Double Effect


Torch of The Faith News on Saturday 18 March 2017 - 10:30:02 | by admin

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Pope Francis and Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo: It has to be said that, under their leadership, a decidedly warped view of ethics is contorting the clarity of Church teaching.

One of the first ethical principles that any pro-life educationalist has to grasp is the Principle of Double Effect. At least, they do if they want to be taken seriously in debates, interviews and post-presentation question and answer sessions.

The Principle of Double Effect emerged into Western civilization with St. Thomas Aquinas' reflections in the Summa Theologia, over the culpability of homicide that resulted from self-defence.

It has been developed by various Christian philosophers, and reflected on with strict guidelines by the Catholic Church, to discern the morality of an action that has two effects - one being good and the other being an unintended evil.

This is emphatically not the same thing as the Utilitarian approach, which claims to choose the ''lesser of two evils''. This is because no evil can ever be legitimately chosen. Again, as St. Thomas underlined, ''We may never do an evil act, even if a good result might ensue.''

The Catholic Church has thus limited this principle's application, by establishing the following clear criteria for moral acts that have two effects, one good and one bad:-

1. The given act must be good in itself.

2. Whilst any bad outcomes from the given act may possibly be foreseen, they can never be intended as outcomes. In short, the good outcome must be the one that the person acting intends to happen.

3. The good effect must outweigh or, as it were, be at least ''equal to'' the evil effect.

4. The act having both a good and an evil effect must only be carried out as a last resort, when no other alternatives exist.

One example of a discussion surrounding the application of this principle, which does often come up in pro-life debates, relates to the case of a dangerous ectopic pregnancy, which threatens to kill the life of the mother.

An ectopic pregancy is, of course, a pregnancy in which the developing baby implants, at an early stage, in the fallopian tube, rather than the uterus. There is of course, no room for the embryo to grow here, and this may cause the tube to burst, causing internal bleeding and possible infection.

The Catholic Church has affirmed, in accord with natural and divine law, that direct abortion is never morally permissable.

The Principle of Double Effect would posit that, in a dangerous ectopic pregnancy, it would be licit with proportionate reason to carry out a Salpingectomy - that is to say the cutting of the fallopian tube on either side of the developing embryo - once expectant management of the tubal pregnancy is no longer possible without imminent danger of grave harm to the mother's life.

This is because the act aims at removing the damaged fallopian tube, rather than targeting the embryo for destruction. The act and intended outcome would arguably be good - removing a damaged tube to save the mother's life. At the same time, the death of the baby is bad; but it is not intended and no other alternatives could be seen to exist.

In this application of the principle, its defenders would say that there is a difference between a direct abortion and the indirect death of the developing baby; because this is unintended and indirect, happening as a regrettable consequence of removing the damaged tube to save the mother. 

I think it important to point out that, to my understanding, the Catholic Church has not explicitly affirmed the application of the Principle of Double Effect in this case.

Still, what this discussion shows is the care and precision with which the Principle of Double Effect needs to be discerned and applied.

It seems that too many of those holding Francis-enabled positions in the Church today, are lacking in that kind of care and precision.

For example, LifeSiteNews' Pete Baklinski has written a revealing article about the Francis-favourite, Archbishop Marcel Sanchez Sorondo, under the heading: Did this bishop just reveal the reason he invites pro-abortion extremists to the Vatican?

This relates, of course, to Sorondo's oft-repeated scandals of bringing in Culture of Death radicals to speak at Vatican conferences, and then scoffing at the faithful Catholics who complain.

Pete Baklinski has provided both an audio-clip and a transcript of an interview he recently had with Sorondo on these matters.

Perhaps it is his Latin temperament, but it has to be said that Sorondo comes across as tetchy in the interview. He also sounds arrogant.

To say nothing of also sounding disturbingly ill-informed...

For, in one particular exchange, Sorondo grumpily reveals his startling ignorance of the Principle of Double Effect.

Even though Baklinski answers Sorondo's demand that he describe the principle with, what I would say was, a concise working definition of the Principle of Double Effect, Sorondo tries to belittle him and then slips-up by admitting his own totally false conception of this principle.

Baklinski explains: ''It's when a certain action has an effect which the agent of the action had not intended, then this (second) effect, for example, does not fall under a moral judgement.''

Sorondo responds: ''Well that's a complicated way of saying it. It is easier to say that, if an action has two effects, if the positive effect is greater than the negative effect, then you can do it.''

When Baklinski, God bless him, quickly replies that this is not the Principle of Double Effect, Sorondo scoffs, ''Then you have not understood the Principle of Double Effect. You have to form your mind. And you have to understand St. Thomas better.''

Actually, it is you, Your Grace, that needs to go and do your homework.

By saying what he did, and being caught saying it on tape, Sorondo has really demonstrated both his ignorance and his arrogance for all to see.

His position appears to actually be that of the atheistic utilitarian model that has helped to pave the way for the post-modern relativism which so afflicts these times.

This exchange does make even more obvious what kind of thinking is operative behind all those extensive invitations to anti-Catholic pro-aborts, and their globalist fellow-travellers, in the days of Pope Francis and his collaborators.

Actually, that word ''collaborators'' is one that Francis recently used in a Tweet to describe those going on Lenten retreat with him - an event captured in the above photograph...

It is interesting that Sorondo's position sounds very like the words Francis himself used during an in-flight interview in February 2016. I refer to his discussion of ''choosing the lesser of two evils'' in relation to contraception-use in relation to the Zika-virus.

As we pointed out at the time, such a position is explicitly rejected by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church in paragraph HV 14 of Humanae Vitae.

This reads: ''Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil, or in order to promote a greater good, 'it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it' (Romans 3:8) - in other words, to intend directly something which by its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family, or of society in general.''

To sum up, both Francis and his close-collaborator Sorondo have demonstrated with public statements that they have a utilitarian, rather than a clearly Catholic, approach to ethics and moral questions.

Given that this has been done so publicly, that it leads to confusion among the faithful and others who are observing, and that it has such dangerous ethical and spiritual consequences, is it not beyond high time for cardinals, bishops, priests, lay people and ethicists everywhere to call them out on this in order to defend the Faith and save souls?

We think so!

St. Thomas Aquinas - Pray for us!


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