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-   -   moral evil versus physical evil (http://www.catholicplanet.net/forum/showthread.php?t=2401)

Ron Conte 8th July 2008 01:02 AM

moral evil versus physical evil
 
In moral theology, the word evil is used in a different way than in common speech. Commonly, we use evil only for the worst acts of immorality. But moral theology uses the world evil for any and all sins, actual as well as objective, and even for various types of harm that can occur. This useage is consistent with the term's use in the Bible.

The same word (evil) is used in the Bible for moral evil versus various kinds of harm or disaster.

Example:

A miscarriage is not an objective sin. It is the type of suffering that is in the world because we are in a fallen state, and so are subject to injury and death. However, it is a tragic loss of innocent human life; it is a bad thing that has happened. Thus it is termed a type of evil (i.e. a deprivation of something good).

Why is abortion immoral? Because one is choosing that loss of innocent human life, that deprivation of good. The difference abortion and miscarriage is that abortion is a human act, and miscarriage is not. In abortion, someone acted; in miscarriage, no one acted. This is also the difference between moral evil and physical evil. Moral evil involves a human acting, using will and intellect. If a human person uses will and intellect to unknowingly assert a falsehood, or take what belongs to another, it is still a human act and so still an objective sin.

Why is a miscarriage not an objective sin? Because there was no human act involved. No one acted. An objective sin is a type of act. A sin of commission is an act. A sin of omission requires that someone have decided (an act) to ommit an act.

If someone gets an abortion thinking that it is moral (perhaps because of rape or incest), the act itself, the abortion, is objectively a sin. (Later, we will consider culpable ignorance, and related topics.) It may not be an actual sin due to the ignorance of the one who acts.

If someone gets an abortion knowing that it is immoral, this is both an objective sin (the act) and an actual sin (knowingly intended).


miscarriage: physical evil, not moral evil, not objective sin, not actual sin

abortion: objective sin, moral evil, physical evil

choosing abortion not realizing that it is wrong: objective sin, not actual sin, moral evil, physical evil

choosing abortion realizing that it is wrong: objective sin, actual sin, moral evil, physical evil

Ron Conte 8th July 2008 11:25 AM

Questions?

Please attempt some examples of moral evil and some examples of physical evil.

St. Thomas More 8th July 2008 02:27 PM

Examples
 
Physical Evil - Car accidents, earthquakes, hurricanes, natural disasters
Moral Evil - repeatedly refusing to attend Mass or pray on Sundays
Physical and Moral Evil - Stealing, rape

Monk 8th July 2008 04:34 PM

Moral evil --> terrorism (flying a plane into a building)
Physical evil --> a natural disaster (a building collapse due to earthquake)

Ron Conte 8th July 2008 05:26 PM

Good examples, St. Thomas More and Monk.

Climacus Areopagite 8th July 2008 05:58 PM

Physical evil: twisting an ankle, breaking a bone, tearing a ligament

js1975 8th July 2008 08:24 PM

Physical Evil: starvation
Moral Evil: omission of charity by not distributing food by the wealthy to the poor



I have some questions regarding this topic. How about something like obesity?

I would think that: Obesity is a moral evil if you ate too much to gain weight. It is a physical evil if someone is obese resulting from some sort of condition/disease. However, I have always believed that in some cases a person's sins may pass down to their children's generation. The only example I could find quickly is Deuteronomy 5:9 (not directly relevant). If this is true for obesity, then would it not be considered a moral and physical evil?

thanks,
jay

Shane 8th July 2008 09:38 PM

Moral Evil:

1. Using contraceptives
2. Lying under oath
3. Stealing


Physical Evil:

1. Any kind of natural disaster
2. Cancer or disease

Ron Conte 8th July 2008 09:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by js1975 (Post 18408)
Physical Evil: starvation
Moral Evil: omission of charity by not distributing food by the wealthy to the poor

Good.

Quote:

Originally Posted by js1975 (Post 18408)
I have some questions regarding this topic. How about something like obesity?

