulse that prevents someone from regretting his prior acts of self-mutilation. If you’re arguing that there is some intrinsic desire to enjoy the fact that sex lacks the possibility of children, I’d like to hear that argument.<>In repeating an act which one has previously confessed as a mortal sin, without any change of behavior.<>This only begs the question that the change in interior disposition is not a change in behavior, a position that is a far more general and implausible assumption than anything I have offered.<>I am forced to conclude that that must be because you don’t know what “physicalism” means.<>No, I know what “physicalism” means as a general moral position. But it should be clear to you, if it was not previously, that many people use the term in describing particular arguments as “physicalist” in terms of removing some particular aspect of some particular choice from the sphere of internal disposition. If that wasn’t clear to you, then allow me to make it so. That is what I mean when I use the term “physicalist” in referring to a particular argument or moral question, and I have seen many others use the term in this way. You can protest the usage, but that is unlikely to stop it from being used in this way, so I am letting you know that you have encountered such usage and likely will in the future.<>That is exactly right. Identical chosen behavior is identical chosen behavior, independent of any putative change strictly in interior disposition alone.<>Make an argument, then. I would certainly be inclined to say that behavior with a different internal disposition is different chosen behavior, and I refuse to accept the contrary position without a good reason to do so.

  • It occurred to me that it might not be obvious that I clearly recognize that there are some behaviors that are not different by interior disposition apart from the intent to perform the physical movement itself. Masturbation, as described in quoted document, is one of those acts. One’s interior disposition cannot ever make it moral. But there are some acts for which internal disposition can determine whether the act is moral or not, such as the fact that only intentionally contracepted acts are immoral.

  • zippy says:

    <>This only begs the question that the change in interior disposition is not a change in behavior…<>If a change in interior disposition alone is a change of behavior, then “change of behavior” doesn’t really mean anything. Why bother calling it a “cahnge of behavior” at all, if there isn’t some linguistic mischief going on?It is frankly embarrassing to witness you trying to bend the language such that a change in interior disposition alone constitutes a change of behavior. Your argumentation is typically far more precise.<>…use the term in describing particular arguments as “physicalist” in terms of removing some particular aspect of some particular choice from the sphere of internal disposition.<>I’m not removing internal disposition. I am just parroting John Paul II in saying that if an act is intrinsically evil it is evil per se as a chosen behavior, and that no change in interior disposition <>alone<> can change it into a good behavior. You also apparently believe in this principle, based on your latest comment; you just don’t think that contracepted sex acts are intrinsically evil.<>…I am letting you know that you have encountered such usage and likely will in the future.<>Yes, well, if someone characterizes my position as “physicalist” merely because he disagrees with it and it pertains in some way to things which are in part physical, well, I will probably feel free to ignore the characterization.

  • zippy says:

    My entire point is that this obviously begs the question “why wouldn’t it be?”

    Because the person voluntarily, himself, chose to destroy his own fertility for the express purpose of rendering himself capable of engaging in inherently infertile sexual acts. There are plenty of examples where this kind of moral conclusion follows, and I’ve given some in the numerous comment threads on the subject.

    Mind you the question doesn’t really deserve an answer: “why not” is a gratuitous premise upon which to conclude that something is definitely licit.

    My position, by the way, is not “this is definitely illicit”, but “the arguments that this is definitely licit are nonsequiters”.

    Obviously, it isn’t purely physicalist, and I don’t think anyone is accusing you of that.

    Physicalism is only physicalism when it is pure physicalism, since it denies the role of the acting subject as an acting subject. “Somewhat physicalist” is a category like “somewhat pregnant”. What seems to be the case to me is that those who disagree with me think that what we choose to physically do with our bodies cannot be judged immoral per se: that there are no evil acts, only evil intentions. I reject that, as does the Magisterium.

  • <>If a change in interior disposition alone is a change of behavior, then “change of behavior” doesn’t really mean anything. Why bother calling it a “cahnge of behavior” at all, if there isn’t some linguistic mischief going on?<>The change in behavior is not merely the change in internal disposition, but the change in internal disposition in the performance of some act. If one engages in sex after a vasectomy without repenting of the intentional infertility, that is a different kind of behavior from engaging in sex after repenting of that infertility. That is a real change in behavior caused by a real change in internal disposition.<>It is frankly embarrassing to witness you trying to bend the language such that a change in interior disposition alone constitutes a change of behavior. Your argumentation is typically far more precise.<>I’ll chalk that up to lack of clarity on my part, for I am not saying that a mere change in internal disposition suffices to correct the problem if one doesn’t act on it. But to act with a changed disposition is certainly a different behavior than acting with an unchanged disposition.<>I am just parroting John Paul II in saying that if an act is intrinsically evil it is evil per se as a chosen behavior, and that no change in interior disposition alone can change it into a good behavior.<>But you’re paraphrasing, not parroting. If the change in interior disposition is such that the chosen behavior is of a different kind, then it isn’t intrinsically evil in the first place. So it isn’t a question of some interior disposition changing an intrinsically evil act into a good act as a question of what interior disposition specifies the act as chosen behavior. Contraception, for example, requires intention to be intrinsically evil; only intentional contraception is intrinsically evil (<>Casti Connubii<> 54 “Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it <>deliberately frustrate<> its natural power and <>purpose sin against nature<> and [<>sic<>] commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”). If the frustration is not or is no longer deliberate, then it isn’t intrinsically vicious, at least as far as I can tell. The sin really is in deliberately willing that the specific act be contracepted, and it really is not a sin if the act is not deliberately willed to be contracepted and there is no chosen behavior inconsistent with that will against contraception (e.g., willing the condom not to be there but omitting the simple expedient of removing it, willing the Pill not to have been taken but omitting the simple expedient of waiting until it wears off).Now, if one further intended some other effect, then certainly that intention would not render the intrinsically evil act good. But the degree of deliberateness required to make an act intrinsically evil or not certainly is not within that sphere of interior disposition that can be disregarded in determing whether an act is or isn’t intrinsically evil.<>Yes, well, if someone characterizes my position as “physicalist” merely because he disagrees with it and it pertains in some way to things which are in part physical, well, I will probably feel free to ignore the characterization.<>Indeed, and you might well be right to do so in this particular case. My point is that there are uses of the term that pertain to specific aspects (such as the deliberateness of actions determining their intrinsic evil), the exclusion thereof in favor of a physical analysis would be rightly called “physicalist.”

