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:
2. moral object
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.