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The Mass-Marketing of Hell

(Note: I originally wrote this post for my personal blog, which assumes the context of Catholic orthodoxy; but I thought it might also be of interest to the more general readership of What's Wrong with the World.)

A number of people reacted rather strongly to this post, as if I had said something shocking. The part that got the strongest reaction is where I re-state the Catholic doctrine that formal cooperation with grave evil is mortal sin, and that when we commit mortal sin that means we will go to Hell for eternal damnation unless we repent, confess, and do penance.

(As I mentioned in the comments, I don't know if God in His grace grants some or all a final chance at repentance upon death: I hope so, but too much of that kind of hope can easily turn into presumption, and in any case my hopes are not doctrine.)

I have a suspicion as to why the reaction to a simple restatement of doctrine in plain terms is so strong.

When we think about the phenomenon of mass democratic elections, of course we ourselves are very cognizant of Catholic doctrine with respect to remote material cooperation with grave evil. But we all know that the guy next door, the man sitting next to me at the ball game, my brother in law and even my brother, etc are not cognizant of Catholic doctrine nor do they much care to be cognizant of Catholic doctrine, even in many cases if they are Catholics, and even when we talk to them about it. We know, for example, that a lot of folks voted for Obama because they saw him as "tolerant" on abortion, that is, because he supports the legality and even expanded legality of abortion.

In other words, we know that for most people, including all these real faces and names surrounding us in our own day to day lives, and even if not for our enlightened and virtuous selves, mass democratic elections provide new and easy opportunities to engage in formal cooperation with grave evil: grave evil which is remote enough in real terms from a person's actual life that it would not normally be one of his strong personal temptations. How many people, in their day to day lives, are faced with the real prospect and temptation to declare an unjust war? How many people, in their day to day lives, are faced with the real prospect and temptation to sign an executive order permitting abortions on military bases or releasing millions in funds for Planned Parenthood? How many people, in their day to day lives, are faced with the real prospect and temptation to authorize the torture of captives to extract information? Not many. But the phenomenon of mass democratic elections presents the opportunity for everyman to formally cooperate with these and many other grave evils.

I've mentioned before that engaging in hypotheticals about acts very far from the reality one actually personally faces presents new and unnecessary opportunities to formally cooperate with grave evil. Mass democratic elections insure that this is extended to the populace at large and embodied in concrete acts of formal cooperation through voting. Just as with hypotheticals more generally, it isn't strictly necessary for individual acts of voting in mass democratic elections to involve formal cooperation with grave evil. But as a mass social phenomenon, for most people it does.

Giving everyday people many opportunities to formally cooperate with grave evil which would not ordinarily impinge on their own day to day lives seems to be part of the mass marketing strategy of Hell. And it seems to be working.


Comments (8)

When one considers the fact that statistics show most of the Catholics who voted for Obama were not regular church-goers, it isn't surprising your previous post got as many surprised comments as it did. If they don't take their obligation (under pain of mortal sin) to attend Mass on Sundays, how seriously will they take their obligation to vote to protect life?

If it's possible to be in a negative Buridan's Ass situtation, that was me during this election.

Interesting and amusing. The haystacks are laced with poison?


Most fraudulent are those Catholic leaders, or alliances of Catholics, that insist that the radically evil injustice of abortion need not be directly opposed, but rather, that somehow solving the dilemma of the poor in a sweeping act of charity will cause the foundation of this monstrous crime to crumble.

Why is this so terribly amiss? Because the foundation and cause of abortion is not poverty but a blind disregard for personal responsibility, a heinous denial and disrespect for human life, and an idolatrous worship of personal convenience. This is why even in the wealthy countries of Scandinavia the highest rates of abortions are followed by rampant euthanasia.

