Get Out Of Prudence Free Cards

The two most misused, misunderstood and distorted moral maxims are, on the Left,"judge not that you be not judged" --used to justify abdicating the search for truth and right action; and on the Right, a similar tool for evading moral reasoning: "you may not do evil that good may come."

Talk about begging the question! If we are speaking of an intrinsic evil such as abortion, then the rule applies. You may not deliberately take innocent life, period. Actions which are not intrinsically evil, however, are good, evil or neutral according to many factors which much be taken into account. You cannot prove an action is evil by beginning with the premise that it is.

We shouldn't poke a small child with a needle, for example. But if it's to remove a splinter or protect him from polio, the "evil" is transformed into a good. Or what about slicing someone open with a knife? "You may not do evil that good may come" precludes surgery! You might say the action is the fruit of evil--the fact that there is pain and illness is a wage of sin--but the action used to overcome the evil is good. (Think about that with respect to the papal remark "war is always a defeat for humanity." It's not a policy pronouncement.)

Thus, when I read well-intentioned Catholic authors discuss capital punishment, Just War, torture and other such matters, and the argument amounts to invoking this principle and pronouncing QED, I come close to despairing of bringing the gospel of life to the public square. The world is owed better moral reasoning than that, brothers and sisters. So many of our Catholic columnists can't tell the difference between Prudence and consequentialism.