  • Franklin says:

    I have to hand it to you, Zippy. You run a high-class joint here. Not one juvenile joke about the title of Sixtus’ brief.Just sayin’…

  • zippy says:

    Jonathan:<>If the change in interior disposition is such that the chosen behavior is of a different kind, then it isn’t intrinsically evil in the first place.<>Again, you are just redefining “change in behavior” as a string of characters to mean an interior change of disposition <>without<> a concomitant change of behavior, as far as I can tell. That is, you are doing precisely what JPII tells us we mustn’t do: “dissociat[ing] the moral act from the bodily dimensions of its exercise”. <>If<> act X is intrinsically evil, and act Y is the same but for a change in interior disposition alone, <>then<> act Y is also intrinsically evil. It is all well and good to deny the premise in this case, that is, to deny that contracepted sexual acts are intrinsically immoral — as I’ve said many times, doing so isn’t crazy — but it is either that or accept that a change in interior disposition <>alone<> without a concomitant change in behavior does not make the act licit.Franklin:It is all in the readership. I take no credit for the civility or maturity of the discourse.

  • <>If act X is intrinsically evil, and act Y is the same but for a change in interior disposition alone, then act Y is also intrinsically evil.<>Why? The change in interior disposition might well be relevant to what the chosen behavior is, in which case act Y might or might not be intrinsically evil. Certainly, the proposition is not generally true as a matter of logic. Where is the syllogism that proves it?

  • zippy says:

    <>The change in interior disposition might well be relevant to what the chosen behavior is, …<>Sure, a change in interior disposition might be and indeed always is relevant, if act X is intrinsically immoral and act Y is not. I’ve never implied otherwise. But if all you change from act X to act Y is interior disposition, and otherwise <>everything else remains exactly the same<>, then you haven’t changed the chosen behavior. (Unless we are playing a word game in which “interior disposition” simply means “chosen behavior”, in which case JPII might as well not have bothered).

  • <>But if all you change from act X to act Y is interior disposition, and otherwise everything else remains exactly the same, then you haven’t changed the chosen behavior. (Unless we are playing a word game in which “interior disposition” simply means “chosen behavior”, in which case JPII might as well not have bothered).<>I seriously don’t think you understand what he means by “behavior” at all. “Behavior” includes the entire moral act, including one’s choice of internal disposition. You keep trying to create a purpose for VS that it simply doesn’t need. The entire point is to specify that the inclusion of intentions extraneous to what is necessary to specify the moral act cannot change the quality of the moral act. All it means is that you can’t exclude the physical nature of the act in determining what intentions are relevant, so that you can’t simply consider whatever intention you want. That doesn’t imply that the physical nature of the act or the object excludes interior disposition. It simply means that irrelevant intentions can’t change an act whose physical nature excludes the moral relevance of that intention. Once the act is specified, known in its entirety, then if it is intrinsically evil, further intentions for the act is irrelevant. You seem to be saying that you can determine whether an act is intrinsically evil BEFORE even considering essential internal dispositions, and that strikes me as exactly the opposite of what JP II intended.

  • zippy says:

    <>All it means is that you can’t exclude the physical nature of the act in determining what intentions are relevant, so that you can’t simply consider whatever intention you want.<>If that is all he meant to say, he spent an awful lot of extraneous words saying it. (Not to mention was rather bizarrely scrupulous in his use of the term “intentions”).

  • zippy says:

    <>You seem to be saying that you can determine whether an act is intrinsically evil BEFORE even considering essential internal dispositions, …<>But I’m not in fact saying that.Suppose we are considering doing act X. We evaluate it ahead of time and determine that it is intrinsically immoral. This is a clear, unequivocal result for the act.Now suppose we consider doing precisely the same thing, with no change whatsoever other than our interior attitude about the act. Suppose we now <>regret<> some aspect of the act; but we consider <>doing<> precisely the same thing to precisely the same persons and objects (noting that “objects” include non-physical deontological properties — personhood, being a spouse, etc).That interior “regret” doesn’t – literally cannot – make the intrinsically immoral act into a good act. We are still prohibited from doing it.

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,“Now suppose we consider doing precisely the same thing, with no change whatsoever other than our interior attitude about the act. Suppose we now regret some aspect of the act; but we consider doing precisely the same thing to precisely the same persons and objects”If you are still considering the act in question to be an extended contraceptive behavior, beginning with the intention to get a vasectomy and continuing through future intentionally contraceptive sexual actions, you can only mean by this two hypothetical instances of getting a vasectomy etc. In that case the “regret” in question would be a phony repentance and would not make the contraceptive act morally acceptable, since “regretfully” going to the doctor and getting a vasectomy is if anything worse than doing it without regrets.Crimson Catholic appears to be talking about something else entirely, a person who has repented of his past contraceptive acts who now has determined to engage in the marital act with his wife. It would be impossible for him to simply repeat precisely the previous behavior with no change other than a change in interior disposition, since he cannot get a vasectomy a second time.

