Ambiguity in Moral Choice

Ambiguity in Moral Choice

Ambiguity in Moral Choice

Ambiguity in Moral Choice

Excerpt

The distinction between what is directly voluntary and indirectly voluntary has been a staple of Catholic moral thought for centuries. It has been used to face many practical conflict-situations where an evil can be avoided or a more or less necessary good achieved only when another evil is reluctantly caused. In such situations the evil caused as one goes about doing good has been viewed as justified or tolerable under a fourfold condition. (1) The action is good or indifferent in itself; it is not morally evil. (2) The intention of the agent is upright, that is, the evil effect is sincerely not intended. (3) The evil effect must be equally immediate causally with the good effect, for otherwise it would be a means to the good effect and would be intended. (4) There must be a proportionately grave reason for allowing the evil to occur. If these conditions are fulfilled, the resultant evil was referred to as an "unintended byproduct" of the action, only indirectly voluntary and justified by the presence of a proportionately grave reason.

The practical importance of this dis-

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