instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

What I like about grave evil

The one thing I like about the moral act of abortion is how straightforward it is. "Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law." Period. So moral reasoning about abortion is duck soup.

(Yes, there are wrinkles like ectopic pregnancies, but ectopic pregnanices are not what the abortion debate is about.)

And yet, the very clarity of the categorical immorality of abortion can wind up clouding moral reasoning. Just as the sun's light blinds us to the other daytime stars, the evil of abortion can blind us to other evils in our world.

As a hypothetical example: Suppose we were faced with a choice between legalized abortion and unjust immigration law. What should we do?

An argument blinded by the enormity of abortion might look like this: "Life is the one absolute, bedrock, fundamental right, without which it's meaningless to speak of other rights. What constitutes just immigration law is a matter of prudential judgment, but abortion is everywhere and always evil. We must, therefore, resist legalized abortion and choose the purportedly unjust immigration law."

The correct answer, though, is: We should do neither.

The correctness of the answer is clearer when the evils are more proportionate: Should you punch the next person you see in the face, or in the gut?

I think the difficulty many have in recognizing that as a matter of fact we shouldn't choose unjust immigration law lies in part in the fact that many think "the lesser of two evils" is a legitimate way of choosing how to act. But the lesser of two evils is evil, and evil is never legitimate. Is this a failure of reason, do you think, or of faith?