MORAL THEOLOGIANS AND "VERITATIS SPLENDOR"
William E. May
Within weeks of the promulgation of Pope John Paul II's encyclical <Veritatis Splendor>, a number of theologians known as "proportionalists," preeminently Richard A. McCormick, S.J., claimed that the Holy Father had seriously misrepresented their position. According to McCormick "the vast majority of theologians known as proportionalists will <rightly> say that they do not hold or teach what the encyclical attributes to them."[1] If McCormick is correct in saying this, it follows that John Paul II's repudiation of "proportionalism" in his encyclical simply erects a chimera or a caricature of what he calls "trends of theological thinking . . . incompatible with revealed truth" (<Veritatis Splendor>, n. 29) and that it would be a terrible injustice to think that the views he repudiates are held by "the vast majority of theologians known as proportionalists."

It is thus a matter of grave justice, both to the Holy Father and to theologians known as "proportionalists," to determine whether or not these theologians do hold the views attributed to "proportionalists" in <Veritatis Splendor>. To achieve this goal I will do the following: (1) summarize relevant material from <Veritatis Splendor>; (2) examine the writings of major theologians known as proportionalists to see precisely what claims they make; (3) draw conclusions from all this relative to the validity of McCormick's claim. Finally (4), since many proportionalists, among them McCormick, frequently appeal to the teaching of St. Thomas to support their contention that their moral methodology is compatible with the Catholic tradition I will conclude by briefly examining a critically important text of St. Thomas to which proportionalists appeal.

1. A Summary of the Relevant Teaching of <Veritatis Splendor>

Toward the end of the third chapter of his encyclical, in reminding bishops of his and their responsibilities as pastors, John Paul II identifies the "teaching which represents the central theme of this Encyclical," the teaching "being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter." This is the teaching reaffirming "<the universality and immutability of the moral commandments>, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception <intrinsically evil acts>"(n. 115). The Pope, in other words, reaffirms as Catholic teaching that there are <moral absolutes> or <exceptionless moral norms> valid always and everywhere (<semper et pro> or <ad semper>) and that, corresponding to these absolute norms, there are <intrinsically evil acts>.

This is the key issue taken up by John Paul II in part four of Chapter II of the encyclical. There he first distinguishes between what he calls "teleology" and "teleologisms." He affirms that the "moral life has an essentially <'teleological' character>, since it consists in the deliberate ordering of human acts to God, the supreme Good and ultimate end (<telos>) of man" (n. 73). But he contrasts this teleology with "<teleologisms>": "Certain <ethical theories>, "he writes, "called '<teleological>', claim to be concerned for the conformity of human acts with the ends pursued by the agent and with the values intended by him. The criteria for evaluating the moral rightness of an action are drawn from the <weighing of the non-moral or pre-moral goods> to be gained and the corresponding non-moral or pre-moral values to be respected. For some concrete behavior would be right or wrong according to whether or not it is capable of producing a better state of affairs for all concerned. Right conduct would be the one capable of 'maximizing' goods and 'minimizing' evils" (n. 74).

One type of "teleologism" identified by the Pope—"consequentialism"—"claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences stemming from a given choice." Another variant—"proportionalism"—"by weighing the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the 'greater' good or 'lesser evil' actually possible in a particular situation" (n. 75).

According to John Paul II those holding these theories claim that it is impossible to determine whether an act traditionally regarded as intrinsically evil would really be <morally> evil until one has considered, in the concrete situation, the "pre-moral" good and evil state of affairs it is likely to cause. They conclude that the foreseen proportions of "pre-moral" goods to evils in the alternatives available can at times justify exceptions to precepts traditionally regarded as absolute (cf. n. 75).

The Holy Father rejects these theories, declaring that "they are not faithful to the Church's teaching, when they believe that they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of behavior contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law" (n. 76). He first says that this way of evaluating human acts "is not an adequate method for determining whether the choice of that concrete kind of behavior is 'according to its species,' or 'in itself' good or bad, licit or illicit," because "everyone recognizes the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, of evaluating all the good and evil consequences and effects—defined as pre-moral—of one's own acts" (n. 77).