Friends, the poor do not hate their children any more or less than the rich. The poison of which abortion is the most dreadful manifestation is the sinful suffocation of selfishness, and it can and does affect all strata of society. Woe to those, particularly Catholics, who dare to try to convince us that their “choice” of a radically pro-abortion leader is within the parameters of conscience. God have mercy on those who exude freely this salve for their partisan cooperators. I fear that they will bear a greater responsibility than most. Against them will come not only the cry of millions of human lives savagely destroyed, but the souls of those they have sucked down with themselves. This is the very definition of scandal, and the reason that so many have spoken out with such urgency to announce the authentic teaching of the Church.

Part of the damage we have been promised is encapsulated in the Freedom of Choice Act, which has been held at bay the last eight years. When all the reasonable limits on abortion, gained in the last 35 years have been summarily swept away: parental notification, waiting periods, counseling and informed consent, the number of those killed will grow by more than 100,000 a year.

The Freedom of Choice Act will mark the beginning of a great persecution against religious liberty, because it will require tax payer money to be used for abortions. You and I will be faced with this legal trial: whether we should pay our taxes making us participants in the slaughter of Innocents or be liable for jail and fines.

And what of our Catholic hospitals? If we are forced to provide such destructive services under the Freedom of Choice Act, we will have to refuse. Catholic health care workers, and other men and women of good conscience, will risk losing their jobs when their conscience exception is lost and they are pressured to participate. I read a letter recently in our daily paper: The man said, “If you don’t want an abortion. Don’t have one.” Under a regime of such change, you and I will not have such an easy choice. By paying, it will become “our abortion.” Lord, have mercy on us, and on our country.

Homily for the Eve of the Election
November 3, 2008 – St. Therese North Parish
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

The one statement of Bishop Finn's above Homily which was central and applies the most significantly:

Most perilous is the fate of those Catholics who, with hardened hearts, decide to create for themselves, and preach to others, a false gospel that the “right” to an abortion must not be challenged, or that the humanity of the child need not be protected.

Oh, and by the way, on a sidenote, public companies that plan to enlarge the scope of their destructive ESCR research are trading higher this morning in anticipation of Obama overturning Bush restrictions for federal fundings of such programs.

That's a contrast to the position pro-abortion presidential candidate Barack Obama takes -- as he has said he would use an executive order to mandate funding for the grisly research as soon as he takes office.
SOURCE: http://www.lifenews.com/bio2546.html

Sorry, but sympathetic though I am to sending all Obama supporters to the nether-world, aren't you leaving something out here? A mortal sin is grave matter plus sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. If someone were truly convinced that his action in voting for Obama was not sinful, then the culpability for a mortal sin does not attach to his soul. This lack of knowledge or faulty judgment (say if one truly believed one had a proportionate reason, even if one were wrong or even unreasonable in that belief) would mean that one would not merit damnation, but rather perhaps a lengthy spell in purgatory, would it not? Indeed if one were wholly convinced that it was God's will that he vote for Obama, he might make it straight into heaven at least with regard to this action, mightn't he?

Lack of knowledge or faulty judgment of proportionate reason would fall under material cooperation, that is, would either implicitly or explicitly be an appeal to double-effect.

Note that I never said that such an appeal to double-effect actually works: I just distinguished appeals to double-effect from formal cooperation.

Perhaps I'm still misunderstanding you. I've never seen the principle of double-effect used as a "supplement" to the theology of mortal sin. As I understand it, the conditions of sufficient reflection and full consent of the will are not tempered by the notion of double effect. Either you knowingly and willfully consent to engaging in seriously grave sin or you do not so choose. If you do not freely and knowingly choose to engage in seriously grave sin then you are not culpable for a mortal sin and do not face damnation for the act.

This teaching would even alleviate one's culpability even for engaging directly in a seriously grave matter such as an abortion. If one were truly ignorant of the nature of the act, or were acting with diminished freedom, the culpability is mitigated and mortal sin does not attach. If this is the case even for those directly engaged in the evil of abortion, how can it be that those who are cooperating in the evil are not covered by the same provisos - such that their errors in will or judgment mitigate their culpability and hence do not incur damnation?

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