I would think that: Obesity is a moral evil if you ate too much to gain weight. It is a physical evil if someone is obese resulting from some sort of condition/disease. However, I have always believed that in some cases a person's sins may pass down to their children's generation. The only example I could find quickly is Deuteronomy 5:9 (not directly relevant). If this is true for obesity, then would it not be considered a moral and physical evil?

There are many factors that contribute to obesity:
genetics
social influences (sedentary society)
poverty
stress
disease
psychological problems

and perhaps for some persons:
sinful choices of self-indulgence

It would only be a moral evil is someone were obese due mainly to sinful self-indulgence. My judgment would be that, in modern society, people have a tendency to be overweight because of the first set of factors listed above. It would be hard to discern if someone were obese due to sin.

Sins are not handed down from one generation to another. Each person's personal sins are attributed only to himself or herself. Original sin is handed on, but not personal sin.

Anyone's sins can have a detrimental effect on society in the present, and in future generations. However, sins are not handed down.


[Ezekiel 18]
{18:1} And the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
{18:2} “Why is it that you circulate among yourselves this parable, as a proverb in the land of Israel, saying: ‘The fathers ate a bitter grape, and the teeth of the sons have been affected.’
{18:3} As I live, says the Lord God, this parable shall no longer be a proverb for you in Israel.
{18:4} Behold, all souls are mine. Just as the soul of the father is mine, so also is the soul of the son. The soul that sins, the same shall die.
{18:5} And if a man is just, and he accomplishes judgment and justice,
{18:6} and if he does not eat upon the mountains, nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, and if he has not violated the wife of his neighbor, nor approached a menstruating woman,
{18:7} and if he has not grieved any man, but has restored the collateral to the debtor, if he has seized nothing by violence, has given his bread to the hungry, and has covered the naked with a garment,
{18:8} if he has not lent upon usury, nor taken any increase, if he has averted his hand from iniquity, and has executed true judgment between man and man,
{18:9} if he has walked in my precepts and kept my judgments, so that he acts in accord with truth, then he is just; he shall certainly live, says the Lord God.
{18:10} But if he raises a son who is a robber, who sheds blood, and who does any of these things,
{18:11} (even though he himself does not do any of these things,) and who eats upon the mountains, and who defiles the wife of his neighbor,
{18:12} who grieves the needy and the poor, who seizes with violence, who does not restore the collateral, and who lifts up his eyes to idols, committing abomination,
{18:13} who lends upon usury, and who takes an increase, then shall he live? He shall not live. Since he has done all these detestable things, he shall certainly die. His blood shall be upon him.
{18:14} But if he raises a son, who, seeing all his father’s sins that he has done, is afraid and so does not act in a way similar to him,
{18:15} who does not eat upon the mountains, nor lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, and who does not violate the wife of his neighbor,
{18:16} and who has not grieved any man, nor withheld the collateral, nor seized by violence, but instead has given his bread to the hungry, and has covered the naked with a garment,
{18:17} who has averted his hand from injuring the poor, who has not taken usury and an overabundance, who has acted according to my judgments and walked in my precepts, then this one shall not die for the iniquity of his father; instead, he shall certainly live.
{18:18} As for his father, because he oppressed and did violence to his brother, and worked evil in the midst of his people, behold, he has died by his own iniquity.
{18:19} And you say, ‘Why has not the son borne the iniquity of the father?’ Clearly, since the son has worked judgment and justice, has observed all my precepts, and has done them, he shall certainly live.
{18:20} The soul that sins, the same shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son. The justice of the just man shall be upon himself, but the impiety of the impious man shall be upon himself.
{18:21} But if the impious man does penance for all his sins which he has committed, and if he keeps all my precepts, and accomplishes judgment and justice, then he shall certainly live, and he shall not die.
{18:22} I will not remember all his iniquities, which he has worked; by his justice, which he has worked, he shall live.
{18:23} How could it be my will that an impious man should die, says the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways and live?
{18:24} But if a just man turns himself away from his justice, and does iniquity in accord with all the abominations that the impious man so often does, why should he live? All his justices, which he has accomplished, shall not be remembered. By the transgression, in which he has transgressed, and by his sin, in which he has sinned, by these he shall die.
{18:25} And you have said, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Therefore, listen, O house of Israel. How could it be that my way is not fair? And is it not instead your ways that are perverse?
{18:26} For when the just man turns himself away from his justice, and commits iniquity, he shall die by this; by the injustice that he has worked, he shall die.
{18:27} And when the impious man turns himself away from his impiety, which he has done, and accomplishes judgment and justice, he shall cause his own soul to live.
{18:28} For by considering and turning himself away from all his iniquities, which he has worked, he shall certainly live, and he shall not die.
{18:29} And yet the sons of Israel say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ How could it be that my ways are not fair, O house of Israel? And is it not instead your ways that are perverse?
{18:30} Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge each one according to his ways, says the Lord God. Be converted, and do penance for all your iniquities, and then iniquity will not be your ruin.
{18:31} Cast all your transgressions, by which you have transgressed, away from you, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. And then why should you die, O house of Israel?
{18:32} For I do not desire the death of one who dies, says the Lord God. So return and live.”