The Pope goes on to emphasize that "<the morality of the human act depends primarily and fundamentally on the 'object' rationally chosen by the deliberate will>" (n. 78). In a very important passage he then shows what is meant by the "object" rationally chosen by the deliberate will. He writes: "In order to be able to grasp the object of an act which specifies that act morally, it is therefore necessary to place oneself <in the perspective of the acting person>. The object of the act of willing is in fact a freely chosen kind of behavior. To the extent that it is in conformity with the order of reason, it is the cause of the goodness of the will; it perfects us morally.... By the object of a given moral act, then, one cannot mean a process or an event of the merely physical order, to be assessed on the basis of its ability to bring about a given state of affairs in the outside world. Rather, that object is the proximate end of a deliberate decision which determines the act of willing on the part of the acting person" (n. 78). In short, the "object" specifying the act is precisely <what one freely chooses>, and, in doing so, ratifies in his heart and endorses—e.g., the "object" of an act of adultery is the free choice to have intercourse with someone who is not one's spouse. With this understanding of the "object" of the human act, it is easy to grasp John Paul II's argument, which he summarizes by saying: "Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature 'incapable of being ordered' to God because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image" (n. 80; emphasis added).

John Paul II, it must be noted, repudiates consequentialism and proportionalism not only because they are philosophically and theologically flawed theories but also—and more importantly—because they are opposed to <divine revelation and to the definitive teaching of the Church>. I will not here consider this matter insofar as its significance has already been emphasized by Germain Grisez.[2]

2. The Teaching of Proportionalist Theologians

The proportionalist methodology has its roots, in contemporary Catholic thought, in the reasoning used by the authors (among them Joseph Fuchs) of the celebrated "Majority" papers of the Papal Commission for the Study of the Problems of the Family, Population, and Birth Rate to justify the practice of contraception by married couples. These documents, written in 1966, were leaked to the press in 1967 and published in the United States in the <National Catholic Reporter>.

In one of their papers the authors of the majority opinion say: "To take another's life is a sin not because life is under the exclusive dominion of God, but because it is contrary to right reason <unless there is a question of a good of a higher order>. It is licit to sacrifice a life for the good of the community.[3] According to this "principle" it is morally permissible to destroy human life (or other human goods) if doing so is necessary for the sake of a greater good. I call this the "Caiaphas principle," although proportionalist theologians now refer to it, as will be seen below in more detail, as the "preference principle" or "principle of proportionate good."

In another text, in a section of their paper where the authors claim that married couples may rightly contracept individual marital acts provided that these contracepted acts are ordered to the expression of marital love, which culminates in fertility responsibly accepted, the authors state: "When man intervenes in the procreative purpose of individual acts by contracepting, he does this with the intention of regulating and not excluding fertility. Then he unites the material finality toward fecundity which exists in intercourse with the final formality of the person and renders the entire process human.... Conjugal acts which by intention are infertile [the authors consider it contraceptive to limit the marital act to the infertile period] or which are rendered infertile [by artificial contraceptives], are ordered to the expression of the union of love; that love, moreover, reaches its culmination in fertility responsibly accepted. For that reason other acts of union are in a sense incomplete <and receive their full moral quality with ordination toward the fertile act....> Infertile conjugal acts constitute a totality with fertile acts and have a <single moral specification> [i.e., the fostering of love responsibly toward a generous fecundity]."[4]

This passage presents an understanding of the "totality" of a human act and the proper way to specify its "object" that is of central importance to proportionalist theologians and their rejection of the understanding of "intrinsically evil acts" and, corresponding to them, of "moral absolutes" in the Catholic moral tradition. The argument of the "Majority" admitted that there is a "material privation" (or what later came to be called a "pre-moral," "non-moral," or "ontic" evil) in contraceptive activity because it deprives a conjugal act of its procreative potential. However, the contraceptive intervention is only a partial aspect of a whole series of contracepted marital acts, and this entire ensemble "receives <its moral specification from the other finality>, which is good in itself [namely, the marital union] and from the fertility of the whole conjugal life." According to them the tradition had misconstrued the moral meaning of human acts by equating their moral objects narrowly with the physical process and had failed to consider it in their "totality."

