Pastoral accompaniment of serial killers
September 26, 2017 § 174 Comments
… the real question is whether every [sexually active] irregular marriage or cohabiting relationship [objectively] constitutes unrepented adultery or fornication. The Pope thinks not, and I agree with him. […]
The same goes for the idea that some irregular sexual relationships are the best people can do in their current circumstances. Sometimes the answer is yes, …
Wrong: the answer is an unequivocal yes to the first, and an unequivocal no to the second. (I don’t know what the Pope thinks).
It is never morally acceptable to choose intrinsically immoral behaviors. The “best someone can do in their current circumstances” never constitutes choosing an intrinsically immoral behavior, whatever “ticking time bomb” consequences they may perceive to be at stake. Compassion for difficult circumstances never translates into a determination that choosing objectively immoral behavior is “the best we can do”, that is, good.
Furthermore, what must be done in any given situation depends on the circumstances, not all of which can be foreseen; on the other hand there are kinds of behaviour which can never, in any situation, be a proper response — a response which is in conformity with the dignity of the person. Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.
The Church has always taught that one may never choose kinds of behaviour prohibited by the moral commandments expressed in negative form in the Old and New Testaments.
It is never morally acceptable to torture prisoners. It is never morally acceptable to fornicate, commit adultery, or engage in contracepted intercourse. It is never morally acceptable to kill the innocent. It is never morally acceptable to contract for profits on a mutuum loan.
If someone thinks that choosing an intrinsically immoral behaviour – killing some innocent people, for example, even when he is convinced that many more will die from other causes if he chooses not to – is “the best he can do”, he needs to think again. Choosing an evil behaviour is never under any circumstances “the best you can do.”
This is ultimately the same old consequentialist utilitarian nonsense that modernity has been shoveling for centuries, changing up the labels to beg the question on behalf of the Current Year sins the speaker wishes to reframe as virtuous.
A preview of future consequentialism, same as past consequentialism:
From a theoretical viewpoint, development [of a theory of licit sex outside of marriage] was retarded by the concept of normally married conjugal relations, which led to a belief that ever to admit sex outside of wedlock would be to destroy the fornication prohibition itself. …
In the end, as everyone knows, licit sex outside of marriage came to be considered the norm, and fornication the exception …
If that one doesn’t resonate, try this one on for size:
From a theoretical viewpoint, development [of a theory of killing innocents on purpose] was retarded by the concept that killing innocent people is normally murder, which led to a belief that ever to admit choosing to kill innocent people would be to destroy the murder prohibition itself. …
In the end, as everyone knows, licit ‘collateral damage’ from bombing came to be considered the norm, and murder the exception …
Examples can be multiplied by iterating over particular vicious acts someone is attempting to frame as a virtuous act in certain circumstances.
Now it is uncontroversially true that some sins are more objectively grave than others, and that personal culpability varies based on circumstances, pressures, etc. It is also uncontroversially true that some objectively evil choices represent an improvement over other objectively evil choices. A serial killer who has gone from murdering one person a week to murdering only one person a year can be said to be on an objective path of improvement, in a sense. In this same sense it is true that there may be improvements taking place in the life of any unrepentant mortal sinner.
But it doesn’t follow that killing just a few more people is “the best he can do.” The best he can do is repent and make a commitment, with the help of God’s grace and human authorities, to stop choosing immoral behaviors and to do the right thing.
Note: In this post I am addressing the specific cited contentions, not the so-called ‘filial correction’, which I have not read.