Ron Conte 8th July 2008 09:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Shane (Post 18413)
Moral Evil:

1. Using contraceptives
2. Lying under oath
3. Stealing


Physical Evil:

1. Any kind of natural disaster
2. Cancer or disease

Yes, these are good examples.

Climacus Areopagite 8th July 2008 10:01 PM

Would slight mental disorders such as depression and anxiety be a physical evil? It seems like a tricky one because some people feel guilty that they are depressed and sometimes the disorder isnt their fault. I suppose they could be guilty for not getting help, but I am talking about a guilt that stems from something being wrong with them and the way society treats the issue.

JuanLuis 8th July 2008 10:28 PM

Moral Evil: masturbation, impure thoughts, pornography

Physical Evil: Wet dreams (seminal discharge)

Ron Conte 8th July 2008 11:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Climacus Areopagite (Post 18417)
Would slight mental disorders such as depression and anxiety be a physical evil? It seems like a tricky one because some people feel guilty that they are depressed and sometimes the disorder isnt their fault. I suppose they could be guilty for not getting help, but I am talking about a guilt that stems from something being wrong with them and the way society treats the issue.

These would be physical evils, not moral evils, so there is no culpability.

Ron Conte 8th July 2008 11:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JuanLuis (Post 18420)
Moral Evil: masturbation, impure thoughts, pornography

Physical Evil: Wet dreams (seminal discharge)


Correct, although impure thoughts are only immoral in so far as one consents to them. More accurately, it is the use of pornography that is immoral. Pornography itself is not an act, so it would be a physical evil. A sin is a human act, meaning an act that is knowingly and willingly chosen. Things that occur without use of will and intellect are not sins.

Rob 8th July 2008 11:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JuanLuis (Post 18420)
Physical Evil: Wet dreams (seminal discharge)


In another catholic forum I was nearly stoned to death (figuratively) for explaining this concept. People mistakenly believed that I was saying that wet dreams were a sin, when in fact I was trying to explain that it was just a physical evil and not a sin.
Still the majority had no idea what I was talking about, and that worried me, since I noticed the lack of knowledge about morality and the faith. Not to mention that I was banned from that forum for no apparent reason few months later.

Ron Conte 8th July 2008 11:59 PM

Yes, I too have been mistreated in many a forum.

The concept of physical evil versus moral evil is in the Summa. The problem is that St. Thomas develops his philosophy and theology over the course of many articles, using terminology which is either not in use today or in use only by some theologians. So one cannot succinctly quote the Summa to make a point. One is either familiar with its teachings, or not. I've notice that the Catechism in some places relies on the Summa, but doesn't cite it. Also, Gaudium and Spes on expropriation relies on the Summa but doesn't cite it.

I'm concerned that some persons are being led astray in other forums, but there is not much I can do about it.

Rob 10th July 2008 12:34 PM

Ron,

There are things which are or were considered physical evils, yet they have been transformed by God into means through which we obtain salvation. For example suffering is a physical evil, if I procure unjust suffering to another, yet if I suffer for someone, that is not a physical evil. Jesus Himself suffered for the sake of humanity, so sufferring cannot be considered a physical evil in this case.

