Where there is a will…

March 4, 2008 § 24 Comments

Formal cooperation with evil is when we will something that is in fact evil.

Full stop.

Attempting to convince ourselves that the thing we are willing isn’t evil doesn’t change that, and neither does drawing metaphors to things that are not evil. If we will X, and X is evil, then we are formally cooperating with evil.

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§ 24 Responses to Where there is a will…

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,<>If we will X, and X is evil, then we are formally cooperating with evil.<>I would have to disagree with this since there are those who may be ignorant of the fact that “x” is actually evil.God bless,e.

  • zippy says:

    <>I would have to disagree with this since there are those who may be ignorant of the fact that “x” is actually evil.<>Veritatis Splendour:<>It is never acceptable to confuse a “subjective” error about moral good with the “objective” truth rationally proposed to man in virtue of his end, or to make the moral value of an act performed with a true and correct conscience equivalent to the moral value of an act performed by following the judgment of an erroneous conscience. It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good.<>

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy:It seems your own citation refutes you:<>It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment <>may not<> be imputable to the agent<>(emphasis mine)This would thus imply that there is no formal cooperation by the agent.

  • zippy says:

    <>It seems your own citation refutes you:<>As long as you cut out just the right part and ignore the rest, sure.

  • sriddle415 says:

    Dear Anonymous,Formal cooperation with evil does not necessarily mean that the operating agent has sinned even though he has done evil. Zippy has said nothing about sin, which does require knowing the action is evil; however, we can formally cooperate with evil without knowing that what we cooperate with is evil. The evil is not imputable or culpable, but it doesn’t cease to be evil and our aid of it does not cease to be formal cooperation.shalom,Steven

  • sriddle415 says:

    Dear Anonymous,Or not. (I forgot to add that because I’m wayyyyy out of my depth.)shalom,Steven

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy & Steven:Properly defined:“Now we come to some classic distinctions in morality. Formal cooperation is when a person (the cooperator) first of all gives consent to the evil action of another (the actor). Here the cooperator shares the same intention as the actor. The cooperator also joins in the actual performance of the evil action or supplies the actor with the means of performing it. Essentially, he consents to and helps enact the sin.”I would advise you read < HREF="http://www.catholicherald.com/saunders/02ws/ws020905.htm" REL="nofollow">Fr. Saunder’s Explanation on ‘Cooperation with Evil’<>The VS citation uses the precise wording that “[i]t is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment <>may not be imputable<> to the agent.”Had it actually considered it ‘formal cooperation’, it would have stated it otherwise since, as Saunders put it: “Formal cooperation with evil is always wrong, and the cooperator shares in the guilt of the sin of the actor.”

  • zippy says:

    I agree with the Saunders quote completely. You seem (as Steven points out) to be conflating precisely what VS distinguishes, that is, the degree of subjective culpability in the agent versus whether the agent is in fact willing something which is in fact evil. Consider Fr. Saunders’ example of driving a woman to the abortion clinic to have an abortion. If the person driving her to the clinic doesn’t agree that abortion is wrong, is he still formally cooperating with evil? I say yes.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,But that’s just it —Kindly note that Fr. Saunders states in no unertain terms: “Formal cooperation with evil <>is always wrong<>, <>and<> the cooperator <>shares in the guilt of the sin<> of the actor.”This is makes for a fine distinction.Saunders makes plain that the agent is indeed guilty of sin in the case of formal cooperation as formal cooperation with evil is <>always<> wrong.Further, keep in mind the elements which Saunders has defined within the specification of what is to be considered “formal cooperation”; that is, in order to establish that the agent is formally cooperating with evil, that person must:1. consent to and2. share the same intention as the actor.However, in the case wherein the agent is unaware and, indeed, is ignorant that “x” action is wrong; as VS rightly states, “the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent.”God bless,e.

  • Civis says:

    IFF “If we will X, and X is evil, then we are formally cooperating with evil.” Then the statement “Formal cooperation with evil is always wrong, and the cooperator shares in the guilt of the sin of the actor.”must either have been taken out of context or else Fr. S is wrong.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,To clarify, while the act itself might be considered ‘evil’; the agent cannot be <>charged<> (so-to-speak) with formally cooperating with evil for the aforementioned reasons.

