General Moral Principles

Doing Good and Avoiding Evil

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1706. By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him "to do what is good and avoid what is evil." Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbor. Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person.

Catholics Must Form Their Consciences By Church Teaching

This obligation flows from the virtue of faith, since belief in Christ is also belief in the Church and Christ’s promises to the Church. This teaching can be found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, which includes the formal teaching of Popes and Councils regarding what has been revealed. It also includes what has been taught always and everywhere by the Church, as the entire Church cannot error in such matters. This common theology can also be found in accounts of the moral tradition by authors of noted orthodoxy and acceptance by the Magisterium (e.g. in English, Davis, Jone, Prümmer et alii.). It is NOT found in individual authors whose theological innovations are outside of that common tradition (e.g. contemporary consequentialists and proportionalists who deny that any act can be intrinsically evil, or who say that circumstances can sometimes justify an evil act).

A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters

A brief catechism written by Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, PhD outlining the Catholic principles that should be taken into consideration when voting.

Brief Catechism

Conscience and its Formation

Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed.


Good Or Evil - Who Decides?

Resource Type: Audio Library

Who decides what is good or evil? The state? Society? The individual? Join Dr. Raymond De Souza as he teaches about the Natural Law and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Morally Good Acts Are Good in Object, End and Circumstances

  1. The Object, or thing to be done, is good.

    Some acts are always and everywhere evil (intrinsic evils) and may never be done, for example, blasphemy, abortion, adultery, lying, etc.

  2. The End, or intention for doing it, is also good.

    An evil intention destroys the moral goodness of an otherwise good act, for example, doing an act of charity or religion in order to be seen by others.

  3. The Circumstances are also taken into account and are fitting.

    Unfitting circumstances can destroy the moral goodness of an otherwise good act. For example, unless the common good requires it, fraternal correction should generally be given privately. To give it publicly without necessity, or in an unfitting manner, are among the circumstances that could reduce or destroy the goodness of the act morally.

A Morally Good Act Will Be Prudent

Prudence is the Queen of Virtues, as it governs the knowledge and judgment of our acts. St. Thomas Aquinas identifies 8 integral parts of prudence which would be undergird a prudent moral judgment: Memory of the past, Understanding of the present, Docility to be taught, Shrewdness in making a quick conjecture, Reasoning from one thing to judgment regarding another, Foresight regarding what is befitting the end, Circumspection appropriate to the circumstances, and Caution to avoid obstacles.

A failure in prudence is the sin of imprudence, which either detracts from the goodness of the action (imperfection), or can even destroy it completely, effecting the contrary.

Morally Good Acts Will Not Cooperate in Evil

Formal Cooperation in the sin of another occurs if we join with them in intending the evil, or provide material support while intending the evil. This "intending" can be by joining their external act or simply willing it, or by encouragement, flattery, approval before or after the fact. Immediate material support which permits the evil (such as paying for it) is also a way of intending it.

Formal cooperation is a sin of the same degree as the act in which we cooperate, plus a sin against charity (scandal)

Material Cooperation in the sin of another occurs if we aid them in some way without intending the evil. This cooperation is always sinful if it is proximate to the sin of the other, meaning in some sense necessary to its accomplishment.

Material cooperation is also sinful if it is remote to the sin of the other, although unlike proximate material cooperation, under certain conditions the evil done by another may be tolerated for a proportionate reason. These conditions are:

  1. IF the act by which cooperation is rendered is not itself sinful; that is, it has two effects; the good one is chosen, the bad one is tolerated (Principle of Double Effect)
  2. IF there is a proportionately serious reason to justify tolerating the evil of another
  3. IF the danger of scandal is avoided, by protest, explanation, or some other means

Nota Bene

It is wrongly argued that a basket of negotiable goods is proportionate to a non-negotiable good. However there is no proportion between the two. Where human life (and death) is concerned, preventing an imminent nuclear war may be seriously proportionate to the killing of 1 million innocents a year by abortion, but no collection of negotiables issues can be proportionate.

The Virtue of Prudence

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going." (Prov. 14:15)


Moral Cooperation in Evil

We are accomplices in the evil of another by joining in their evil act in some fashion. In the cases of candidates who support intrinsic evils, we may never formally cooperate in their support of any intrinsic evil (Non-negotiables), nor may we lend them immediate material support in that regard.

Moral Cooperation in Evil

Principle of Double Effect

The Principle of Double Effect is used to determine when an action which has two effects, one good and one evil, may still be chosen without sin.

Double Effect

Citizens Have Co-Responsibility For Society

This especially obliges those in a democracy who must elect representatives to run the State on their behalf. The duty to vote obliges depending on the issue and the worthiness of the candidates. It is more seriously obliged when a good candidate is opposed by an unworthy one,

One may not vote for an enemy of religion or freedom, therefore, except to exclude a worse enemy of religion and freedom. In such a case, the exclusion of the worst candidate is the object which is intended, not the evils the less bad candidate might do.

In determining which candidate is a threat to religion and liberty, or, which of several candidates is the worse threat, non-negotiables issues outweigh negotiable issues, since, 1) Non-negotiables concern certain truths and are always morally applicable, while 2) Negotiable policy issues involve differing opinions about the best means to the end in complex circumstances.

Socialism: Social Justice by Another Name?

Resource Type: Audio Library

EWTN Theologians address the attraction that Socialism has with the youth, and discuss its compatibility in accordance with Catholic teaching.

Moral Duties Concerning Voting

We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life.

Moral Duties

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