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312 • Part III. Christian Morality: The Faith Lived

must be good. If we are motivated to do something by a bad intention—

even something that is objectively good—our action is morally evil. It

must also be recognized that a good intention cannot make a bad action

(something intrinsically evil) good. We can never do something wrong

or evil in order to bring about a good. This is the meaning of the saying,

“the end does not justify the means” (cf. CCC, nos. 1749-1761).

The circumstances and the consequences of the act make up the

third element of moral action. These are secondary to the evaluation of

a moral act in that they contribute to increasing or decreasing the good-

ness or badness of the act


In addition, the circumstances may affect

one’s personal moral responsibility for the act. All three aspects must

be good—the objective act, the subjective intention, and the circum-

stances—in order to have a morally good act.

This teaching, which recognizes both the objective and subjective

dimension of morality, is often at odds with a perspective that views

morality as a completely personal or merely subjective reality. In such a

view, held by some in our culture, there are no objective norms capable

of demanding our moral compliance. Such a denial of an objective and

unchanging moral order established by God results in a vision of moral-

ity and moral norms as being a matter of personal opinion or as estab-

lished only through the consent of the individual members of society.

The Reality of Sin and Trust in God’s Mercy

We cannot speak about life in Christ or the moral life without acknowl-

edging the reality of sin, our own sinfulness, and our need for God’s

mercy. When the existence of sin is denied it can result in spiritual and

psychological damage because it is ultimately a denial of the truth about

ourselves. Admitting the reality of sin helps us to be truthful and opens

us to the healing that comes from Christ’s redemptive act.

Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it

is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a per-

verse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man

and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utter-

ance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” (CCC, no.

1849, citing St. Augustine,

Contra Faustum

, no. 22)