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Apologetics: How To respond To Tough Moral Questions

January 19, 2009


Here are the audio files of the first and second classes; I didn’t quite get all the way through this outline, but you’ll see where we’re going.  It’s not too late to join the class if you wish, and we may just extend by a week or two, if we have to in order to get through the material.

How To Answer Tough Moral Questions

General Moral Principles

January 11. 2009


A.  Quote from Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”) 4

“…In fact, a new situation has come about within the Christian community itself, which has experienced the spread of numerous doubts and objections of a human and psychological, social and cultural, religious and even properly theological nature, with regard to the Church’s moral teachings. It is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions. At the root of these presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth. Thus the traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and the permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church’s moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to “exhort consciences” and to “propose values”, in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices.”

B.  Class like this necessary for Catholics for three reasons:

1.    Catholics don’t understand

2.    “Separated Brethren don’t believe as we do.

3.    Atheists/unbelievers use as an excuse

C.  Summarize the main idea of your speech. Quickly state your three main points

1.    Discussion/understanding of these moral issues (life issues) requires foundation in moral reasoning

2.    Each life issue can be easily understood in terms of some basic moral concepts.

3.    Once the foundation is established, each life issues is actually interrelated with the others (Seamless Garment)

II.How do we know the moral law?

A.  We are made in God’s image

1.    Gen 1: 26 – 27: Man is created in the image of God (READ REF)

a)     IN God’s image

b)    Given dominion

B.  Because we are made in God’s image, we have souls

1.    We make choices/discern good and evil

2.    Animals react based on instinct.

C.   Free will comes with accountability (Romans 2: 5 – 10) (READ)

1.    Once we’re in Heaven, we will be part of God and cannot choose evil

2.    On earth, we can not only sin, we can lose our justification and kill the soul (ref: 1 John 5:16-17 – READ)

D.  How do we know good and evil?

1.    We consult the moral law

a)     God is truth, justice and love

b)    Therefore all our actions must be done in the same

c)     This is the essence of the moral law

2.    How do we know the demands of the moral law?

a)     The Ten Commandments/The Great Commandments

(1)  READ Matthew 22: 37 – 40
(2)  Reference the Ten Commandments: Duet 5: 6 – 21

b)    Human reason

(1)  READ Romans 1: 18 – 21 whole thing (pull quote in book is only 19 – 20)
(2)  Our rational nature makes virtually ALL agree that certain actions are worthy whiel others are not (natural moral law)
(3)  This is DIFFERENT from law of nature (like gravity)
(4)  We don’t blame rocks /animals for hurting us; not rational, cannot make choices against their nature/instinct
(5)  We blame a HUMAN for hurt because he can act differently if he CHOOSES to
(6)  Natural moral law is how people should act IAW their rational nature
(7)  Our reason is wounded by original sin; reason alone is insufficient
(8)  God gave the 10 Commandments through Moses: PUBLIC REVELATION gives us the moral law WITHOUT ERROR.

c)     The Catholic Church is the final and infallible interpreter of natural moral law AND public revelation with authority from CHRIST; she is then a reliably teacher when it comes to moral/life issues

(1)  Luke 10:16
(2)  Matt 28: 18- 20

III.How do we evaluate moral acts?

A.  Morality considers the rightness/wrongness of certain acts

B.  Three sources determine an act’s rightness/wrongness:

1.    The object of an act (what the act is objectively)

2.    The intention of the act (why the act was chosen subjectively).

3.    The circumstances surrounding the act.

C.  In order to be morally good, all three of these elements must be good

IV.Approved Moral Principles

A.  Part III – Life In Christ,  of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), sections 1691 – 2557 lay out a comprehensive review of basic morality

B.  We can lay out some basic True principles that frequently apply in bioethical issues

1.    TRUE PRINCIPLE #1:  Do Good, Avoid Evil.

a)    Psalm 37:27: “Turn from evil and do good, that you may inhabit the land forever.

b)    Basic precept of natural law, foundation of all morality.

2.    TRUE PRINCIPLE #2: We Can Never Do Evil To Bring About Good

a)     “The end NEVER justifies the means”

b)    Romans 3:8

c)     Examples:

(1)  Cannot murder an abortion provider (e) to stop an abortion (g)
(2)  Cannot murder a terminally ill patient (e) to relieve their suffering (g)

3.    True Principle #3: We Must Follow Our Consciences

a)     We ARE obligated to follow our conscience

b)    BUT: we have PRIOR OBLIGATION to properly FORM conscience

c)     Conscience must never be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magesterium (see CCC 2039)

4.    True Principle #4: The Principle of Double Effect

a)     Principle states that an act that is either good or morally neutral but with an evil side effet may be done IF:

(1)  Act itself is good or neutral
(2)  Evil effect NOT directly wiled
(3)  Good effect must not be direct result of evil effect
(4)  The good desired must equal or outweigh the evil effect (CCC 1737)

b)    Widely used to resolve difficult medical cases

c)     Classic example:  pregnant mother with uterine cancer

(1)  To save her life, must remove her uterus
(2)  Removing the uterus will result in baby’s death.
(3)  The good (mother’s life) DOES NOT RESULT from the evil (death of baby); baby’s death is an unwanted side effect.

d)    Counter-example: pregnant mother with a heart attack

(1)  Doctors say stress of pregnancy will lead to her death
(2)  Woman has an abortion to prevent her death
(3)  The good (mother’s life) was the DIRECT RESULT of the evil (killing the child)
(4)  Not covered by principle of double effect (end does not justify the means)