  • zippy says:

    Steve P:Indeed there are two (classes of) acts in question: (1) the self-mutilation of procuring the vasectomy; and (2) the contracepted sexual acts themselves which follow that preparation.Presumably when one goes to Confession, one confesses both. I’ve been focusing all along on the second.Now <>if<> the second act is <>intrinsically immoral<>, then interior regret cannot make subsequent acts licit. I’ve said any number of times that it isn’t crazy to think that (2) is not <>intrinsically<> immoral. If it isn’t, then a change of intentions can potentially make subsequent acts licit: the same act under a different intention can be licit. If however (2) <>is<> intrinsically immoral then the same act under a different intention <>cannot<> be morally licit: which is to say, if contracepted sexual acts are themselves intrinsically immoral, then sex after a vasectomy cannot be made licit merely by a change of interior disposition or disembodied intentions alone.I reiterate – I’ve reiterated this a number of times – that one needn’t be crazy to think that (2) is immoral under a bad intention, but is not <>intrinsically<> immoral.So there are two ‘modes’ of disagreement in this general discussion. One mode is over whether (2) is intrinsically immoral. I’ve been told that the burden of proof for the proposition that contracepted sexual acts are intrinsically immoral lies with me. <>That<> strikes me as ludicrous: it is one thing to think that under a careful understanding they are not, and it is another thing entirely, in the light of Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium, to place the burden of proof on the contrary.The second “mode” of disagreement is over the nature of intrinsically immoral acts. I expect that is because people want to on the one hand affirm that contracepted sexual acts are themselves intrinsically immoral, but on the other would like to avoid the result that repentance is not sufficient in itself to render sex after a vasectomy licit.

  • <>Now suppose we consider doing precisely the same thing, with no change whatsoever other than our interior attitude about the act.<>Since the change in interior attitude might well change the moral species of the act, there seems to be a fatal degree of equivocation on what “precisely the same thing” means. It might well not be the same act or behavior at all. The evaluation ahead of time as to whether something is intrinsically evil must necessarily take into account whether the interior attitude is pertinent to the moral species of the act, and if it is, then it is entirely possible that the different attitude makes the resulting act a completely different sort.<>Suppose we now regret some aspect of the act; but we consider doing precisely the same thing to precisely the same persons and objects (noting that “objects” include non-physical deontological properties — personhood, being a spouse, etc).<>Same problem, and now you’ve introduced another difficulty with the concept of “doing … to” the same persons and objects. Your internal attitude in doing something is part of the chosen object as well. So there’s another equivocation introduced with respect to “some aspect of the act.” What aspect? Is it an essential aspect? Do you have mixed feelings or conflicting impulses (Rom. 7:14-24)? Does it change the moral species of the act? These are questions that need answering.Steve P. has it exactly right. A marital act simply isn’t of the same moral species as act of self-mutilation, and what is morally relevant is whether the present marital act is <>intentionally<> contraceptive (see VS 80 “contraceptive practices whereby the conjugal act is <>intentionally<> rendered infertile”). That applies to each and every marital act, and if one abandons one’s contraceptive intent and takes no concrete acts or omissions inconsistent with the abandonment of that intent, then there is no longer a sin of intentional contraception. Similarly, recourse to the natural cycle of fertility for regulation of births is not <>intentionally<> contraceptive. Indeed, even a person consenting to sex with a contracepting spouse is not engaging in an <>intentionally<> contraceptive act, provided that due regard for charity in dissuading and deterring the spouse is given (Casti Connubii 59).VS specifies one class of intrinsic evil in which intention is an essential element for delineating the moral species. If you’re going to argue that interior attitude can never be the difference between an intrinsically evil act and a good act, then you need to explain how it is that the fact that only intentional contraception is an intrinsic evil doesn’t break this rule.

  • <>I’ve said any number of times that it isn’t crazy to think that (2) is not intrinsically immoral.<>But intentional contraception is ALWAYS intrinsically immoral. I think it would <>definitely<> be crazy to think that the contracepted marital act was evil but not intrinsically evil. That’s exactly the problem I have with your reasoning. You seem to be suggesting that the fact that something is intrinsically evil means that the <>ceteris paribus<> action with a different intention cannot possibly be good. But that is clearly not what is meant when it is obsevered that no intention can make an intrinsically evil act licit.

  • <>I expect that is because people want to on the one hand affirm that contracepted sexual acts are themselves intrinsically immoral, but on the other would like to avoid the result that repentance is not sufficient in itself to render sex after a vasectomy licit.<>You seem to exclude the possibility that the disagreement is over whether it follows from the fact that contracepted sex is intrinsically evil that repentance in itself would not suffice to make the act no longer intrinsically evil. You seem to believe that VS necessitates that conclusion, which I find completely bizarre. That’s simply not what “intrinsically evil” means.

  • zippy says:

