Why does Revisionist Ethics condemn Euthanasia?

First things first. The Roman Catholic Magisterium rightly condemns euthanasia, in any and all forms, as intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. And this teaching against euthanasia is both true AND consistent with Church teaching on other intrinsically evil acts. Neither euthanasia, nor abortion, nor abortifacient contraception, nor lying is justifiable by intention or circumstances. These acts are all immoral by the very nature of the act.

The radical revisionists seem to accept magisterial teaching on euthanasia. They condemn euthanasia as always immoral, and sometimes they even call it “intrinsically evil”. But if they were intellectually honest, and used the same moral analysis, based on the same principles, that they use for popular intrinsically evil acts (contraception, lying, abortion to save the life of the mother), they would approve of euthanasia. The fact that they condemn euthanasia proves that their moral analysis of other intrinsically evil acts is faulty.

The Church teaches that every knowingly chosen human act is either good (at least morally permissible) or evil (not morally permissible; sinful) based on only three fonts (sources) — (1) intention, (2) moral object, (3) circumstances. And any act with an evil moral object, is intrinsically evil and always immoral, regardless of intention or circumstances or other acts.

Most of the time, these revisionists completely ignore the three fonts of morality. And when discussing intrinsically evil acts, they often entirely omit mentioning that the acts are intrinsically evil. If they do call an act “intrinsically evil,” they almost always ignore the teaching that acts are only intrinsically evil when the object is evil. Then all they have to do is redefine the intrinsically evil act, so as to permit this type of act, supposedly without sin, by calling it something else — even though the act retains the same evil moral object.

The intrinsically evil act of lying is renamed “false signification” and is therefore said to be no longer lying and no longer intrinsically evil. The intrinsically evil act of using abortifacient contraception, while sexually active, is said to be justified by a good purpose or a dire circumstance, and then it is claimed that the act should no longer be called intrinsically evil or even be called abortion or contraception — despite the deprivation of the procreative meaning and the deaths of innocent prenatals.

Even when the three fonts of morality are not used to evaluate the morality of an intrinsically evil act (because the revisionists secretly reject that teaching), it is clear that the revisionists are justifying an intrinsically evil act by reference to intention and/or circumstances. For example, a particular example of “false signification” is said to be not really a lie because the purpose of the false assertion is not to deceive, but some good intended end (to console, or to save a life). But in the three fonts of morality, the font of intention is also called the purpose of the act (in the Compendium of the Catechism). The first font can be variously and correctly described as intention, intended end, purpose, goal, or end in view. So the claim that a false assertion is justified by its purpose is simply a clever way to claim than a good intention can transform an intrinsically evil act into another type of act, one that is moral. The lie for a good purpose is said to be either a lie that is justified or somehow no longer a lie. But this contradicts the teaching of Veritatis Splendor.

“If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain ‘irremediably’ evil acts; per se and in themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person. ‘As for acts which are themselves sins (cum iam opera ipsa peccata sunt), Saint Augustine writes, like theft, fornication, blasphemy, who would dare affirm that, by doing them for good motives (causis bonis), they would no longer be sins, or, what is even more absurd, that they would be sins that are justified?’.

“Consequently, circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice.” [Veritatis Splendor 81]

Sometimes they justify an intrinsically evil act by reference to a good intention (e.g. a medical purpose), and other times they justify it by a difficult circumstance. Lying is said to be not really lying in the circumstance where the person who is deceived does not deserve the truth. Partial birth abortion is said to be moral, even though the skull of the prenatal is directly crushed by the physician, for the purpose of saving the mother’s life. Thus, when the intention is good, especially in the case of a medical purpose, or the circumstances are dire, the revisionists readily justify intrinsically evil acts by claiming that they have been transformed into a different type of act, or simply by stating that the act is moral.

What happens if we apply this disordered moral analysis to euthanasia? By definition, euthanasia is the direct killing of an innocent human person, for the purpose (i.e. the intention) of relieving suffering. And the circumstances often include a severe degree of suffering, or a terminal illness, or a severe disability. So the intention is good and the circumstances are difficult or dire. The radical revisionists should approve of euthanasia, if they were intellectually honest and stuck to their disordered principles. Their principles — which they claim are a correct understanding of morality when applied to the popular intrinsically evil acts — would easily seem to justify euthanasia. And yet they condemn euthanasia.

Now again, euthanasia is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, and should be condemned as gravely immoral by everyone. I hold euthanasia to be a form of murder, and to be a mortal sin. So my objection is not that the radical revisionists condemn euthanasia, but that they do not use the same moral principles to condemn other intrinsically evil acts.

Even when they are discussing and condemning euthanasia, the radical revisionists can’t bring themselves to teach the three fonts of morality and the moral object as the basis for intrinsically evil acts. For they realize that this correct way to morally evaluate euthanasia would also necessitate the condemnation of popular intrinsically evil acts, which they themselves have already publicly justified, approved, and promoted, as if these evil acts were good. So they devise some rhetorical basis to condemn euthanasia, other than the three fonts.

If you want to know if a particular moral evaluation of abortion, abortifacient contraception, contraception, lying or some other popular intrinsically evil act is correct, simply apply the same principles to euthanasia, genocide, adultery, or slavery. The correct moral analysis, using the three fonts of morality, will condemn all intrinsically evil acts, from the smallest venial lie to the gravest sins against humanity. The inconsistency of the radical revisionists in their moral evaluations shows that their analysis of the popular intrinsically evil acts is faulty.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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3 Responses to Why does Revisionist Ethics condemn Euthanasia?

  1. Anthony Avvenire says:

    Is purposely deceiving an enemy during war considered an intrinsically evil act? Is this not a form of lying?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Lying is the deliberate assertion of a falsehood. Deceptive or misleading behavior is not necessarily lying.
      {24:28} And they drew near to the town where they were going. And he conducted himself so as to go on further.
      {24:29} But they were insistent with him, saying, “Remain with us, because it is toward evening and now daylight is declining.” And so he entered with them.
      Jesus acted as if he were going to continue on His way, but He knew that they would ask him to stay. Misleading behavior is not a lie.

  2. Francisco says:

    “The inconsistency of the radical revisionists in their moral evaluations shows that their analysis of the popular intrinsically evil acts is faulty.”

    In other words, what they have, as some people call it, is a “Double Moral” or “Double Standard”. The Church does not maintain a double standard (Amoris Laetitia – last line of # 300).

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