During the 1970s theologians who agreed with the reasoning of the Majority of the Papal Commission refined their position. The most influential advocates of this view include Louis Janssens, Joseph Fuchs, Bruno Schuller, Franz Scholz, and Richard A. McCormick.[5] In the early 1970s the advocates of this trend in Catholic thought themselves referred to their position as "consequentialistic."[6] However, when some other theologians charged them with consequentialism, they protested, insisting that, in assessing whether an act truly served a "proportionate good," it is absolutely necessary to take into account not only the consequences but also the "nature" of the act. This too had to fit into the calculation.[7] Consequently, from 1974 on the position has been known as "proportionalism." I will summarize how the position developed from the "Majority" papers.

Recall the "principle" to which the authors of the Majority statement appealed, namely, that it is against right reason to take the life of a person (a "pre-moral" good) or to destroy other goods "<unless there is question of a good of a higher order.> "As formulated by later proportionalists this has become known as the "preference principle" or "principle of proportionalist good." Thus Bruno Schuller says: "Any ethical norm whatsoever regarding our dealings and omissions in relation to other men . . . can only be a particular application of that more universal norm, 'The greater good is to be preferred.'"[8] McCormick puts it this way: "Where a higher good is at stake and the only means to protect it is to choose to do a non-moral evil, then the will remains properly disposed to the values constitutive of human good.... This is to say that the intentionality is good even when the person, reluctantly and regretfully to be sure, <intends the non-moral evil> if a truly proportionate reason [i.e., good] for such a choice is present."[9] Obviously, according to this reasoning it is morally good to <intend> "non-moral" evil for the sake of a proportionately related greater "non-moral" good.

Other proportionalists, chiefly Fuchs, have developed the "totality" argument found in the Majority papers. Fuchs has insisted that it is impossible to make a moral judgment about the intending and doing of what he calls "pre-moral" evils as such, because we cannot judge an act in its "materiality" without referring to the "intention" of the agent, understanding by "intention" the end for whose sake the agent acts.[10] It is important here to remember that Fuchs and other proportionalists identify, as I noted earlier, the moral absolutes they deny with "material" or "concrete behavioral" norms specifying "physical" or "material" acts. This point, as we shall see, is central to McCormick's critique of <Veritatis Splendor>.

Proportionalists sharply distinguish between these so-called "material" norms and what they call "transcendental" and "formal" norms. Proportionalists admit that there are moral absolutes in the sense of "transcendental principles" that direct us to those elements of our existence whereby we transcend or surpass the rest of material creation. Thus they acknowledge the absoluteness of such principles as "One must always act in conformity with love of God and neighbor" and "One must always act in accordance with, right reason."[11] They similarly regard as absolute norms they call "formal." These norms identify the inner dispositions and attitudes an upright person ought to have. It is thus always true that we should be just, brave, chaste, and so on. These norms are, however, <not> concerned with specific human acts but rather with the moral <being> of the agent.[12] In a way these norms, as Joseph Fuchs has said, are "exhortations rather than norms in a strict sense,"[13] and, as Louis Janssens has noted, they "constitute the absolute element in morals."[14]

These theologians also recognize as "absolute" norms that identify kinds of action as <morally bad>. Thus we ought never to <murder>, because to murder means to kill <unjustly>. Likewise we ought never to have sex with the <wrong> person because such sex is wrong by definition. Proportionalists like Fuchs and McCormick call these norms "paranetic," and they simply serve to remind us of what we already know and exhort us to avoid acting immorally.[15]

