Spooky Intentions at a Distance
April 10, 2008 § 30 Comments
The discussion referenced in the previous post brings to mind the following:
Proposition: There is no such thing as remote formal cooperation with evil.
I disagree with that proposition, and I think the Magisterium does too. That proposition though appears to be an implication of the post where Mike says:
Let’s assume what I’ve already conceded: that what brought about Terri Schaivo’s death was an act of murder. Let’s even assume, for argument’s sake, that writers who influenced others to disagree with that judgment thereby “cooperated” in some remote fashion with Terri’s death. Does this mean that any such person is actually guilty of murder by “formal cooperation?” Clearly not.
Note: I agree that the stated criteria are not sufficient in themselves. Continuing:
It depends on the influence they intended to have, the influence they actually had, the degree of their own culpability for their rejecting the moral truth in this matter, and the degree of others’ culpability in sharing that error without having themselves done the actual deed.
Whether the cooperation was formal or not depends on none of those things, as far as I know. It depends only on whether the cooperator intended that the act of pulling Terri’s tube be carried out by someone.
Now if someone wants to quibble and say that formal cooperation with murder isn’t murder by formal cooperation, I’m fine with that. But what we are talking about is formal cooperation with a murder.
Of course Mike’s passage might mean multiple things. But if I take it to be an assertion that remote formal cooperation in a murder is impossible, or to be premised on such an assertion, then I disagree. Formal cooperation is when I (the acting subject) intend for an objectively evil act to be done, and I cooperate with it in any way — however remote. That my cooperation is remote, or that I disagree that the act in question is immoral, does not take the ‘formal’ out of my cooperation. And – the bit that generates the controversy – it is always wrong to formally cooperate with evil, period. Appeals to subjective culpability are a sidetrack from the subject of the nature of formal cooperation. As Pope John Paul II wrote,
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.
Mike’s post taking my own post to task is potentially multivocal. I can interpret it in such a way that I agree with its criticisms, though in that case the position which it criticizes is not my position. Specifically, it is not formal cooperation (and we went into this in the discussion attached to my post) unless the person actually supported that Terri’s tube actually be pulled.
But of course a lot of people, including bloggers, did will that Michael Schiavo be “left alone” and that Terri’s tube in fact get pulled. All of these formally cooperated with her murder. Some made this willing more explicit than others, of course, but what is morally pertinent is whether the blogger in question in fact supported the act of pulling Terri’s tube, not the details of how that blogger advocated on behalf of that act.
The point to the post under criticism is merely that an appeal to the remoteness of the cooperation in question does not take the cooperation out of the ‘formal’ genus; and an appeal to disagreement about whether killing Terri was or was not understood to be immoral does not take the cooperation out of the ‘formal’ genus. Someone who supported the removal of Terri’s tube and did anything whatsoever, however remote, to cooperate with that removal, formally cooperated with her murder.