Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Your Moral IQ

Here are two Moral I.Q. questions that throw many Catholics for a loop. In any case, it gets you to think:

1. If you are on a runaway train but you have steering power. You care coming upon a fork in the tracks. You see in the distance on the right track that there is a stalled car- on the tracks -filled with six people inside. On the left track, however, you see a similar situation. There is a stalled car with noticeably fewer people in car…about 2 or 3. Now, you have time to make one of three choices: A. Veer the train to the right. B. Veer the train to the left. C. Do nothing and let chance take over.

The correct answer is “B,” veer the train to the left so as to minimize the fatalities. You would be surprised how people say “C,” that is, do nothing hoping to absolve themselves of any moral liability. Actually, Catholic moral theology bids us, whenever we are confronted with two evils (not moral but physical or material such as getting harmed or even dying), to choose the lesser of the two. The morality of self-defense is one such matter. For instance, if I discern that there is a real possibility of me or my family be harmed or killed by an aggressor, then I can use force, even lethal, if necessary.

2. This one is for the well-formed Catholic who believes that contraception is a sin. This one is more disturbing in nature:

A 16 year old girl lives in a dysfunctional and sexually abusive home. Her uncle happens to live in the same house as she does. From time to time the uncle sexually molests her. However, due to threats and lack of any real assistance she feels she can neither move out nor seek help. But what she does do is go on the pill to avoid the possibility of getting pregnant. Has she committed a sin in this case?

Again, the answer may surprise some Catholics. The answer is no. The intrinsic moral evil of contraception presupposes a context just as murder does. Even though the fifth commandment states, “Thou shall not kill,” there are some circumstances in which killing can be a positive duty. As for the use of artificial birth control, the moral principle in question is not based on the premise that a natural or biological process is being prevented (if that were the case blindfolds and ear plugs would be a sin); rather, it is presupposes two consenting married spouses who want to parse in two, if you will, a process or act that should remain as one thing. And here I refer to sexual love and the openness to procreation. As for the uncle, his sexually abusive behavior is a moral evil and an intrusion on the girl’s purity and body. The uncle, obviously, is not her husband. As such, there is no sexual love (i.e. marital love) to be united to the openness of procreation. In these exceptional circumstances the girl does no wrong in taking the pill.