While acknowledging "absolutes" of the foregoing kind, proportionalists deny that there are moral absolutes in the sense of norms universally proscribing specifiable sorts of human action described in morally neutral language. These are the so-called "material" or "behavioral" norms to which I have referred already. No norms of this kind are "absolute" or "exceptionless," and the acts proscribed by them are not "intrinsically evil." Examples of such norms are the following: one ought not to kill innocent human beings; one ought not to have sex with someone who is not one's wife. As Fuchs says, and as other proportionalists concur, "a strict behavioral norm, stated as a universal, contains unexpressed conditions and qualifications which as such limit its universality."[16] According to proportionalists, such norms are known inductively by the collaborative exercise of human intelligence by persons living together in communities and reflecting on their shared human experiences.[17] Since this is so, it follows that "we can never exclude the possibility that future experience, hitherto unimagined, might put a moral problem into a new frame of reference which would call for a revision of a norm which, when formulated, could not have taken such new experience into account."[18] As a result, these norms are "valid only for the most part" and admit of exceptions when acting against them is required by a proportionately related greater good.[19]

3. What Conclusions Can be Made?

McCormick's bitter complaint about the encyclical is that it attributes to proportionalists positions that they do not hold. The encyclical, he says, "repeatedly states of proportionalism that it attempts to justify morally wrong actions by a good intention" and that this is a "misrepresentation."[20] McCormick says that in the past some have objected—and that this is precisely Pope John Paul II's objection—that "certain actions are (and have been taught by the magisterium to be) morally wrong <ex objecto> (from the object). But the proportionalist, it is asserted, does not and cannot say this since he or she insists on looking at all dimensions of the act before saying it is morally wrong."[21] McCormick is obviously correct here in describing what proportionalists hold, as the previous presentation of proportionalist thought should confirm.

According to McCormick, however, this objection "misses the point of what proportionalists are saying. When contemporary theologians say that certain disvalues [= "pre-moral" evils] can be justified by a proportionate reason"—and we need to recall, from the above summary, that proportionalists maintain that we can indeed <intend> this pre-moral evil, as McCormick clearly affirms many times[22]—"they are not saying that <morally wrong actions (ex objecto>) can be justified by the end. They are saying that an action cannot be judged morally wrong simply by looking at <the material happening> (emphasis added) or <at its object in a very narrow and restricted sense>. This is precisely what the tradition has done."[23]

And this is precisely the issue, <properly identifying the "object" of a human act>. In reviewing John Paul II's presentation of this I noted how carefully he had done this.[24] Note now that McCormick, in his critique, says that the objection to proportionalism comes from theologians who simply look at "the material happening" in order to render moral judgment. Yet John Paul II explicitly says: "by the object of a given moral act . . . one cannot mean a <process or an event of the merely physical order>" (n. 78; emphasis added). Obviously the Holy Father is not guilty of this error that McCormick attributes to opponents of proportionalism. And, as we have seen in our review of proportionalist thought, proportionalists themselves refer to the disputed moral absolutes as "material norms," concerned with the act in its materiality.

But in his critique McCormick cleverly adds that opponents of proportionalism at times render moral judgment by focusing attention on the "object in a very narrow and restricted sense." What could he mean by this?

Let us take contraception and contraceptive sterilization as examples. As we have seen proportionalists, like McCormick, say that the "object" of the contraception they approve is determined by looking at the act in its totality, and that if we look at it this way we will see that the object of the act is "to foster love responsibly toward a generous fecundity," obviously something good. Moreover, if a couple resorts to contraceptive sterilization to avoid a serious threat that a pregnancy might pose to the wife, the object chosen, if the act is viewed in its totality, is to stabilize the marriage, again, obviously something good. McCormick, as we have seen, calls it a "marriage-stabilizing act."

