He mistook it for a sin
October 21, 2013 § 29 Comments
Intrinsically immoral acts take place when an acting subject deliberately chooses an objectively immoral kind of behaviour. Behaviours are objective, and many can be observed by a third party.
To a third party observer an objectively immoral action can be the result of a defect of the acting subject’s knowledge, or it can be the result of a defect in his will. It is a moral evil when the defect resides in his will.
Consider a married man who sleeps with a woman who is not his wife.
Suppose he suffers from a defect of knowledge: that is, he really thinks that she is his wife. In this case he is not guilty of moral evil. But he has still chosen an objectively evil action: he made a mistake. Legitimate mistakes are always accompanied by regret upon their discovery and never take on the status of a morally good act. They at best remain, in the words of the Catholic magisterium, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good. It is not a sin strictly speaking but it is still accompanied by regret and remorse.
If the man does know that the woman he is sleeping with is not his wife, then his choice of action suffers from a defect of will not of knowledge: his choice of action is sinful.
In order to know if the choice of an objectively immoral action is deliberate, we have to place ourselves into the perspective of the acting subject. Otherwise we can’t tell if the action was the result of a defect of knowledge or a defect of will.
But we can still categorize adultery as an objectively immoral behaviour, which no person can deliberately choose in full knowledge without committing moral wrong.