    <>I think it would definitely be crazy to think that the contracepted marital act was evil but not intrinsically evil.<>Wellllll… maybe there is a possibility for traction on that. That is, maybe it would be helpful for me to explain why I don’t think the contrary is <>crazy<> (even though I am strongly inclined to think it is <>false<>).In prior discussions (e.g. see < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2006/12/what-object-isnt.html" REL="nofollow">here<>) we’ve carefully distinguished between the actual performance of an intrinsically evil act and formal cooperation with an intrinsically evil act. “Formal cooperation with evil” is evil-by-intention, that is, evil not (necessarily) in the act itself per se but in the intentions associated with the act: to procure an abortion is not to carry out the abortion, but carrying out the abortion is intrinsically evil in itself and procuring an abortion is formal cooperation with that intrinsic evil. (Note that moral theologians are in my experience rather sloppy in making this distinction, if they make it at all.) Formal cooperation isn’t (at least isn’t always) the same thing as actually performing the intrinsically evil act onesself.Suppose for the sake of argument that the only “intrinsic evil” in contraception is the attack on fertility <>independent<> of any particular sexual act. Thus getting the vasectomy is <>intrinsically<> immoral, but the subsequent vasectomized conjugal acts are not themselves <>intrinsically<> immoral. If the person still <>intends<> the attack on fertility in those conjugal acts, then those acts are evil in virtue of that <>intention<>: because they represent formal cooperation with the original attack on fertility. But they are not <>intrinsically<> evil. Thus if one repents and re-orients one’s “fundamental option” one may engage in further conjugal acts without sin, even though one is choosing the same <>behavior<>.Again I find this unlikely for a whole variety of reasons; for example see < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2007/12/contraception-is-so-gay.html" REL="nofollow">here<>. But it isn’t <>crazy<>.On the other hand, the notion that one can abstract the concrete embodied action away from “behavior” such that precisely the same concrete deliberately chosen embodied action becomes a different “behavior” as long as the person has repented really does seem crazy: it seems to me to render the term “behavior” unintelligible. But we are probably at an impasse on that point, since you think I’m nuts and I return the favor. 🙂

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,“Indeed there are two (classes of) acts in question: (1) the self-mutilation of procuring the vasectomy; and (2) the contracepted sexual acts themselves which follow that preparation.”I wouldn’t have utterly abandoned the idea of considering the vasectomy and a subsequent contraceptive sexual act one extended moral act since it seems both useful and true to me as far as it goes. However, if you are now going to make that sort of distinction, there seem to be three classes of acts in question. You haven’t mentioned (3) The repentant sinner simply engaging in the marital act with his wife. I cannot think of any reason to call the third class of act “contracepted.” The man’s sterility doesn’t make it so and there is nothing in the act, either in its physical aspects, its object, or (necessarily) the intentions of the actor that makes it so. That the man is now presumably sterile is an unfortunate relic of his former sinful lifestyle. He is not now engaging in contraception nor is he engaging in an act whose object is the consummation of a contraceptive surgery.Unless you think it is intrinsically immoral for a sterile man to engage in marital relations, I simply don’t understand what you’ve been getting at, and I have been reading everything you’ve said on the subject. I do see why Crimson Catholic thinks you are a physicalist, it looks like physicalism to me as well.btw I’m not a moral theologian but shouldn’t we say that (2) is immoral regardless of intentions since its object is immoral and (3) has a different object and is presumably moral though there may be some intentions that would make it immoral?

  • zippy says:

    <>You haven’t mentioned (3) The repentant sinner simply engaging in the marital act with his wife.<>… using the sexual faculty which he has deliberately mutilated to destroy its fertility.This simply is (2).

  • zippy says:

    <>I do see why Crimson Catholic thinks you are a physicalist, it looks like physicalism to me as well.<>JPII warned that an erroneous moral theology would see correct moral theology consistent with Scripture and Tradition as physicalist.

  • <> If the person still intends the attack on fertility in those conjugal acts, then those acts are evil in virtue of that intention: because they represent formal cooperation with the original attack on fertility.<>OK, I get that position now. And I agree with you that such analysis is wrong. What makes the act evil, and intrinsically evil, is not formal cooperation with a prior act, since formal cooperation with an intrinsically evil act is intrinsically evil as well and formal cooperation with a past act seems to make no sense. It is the present evil intent united with a present physical act consistent with the evil intent that makes the act evil. It is intrinsically evil to have the intent to frustrate conception combined with a physical act that is frustrated in this manner, i.e., the condition of sterility must always be outside of your present intent.But that’s what I find questionable about your analysis in general. It seems that your suggestion is that there must be some physical act of frustration for the act to be intentionally contraceptive in your account. That strikes me as obviously wrong. If you are sterilized against your will, but you revel in the condition of sterility in your marital act (“It’s great that I can have sex without having kids!”), then you are just as much a sinner as someone who had a vasectomy, and not by formal cooperation but by engaging in an act that is intrinsically evil: a marital act that thwarts conception by intent rather than mere circumstance.It seems to me that the immorality of post-vasectomy sex has <>nothing whatsoever<> to do with the fact that it follows a vasectomy. It is the formation of the will toward that sterility in performing the marital act that determines the intrinsic evil. If the sterility is simply a currently-unintended side effect of the marital act, then the act is still moral by double effect (since one’s primary object is the secondary good of unity with one’s spouse, quieting of concupiscence, or the like). If thwarting the natural operation of fertility is a part of the act that you directly intend, however, then the act is intrinsically evil, so that no secondary good can correct it.That seems no different than any double effect case. For example, a salpingectomy done for the interior purpose of killing the embryo is intrinsically evil, even though salpingectomies themselves are permissible through double effect. The identical physical act is either intrinsically evil or not completely depending on one’s interior disposition toward the physical thing being excised. One’s interior disposition is the sole dispositive factor in whether the identical physical expression is moral or not.That’s what’s confusing to me. It seems to me that sex surrounded by contraceptive circumstances is either intrinsically evil or not solely depending on whether those circumstances are presently intended, just as the morality of a salpingectomy is solely dependent on the present interior state of the doctor. It seems to me that in both cases, the interior disposition is the only thing distinguishing an intrinsically evil act from a permissible one. Where have I gone wrong?