5.    True Principle #5: Material (vs. Formal ) Cooperation with Evil

a)     Formal cooperation with evil = assisting another’s evil while agreeing with it. Material cooperation = assisting while NOT approving it

b)    Falls under the principle of double effect, allowed under four conditions:

(1)  Action itself must be good or neutral
(2)  Actor cannot share in evil intent
(3)  Action cannot directly CAUSE evil effect
(4)  Sufficient reason MUST exist to allow the evil effect

c)     Example:

(1)  Cab driver who recommends and then delivers a passenger to a particular prostitute is Formally Cooperating with his evil.
(2)  Cab driver who simply delivers a passenger to an address KNOWN to be that of a prostitute is neither participating in OR approving the sin. He is providing transportation (a good) to feed his family (sufficient reason)
(3)  Doctor who refers for abortion is formally cooperating with an evil.
(4)  Nurse or scrub tech who cleans surgical instruments as part of her job is materially cooperating.

6.    True Principle #6: The Principle of Totality

Charter for Healthcare Workers, 66: “For the restoration of the person to health, interventions may be required, in the absence of other remedies, which involve the modification, mutilation or removal of organs.

Therapeutic manipulation of the organism is legitimized here by the principle of totality, 143 and for this very reason also called the principle of therapeuticity, by virtue of which “each particular organ is subordinated to the whole of the body and should be subjected to it in case of conflict. Consequently, the one who has received the use of the whole organism has the right to sacrifice a particular organ if by keeping it, it or its activity might cause appreciable harm to the whole organism, which cannot be avoided otherwise.”144

7.    True Principle #7: Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils

a)     When faced with two or more unavoidable evils, we must choose the lesser one.

(1)  A pilot who is going to crash must choose between hitting a home or an occupied school MUST choose to hit the home (fewer deaths).
(2)  IF there is a choice between hitting people and crashing into an empty field, the choice with NO evil must be made.

b)    Both evil outcomes MUST be UNINTENDED for this principle to apply

c)     Because our will is in neither action, there is no moral evil

d)    This is sometimes WRONGLY Applied: As in earlier example, cannot procure an abortion in order to save a life (life or health exception in abortion laws). If the abortion is directly willed, and the good (saving the mother’s life) comes from it, then it is WRONG.

8.    True Principle #8: Minimizing a Greater Evil

a)     See The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) – JP II for a great example (section 73)

b)    Catholic politicians are allowed to support incremental legislation against abortion if it is impossible to ban it completely.

c)     This is not cooperation with an unjust law; this is working to limit the harm caused by an unavoidable evil

d)    Can be wrongly applied:

(1)  Some try to use to justify advising condom use in sexually active persons to avoid AIDS transmission
(2)  DOESN’T WORK:  Immoral sexual acts are AVOIDABLE. Proper approach is to counsel ABSTINENCE

C.  False Moral Ideas – commonly used to justify immoral bioethical practices

1.    Intrinsically evil acts:

a)     Acts which by the very nature are always evil, no matter the circumstances or intent.

b)    A person might not be personally or subjectively guilty of evil, if he lost his reason, for example, but act itself REMAINS evil

2.    Objective Morality: rightness or wrongness of human actions as they are in themselves.

Focuses on principles of morality: “Is an act wrong, and if so, why?”

3.    Subjective Morality: examines the guilt or merit an individual has for his particular moral choices

Examines personal guilt or merit for a particular act.

D.  False Idea #1:  So-called “Freedom of Conscience”

1.    See GS 73

2.    Conscience can NEVER conflict with Church teaching; Church teaching is ALSO God’s voice speaking.

3.    If Conscience and Church Teaching conflict, then it’s CONSCIENCE that is wrong.

4.    “True freedom isn’t the ability to do whatever you want, but the ability to do what you ought.

E.  False Idea #2:  The “Fundamental Option” Theory

1.    Claims that, once we choose to follow God, hen we cannot break our relationship with Him except by DIRECT, EXPLICIT rejection of Him.

2.    To think that we could KNOWINGLY and WILLING disobey God in a serious way and still keep our union with Him is an ABSURD CONTRADICTION. (1John 5: 16 – 17)

F.   False Idea #3: Situation Ethics

1.    Claims there ARE no universal moral norms that hold for all times/places

2.    Asks us to make up our own morality as we go along.

3.    What are the problems with this?

4.    The more “educated” among us introduce subtleties and sophistication t allow them to circumvent the moral law and replace it with their own judgment (“life and health” exceptions, anyone?)

G.  False Idea #4: Values Clarification

1.    A sophisticated version of situational ethics

2.    Presents several moral systems, and asks students to reflect and decide which is right…for himself.

3.    Equivalent to leaving the choice to play in traffic to our children

4.    “Thin veneer of respectability” due to headnod to traditional moral systems.

H.  False Idea #5: “The Ends Justify the Means”

I.     False Idea #6: Cultural Cliches

1.    Examples:

a)     “Look out for #1”

b)    “You only live once.”

c)     “Follow your heart.”

d)    “But I love him/her!”

e)     “If it feels good, do it.”

f)      “We can’t impose our morality on others.”

g)     “We must be tolerant.”

h)    “God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy.”

2.    ALL make man, NOT God, the final arbiter of right and wrong.

3.    Read pull quote from text from The Splendor of Truth (Veritatis Splendor) #35: “God alone” has the power to decide what is good and what is evil.

From → Apologetics

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