The Morality of Human Acts
(Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 1749-1761)
April 28, 2013 Freedom makes it possible to speak about morality, about good or evil actions. "When he acts deliberately, man is, so to speak, the father of his acts. Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil". (1749). Good if they perfect man and lead him towards his end, which is to rejoice in God; evil, when the actions take us away from loving God above all things.
"The morality of human acts depends on: 1) the object chosen [what we do]; 2) the intention [we have, what we want to get from that action]; 3) the circumstances of the action. The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the "sources," or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts" (1750).
"The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself". Our conscience tells us if that good is in agreement with our true good or it is instead an apparent good and an evil action. For example, to steal. "Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience" (1751). A moral object may be good: almsgiving, visiting the sick; or it may be evil: to lie or to steal.
"The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. It aims at the good expected from the action undertaken [what I want to get from this action: the love of God, to help my neighbour; or pleasure, money, recognition.?]. One intention. can guide several actions. it can orient one's whole life toward its ultimate end. For example, a service done with the end of helping one's neighbor can at the same time be inspired by the love of God as the ultimate end of all our actions". This is the ideal of Christian life: that the reason for which we do all things may always be the love of God. Is it pleasing to God? I will do it for him. Is it not pleasing to God? For nothing in the world I would do such a thing.
"One and the same action can also be inspired by several intentions, such as performing a service in order to obtain a favor or to boast about it" (1752). This is what the Pharisees used to do: they made long prayers and fasting, but to boast about it. We may do the same thing when we do things in order to be recognized by others.
"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. An added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving, cf. Matt 6:2-4)" (1753).
"The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They 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" (1754).
Good Acts and Evil Acts: "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"). The object of the choice can by itself vitiate [make evil] an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts - such as fornication - that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil" (1755).
"It is therefore wrong 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" (1756).
At the bottom of these considerations there is something very important to understand. An action is not good because it works. Efficiency is not what makes an action good or evil. A good person is not necessarily successful. Put it the other way around: successful people are not always good people. What makes a man or a woman good? Are you good because you have money? Are you good because you are healthy? Are you good because people say good things about you? Or rather you are good because you desire what is good, and you do it when you can? A good person is the person who loves what is right, and who does what is right, no matter if she has to sacrifice everything, no matter if they kill him. That person prefers to lose life, but not his or her own righteousness. To be good is to be a hero! What a beautiful thing must be to be a good person!
May God make of us good persons. May God forgive our sins, and give us the happiness of those who love what is good, and do it when they can.
St. Joseph the Worker Feast Day: May 1st
O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations, to work with gratitude and joy, in a spirit of penance for the remission of my sins, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from God, to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties, to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thine example, O Patriarch, St. Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death. - Composed by St. Pius X
Catholic Education Week 2013 begins on next Sunday, May 5. The Catholic schools in our parish will engage in a series of events to celebrate the ongoing gift of publicly-funded Catholic education. You are invited to discover what celebrations are happening in your children's school and if possible, attend. Publicly-funded Catholic education has existed in Ontario since 1841 and its graduates have served Ontario and Canada very well. The current generation of students in our publicly-funded Catholic schools will serve with the same spirit and generosity as their previous generations. They are already doing so.