  • zippy says:

    <>If you are sterilized against your will, but you revel in the condition of sterility in your marital act (“It’s great that I can have sex without having kids!”), then you are just as much a sinner as someone who had a vasectomy, and not by formal cooperation…<>No, the sin here is precisely in formal cooperation: in the willing of the evil done by another. (I’m not sure the scenario is coherent though, because it doesn’t make any sense to posit that they did something you consented to against your will. Maybe you mean that you initially didn’t consent, but now you are glad about it; but being glad about something, while it may have moral overtones, is not an act).<>…the morality of a salpingectomy is solely dependent on the present interior state of the doctor.<>Salpingectomy is (presumably) not intrinsically evil. It may be evil because of intentions or circumstances.You seem to have the idea that there is only one kind of evil act; intrinsically evil acts. But that is clearly not what the Church teaches, and indeed it destroys any point to predicating an evil act with the qualifier “intrinsically” and makes the PDE superfluous.

  • <>Maybe you mean that you initially didn’t consent, but now you are glad about it; but being glad about something, while it may have moral overtones, is not an act).<>Of course it isn’t. What is evil is being glad about it while performing a marital act. That means you have formed your will in an impermissible.<>Salpingectomy is (presumably) not intrinsically evil. It may be evil because of intentions or circumstances.<>Murdering an innocent is intrinsically evil, and salpingectomy can be murdering an innocent if the physical act is united with a will to murder the innocent. That act is intrinsically evil.<>You seem to have the idea that there is only one kind of evil act; intrinsically evil acts.<>Not at all. We are simply dealing with cases that are intrinsically evil: intentional contraception, murder, etc.<>But that is clearly not what the Church teaches, and indeed it destroys any point to predicating an evil act with the qualifier “intrinsically” and makes the PDE superfluous.<>On the contrary, double effect is truly necessary when one of the effects would be intrinsically evil when intended. Double effect specifies when an effect that, if intended, would be intrinsically evil can be permissible as a side effect of another action. Indeed, even in the double effect case, the action could still be evil by intention or circumstances, particularly if the good in question could be accomplished in some other way with a less severe side effect.

  • zippy says:

    <>What is evil is being glad about it while performing a marital act.<>I am not sure that “being glad” is a comprehensible moral category, though I can understand its usefulness to semantic mischief.<>…double effect is truly necessary when one of the effects would be intrinsically evil when intended.<>Double effect is “truly necessary” when there is a foreseen evil effect (of a morally neutral act) which one is not choosing. But this idea you have that acts-in-themselves start out morally neutral and “become” intrinsically evil is certainly novel. Are you planning on posting citations from VS supporting that?

  • <>Double effect is “truly necessary” when there is a foreseen evil effect (of a morally neutral act) which one is not choosing. But this idea you have that acts-in-themselves start out morally neutral and “become” intrinsically evil is certainly novel.<>They don’t “start” anywhere or “become” anything. A salpingectomy performed to kill an embryo just is intrinsically evil as murder. The moral object is murder; the act is intrinsically evil. Double effect simply points out that death as an unintended consequence might not be evil. Death as an intended consequence is intrinsically evil. Murder doesn’t cease to be intrinsically evil simply because one chose a surgical method that might incidentally have good effects.

  • <>I am not sure that “being glad” is a comprehensible moral category, though I can understand its usefulness to semantic mischief.<>“Glad” was your term. We could use “revelling” or “exulting” in the circumstance if you prefer. If one revels in the evil of the circumstance, that would seem to be immoral. United to a marital act, it is intrinsically so.

  • zippy says:

    <>United to a marital act, it is intrinsically so.<>That is flatly not true. NFP can be used with contraceptive intent, but that doesn’t make NFP “become” intrinsically immoral.This theology of “becoming” intrinsically immoral that you have is very odd. I don’t know of anything Magisterial that could be cited to even hint at it. Perhaps you do.

  • <>This theology of “becoming” intrinsically immoral that you have is very odd. I don’t know of anything Magisterial that could be cited to even hint at it.<>Nothing “becomes” anything. One act is immoral, and the other isn’t. The difference between the two is that there are two different acts.

  • zippy says:

    In your understanding is there any such thing as an evil act which is not <>intrinsically<> evil? Can you give an example?

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,I don’t know what you mean when you say (3) “simply is (2).” They are two somewhat different sorts of acts (of course they are the same in a crudely physicalist sense–they would look the same to a peeping tom for example but you have denied the validity of that sort of physicalism). They are not identical as personal acts. Do you mean that they are the same in that they are both sinful?

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,Maybe you don’t see that (2) and (3) are different acts. Here’s one very fundamental way in which they are different: For two acts to be identical the object must be the same. The object of (2) is to perversely simulate the marital act but to actually prevent the marital act by contracepting it. It is a contraceptive act–it is the use of birth control.The object of (3) is to make babies–to engage in the normal marital act with your lawful spouse.Even leaving intentions aside the acts are different from the beginning, they have different objects. Really the only thing similar about them is their crudely physical aspects abstracted from any consideration of their being the acts of persons.

  • zippy says:

    <>The object of (2) is to perversely simulate the marital act but to actually …<>The term “object” in moral theology doesn’t mean the same thing as its (multivocal) colloquial meanings. The “object” of the act in moral theology is the chosen behavior; an object is not “to…” anything. You don’t need a preposition to describe the object, because the object is the chosen action itself. JPII warns that <>…there exist false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action<>, tells us that <>[t]he object of the act of willing is in fact a freely chosen kind of behaviour<>, and says that <>…a good intention is not itself sufficient, but a correct choice of actions is also needed<>.

  • <>Can you give an example?<>Well, sure. Purchasing a sports car is morally neutral. Purchasing a sports car when you need the money to pay your rent so that your family will be kicked into the street is evil. It’s evil simply because the good of having a sports car is relatively less than the evil that will be worked on the family, so it isn’t an act that is evil in itself but only evil in the circumstances. No one is going to say that purchasing a sports car is an inherently evil act, but purchasing a sports car is an act that can be evil given intentions and circumstances. We just happen to be dealing with classes of actions that are intrinsically evil: intentional contraception, murder, etc.