John Paul II, however, undoubtedly agrees with Pope Paul VI in describing the object of the act of contraception and of contraceptive sterilization differently. The object of contraception, according to the Popes, is precisely <to impede procreation> (cf. <Humanae Vitae>, n. 14: "Equally to be rejected is every act which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, <proposes, either as end or as means, to impede procreation>"; here the Latin text reads: "id tamquam finem obtinendum aut viam adhibendam <intendat ut procreatio impediatur">).[25]

John Paul II and Paul VI are, of course, absolutely correct in so identifying the object chosen by persons who contracept. They choose to impede procreation (to effect what proportionalists term a "non-moral" or "pre-moral" disvalue or evil) to achieve some good purpose (e.g., to stabilize their marriage or foster love), but of itself contraception does <not> "foster love responsibly toward generous fecundity" nor does contraceptive sterilization "stabilize a marriage." What McCormick and proportionalists do is <redescribe> the object chosen in terms of its hoped-for results, and this is precisely what John Paul II criticizes as philosophically and theologically flawed and irreconcilable with Catholic faith. Hence it seems to me that McCormick's complaint is utterly unfounded. The Pope knew what he was talking about.

4. Proportionalists and St. Thomas

Finally, it is necessary to show how proportionalists misrepresent the thought of St. Thomas in order to lend credibility to their claims. Both Janssens and McCormick, for instance, explicitly appeal to a text from St. Thomas's <Quaestiones Quodlibetales>[26] in which, they say, he explicitly recognizes that acts which, materially considered, involve the deformity of some non-moral evil, can be made right by circumstances in which the non-moral goods achieved will counterbalance the evils intended.[27]

If we examine St. Thomas's text, however, we discover the following. First, in the passage to which Janssens and McCormick appeal, Aquinas expressly says that, when the circumstances make the human act one chooses to be morally right—and circumstances, as he says elsewhere,[28] can enter into the very object of the act chosen and hence specify it morally—the disorder or deformity of the act prior to its further specification is <totally taken away> and is <not> "outweighed" or "counterbalanced" by the good involved.[29] Second, in the very same text to which Janssens and McCormick refer, Aquinas immediately goes on to say that there are some kinds of human acts that "have deformity inseparably annexed to them, such as fornication, adultery, and others of this sort, <which can in no way be done morally>."[30] This is amazing! Either this passage escaped the notice of Janssens and McCormick or they chose not to inform their readers of it, because in it Aquinas explicitly affirms what they deny: some actions, as specified by their objects, are intrinsically evil and, corresponding to them, are absolute moral norms, precisely the teaching reaffirmed by John Paul II in <Veritatis Splendor>. I will now conclude by noting that the Janssen-McCormick misinterpretation of this text of St. Thomas has been pointed out by several writers during the past decade.[31] Yet neither Janssens nor McCormick, nor any of their fellow proportionalists, so far as I know, has acknowledged this.

I leave it to my readers to judge the accuracy of McCormick's critique of <Veritatis Splendor> and his interpretation of St. Thomas.


Endnotes

1 Richard A. McCormick, S.J., "<Veritatis Splendor> and Moral Theology," America (October 30, 1993) 11. In order to make sure that his critique of the encyclical would not escape English-speaking readers, McCormick published the same article under the title "Killing the Patient" in <The Tablet> of London (October 30, 1993) 1410-1411. Among other proportionalists who immediately rejected the encyclical as flawed, claiming that the Pope had been poorly advised, are: Joseph Fuchs, S.J., "Good Acts and Good Persons," <The Tablet> (November 6, 1993) 1444-1445; Lisa Sowle Cahill, "Accent on The Masculine," <The Tablet> (December 11, 1993) 1618-1619; Joseph Selling, "Ideological Differences: Some Background Considerations for Understanding Veritatis Splendor," <The Month> (January, 1994) 12-14. See also the comments of Lawrence Cunningham, Charles E. Curran, and Lisa Sowle Cahill in a roundtable discussion of the encyclical in <Commonweal> (October 22, 1993) 1117.

