Priests Special: Evaluating Moral Actions 3 – Moral Principles

The human person is always a subject and should never be used as an object. This has implication for

  • Sexuality
  • Economics and social ethics
  • Medicine, etc
  • Morality

The end does Not justify the means.

  • It debunks the argument that “the end result is a good therefore any means to it must be of equal moral value.” The means is inconsequential once the end is good. This is Machiavellian principle and unchristian.
  • Evil must be done to bring about good? (St. Paul condemns it, Rom 3:8)

The Principle of Double-Effect (Consequentialism and Proportionalism): this is called the principle of “The lesser of the two evil”

A lesser evil may be the side product of a moral act as long as it is not directly intended (Ectopic Pregnancy in which the baby and the mother are in danger of death if intervention is not taken….the death of the child is morally allowed because what is directly willed is to save is indirect abortion). CCC 1691-1986 explains all these in detail.


  • Contraception
  • Pre-Marital Sex
  • Homosexuality/Same-sex Marriage
  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Suicide
  • Stem cell research
  • Cloning
  • Just and Unjust War
  • Social Justice :
    • Respect the worthy of our lives and others
    • To live in solidarity with one another or
    • To develop the virtue of fidelity to the teaching of the church
  • Death Penalty

Let us note

  • Mercy and Salvation very important in discussing these issues.
  • Only God can judge another human being rightly…
  • Vincible ignorance (You don’t know what you should know) is culpable but invincible ignorance (when you don’t know what you shouldn’t know) is not.

Moral Issues: These issues can be grouped into two major themes

  1. Sexual Morality: Adultery, Homo, Porn, Fornication, Sexual fantasy, Masturbation, etc
  2. Life-Threatening Issues: Abortion, Euthanasia, Suicide, Reproductive Technologies, etc


  • Contraception (Contra-Ceptus -Against Conception): Any action taken before, during or after sexual intercourse whose purpose is to ensure that intercourse does not result in conception. It can be Chemical (the pill, spermicide, jellies, form, Depo Provera, Norplant, the ECP (Morning after pill), mechanical (condom, IUD, or Diaphragm) or by withdrawal
  • Contraception sees fertility as an illness that can be fixed; keeps God out of the process
  • “Contraceptive methods are like a putting a premium upon vice…”Ghandi

  • Babies are seen as threats to happiness

Brief History of this among Christians

  • Prior to 1930 all Christian were against Contraception and Artificial Birth Control
  • In August 1930, Lambert Conference of Anglicans in England said, “Contraception is morally acceptable only in extreme circumstances.” Eventually all mainstream protestants accepted this.
  • New Inventions in technology sprang up forcing the Church to reconsider her stance on this subject
  • The Catholic response:
    • Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical against this titled, “Casti Connumbi” re-echoed traditional stand of the Church on Marriage
    • In 1955 there was the development of synthetic hormones used for chemical sterilisation…this gradually opened discussion in the hierarchy of the Church
    • In 1960, FDC approved Envoid, the first contraceptive
    • Debate began based on these new inventions and technological discoveries
    • In 1962-1965, the Second Vatican Council by Pope St. John XXIII addressed these issues partly
    • In 1964, the Papal Birth Control Commission was established and was given a mandate to review the issue. They came up with two reports:
      • The Majority report which says YES to use of contraceptive
      • And the Minority report which says NO to it
    • In July 26, 1967 Pope Paul VI released Humanae Vitae, which was adjudge a time-bomb and revolution. After prayer and much consideration, Pope Paul VI adopted the minority report. He was highly criticised within and outside the Church….

Humanae Vitae predicated the following as future consequences of Contraceptives if used:

  • General lowering of morality and greater incidence of adultery
  • Irresponsibility would be rewarded: promiscuity becomes easy and abstinence unnecessary
  • The man will gradually lose respect of the woman making her instrument of pleasure instead of the respected and equal partner that she is
  • Contraceptives would be a “dangerous weapon in the hands of public authorities” who takes no heed of moral exigencies

These statements have all been validated with recent happenings all over the world…. The Core of Humanae Vitae is the view that sexual intimacy has two ends, the Unitive dimension and the Procreative Dimension. Both ends are mutually inclusive and must not be separated.