  • <>The “object” of the act in moral theology is the chosen behavior; an object is not “to…” anything.<>If I choose to murder someone with a pistol, the moral object is not pulling the trigger of a gun. The moral object is to kill the person. My choosing to pull the trigger is not the moral act; my choosing to murder someone is the moral act.

  • zippy says:

    <>The moral object is to kill the person.<>This is a classic case of confusing a description or putative purpose of a thing with the thing itself.The object of the act is the chosen behavior itself. That chosen behavior may fall under all kinds of partial descriptions, but a description of a thing is not the thing. The ‘object’ of a table is not ‘to hold up my drink’, it is literally the very table to which I am referring.When choosing to kill an innocent person is built into choosing that behavior, the act is an act of murder in its <>object<>, independent of whether one does or doesn’t <>want<> the person to die. An act can fall under the species “murder” because of intentions also of course, distinct from the object, and is no less murder for that. But to conflate the two is a mistake.

  • zippy says:

    <>Well, sure. Purchasing a sports car is morally neutral.<>Let me be more specific. Can you give me an example of an act that is morally neutral in its object and yet nevertheless evil, not because it is imprudent, but specifically because of an intended evil effect.

  • <>This is a classic case of confusing a description or putative purpose of a thing with the thing itself.<>On the contrary, that is the act being done. Killing is not the purpose of the act; it is the act itself. What you are choosing to do with your body is killing, not squeezing a trigger.<>The ‘object’ of a table is not ‘to hold up my drink’, it is literally the very table to which I am referring.<>We’re talking about acts, not entities. The moral object is the orientation of the will toward an act.<>When choosing to kill an innocent person is built into choosing that behavior, the act is an act of murder in its object, independent of whether one does or doesn’t want the person to die.<>Certainly it is murder, precisely because the object includes choosing to kill an innocent person. One can’t choose to kill an innocent person without wanting the person to die. If you did, you wouldn’t be choosing to kill him at all. <>An act can fall under the species “murder” because of intentions also of course, distinct from the object, and is no less murder for that. But to conflate the two is a mistake.<>I haven’t made that mistake. The salpingectomy for the purpose of killing the embryo, for example, falls under the species “murder” because murder is its object, regardless of any other intentions.

  • <>Can you give me an example of an act that is morally neutral in its object and yet nevertheless evil, not because it is imprudent, but specifically because of an intended evil effect.<>If an act has an intended evil effect, it can’t possibly be morally neutral in its object. “Intended evil effect” means nothing other than “has the evil effect within its object.” Such an act can’t be morally neutral.

  • PS, I am taking “intended evil effect” to mean “directly intended evil effect” and not an unintended side effect.

  • zippy says:

    <>The moral object is the orientation of the will toward an act.<>Well, there we simply disagree. The object isn’t an ‘orientation,’ it is the chosen action itself. I think my understanding is consistent with VS, and yours is not.

  • zippy says:

    <>If an act has an intended evil effect, it can’t possibly be morally neutral in its object.<>That is what I thought you were saying, and as far as I can tell it is flat wrong.

  • <>The object isn’t an ‘orientation,’ it is the chosen action itself. I think my understanding is consistent with VS, and yours is not.…That is what I thought you were saying, and as far as I can tell it is flat wrong.<>Errr…VS 78 “The morality of the human act depends primarily and fundamentally on the ‘object’ rationally chosen by the deliberate will, as is borne out by the insightful analysis, still valid today, made by Saint Thomas. In order to be able to grasp the object of an act which specifies that act morally, it is therefore necessary to place oneself in the perspective of the acting person. The object of the act of willing is in fact a freely chosen kind of behaviour. To the extent that it is in conformity with the order of reason, it is the cause of the goodness of the will; it perfects us morally, and disposes us to recognize our ultimate end in the perfect good, primordial love. By the object of a given moral act, then, one cannot mean a process or an event of the merely physical order, to be assessed on the basis of its ability to bring about a given state of affairs in the outside world. Rather, that object is the proximate end of a deliberate decision which determines the act of willing on the part of the acting person.”A directly intended effect of your action is a proximate end of the decision. It’s part of the object. I don’t even understand your basis for questioning that.

  • zippy says:

    <>A directly intended effect of your action is a proximate end of the decision.<>First of all, in context it is clear to me that by “proximate end of a deliberate decision” JPII is referring to the chosen behavior or action, that is, the object of the act, which he characterizes in several places in the document.Second, when Uriah died on the battlefield that was an intended effect of David’s decision, and David was guilty of murdering Uriah. But that effect pretty obviously wasn’t <>proximate<>. It wasn’t <>intrinsically immoral<> for David to order Uriah to the front: David’s <>chosen behavior<> was not evil in itself, but rather he was a murderer because he intended an evil effect.I’m getting pretty tired of this discussion, because it is more of an endless language game than a search for truth at this stage. People who don’t agree with me about what VS means on the salient points here aren’t <>crazy<>, but I think they are pretty clearly <>wrong<>. I highly recommend that anyone interested <>go study the encyclical yourself<>, and read Kaczor and Finnis and Anscomb, and come to your own conclusions.If someone has something truly new to add to the discussion, rather than endless digression into a linguistic morass, by all means chime in. But I think I have pretty well said my bit on this, and arguing over whether “behavior” means behavior and “proximate” means proximate isn’t my idea of a productive use of time.

