18. Feb, 2017

OPINION: False Ethical Position Adopted by Amoris Laetitia

“You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:17

As we have been reading (this is from Wednesday, week 5, yr 1) from the book of Genesis, I was struck by the above verse and how it describes the approach of proportionalists. Proportionalism asserts that a person can determine the right course of action by weighing up the good and the necessary evil caused by the action. It is deliberation by weighing up and deciding upon pre-moral evil.

Why pre-moral? Good question. These evils (note evil is a deprivation of a good) are the “foreseen proportions of ‘pre-moral’ goods to evils in the alternatives available [that] can at times justify exceptions to precepts traditionally regarded as absolute” (https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/MORALVS.HTM).

Weighing up of what is good, or what is lacking in good (evil) which is what proportionalism suggests, is totally against God’s prohibition. Proportionalism imitates the ‘original sin’ i.e., the decision of human beings who thought they knew better than God, to arbitrate between good and evil. This lack of faith in God was the ultimate act of pride. Proportionalism is both the prideful arbitration between good and evil, and the perpetuation of the original act of pride. ‘Adam and Eve' were the first proportionalists.   

What does Saint JPII say about proportionalism?

“One must therefore reject … proportionalist theories, which hold that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its "object" — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned “ (Veritatis Splendor, 79).

Saint JPII is saying (a) ultimately, the source of moral action is the object of that action (i.e., the good toward which the will deliberately directs itself (Catechism, 1751)) (b) it is false to claim that morality must always take into consideration one’s intentions and circumstances when the object is intrinsically evil.

How do I do that good?

Briefly, ethical action is considered from the perspective of (a) the consequences of our actions (b) from rational thought about what is morally imperative and what one ought to do without regard for consequences (e.g., in Kantian ethics rules/obligations arising from the dictum that one should treat oneself and all humanity as an end and never as a means) (c) the disposition of one’s will towards good i.e., one’s virtue or moral character.

It is good to consider moral action from all three perspectives. My claim is that the overarching guide to moral action comes from the virtue of faith. Faith is a theological virtue where one is practised in making decisions based upon our covenant relationship with God. It is not making up my mind about what I consider is good or bad, it is making the right choice based on faith alone.

How do I do good? I base my decisions on faith alone as “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Why? Faith is always directed towards the good. All other deliberations tend to infidelity and to sin. 

Why is all this important?

Because otherwise we could argue “it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace” (Amoris Laetitia, 305). My opinion is that Amoris Laetitia is erroneous on this point. 

And for those who have argued ignorance is literally a spouse’s saving grace, “no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man” (Catechism, 1860). For more see http://www.johnthebaptistmoora.com/346443107/4413389/posting/tell-me-my-love-hast-though-instead-chosen-epicurus-as-thy-spouse or (on conscience) see http://www.johnthebaptistmoora.com/346443107/4409729/posting/contra-amoris-l%C3%A6titia-on-conscience-sin