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Intrinsic Evil and Political Responsibility

Intrinsic Evil and Political Responsibility

Is the concept of intrinsic evil helpful to the Catholic voter? http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=11166

M. Cathleen Kaveny | OCTOBER 27, 2008

As the November national elections approach, we need not delve too deeply into Catholic political discussions to realize the importance of the term “intrinsic evil.” The term is used not only in such documents as Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the 2008 Voting Guide for Catholics issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but also in political skirmishes among American Catholics. But what, exactly, is an “intrinsic evil”? Why should voters give special attention to intrinsic evils in considering the candidates? Almost no Catholic opinion-maker who invokes the term goes on to ask these questions, let alone to answer them.

Perhaps this is because the answers seem obvious. After all, the term “intrinsic evil” seems to connote great and contaminating evil—evil that we take inside ourselves simply by associating with it. The term itself suggests that “intrinsic evil” involves wrongdoing of an entirely different magnitude than ordinary, run-of-the-mill wrongdoing. Consequently, intrinsic evils must pose great moral dangers to both individuals and society at large, and these dangers ought to dwarf all other considerations in casting one’s vote. Read more