  • <>First of all, in context it is clear to me that by “proximate end of a deliberate decision” JPII is referring to the chosen behavior or action, that is, the object of the act, which he characterizes in several places in the document.<>So am I. That’s why I find your position inexplicable. If the death of an innocent is a directly intended proximate effect of your physical action, then your object is an act of murder. Forget remote effects; David is guilty of murder, but he didn’t commit an act of murder. A salpingectomy deliberately intended to kill an embryo is an act of murder, not by intention or circumstance, but by the intrinsic nature of the act itself as willed. It is <>intrinsically<> evil. The notion that this is identical <>behavior<> with a therapeutic salpingectomy differing only by intentions strikes me as implausible at best. That seems to be playing with words, giving “object,” “behavior,” and “intrinsically evil” some wildly counterintuitive technical definition. Perhaps that it indeed Catholic moral theology, and perhaps this is all above my head, but it’s certainly not because I’m playing semantic games.

  • zippy says:

    I already addressed salpingectomy in the other thread. It isn’t the kind of act that can be murder if it is being done therapeutically, the way I understand it. It doesn’t kill the child unless it is done prematurely, in which case I think it <>is<> murder, independent of any intentions beyond the simple choice to do it.<>David is guilty of murder, but he didn’t commit an act of murder.<>Ah. So an act <>can<> be morally neutral in itself and yet evil by intention.I’m not accusing you of bad faith or anything. I just think that like most moderns (and I have experienced this from the inside out) you’ve placed too much weight on signs to the point of obscuring the signified.

  • <>So an act can be morally neutral in itself and yet evil by intention.<>Of course!<>I’m not accusing you of bad faith or anything. I just think that like most moderns (and I have experienced this from the inside out) you’ve placed too much weight on signs to the point of obscuring the signified.<>Well, that’s why I immediately moved to Christology: to illustrate my difficulty with your iconology. Patristic Christology is hardly “modern,” and all signs can be illuminated by Christ as the Icon of the Father. That’s precisely why I am troubled by this notion that every difference of disposition corresponds to an incarnated difference in behavior. That’s a Monophysite argument in which the unity between mental and physical is such that the things cease to be what they are distinct from one another. To put it another way, you’re confusing the unity between sign and symbol with identity. The interior disposition and incarnated motion form a unity, but not an identity. That’s not playing games with words any more than it is playing with words to say that there is a unity between natures in Christ but not an identity.Nor do I think it is a coincidence that VS repeatedly appeals to Christ as the icon of morality. See, e.g., VS 1 ‘The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), the “reflection of God’s glory” (Heb 1:3), “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Consequently <>the decisive answer to every one of man’s questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself<>, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: “In fact,it is only in the mystery of the Word incarnate that light is shed on the mystery of man. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of the future man, namely, of Christ the Lord. It is Christ, the last Adam, who fully discloses man to himself and unfolds his noble calling by revealing the mystery of the Father and the Father’s love”.’; VS 19 ‘This is not a matter only of disposing oneself to hear a teaching and obediently accepting a commandment. More radically, it involves holding fast to the very person of Jesus, partaking of his life and his destiny, sharing in his free and loving obedience to the will of the Father. By responding in faith and following the one who is Incarnate Wisdom, the disciple of Jesus truly becomes a disciple of God (cf. Jn 6:45). Jesus is indeed the light of the world, the light of life (cf. Jn 8:12). He is the shepherd who leads his sheep and feeds them (cf. Jn 10:11-16); he is the way, and the truth, and the life (cf. Jn 14:6). It is Jesus who leads to the Father, so much so that to see him, the Son, is to see the Father (cf. Jn 14:6-10). And thus <>to imitate the Son, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), means to imitate the Father<>.’That’s why I’m saying that one’s moral theology of the unity of the moral act needs to go straight back to one’s Christology. It seems that your categories of symbology and iconology are not defined Christologically, and that Christological definition is the safeguard against bad intellectual speculation that prevents error in one’s reasoning. It is not simply an unfathomable mystery but a valuable corrective to thinking wrongly even in matters of natural reason. And I think you are confusing patristic iconology with modern symbology; I hold the former and not the latter.

  • zippy says:

    Me:<>So an act can be morally neutral in itself and yet evil by intention.<>CC:<>Of course!<>CC (< HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2008/02/vasectomies-are-history.html#c4520711049918587274" REL="nofollow">further up in the thread<>):<>If an act has an intended evil effect, it can’t possibly be morally neutral in its object.<>

  • zippy says:

    <>That’s precisely why I am troubled by this notion that every difference of disposition corresponds to an incarnated difference in behavior.<>It might be even more troubling if I had actually made that claim.

  • zippy says:

    <>That’s why I’m saying that one’s moral theology of the unity of the moral act needs to go straight back to one’s Christology.<>Me, I’m skeptical that we can analogize doing evil to the personhood of Christ.

  • <>Me, I’m skeptical that we can analogize doing evil to the personhood of Christ.<>Indeed. Christ is the standard of good, not evil. But it is unsurprising that denial of moral truth corresponds to denial of Christological truth. That’s the point. People with a wrong view of the unity of the moral act tend to correspond to some wrong view of Christology. Having a bad understanding of humanity is necessarily a problem with one’s Christology.

  • zippy says:

    <>Christ is the standard of good, not evil.<>Then you probably shouldn’t analogize understanding intrinsically evil acts to understanding Christology.

  • Steve P. says:

    Zippy,“The ‘object’ of the act in moral theology is the chosen behavior”Yes, precisely.“an object is not ‘to…’ anything.”Of course. Thanks for the correction. The chosen behavior in 2 is contraception, a twisted simulation of the marital act and the chosen behavior in 3 is the marital act. As the objects are different, they are not the same act and are only similar in their crudely physical aspects. They may appear to be the same act to a peeping tom but that is because he is not interested in the acts of persons but his own crude lusts.

