Bishops Flunk Test as Theologians


The letter from Bishops Murphy and DeMarzio (NYTimes 9/24) and the “Forming consciences for Faithful Citizenship” to which they refer, make a categorical error, using the misleading and outmoded term “intrinsic evil.” Some words are by usage encoded with a negative moral judgment: e.g.murder. Murder denotes and means unjustifiable homicide. Some words are morally neutral, with no moral judgment imputed, e.g. homicide. Thus we can speak of justifiable homicide but not justifiable murder. The term racism is encoded with a negative moral judgment: it means hostile discrimination against persons because of their race. There is no justifiable racism. You don’t need the outmoded category of “intrinsic evil” to explain it. The same is true of sexism and, a term unknown to the bishops, heterosexism. These terms denote unconscionable bias.The word lie, by accepted usage, also encodes a negative moral judgment. Yet there may be good reason to speak falsely. The citizen of Amsterdam who when asked told the Gestapo the Frank family had left Holland-although that citizen was bringing them food on a daily basis-was speaking falsely but not lying. A lie is when you deny the truth to someone who has a right to the truth. The bishops treat “abortion” as a word like “murder,”a word denoting an unjustifiable action. This is wrong since there are spontaneous abortions that are not judged as moral or immoral. Indeed if, like the bishops, you consider the fertilized egg to have personal status, most do not implant and are spontaneously aborted. (In terms of a theistic natural law this would make God the prime abortionist.) Bishops are pastors and administrators, not professional theologians. Their errors here illustrate that.


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