  • zippy says:

    <>…must either have been taken out of context or else Fr. S is wrong.<>Or, perhaps, Fr. S’s piece is significantly shorter than VS and does not go into all the same distinctions in as much detail.Mind you, I’m inclined to think that someone who unequivocally advocated consistently over a period of time that Michael should be permitted to starve Terri to death almost certainly is guilty of grave sin, and should probably go to Confession for it and do penance. But only God has access to the subjective culpability of every person.

  • zippy says:

    Also, we might note that the same kind of disclaimer applies to discussing the person who actually performs the act. When an abortionist performs an abortion but doesn’t think it is morally wrong, how culpable is he? The “how culpable is he?” question is only ever answerable by God, whether we are discussing the person who actually performs the act or persons who formally or materially cooperate with the act.And as something ineffable and only answerable by God, it is irrelevant to our discussion. Doing evil is always wrong, whether the person agrees that it is wrong or not, whether we are discussing the evil act itself or formal cooperation with it, and independent of how much of that objective wrongness is imputable to the agent.

  • Anonymous says:

    Civis:IF “Formal cooperation with evil is always wrong and the cooperator shares in the guilt of the sin of the actor.”THEN Veritatis Splendour is wrong and “the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment <>IS<> imputable to the agent.”Zippy:Thanks for your continued patience in answering my inquiries on the matter.This statement from you is one I am in agreement with:“Doing evil is always wrong, whether the person agrees that it is wrong or not, whether we are discussing the evil act itself or formal cooperation with it, and independent of how much of that objective wrongness is imputable to the agent.”

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Zippy makes a good and, I think, clarifying point when he says that this “but what if he doesn’t think it’s wrong” point has no _more_ relevance to one’s advocating the wrong act than it has to one’s doing the wrong act oneself. In either case, one may not believe the thing to be wrong. So it doesn’t really illuminate the issue of “formal cooperation” (a technical term I, as a Protestant, am still working on getting up to speed with) to bring up the fact that the person in question may have false moral beliefs.

  • Civis says:

    Anonymous,I’m not sure if I fillow what you are saying to me. Where is the second quote coming from? Veritatis Splendor?

  • Anonymous says:

    Dear Lydia,I have no issue with calling the act itself evil.I just have issue with the agent being found guilty of formally cooperating with evil when the agent is unaware that act “x” is actually evil.Zippy,Going back to your hypothetical about driving a person to an abortion clinic, kindly consider the following from Cardinal Ratzinger (emphasis mine):“A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation with evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to <>deliberately<> vote for a candidate <>precisely<> because of the candidate’s permissive stance on abortion or euthanasia. When a Catholic <>does not share<> the candidate’s stance in favor of abortion or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” Given the above, wouldn’t the unassuming agent driving the actor to the abortion clinic be only guilty of remote material cooperation?

  • Anonymous says:

    To clarify the above, admittedly, both may be considered sinful acts in themselves, and I agree with the sentiments of VS and Zippy that nothing can take away the fact that acts are objectively evil and nothing, even the intention of the agent and/or actor, might make them any more acceptable and less serious.However, what I am contesting is the critical extent to which the agent (unaware that act “x” is evil) in the given scenario proposed by Zippy is ultimately personally culpable for his having committed “x”.It seems to me that that would be like charging a person with 1st degree murder (formal cooperation) when it should really be manslaughter (material cooperation).Yes, both entail an act of the murder of another individual; yet, you can see that there are differing degrees of the seriousness of the crime for which the person (in our case, the agent) is responsible for.Likewise, both acts discussed may entail an evil act; yet, similar to the above, there is a differing degree of culpability in which the commission of the act by the person (agent) — not knowing act “x” is evil — is responsible.

  • zippy says:

    <>Given the above, wouldn’t the unassuming agent driving the actor to the abortion clinic be only guilty of remote material cooperation?<>Is he <>willing<> that she do X – have an abortion? See the main post again for the criteria for formal cooperation. See also < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2008/03/just-formality.html" REL="nofollow">this post<> for another example of what I am pretty certain is formal cooperation, even though the person doesn’t agree that he is doing wrong.Again, whether the person doing the act or those who formally cooperate <>agree that the act is evil<> is irrelevant. It <>is<> evil, and <>they are choosing it<>, so they are doing evil.

