Church Teaching on Cooperation with Evil

I am seeing many fundamental errors on the magisterial teaching on cooperation with evil. These errors are often in articles on conservative websites, sites which propose to understand the Faith better than the Popes and the Bishops. So here is my explanation of magisterial teaching on cooperation with evil.

If another person sins, especially gravely, when is your related act also a sin?

The three fonts of morality always apply:
1. intention
2. moral object
3. circumstances

1. explicit cooperation relates to the font of intention

If your intention, in your act, is to assist or cooperate with the other person, specifically in that aspect of their act which is immoral, then you sin by explicit cooperation. The intention to help another person sin is always a sin.

And, as always, if the intended end of your act is evil, regardless of whether it is related to another person’s sin, then the font of intention is bad and your act is a sin. It is always wrong to act with a bad intention. The intention is the reason or purpose for which your act was chosen; it is the intended end of your act.

2. formal cooperation relates to the font of moral object

When your act has, as its moral object, to assist or cooperate in the intrinsically evil act of another person, then your cooperative act is also intrinsically evil and is termed formal cooperation. Formal cooperation is always immoral because it is a type of intrinsically evil act.

And, as always, if your act is intrinsically evil by its own moral object, then it is an intrinsically evil act on its own. A cooperative act can be sinful by cooperation, or moral despite cooperation. But the cooperative act can also be a type of perpetration, sinful by its own, regardless of whether it is also sinful by cooperation or not.

3. material cooperation relates to the font of circumstance

While explicit cooperation and formal cooperation are each always immoral, material cooperation can be moral. Evaluate the circumstances of your act, not the other person’s act. Determine whether the reasonably anticipated bad consequences of your act morally outweigh the reasonably anticipated good consequences of your act. If so, then your act is a sin by material cooperation as it is always wrong to do more harm than good.

One of the main bad consequences of an act of material cooperation is that you are assisting or cooperating in the sin of the other person, though only as concerns the circumstances of that person’s act, and not by the intention or moral object. Usually, remote material cooperation is moral and proximate material cooperation is immoral, as the more remote (in the moral sense) your act is, the lower the moral weight of its cooperative relation to the sin. However, the way to determine this is always by whether the bad consequences outweigh the good. Sometimes proximate material cooperation is moral, and sometimes remote material cooperation is immoral.

We all live in the same world as members of the same human race. So all of our acts are in some remote sense related to one another. Remote material cooperation can be so remote that your act is not only justified, but also so remote as to be not a cooperative act at all.


To be moral, you act must be:
1. not explicit cooperation (cooperative by intention)
2. not formal cooperation (cooperative by its moral object)
3. and the bad consequences of your act’s relationship to the sin of the other person must not outweigh the totality of the good of your act.
4. and your act must not stand on its own as a sin either. Sometimes a sin of perpetration is confused with an act of cooperation. Your act must have three good fonts on its own, and when taking into account your act’s relationship to the sin of another person.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

This entry was posted in commentary. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Church Teaching on Cooperation with Evil

  1. M. Jean-Paul Benoist says:

    My dear Friends,
    It’s exact perfectly.

  2. Fr. Matthew Holladay says:

    You explain theologically the morality of cooperation of evil. It would be helpful for your readers, to include in your above post, the citations of where the Church teaches on cooperation with evil, i.e., where the Magisterium has taught (what documents or general audiences) what you have written above.
    Thanks and God bless,
    Fr. Matt

  3. Sunimal Fernando says:

    Price of holy bible how much?
    people have to pay money to read what Jesus said? Printing cost is ok. But people earn money by selling holy gospel or…
    Good service offered by after the warning . Com site and web master request funds as gift. How nice that.

  4. Matt says:

    “Thou shall not covet thy neighbors wife.”

    Fantasizing having sexual relations with a neighbors wife (or even a single female), is that cooperating with evil?

  5. Sunimal Fernando says:

    Homosexual ?

  6. Thomas Mazanec says:

    Should you “cooperate with evil” in a society where enslavement of a specific racial group is required and manumission is forbidden? Would it be immoral to buy such a slave and treat him/her humanely?

Comments are closed.