2 Germain Grisez, "Veritatis Splendor: Revealed Truth vs. Dissent," <Homiletic and Pastoral Review> 94.6 (March, 1994) 8-17.

3 <Documentum Syntheticum de Moralitate Nativitatum>, translated under the title "The Question Is Not Closed," in <The Birth-Control Debate>, ed. Robert Hoyt (Kansas City, MO: The National Catholic Reporter, 1969), p. 69.

4 Ibid., p. 72, emphasis added.

5 A handy collection of leading essays in which these authors set forth their position is provided by the <Readings in Moral Theology No. 1: Moral Norms and Catholic Tradition>, ed. Charles E. Curran and Richard A. McCormick, S.J. (New York: Paulist Press, 1979). In this volume Curran and McCormick gather together from various theological journals articles of Fuchs, Janssen, Schuller, Scholz and other representatives of proportionalist thought. The editors also include essays, by John Connery, S.J. and Paul Quay, S.J., critical of this movement.

Other important sources for this movement are: Richard A. McCormick, <Ambiguity in Moral Choice>, The Pere Marquette Lecture in Theology 1973 (Milwaukee; Marquette University Press, 1973), reprinted, along with McCormick's later revision of his form of proportionalism, "A Commentary on the Commentaries," in <Doing Evil to Achieve Good>, ed. Richard A. McCormick, S.J., and Paul Ramsey (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1978); McCormick, <Notes on Moral Theology> 1965-1980 (Washington: University Press of America, 1981), pp. 349-367, 521-543, 684-722; Louis Janssens, "Norms and Priorities in a Love Ethic," <Louvain Studies> 6 (1977) 207-238. The position has been developed at length in several textbooks in moral theology designed for use in seminaries and universities, particularly by Timothy E. O'Connell, <Principles for a Catholic Morality> (New York: Seabury, 1978) (in a revised edition, published in 1991 by Harper, O'Connell says that he rejects proportionalism; however, a reading of the volume shows that he does not but rather introduces it into his methodology without seeming to realize it) and Richard Gula, S.S., <Reason Informed by Faith> (New York: Paulist Press, 1989).

6 See, for example, McCormick, "Notes on Moral Theology April-September, 1971," in <Notes on Moral Theology>, pp. 349-367, where one section of the article is headed "Norms and Consequences." In summarizing an article by Bruno Schuller, with which he is in agreement, McCormick notes that Schuller is correct in holding that human acts are assessed "teleologically," i.e., "from consequences" (p. 352). He similarly expresses basic agreement with an article of Fuchs in which the latter had said that "the very 'meaning' of an action can only be gathered when all aspects of the action, especially its consequences, have been weighed as far as possible" (p. 359; emphasis added).

7 On this see McCormick, "Notes on Moral Theology: April-September, 1974," in <Notes on Moral Theology> 1965-1980, pp. 529-544.

8 Bruno Schuller, "What Ethical Principles Are Universally Valid?" <Theology Digest> 19 (1971) 24.

9 McCormick, <Ambiguity in Moral Choice>, as reprinted in Doing Evil to Achieve Good, p. 39.

10 Cf. Joseph Fuchs, "The Absoluteness of Behavioral Moral Norms," in his <Personal Responsibility and Christian Morality> (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1981), p. 138. This is a reprint of an article originally published by Fuchs in <Gregorianum> in 1971 and included in the Curran-McCormick reader referred to above in n. 5.

11 See, for example, Timothy O'Connell, <Principles for a Catholic Morality> (New York: Seabury, 1978), pp. 157-158; Richard Gula, <Reason Informed by Faith> (New York: Paulist, 1989), pp. 283-284. Both authors acknowledge their indebtedness to Fuchs, Janssens, Schuller, McCormick and others. It should be noted that when O'Connell's book was published it was graced with a laudatory preface by Charles Curran and that Joseph Fuchs, in a statement printed on the book's jacket, praised it as presenting moral theology "according to the recent studies and insights of the best moral theologians in the world." One can surmise from this that O'Connell succeeded, at least in the judgment of Curran and Fuchs, in articulating properly the proportionalist methodology of the "best moral theologians in the world."

