Moral Cooperation in the Evil of Another

1869 [S]in makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. "Structures of sin" are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a "social sin."

Accomplices 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.

The question of those exceptional occasions when remote material cooperation is possible, and under what condition, is treated below, as well as under the Principle of Double Effect.

Formal Cooperation in the Evil Act of Another

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1868

Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:

  • by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
  • by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
  • by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
  • by protecting evil-doers.

Formal cooperation refers to agreement in the will regarding the evil act. We may never assist another person in an external sinful act, and intend its sinfulness. Such formal cooperation is always sinful, a sin against charity (scandal), as well as of the same kind as the act in which one cooperates. For example, to willingly drive someone to get an abortion, to pay for it, encourage it (if it determines their will to do it), defend the doing of it etc. is gravely sinful, both against charity and against life.

Material Cooperation in the Evil Act of Another

Assisting another person in an external sinful act by an action which is not sinful, and without approving of the other's sinful act in one’s will is material cooperation. Such cooperation may be immediate (necessary to the sinful act) or mediate (secondary to the sinful act).

Immediate Material Cooperation Is Always Sinful

Any direct close cooperation in the sinful act of another, while claiming not to embrace the evil intention, is tantamount to formal cooperation. For example, lending the money for an abortion out of a motive of friendship, is inseparable from the allow abortion.

There may be some rare exceptions in matters of justice in situations where one could presume consent. For example, to save someone’s life while under a threat of violence, one could destroy property, while presuming a reasonable owner would not want property saved at the cost of a life. But such cases are exceptional, since they involve relative goods (property) versus absolute goods (life).

Mediate Material Cooperation Is Generally Sinful

Cooperation in the sinful act of another by an act that is secondary and subservient to the sinful act, neither sharing in the deed or the evil intention may be either proximate or remote from the evil act.

Proximate mediate material cooperation is always sinful,

as it leads to, and is necessary for, the sinful act to occur. For example, to provide nursing care pre- or post-operatively for an abortion. It is not an abortion, but it makes one possible.

Remote mediate material cooperation is sinful, except under certain conditions.

Cooperation in the sinful act of another by material support which is remote, that is, not intimately connected to the evil act is sinful. However, under certain conditions it can be tolerated.

  1. 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.
  2. There is a proportionately serious reason to justify tolerating the evil of another.
  3. The danger of scandal is avoided, by protest, explanation, or some other means

Given that these principles are important to a judgment regarding voting for candidates, who may either passively support or even advocate for abortion, and other intrinsic evils, a closer familiarity with the Principle of Double Effect is also necessary.

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

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