Moral Agency in Difficult Situations

Moral Agency in Difficult Situations

Making Prudential Judgments In a Presented by Rev. James T. Bretzke, S.J., S.T.D. [email protected] Relation of Virtues of Charity & Prudence Charity is the content and our participation in the life of God

Prudence is that which gives proper form to charity Example: Prudence is what distinguishes courage from foolhardiness Natural Law Starting Point in Catholic Ethics The good is to be done and fostered, and evil is to be avoided [ST I-II, q. 94, a. 2] However, this does NOT translate as a simple imperative: Do good and avoid evil Rather, it is the work of reason to discover &

promote the good, while minimizing & avoiding (if possible) the evil A World without Evil? Yes, in Utopia (Greek for no place) Everywhere else, this side of Gods Kingdom, we must live with evil In moral theology the recognition of this facticity is enshrined in four basic principles Each of which, when applied by reason, were seen as good and right and moral 4 Prudential Guides to

Navigating a World Which Contains Evil Principle of Compromise Principle of Tolerance Principle of the minus malum (lesser of two evils) Principle of the Double Effect (one action with two foreseen effects, one good [and intended]; one evil [and tolerated] Principle of Compromise NOT Compromise with ones view of what is

morally required But trying to maximize and concretize the good, and/or minimize or avoid evil (which might be greater if no compromise is reached) At times compromise may have to involve action on our part, which at times may involve cooperation with evil Principle of Tolerance Recognizes our limitedness in many real-life situations Does not mean giving up on our moral

values and ideals Nor does it mean aiding or promoting evil Principle founded in practical reason Jesus on Tolerance Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat (Mt 13:24-30) Rebuke of disciples who wanted to call down fire on the unwelcoming Samaritan town (Lk 9:54) Limit of tolerance: cleansing of the Temple (Lk 19:45-28

Last will & testament: Father forgive them (Lk 23:34) Principle of the Minus Malum Lesser of two evils Founded on the basic principle of the natural law to avoid evil, which at times means minimizing evil An exercise of reason And which may be counseled Some examples: traditional and recent

Cooperatio in Malum Traditional recognition that in our concrete, real lives will require at times a reasoned response involving one or more of the 4 principles of Compromise, Tolerance, Minus Malum, and/or Double Effect This leads to some sort of Cooperation with evil Aspects of Cooperation with Evil Material Cooperation

Formal cooperation Formal Means providing refers tointhe some subjective fashionelement something which used in forms

the execution or gives of the the real sinfulmeaning act to an act Thus,involves This means varying sharing degrees the sinfulofintent

responsibility of the primary agent committing sin assessing possible Whichwho mustisbe evaluatedthe before Therefore, moral culpability formal cooperation is ipso facto sinful

Degrees of Material Cooperation These degrees exist along a spectrum, and are helpful in assessing responsibility, which must be borne in mind before deciding to act (cooperate) or not. The major points of this spectrum are usually termed remote, mediate, or proximate/immediate NONE can be labeled ipso facto as always sinful But as a general rule the greater the

immediacy, the greater the responsibility & possibility for sin Remote Cooperation Virtually everything we do (or dont do) in the material world has some potential aspect of remote cooperation with evil. But since our remoteness means we have very little ability either to intend or act in the commission of this sort of sinful act we are not morally responsible E.g., a steel-worker who produces steel, some of which is used to make a gun, which

is used in a robbery Mediate Cooperation However, the closer we come to the possibility that our action (or non-action) will aid in the commission of a sin, the greater our responsibility to act so that the good may be done and fostered, and evil avoided E.g., a gun dealer has a greater responsibility to make sure a gun is not sold to a known criminal Should s/he not exercise proper vigilance this failure could be morally culpable

Immediate Cooperation This is described as aid that is very close to the commission of the sin, and/or whose presence or absence is vital to the actual commission of the act Therefore, immediate cooperation generally involves very great responsibility, and such a person has a much greater chance of being at least partially culpable for sharing in the sinfulness of the act Nevertheless, even immediate cooperation is NOT always sinful (as we shall soon see)

A Bank Robbery Joe the Rat and Carlo the Creep are pulling off a bank heist They need a get-away car and driver, and therefore enlist the aid of Dick the Docile to drive his car Dick never enters the bank, but stays behind the wheel Is Dicks cooperation immediate? Is Dick sinning? The Heist Is Underway

We are agreed that Dicks driving of the get-away car would constitute immediate cooperation Is he therefore sinning? Do we need to know anything else before answering? Well, what about this fact? The Saga Continues Sitting next to Dick the Docile in the front seat is Bill the Snake And Bill is holding a gun to Dicks head Dick could still refuse to drive

