Hate the sin

May 31, 2013 § 5 Comments

The idea that fornicating with the same person over and over again is morally superior to fornicating the same number of times with different people is pervasive.  I suspect that is because the relationship many are in right now began as a fornicationship; and if not one’s own relationship, perhaps it is true of many of the relationships of the people one loves.

Because of the pervasiveness of long term fornicationships, acts of fornication in a long term relationship have taken on a kind of sacred quality in our culture.  Folks are kind of sorry that they did it, but they aren’t really and fully sorry they did it.  Folks kinda sorta disapprove of the sin, but they don’t hate the sin.

But if you don’t hate sin, you are not a follower of Christ.

Evil for the win!

May 29, 2013 § 26 Comments

Suppose Bob has a plan to achieve good end X.

Suppose that in order to succeed at achieving good end X, Bob’s plan requires that Dave must form an evil intention.[*]  Suppose further that Bob plans to act in some concrete way – say by speaking to Dave – in order to convince him to form that specific evil intention.

Bob’s act – perhaps of speaking to Dave – is formal cooperation with evil.  Bob is deliberately trying to produce a specific evil intention in another human being. Bob’s plans will fail if Dave fails to form the specific evil intention.

In the terminology of double-effect, the evil effect (Dave forming a specific evil intention to commit a specific evil act) is a necessary cause of the good effect that Bob seeks.  But an act can never be justified, under the principle of double-effect, when an evil effect is required as the cause of the intended good effect.


[*] This reasoning holds even if it is part of Bob’s plan for Dave’s evil intention to be thwarted by circumstances.

Kicking them while they are down for Jesus

May 29, 2013 § 69 Comments

It has been suggested that it is morally acceptable for pro-life operatives to lie to abortion clinic workers, requesting an abortion that one does not intend to carry out, because clinic workers are already known to be formally cooperating in other abortions.

On top of the naked consequentialism in this approach to lying, it completely inverts the moral theology of scandal.

Under the moral theology of scandal even an otherwise morally acceptable behavior – which lying is not – can be sinful if it leads another person to sin.  Formal cooperation with evil – like a clinic worker agreeing to help someone get an abortion, or a slut agreeing to sleep with her seducer – is sinful.  Formal cooperation with evil is sinful even when the intention to do evil is thwarted by circumstances.  A tempter who is lying is just such a circumstance.

The moral theology of scandal is directed toward the protection of those who are vulnerable to temptation.  Even if an action is not evil in itself, it can become evil if it tempts another person to form an evil intention or perform an evil act.  The fact that a person may be a habitual sinner in general does not remotely begin to excuse specifically and deliberately creating the near occasion for a specific, new sin.

Long term fornicationships versus hookups

May 29, 2013 § 34 Comments

Fornication is fornication is fornication, so from a moral standpoint an ummarried person constantly hooking up with different partners is on roughly equivalent ground with an unmarried person in a long-term “monogamous” fornicationship.

But long-term fornicationships do far more damage to individuals and society precisely because people tend to treat them as, if not outright morally acceptable, morally superior to hookups.

Imperfect contrition and marriage, or, why positivists don’t have to go to Hell

May 21, 2013 § 11 Comments

A common sentiment I’ve seen expressed shows up in the comments of Dalrock’s guest post at the Orthosphere:

Thus, in effect with the advent of no-fault divorce, marriage has effectively ceased to exist, one’s marital contract is simply an illusionary contract, not a real contract at all. Thus when marital obligations gets subverted by “feelings” or “wants”, etc, it ceases to be an obligation, and thereby ceases to be a marriage in the first place. A promise to do something with the clause that, “provided I feel like it”, is not a promise at all, it is an illusionary promise.

This can only make sense if we take marriage – or consensual commitments more generally, for that matter – to be things which come into existence based on State enforcement.  This can only make sense if we are incapable of distinguishing between the actuality of a commitment and the enforcement of that commitment by some external authority.  This can only make sense if we have no concept of actual morality at all: if moral obligation is not deontologically objective reality, but rather is merely a matter of the selfish avoidance of personal negative consequences: in short, if the only reason to do good and avoid evil is to escape punishment by the State.

A promise which is broken doesn’t cease to exist as a moral object.  Nor do the eternal consequences of breaking it.  Whether that promise is or is not enforced by some earthly authority or other is just a side show: a given authority’s failure to enforce may represent the self-destruction of that authority; but it cannot, in any way, affect the existential reality of the promise.

In Catholic moral theology we have the concept of imperfect contrition: that is, being sorry for sin out of a fear of punishment.  Fortunately, when combined with a valid Sacramental Confession, imperfect contrition is sufficient for forgiveness.  Christ is truly just that merciful, that generous in the Sacramental graces offered to anyone and everyone who approaches the successors of the Apostles to have their sins sacramentally forgiven, the only condition being imperfect contrition and a firm purpose of amendment.  (Those who need to receive Christ’s forgiveness outside of the Sacrament of Confession, such as our Protestant brothers and sisters, require perfect contrition — a digression for another day).

But government edicts, actions, and inactions are not Sacraments.  King Henry cannot – literally cannot – unmake his marriage, assuming its validity at the time it was contracted, in an act of sovereign Will.

Those prophets of postmodernity, Soul Asylum, once lamented:

Trying to do the right thing, play it straight. The right thing changes from state to state.

People with the understanding that obligation literally doesn’t exist without State enforcement are bound to think that way.  But back here in reality, any marriage which can be unmade by the will of the State is not true marriage.  It was never true marriage in the first place.

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