foundations of catholic morality
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DESCRIPTIONFoundations of Catholic Morality
...I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life.
- Duet 30:19
The Morality of Human Acts
The law of our being. - Daniel Sullivan; An Introductory to Philosophy
The natural law is based on the structure of reality itself. It is therefore the same for all men and all times, an unchanging rule or pattern which is there for us to discover, and by means of which we can rationally guide ourselves to our goal (our purpose).
We are made for a purpose. We have an end. We are made with freedom and a set of built in rules we call natural law that help us to achieve this end. Our final purpose for which were made is to see God face to face (beatitude).
However we have many purposes in between our final end and now that all help us to get there.
The natural law is the rule of conduct which is prescribed to us by the Creator in the constitution of the nature with which He has endowed us. What are those things that are a part of us by the very fact of us being human?
The rule, then, which God has prescribed for our conduct, is found in our nature itself. Those actions which conform with its tendencies and lead to
our destined end are thereby constituted right and morally good;
Those at variance with our nature are wrong and immoral.
When people make appeal to fair play, demand square treatment,
apply the golden rule, they are spontaneously invoking the natural law.
It is the law written on our hearts. - St. Paul
Do good; avoid evil.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
- Gal 5:1
1730 God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. ...
Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.
Man is Rational
License vs Freedom
License Freedom freedom to indulge compulsions to indulge freedom to sin do what feels good sees law as the tyrant law feels imposed breaks the law any choice is a good choice negates love
freedom from compulsion freedom from sin do what is good sees sin as the tyrant law is written on the heart
fulfills the law choice between good and evil affords love
1733 ...There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin."
An analogy for Authentic Freedom
Imagine a train that is on a set of tracks that run from San Francisco to New York. This train has the freedom to travel across the entire country from one end to the other.
But one day the train says to himself that he is tired of being on the tracks and wants to go to Houston so he uses the freedom that he has to choose to leave the tracks and sets out for Houston.
The only problem is he is a train and he is made for tracks. The minute he goes against how he was made and jumps off the tracks he loses all true freedom and now cannot move or go anywhere.
True freedom comes when we obey the laws of our nature and live
in accordance with the purpose(s) in which we were made for.
The Morality of Human Acts
Freedom makes man a moral subject.
- CCC 1749
1750 The morality of human acts depends on: the object chosen; the end in view or the intention; the circumstances of the action.
1751 The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act.
1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one's neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).
1754 The circumstances, ...contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness
or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent's responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.
Object, Intention, & Circumstances
1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself such as praying and fasting "in order to be seen by men"
1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts
by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of
circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.
Good Acts and Evil Acts
...When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.
- CCC 1777
1776 "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey.....
1779 It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection:
Return to your conscience, question it.... Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness. - St. Augustine
1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."
Small Still Voice
1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened....The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.
1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task....The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.
The Formation of the Conscience
1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.
1791 Vincible ignorance occurs when a man
"takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of
committing sin. In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.
1792 If the ignorance is invincible, ... the evil committed by the person cannot
be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.
"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is
anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
- Phil 4:8.
The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God. - St. Gregory of Nyssa
1803 ...A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.
1804 Human virtues ... make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.
The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; ...
1805 Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called "cardinal";...
1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it....
1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will
to give their due to God and neighbor....
1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties
and constancy in the pursuit of the good...
1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of
pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods....
1813 The theological virtues ...are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. ... 1814 Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all
that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself....
1817 Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven
and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and rel