But would this refusal be proportionate reason? Morale of the story: Discern the principles AND their applications well! Summary of Norms for Cooperation Formal cooperation is always (by definition) sinful, but this refers only to subjective intention, and says nothing about the actual material cooperation involved

Material cooperation is NOT ipso facto sinful, but must be evaluated according to responsibility involved in the aid given One way of looking at the level of responsibility is to see where on the spectrum of immediacy does the cooperation fall A Helpful Note on Material Cooperation How close or essential is the aid given to the commission of the act (e.g., remote,

mediate, immediate)? How essential the individual herself/himself is to that aid (e.g., can they be replaced with relative ease or difficulty)? These considerations help in assessing NOT sinfulness, but responsibility the individual has Response to this assessment aids in discovering the intention & circumstances of the moral act Principle of the Double Effect

Used in moral quandary situations Long tradition in moral theology Founded in Thomas Aquinas teaching on legitimate self-defense (ST II-II, q. 64, n. 7) Source of much casuistry over the centuries Which has led to debate and revision Example of the Ectopic Pregnancy Definition/Description of the pathology Illustration of the earlier medical therapy

Discussion of the earlier debate Revision of the Principles Application New medical therapies available New moral debate 4 Traditional Criteria of the Double Effect Principle Act directly performed is good The good accomplished is at least as immediate as the evil which occurs; the evil effect may never come before the good effect The intention of the agent is good

There is proportionate reason for causing the evil effect Newer Therapy for Ectopic Pregnancy Moral and Ontic Evil Ontic evilevil refers evil in the world, which is not Moral

is toalways wrong, moral but depends on or a physical composite Otherthis terms are pre-moral analysis ofbe caused or allowed,

Ontic evil can The But only act for proportionate reason itself, The intention of the agent The circumstances Discerning Proportionate Reason in

Terminating an Ectopic Pregnancy Solving for the variable ontic evil 2x + 3 = 9 [e.g., do nothing in ectopic pregnancy: mother dies] 2x + 3 = 7 [e.g., remove fallopian tube: major surgery, loss of tube] 2x + 3 = 5 [e.g., do laparascopic minor surgery; minor surgery, tube maintained] In all cases the constant is the death of the fetus The variable [x] is the other composite ontic evil effects

Dispute over Direct/Indirect Direct in terms of Finis Operis? Direct in terms of Finis Operantis? What is the Finis Operantis in complex actions? What is the Finis Operis in complex situations? What is the distinction between Direct and Indirect? A Revision of the 4 Criteria The act in itself must be morally good

No morally evil means may be used; ontic evil though is allowed The intention of the agent must be good There must be proportionate reason for allowing/causing the ontic evil involved. Comparison of 2 Versions Traditional Version

The act is morally good The evil caused must be subsequent or simultaneous (never prior) to the good effect The agents intention is good There is proportionate reason for causing the evil Revised Version

The act is morally good No morally evil means may be used; ontic evil is allowed The agents intention is good There is proportionate

reason for causing the ontic evil Discerning Proportionate Reason in Elective Abortion E.g., terminating an unintended and/or unwanted pregnancy Certainly some reasons exist to terminate such a pregnancy BUT these would not seem to be proportionate to the death of an otherwise viable fetus Thus, we cannot make the case that truly proportionate reason exists here for the abortion

Proportionate Reason Is Key Recall that the natural law in its application is a work of the practical reason In quandary cases such as the double effect the presence of proportionate reason keeps the evil caused on the ontic level However, lack of proportionate reason would make the evil caused disproportionate, and therefore immoral Recall Two Key Concepts in

Making Moral Decisions Sanctity and Primacy of Conscience Sanctuary A Holy Place where the individual meets God A Safe Place where no outside authority should enter Primacy: Always follow your informed conscience

Hierarchy of Values in resolving conflict of duties Not every value or duty is absolute Conflicts are bound to occur Doing the higher duty is morally responsible Three Legs of Moral Discernment

Openness to Gods Spirit Individual Effort Community Dialogue Neither the Answers Nor the Processes Are Simple. Need for genuine search for the truth Need for

openness to the Spirit wherever it moves Need for prayer Need for dialogue St. Augustines Guideline on Judging Prudently In fide, unitas: in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas "In faith, unity; in doubt, liberty; in all things, charity." Attributed to St. Augustine, this is an important

principle of Christian discernment: unity in faith is important, but in cases of doubt a plurality of opinions and practices should be allowed, and the over-riding principle must always be charity towards each other. Prayer of St. Theresa Avila Christ has no body on earth but yours No hands on earth but your hands. Yours are the eyes through which He looks out with compassion on the world. Yours are the feet with which He chooses to go about doing good.

For as He is the Head, so you are the members and we are all one in Christ Jesus.

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