From a Moral Theologian--Malum et Culpa

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Now Jack can have someone to disagree with other than me.

from Living the Good Life
Mark Lowery

We are understandably afraid of being called "judgmental"--especially when Christ's saying "Judge not, that you be not judged" (Mt 7:1) is invoked--and we end up with what might be called the "can't impose syndrome:" "I would never be able to justify having an abortion, but I can't impose my views on someone else." We might know how absurd such a claim is--substitute slave-holding for abortion, and it's pretty obvious--yet we don't want to be labeled as rigid and judgmental.

The solution is clear: We must steadfastly maintain the distinction between an act that is evil and an evil act for which someone is culpable. Christ demands that we make the former judgment, and prohibits us from making the latter judgment.

To judge that an act is right or wrong is precisely what conscience is supposed to do--in fact, the technical definition of conscience is that it is an "act of judgment" that appliles the universal truth to a particular case (see VS 32.2 and 59.2). Judging that a particular individual is cupable for having committed an evil act is strictly forbidden --that's God's business.

Honestly, I can't say why this issue weighs so heavily on my mind, but my frequent return to it shows that it does. I think I need to understand exactly where I am supposed to be with respect to God's desire for me. As I am inclined to be a very judging person anyway, I think I artificially impose this boundary as a prelude to allowing grace to make it a natural boundary. There is a limit to what I can do myself, but there is no limit to what grace can accomplish in me, but I must cooperate. And this is a form, I suppose of active cooperation.

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Steven, that same issue is always with me, as well. Judging vs. non-judging. Charity vs. Anger. Patience vs. Hate. Kindness vs. Selfishness. Tolerance vs. Despair. How are the sins to be overcome, and the virtues fitted together and lived - not in theory - not in policy statements - but coming out of my hands and feet and heart and lips?

I'm so glad that there are people who aren't afraid to talk about what a struggle it is to know the right thing - again not as a matter of public policy, but in everyday life - the right way to respond to a difficult relative, an unpleasant co-worker...much less to actually do it!

Bah. I'm in too good a mood to get involved in this discussion atm. I will say though that I don't remember saying that we could judge whether a person is culpable. I probably did, because I think we can, so long as we admit that we can be wrong.

What am I going to do, refuse jury duty? :-P

Dear Jack,

(1) My apologies for pulling your leg.

(2) Is the reason for this good news recounted on your site. Early morning I could do with some good news.




Sort of. One, I'm just plain in a good mood, but watching Thérèse, and a consequent change of heart on one matter, didn't hurt. I didn't recount what that change of heart was, but I did talk a little about the film.

Besides that, I got a lot of schoolwork done yesterday, and that always puts me in a good mood.

All of this means A Disaster is Impending. :-)


We might know how absurd such a claim is--substitute slave-holding for abortion, and it's pretty obvious....

I hear this often. I probably say it often. I'm not sure it's true.

Couldn't we as equally say "I would never be able to justify owning a slave, but I can't impose my views on someone else" is not absurd -- substitute abortion for slave-holding, and it's pretty obvious.

Appeals to how you feel about something have their place -- but whatever has its place can also be out of place. "You think slavery is wrong, so you should think abortion is wrong" is a lazy version of the much better argument "Slavery ought to be illegal, so abortion ought to be illegal."



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 8, 2004 12:52 PM.

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