Making Moral Judgements - By Patrick Kent
How can we decide what is morally right or morally wrong? Obviously, following common culture is not a good guideline. Nor can we look to the legal system. Laws are designed to provide the minimum moral guidance and sometimes the laws themselves are not moral, such as slavery. To determine whether an action is morally right, we must go back to the core truths.
Every action has three parts: (1) the act itself, (2) the circumstances, and (3) the intention for doing the action. All three parts need to be considered. The act itself is always the starting point to decide if an action is morally acceptable.
Most actions in our daily life are morally neutral. Driving a car, deciding which is your favorite restaurant, or which sport to watch, or choosing between a picnic and a canoe ride can be morally neutral. However, even for these activities, the motive and the circumstances could cause them to be morally good or bad. Driving a getaway car for a robbery is evil. Driving a friend to the doctor’s office is a good, unless you grumble too much. When we have pain and suffering, this is an action we cannot choose, but we can choose to make it redemptive suffering by our intention of joining it with Christ’s suffering. Salvific suffering is an intention on our part for our undesired pain, which we did not choose. The act and the circumstances may be beyond our control, but our intention can make it a moral good.
There are some actions that are, of themselves, intrinsically evil. This means that they can never be condoned, nor approved. Such actions include idolatry, adultery, blasphemy, sodomy, and killing of the innocent including the act of abortion. There is never a justification for any of these. In the early Church, Christians were required to offer incense to the emperor, just a tiny pinch of incense at his altar. The Roman soldiers told the Christians that they do not have to believe in Caesar, just do the act, even with your fingers crossed behind your back. For refusing, the Christians, and often even their children, were condemned to death. Many chose death rather than idolatry. Even saving the life of a child did not justify idolatry. The end never justifies the means.
In our current culture, two activities are politically correct, even legal, yet intrinsic evils: killing babies (in the womb and botched abortions yielding live births), and sodomy/same-sex marriage. Neither act can be supported in any way by Catholics. Sodomy is specifically condemned in the New Testament several times. Although abortion is not mentioned by name, the sixth commandment forbids killing of innocent humans. The Hebrew for this commandment translates “thou shall not kill the innocent.” Genetics and sonograms confirm the science: it is a live human in the womb from the moment of conception, not just a blob of tissue.
We can never support an intrinsically evil action, either directly or indirectly. We cannot be the best man at a same-sex marriage. We cannot build the altar for an idol. We cannot drive a friend to Planned Parenthood. If we are going to say that we are Christians, that we are Catholic, then that must mean something. Look at Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” The question really is; are we doing the will of our Father?
To say I am a Catholic does not mean that I am on the roles of a parish or that I belong to a good social organization, or that I take part in a religious club, or advocate certain important causes in the world. This is not what it means to be Catholic. To be Catholic is to be a person of faith in Christ. Faith means to cling to the person of Jesus, to adhere to Him, to continually have my life measured by Him, to be a person who is earnest about the pursuit of growing in holiness, growing in conformity to Him, to trust that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What Jesus says is truth. He is not interested in restricting my freedom or limiting my happiness. He is interested in leading me to happiness and in helping me to find true freedom. True freedom does not come to me from determining for myself what I am or am not free to do. That is not true freedom, that is licentiousness, and leads to lawlessness. True freedom is freedom to pursue my choice to follow Christ, knowing that it leads to eternal happiness, and that whatever the world thinks, I can be happy in that pursuit, even if, for example, my life includes intense suffering. The circumstance may be difficult, but my choice can make it a great good. What is the purpose of my life? To know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with Him in the next.