Lecture Thirteen: Consequentialism and Proportionalism


Study Questions

1. How does one correctly identify the “object” of any human action?  Does the term  “object” (in regard to moral evaluation) refer primarily to some physical thing or process, or rather to the end of an action of this type, whatever the motive that the subject may have for making a deliberate decision to do the action?

2.  In making a proper moral analysis of an action, why does the encyclical insist that having a good intention is a necessary condition but not a sufficient one?  Can you provide some examples of your own?

3.  Suppose that the action one is about to perform is a morally acceptable possibility (that is, suppose that the action in question is not intrinsically evil), could the action still be morally unacceptable by reason of the intention of the agent?  by the circumstances in which it is being done?  Can you provide some examples of these situations?


Suggestions for further reading:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Morality of Human Acts,” §1749-§1775.

Bartholomew M. Kiely, S.J. “The Impracticality of Proportionalism” in Gregorianum 87/4 (1985): 655-67.

Paul M. Quay, S.J.  “Morality by Calculation of Values” in Readings in Moral Theology, No. 1: Moral Norms and Catholic Tradition, edited by Charles F. Curran and Richard McCormick. New York: Paulist Press, 1979, pp. 267-93.  This article takes a position opposed to proportionalism and consequentialism.

Paul M. Quay, S.J., “The Unity and Structure of the Human Act,” Listening 18 (1983): 245-59.  This article provides a way to understand more deeply the position later taken by Veritatis splendor.