12 Gula summarizes this matter in his <What Are They Saying About Moral Norms?> (New York: Paulist, 1982), pp. 55-56.

13 Joseph Fuchs, <Christian Ethics in a Secular Arena> (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1984), p. 72.

14 Janssens, "Norms and Priorities in a Love Ethic," 208.

15 See Fuchs, <Christian Ethics in a Secular Arena>, p. 72; McCormick, <Notes on Moral Theology> 1965-1980, pp. 578-579.

16 Fuchs, "The Absoluteness of Behavioral Norms," in <Personal Responsibility and Christian Morality>, p. 129.

17 This is the way Francis Sullivan, S.J., summarizes the matter in his <Magisterium: Teaching Authority in the Catholic Church> (New York: Paulist, 1983), pp. 150-151. Sullivan, who agrees with this whole line of thought, lists Curran, Bockle, Fuchs, Schuller, Haring, and others as agreeing that this is the proper way to express the matter.

18 <Ibid.>, pp. 151-152. See Fuchs, "The Absoluteness of Behavioral Norms," p. 140.

19 See, for example, Fuchs, "The Absoluteness of Behavioral Norms," pp. 140-142; Janssens, "Norms and Priorities in a Love Ethic," 217-218.

20 McCormick, "<Veritatis Splendor> and Moral Theology," 10.

21 <Ibid>.

22 For instance, see above at note 9.

23 McCormick, "<Veritatis Splendor> and Moral Theology," 10. McCormick goes on to say "in certain categories (e.g., contraception, sterilization)" and he could have added, abortion, adultery, fornication, understood respectively as the "direct" intent to abort an unborn child, sex with someone other than one's spouse, and sex outside marriage.

24 In the official notes included in the encyclical about this matter, the Holy Father explicitly refers to the teaching of St. Thomas in <Summa Theologiae> 1-2, 18, 6. See footnote n. 126 of the encyclical.

25 It should be noted that at this point in the text of <Humanae Vitae> Paul VI explicitly refers to the teaching found in the <Roman Catechism> part II, chapter 8 where the intention to impede procreation was termed an anti-life act, comparable in this way to homicide.

26 St. Thomas Aquinas, <Quaestiones Quodlibetales,> 9, q. 7, a. 2.

27 Janssens, "Norms and Priorities in a Love Ethic," 232; McCormick, "Moral Theology Since Vatican II: Clarity or Chaos?," <Cross Currents> 29 (Spring, 1979) 21.

28 St. Thomas Aquinas, <Summa Theologiae>, 12, 18, 10.

29 Thomas Aquinas, <Quaestiones Quodlibetales,> 9, q. 7, a. 2: "aliae circumstantiae possunt supervenire ita honestantes actum, quod <praedictae inordinationes totaliter evacuuntur."

30 <Ibid.>: "Quaedam enim sunt quae habent deformitatem inseparabiliter annexam, ut fornicatio, adulterium, et aliae huiusmodi, <quae nullo modo bene fieri possunt.>"

31 I have done so twice, first in <Moral Absolutes: Catholic Tradition, Current Trends, and the Truth>, Pere Marquette Lecture in Theology 1989 (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1989), pp. 64-65 and again in <An Introduction to Moral Theology> (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1991). pp. 132-135. See also the very excellent essay offering a detailed analysis of this text of St. Thomas by Mark Johnson, "Proportionalism and a Text of the Young Aquinas: Quodlibetum IX, Q. 7, A. 2," <Theological Studies> 53 (1992) 683-699. Johnson offers particularly sharp criticism of Janssens' misrepresentation of this text.


This article appeared in the December 1994 issue of "The Homiletic & Pastoral Review," 86 Riverside Dr., New York, N.Y. 10024, 212-799-2600.


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