Jesuit theologian faults ‘intrinsically evil’ tag

A Jesuit moral theologian has taken issue with the labeling of some human acts as “intrinsically evil”.

In a presentation at the so-called “shadow council” at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University in May, Fr Alain Thomasset, SJ, described such labelling is one of the main problems in the pastoral care of families.

Understanding some acts as intrinsically evil, he said, “seems incomprehensible to many and seems pastorally counterproductive”.

He wrote there is a just insistence “on points of reference as the targets of the moral life”.

But this approach neglects the “biographical dimension of existence” and the “conditions of each personal journey”.

He suggested that a “narrative and biographical perspective obliges one to believe that moral evaluation does not cover isolated acts”.

Rather it covers “human acts included in a story”.

Thus “one should not be too quick to qualify a sexual or contraceptive act as intrinsically evil!”

Fr Thomasset said that “the objective ethical references provided by the Church are just one item (essential, certainly, but not the only item) of moral discernment that must be operated within the personal conscience”.

He called for increased listening to the experience and the sensus fidei of couples “who are seeking to best live out their call to holiness”.

The priest, who is a professor of moral theology at Centre Sèvres-Facultés Jésuites de Paris, proposed an interpretation of human moral acts “remaining within the context of Catholic tradition, which would bear various consequences”.

The first of these consequences, he said, is that “in certain cases, because of particular circumstances, the sexual acts of remarried couples would no longer be considered as morally guilty”.

“This would open their access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist”.

The other consequences, according to a Catholic News Agency article: the use of contraceptives would not be morally wrong, as long as the couple were married and “remain open” to welcoming life; and the “subjective moral responsibility” of sexual acts between homosexuals in a stable and faithful relationship would be “diminished or eliminated”.

“It’s about helping people live the humanly possible in a path of growth toward the desirable,” Fr Thomasset wrote.


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