  • zippy says:

    <>It seems to me that that would be like charging a person with 1st degree murder (formal cooperation) when it should really be manslaughter (material cooperation).<>If you like that terminology, then “voluntary manslaughter” corresponds to formal cooperation and “involuntary manslaughter” corresponds to (negligent) material cooperation. In the former the perp chooses to kill the victim, though his state of mind mitigates his culpability for the crime. In the latter the perp doesn’t choose to kill the victim: it is a culpable (because he was negligent, say by drinking and driving) accident.The legal analogy isn’t perfect. But again, I think the issue is just that “formal cooperation” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means willing that X be done when X is, objectively, evil. It is always wrong to formally cooperate with evil, just as it is always wrong to perform an intrinsically evil act, and it is always wrong to engage in proximate material cooperation with evil, etc. That ‘states of mind’ independent of the person having willed X may mitigate his personal culpability is an entirely distinct issue from whether he willed X; and the latter – the willing of X when X is evil – is formal cooperation with evil.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    But you can will something without saying a word or doing anything. Am I right or wrong in thinking that by this definition, sitting alone and wishing silently that someone would do an evil act is also formal cooperation? (It’s obviously wrong. I’m just trying to figure out how it fits with the concept of formal cooperation.)

  • zippy says:

    Well, “not doing anything” isn’t an act. If one said to onesself (and meant it) “when I have the opportunity I will kill her” that is formal: the morally relevant intention has been formed. Typically we only call it “cooperation” once one has acted on that intention in some way and the referent of the intention is someone else’s act which ours is intended to support in some material way. But that semantic distinction doesn’t “save the day” morally: adultery in the heart – an intention to actually commit it or facilitate it should the opportunity arise – is still morally evil, even if it stretches semantics to call it “cooperation”.“Formal” really just refers to any intention: to any actual willing (as distinct from desire, wish, temptation, etc) that <>this<> be so. The “cooperation” designation just calls out that it is not <>our own act<> that we are willing to be the case. If I <>will that she agree to an adulterous affair with me<> I am doing evil, even if she would never go along.Some people find the word “plan” helpful. If it is part of my <>plan<> that the Republicans get thwarted and Michael withdraw’s Terri’s feeding tube, then I <>intend<> to kill Terri. If I blog on it – even though the actual material effect of my blogging on it is probably infinitesimal – then I have formally cooperated with her murder.

  • m.z. forrest says:

    Driving the person to the abortion clinic would be either immediate or mediate participation with evil. (When I was a cabbie, it would have been remote participation for me.) Immediate participation with evil is necessarily formal cooperation. Mediate is nearly always formal cooperation. Remote participation and formal cooperation are not necessarily connected.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy:“The legal analogy isn’t perfect. But again, I think the issue is just that “formal cooperation” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means willing that X be done when X is, objectively, evil. It is always wrong to formally cooperate with evil, just as it is always wrong to perform an intrinsically evil act, and it is always wrong to engage in proximate material cooperation with evil, etc. That ‘states of mind’ independent of the person having willed X may mitigate his personal culpability is an entirely distinct issue from whether he willed X; and the latter – the willing of X when X is evil – is formal cooperation with evil.”Thanks for this!!!It appears that I was working from an erroneous set of assumptions where formal cooperation is concerned. How you’ve elaborated on the matter here has helped much to clear up the misunderstanding. I appreciate it!MZ FORREST:<>Driving the person to the abortion clinic would be either immediate or mediate participation with evil. (When I was a cabbie, it would have been remote participation for me.) Immediate participation with evil is necessarily formal cooperation. Mediate is nearly always formal cooperation. Remote participation and formal cooperation are not necessarily connected.<>Thanks for this additional bit!By the way, what happened to the Yooper blog?Has it been demolished?If so, are there any archives of it?There were some few good articles there that I wanted to reference.Thanks!

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