Fr. Chris Pietraszko: Are You Ascribing to a Stupid Way of ThinkingA
One thing I have been trying to do in my Apologetics course is to link our Catholic Spirituality to various doctrinal truths of the Faith. It is very important for us not only to know God’s law, who He is, and what He has done for us, but we need to also be able to apply such truths to our own lives.
Getting God Wrong #1
I believe that one of the reasons we fail to propagate the faith to others is resulting from the appearance of dry-adherence to a moral-law. Pope Benedict XVI called this “moralism.” Moralism essentially removes the essential characteristic of “relationship” we are to have with God and our neighbour.
A morality is and ought to be predicated of the relationship we have with God. That is to say that just because you follow the moral law, does not mean you have a good relationship with God. Likewise it also says, if you do not follow the moral law (especially in grave matters) you most certainly do not have a good relationship with God.
Rather the motivating force must both be extrinsic and intrinsic when discerning the moral law in our own life. We must seek to have a good relationship with Christ “in” the very act of doing what is right, rather than “by” the very act.
Getting God Wrong #2
For instance, if a Catholic does not “internalize” the moral law, it merely becomes a hoop by which they jump through in order to de-facto (in their own mind) love God. But this is legalism. The alternative is to say, “It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I have some sort of ideal in my mind about God, I love Him.” This is lawlessness.
The middle position is also the narrow position, it is difficult. We must not only abide by the law itself, but we must internalize it. We must love God’s law, and to see how “in” the act, we are directly choosing God and Neighbour.
For instance, a couple who practices the Church’s teaching on contraception by not contracepting, they do well. But if they internalize this matter, they do very well, because they refuse to ever diminish the nature of their spouse by compartmentalizing an intrinsic dimension to their nature as a male and female. Man and woman have the capacity to procreate, and it is through this “identifying dimension” that man can truly love woman for all that she is, rather than rejecting a part of her nature as if it were a problem.
I believe that theologians who have not internalized the moral law may foster a legalistic or lawless approach to this particular infallible truth of the Church, as explained by Pope Paul VI.
Getting God Wrong #3
The particular approach I’d like to deny and condemn directly is a Kantian approach to morality. In an unnamed place, there was a priest who had communicated to his brother priests that it was morally praiseworthy to give a family who had practiced NFP an “exception” to use contraceptives since they had already fulfilled a significant quota of 9 children.
Kantian Ethics therefore judges whether an act is good or evil, “by the act itself” rather than “in the act itself.” In other words, he is looking for a consistency in the person’s life, like virtue, whereby they practice what is good on a regular basis out of duty.
Kantian Ethics can also be called deontological ethics. In this way, Kant does not indicate that there is anything intrinsically wrong with the act itself. All that should be discerned is the outer-shell of the act and how often it occurs.
But most of us would never ascribe to such a stupid way of thinking. For instance, if a man were to kill someone, he would not plead with the Jury and Judge by saying, “But I don’t normally do this, I deserve an exception to the rule, because I am not really a killer.” For such a person to suggest this as a defense would have failed to internalize the irreparable damage he has caused society and the said victim.
Likewise, “in” every act of contraception there is a rejection of God’s masterful design and path towards goodness and a rejection of the spouse in an essential matter. Without this internalization of the moral law, we therefore lose sight of the Master’s Sermon on the Mount, whereby he not only calls us to follow the law, but to internalize it. If one internalizes the moral law on contraception, they realize that every act of contraception is a (possibly latent) hatred for who the other is as male and female. Therefore there could never be any “exception” to something so intrinsically evil.
Headlines were edited.