How do we call these kinds of "evils" which are not really evil?

I suppose death can be included in this cathegory, since we cannot enjoy Heaven without dying first.


How about those things which are consequence of the fall, neverthless they cannot be considered a physical evil but imperfections. For example we have speculated that normal sexual intercourse as well as usuall childbirth were not intended originally by God in creation, so they are imperfections. No one would say however that they are physical evils, so how do we call these ones?

Ron Conte 10th July 2008 01:00 PM

The term physical evil does not refer to evil in the usual sense of the world. In common parlance, evil means severe immorality. But in moral theology, moral evil is used for even a slight immorality, and physical evil is used for what is not immoral at all.

Christ's suffering on the Cross and His death were physical evils, in other words 'harm'. He suffered severe harm for our sake on the cross. It is sometimes moral to permit physical evil for the sake of helping others.

Your post above uses 'physical evil' as if it referred to moral evil; it does not.

As for procreation, if not for the fall, all conceptions would have been virginal and miraculous, as Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich states. Thus all conceptions would have been perfect.

After the fall, conceptions occur in the manner of animals, because the fall makes us more like the animals and less like the angels (not that angels procreate). This would be an imperfection. Some theologians use the term 'metaphysical evil,' but I would classify metaphysical evils as imperfections (example: that predatory animals kill to survive, that human procreation occurs in the manner of animals, etc.).

See this article:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05649a.htm

Speaking to all the members, I know that some of this material that I am presenting seems entirely new, as if I had invented it myself, but this is really longstanding Catholic moral theology (only recently abandoned or severely distorted by modernist theologians).

Now there is room in Catholic moral theology for some faithful disagreements, such as which things are classified as physical evil, and which as imperfections, or such as how to evalute the weight of good and bad consequences in the third font. But there ought to be no disagreements on the basic principles of moral theology.

Rob 10th July 2008 01:06 PM

Thanks for the reply, I now understand better the concept of physical evil.

js1975 10th July 2008 04:30 PM

Ron,

To further test my understanding, wouldn't exercise (going to the gym) be considered physical evil, and if done excessively even a possible moral evil?

thanks!
jay

Ron Conte 10th July 2008 05:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by js1975 (Post 18528)
Ron,

To further test my understanding, wouldn't exercise (going to the gym) be considered physical evil, and if done excessively even a possible moral evil?

thanks!
jay


I don't understand the reasoning here. Unless one exercises to the point of physical harm, why would it be considered physical evil. Excessive exercise seems more like an imperfection, rather than a sin.

js1975 11th July 2008 02:37 AM

Ron,

I guess my line of thought was that exercise is an imperfection. I exercise to stay healthy. If not for the fall, would I still need to exercise? I am assuming that I would not, because I would not be capable of sin, and also death would not exist. Therefore, the gym could be considered an imperfection, right?

peace,
jay

Ron Conte 11th July 2008 03:16 AM

So a better way of expressing that idea would be:

the need to exercise is due to bodily imperfections that result from the fall

But that would be classified as a 'metaphysical evil' i.e. an imperfection, not a physical evil. And specifically, it is the need of the body to exercise that is the imperfection. Going to the gym in order to take good care of your body would be a good act, not an imperfect act.

Similarly, death is a physical evil, but Christ dying for our salvation is a very great good.

js1975 11th July 2008 01:01 PM

Thanks, I understand much better.

myLivingBread 1st September 2010 04:35 AM

Ron.

how about the humanity of our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, they are not in fallen state do they have this metaphysical evil? why is it they don't have imperfections?

Ron Conte 1st September 2010 11:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by myLivingBread (Post 34190)
Ron.

how about the humanity of our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, they are not in fallen state do they have this metaphysical evil? why is it they don't have imperfections?


Jesus and Mary have no sin at all, so they have no moral evil.

They are each perfect in their human nature, imperfections are a type of physical evil. But suffering is also a type of physical evil, so they both endured the physical evil of suffering in their lives.

The human nature of Jesus and of Mary are each finite, so this is metaphysical evil.

Only the Divine Nature is not metaphysically evil.


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