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Roman Catholic Teaching on Intrinsic Evil
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic teaching on morality differs from perhaps every other religious or philosophical system due to one particular foundational tenet: Certain kinds of human acts are always wrong, regardless of intention or circumstances. These acts are immoral due to the nature of the act, also called its type, or species, or genus. Such acts are called intrinsically evil because moral evil is inherent to objective act, regardless of the subjective intention, and regardless of the circumstances.
This doctrine is found in the magisterial teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II -- particularly Veritatis Splendor, Evangelium Vitae, and Reconciliation and Penance -- as well as in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Compendium of the Catechism, and the USCCB Catechism. The very same teaching is also expressed and applied in various magisterial documents on particular sinful acts. Intrinsic evil is therefore not a matter of theological opinion; the doctrine of intrinsic evil is a required belief.
But in the present time, many Catholic teachers have rejected this teaching. Some openly reject the idea that any act could be always immoral, despite a good intention and a dire circumstance. They know that they have the support of sinful secular society and poorly-catechized Catholics when they justify certain intrinsically evil acts condemned by the Magisterium. They offer their listeners theological rationalizations for popular grave sins.
Other Catholic teachers pay lip service to the doctrine of intrinsic evil, pretending to agree. But then they radically reinterpret the Church's teaching, so that the very definition of intrinsic evil depends on intention or circumstance. They nullify the Church's teaching on grave matters of morality by claiming that intention or circumstances are part of the very definition of intrinsic evil. This approach allows them to redefine any intrinsically evil act as good and moral (and no longer intrinsically evil), despite being the very same concrete act condemned by the teaching of the Church.
This brief booklet explains the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on intrinsically evil acts, based on the writings of Pope Saint John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and other magisterial documents. The traditional position of Catholic moral theology on this topic, which owes much to the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas, is used to refute the increasingly popular revisionist position (which seeks to justify intrinsically evil acts by reference to a good intention).
- Publication Date:
- 1508562334 / 9781508562337
- Page Count:
- Binding Type:
- US Trade Paper
- Trim Size:
- 6" x 9"
- Black and White
- Related Categories:
- Religion / Christian Theology / Ethics