  • zippy says:

    <>The chosen behavior in 2 is contraception, a twisted simulation of the marital act and the chosen behavior in 3 is the marital act.<>That is really just stating a conclusion though. A behavior is when one pushes objects into motion, expressing particular potentialities in the world contra other possibilities, in an exercise of the will. In the case in question there is no change in what objects are put into motion in an exercise of the will, so there is no change in the species of the object of the act. Thus we are left with the result that either the original act was not <>intrinsically<> immoral but rather evil by intention, or that the subsequent act is also immoral (and intrinsically so).

  • <>A behavior is when one pushes objects into motion, expressing particular potentialities in the world contra other possibilities, in an exercise of the will. In the case in question there is no change in what objects are put into motion in an exercise of the will, so there is no change in the species of the object of the act.<>As I suspected, this is just bad metaphysics. Determination of mental potencies is every bit as much a real change in the world as determination of physical potencies. The motion of one’s will toward objects is with respect to interior and exterior objects. You’re thinking of the “world” as something “exterior” and “object” in the modernist sense of “objective,” i.e., something outside yourself.OK, this makes much more sense to me now. I’m not sure that I can possibly get you past the notion that “object” means “exterior object outside the mind,” because that is one of those long-ingrained features of modernist thinking that people simply find inexplicable. The notion that thoughts, mental objects, can be “objective” is quite foreign, and it takes a while to get past it. But at least I’ve diagnosed the problem, which is something. I was really having trouble understanding what you had in mind.

  • zippy says:

    <>OK, this makes much more sense to me now. I’m not sure that I can possibly get you past the notion that “object” means “exterior object outside the mind,” because that is one of those long-ingrained features of modernist thinking that people simply find inexplicable.<>Now you are just being patronizing. I’m a mathematical Platonist, for Pete’s sake. Oh please, spare me from the big scary lawyer philosophers who know so much more than I do.Good grief. Go submit a brief to the court or something.There are all sorts of non-physical objects. But we can’t turn them into something they aren’t merely by changing our strictly internal disposition. We can’t turn the number two into the number three by stamping our tiny little mental feet.

  • <>Now you are just being patronizing. I’m a mathematical Platonist, for Pete’s sake.<>If the most common metaphysical error among modern scientists is eliminative materialism, then mathematical Platonism is surely the second-most common, at least from my perspective. I tend to think of Platonism as a stain that needs to be excised from the purity of Aristotelian metaphysics, so that’s not an insult. It just echoes the perspective of that grizzled old Thomist who once taught Karol Wojtyla: Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange. I find it hard to believe that the Pope would have departed much from his mentor in that regard.

  • <>We can’t turn the number two into the number three by stamping our tiny little mental feet.<>Precisely why we oughtn’t take mental objects as not being real objects.

  • zippy says:

    <>Precisely why we oughtn’t take mental objects as not being real objects.<>Well, yeah, OK, but I don’t do that.

  • <>Well, yeah, OK, but I don’t do that.<>Then why can’t a pure change in mental object of the will change the nature of the act? It’s a real change; it should be able at least in principle to change the nature of the act.

  • zippy says:

    <>It’s a real change; <>No it isn’t. Wishful thinking doesn’t change objective reality.

  • […] without being beheaded; or what precisely constitutes valid consummation of marriage in the case of men who have been involuntarily sterilized by some tyrannical authority.  Good luck finding definite, unequivocal, inarguable answers to those questions in the text of […]

  • Samson J. says:

    In 1587 Pope Sixtus V (saying “Pope Sixtus Five” out loud is kind of fun)

    Not half as side-splitting as a brief on sexuality called Cum Frequenter.

  • Zippy says:

    Commenter Franklin beat you to it by about five years. 😉

  • Samson J. says:

    Oh, well.

    Actually I suspect you were secretly dying to make the same joke, but decided you’d let someone else do the dirty work for you…

    Anyway, I don’t seem to understand the premise of this whole post. What’s all this “consummation” business? It can’t be an RCC doctrine that a marriage needs to be “consummated” to be valid, can it, because what about Mary (and her alleged perpetual virginity) and Joseph?

  • Zippy says:

    Samson J:
    I’m often puzzled by how well people think they know me based on the radically sparse personal information available in on-line interactions. I expected this to decrease over the decades as people gained more Internet experience; but it actually seems to have increased. Human beings do love to name their constellations and turn them into characters.

    It can’t be an RCC doctrine that a marriage needs to be “consummated” to be valid, …

    No, a marriage is valid as soon as valid consent is given, before it is consummated. However, a marriage becomes indissoluble when it is consummated. There are certain (rare) conditions under which an unconsummated marriage can be dissolved.

    Furthermore, a marriage which – at the time vows are exchanged – cannot in principle be consummated because of a permanent physical impediment, is not valid.

    See here for a more in depth explanation.

  • Samson J. says:

    I’m often puzzled by how well people think they know me based on the radically sparse personal information available in on-line interactions.

    Oh, come on, I’m kidding around!

    See here for a more in depth explanation.

    Will do.

  • Zippy says:

    Samson J:
    Oh, come on, I’m kidding around!

    No, seriously, I don’t go for the cheap jokes. My favorites are the ones that nobody gets but me.

    But I’m just messing with you.

  • […] and ignorant past didn’t know that some sex acts are infertile.  Heck, surgeons have been doing vasectomies for 500 years or more.  St. Augustine knew all about a woman’s infertile periods more than a […]

  • […] Sterilization deliberately acquired is a brand.  Sterilization accidental or forced is a mere scar. […]

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