The Unitive dimension

  • Sexuality is a gift from God is and it is inherently good and sacred
  • It is the most powerful form of communication known to human beings
  • It not only unites physically, but emotionally, sexually, spiritually and socially.
  • Sexual pleasure is a good willed by God to be exclusive between spouses
  • Sex is for bonding and conjugal union

The Procreative dimension

  • Sexual intimacy is the most potent of all human actions: an eternal soul can be created
  • All sexual acts must be open to life
  • Sexual intercourse is biologically and naturally directed towards conception
  • All human life is sacred and so, the means of transmitting human life is sacred
  • Upbringing of children and responsible parenthood is key

Body language of sex entails

  • Getting naked: being truthful and open
  • Penetration: the interpenetration of persons bodily and spiritually
  • Total self-giving
  • Total life-giving to the couple and beyond
  • Images the Trinity: like the lover and beloved whose love embodies a new person ( Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the love between husband and wife brings forth children
  • This language is only complete when it is spoken HONESTLY and when neither the unitive nor procreative ends of marriage is suppressed….


  • Homosexuality
    • The Church teaches that the homosexual person is not sinful but the act is a sin. The act is intrinsically evil and unacceptable.
    • It can be ‘’unitive” but can never be procreative (not open to life)
    • We are called to treat them with compassion and mercy
    • They need psychological, social and spiritual help. And because it has evil dimension, exorcism should be considered in helping them.
    • It violates the end of sexual acts….
  • Pre-marital sex
    • Can never be truly unitive
    • No marriage or responsibility involved
    • Another is often used as an object of pleasure
  • Masturbation
    • Neither unitive nor procreative. Totally selfish, self-centred
    • Involves objectification of another person for sexual pleasure
  • Adultery: Even desperate house wives…agree this is wrong (lol)
    • It can be procreative but never unitive because it is based on deception
    • It compromises the valid marital bond and threatens marriage
  • Pornography:
    • Objectification of another
    • The end does not justify the means, etc
  • Reproductive technologies: Procreative but not unitive…
  • We can go on and on…


Basic Teachings of the Church

  • All human life is sacred from conception to natural death
  • We are created in the image and likeness of God. By this the Church means, we are created with free will, intellect and knowledge which defines our human dignity and invaluable worth.
  • No human being can be reduced to a thing
  • A foetus or embryo is not a potential person but a person with potential.

Euthanasia (Dying Well or Mercy Killing): Quality of life is the issue: the kind of life a person has after medical intervention?

  • Active Euthanasia – direct killing of the person (Assisted suicide)
  • Passive Euthanasia – (Non-Sustaining Life; Letting the person die by withholding treatment)

Catholic Teaching

  • Not all medical treatments are medically required by patients
  • Life is not to be maintained at all cost
  • No one is required to receive extraordinary treatment
  • Whatever it motive is or its means, direct Euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick or dying person. It is morally unacceptable (CCC 2276-2279)
  • Pain relief (morphine): it accelerates dying process but he intended result is to reduce pain (side result is that death will be hastened). The Church considers it is morally permissible (Principle of double-effect)
    1. A Christian may prefer to moderate their use of pain killers in order to accept voluntarily at least a part of their sufferings and their share in the suffering of Christ.
    2. This heroic way should not be imposed on anybody as a general rule
  • The film “You Don’t Know Jack” throws more light…we are encouraged to watch it…


With the basic moral principles outline above and the three conditions for determining the moral of human act, we can evaluate all moral actions to know whether they are good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust….

I encourage us to read up materials on this on the internet….A very good site to go to is Catholic News Agency Website….


  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  2. James Malon CD on Alpha Course
  3. Encyclicals: Humanae Vitae, etc
  4. Vatican II Documents
  5. Seminary Notes, etc
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