IN THIS POST, I’ll fisk the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia on being an ACCOMPLICE, something which I hope will bring a bit of clarity to the situation.
But first, let’s begin with a few words of Cardinal Burke whom I hope will be the next Roman Pontiff should he somehow outlive Pope Benedict XVI, gloriously reigning, who, I hope, will outlive everyone.
Thomas McKenna: “So a Catholic employer, really getting down to it, he does not, or she does not provide this because that way they would be, in a sense, cooperating with the sin…the sin of contraception or the sin of providing a contraceptive that would abort a child, is this correct?”
Cardinal Burke: “This is correct. It is not only a matter of what we call “material cooperation” in the sense that the employer by giving this insurance benefit is materially providing for the contraception but it is also “formal cooperation” because he is knowingly and deliberately doing this, making this available to people. There is no way to justify it. It is simply wrong.”
Here’s the audio for that. Turn the volume up on your computer before starting. The above two paragraphs follow after about a minute of conversation to that you can get the flow of what’s being said.
See LifeSiteNews for the full article. People dismiss the Cardinal’s statement, saying that he is a canon lawyer, not a moral theologian, and therefore has no right to speak of such things. But this isn’t about “authority” of name-throwing or the declared competencies declared by letters after one’s name, is it? No. In fact, it is a matter of natural law, of reason. So, let’s reason this out, shall we?
From the old Catholic Encyclopedia digitized by NewAdvent and [fisked] by yours truly. Let’s use the example of providing a gun to someone, and then make some distinctions afterward.
A term generally employed to designate a partner in some form of evildoing. An accomplice is one who cooperates in some way in the wrongful activity of another who is accounted the principal. [The "principal" is a girl who will murder innocent people with a gun that she buys from you.]
From the viewpoint of the moral theologian not every such species of association is straightway to be adjudged unlawful. It is necessary to distinguish first of all between formal and material cooperation.
To formally cooperate in the sin of another is to be associated with him in the performance of a bad deed in so far forth as it is bad, that is, to share in the perverse frame of mind of that other. [You know of her plan to shoot innocent people, and willingly sell her the gun, wanting this to happen.]
On the contrary, to materially cooperate in another’s crime is to participate in the action so far as its physical entity is concerned, but not in so far as it is motived [motivated] by the malice of the principal in the case. [You don't know of her plan to kill innocent people, and sell her the gun in view of all the other motives there can be, such as self-defense, recreational target shooting, etc.]
For example, to persuade another to absent himself without reason from Mass on Sunday would be an instance of formal cooperation. To sell a person in an ordinary business transaction a revolver which he presently uses to kill himself is a case of material cooperation.
Then it must be borne in mind that the cooperation may be described as proximate or remote in proportion to the closeness of relation between the action of the principal and that of his helper. The teaching with regard to this subject-matter is very plain, and may be stated in this wise:
Formal cooperation is never lawful, since it presupposes a manifestly sinful attitude on the part of the will of the accomplice. [Wanting to murder the innocent is always evil.]
Material complicity is held to be justified when it is brought about by an action which is in itself either morally good or at any rate indifferent [Selling a gun to someone you don't know wants to murder innocent people], and when there is a sufficient reason for permitting on the part of another the sin which is a consequence of the action [Guns can also be used for self-defense, which is a commensurate reason as you don't know the other's intention of malice]. The reason for this assertion is patent; for the action of the accomplice is assumed to be unexceptionable , his intention is already bespoken to be proper [Selling guns with good intentions is always unexceptionable and proper, all things being equal], and he cannot be burdened with the sin of the principal agent, since there is supposed to be a commensurately weighty reason for not preventing it [such as the use of guns for self-defense].
[Let's re-cap that with the example of the HHS abortifacient mandate. Murdering the innocent in the womb is the express intention of the principal agent. She takes abortifacients to kill children. This must also be the wilfull intention of the accomplice, who provides Obamacare abortifacient mandated insurance. One is paying for the abortifacients to be used with the express intention of murdering innocent children. One is, de facto, ipso facto, in agreement with the girl who is out to murder children in her womb. Paying for Obamacare insurance cannot be mere material cooperation. While guns can be used for good purposes, abortifacients are very precisely manufactured to have the one purpose of murdering innocent people in the womb.]
Practically, however, it is often difficult to apply these principles [not in this case], because it is hard to determine whether the cooperation is formal or only material [not in this case], and also whether the reason alleged for a case of material cooperation bears due proportion to the grievousness of the sin committed by the principal, and the intimacy of the association with him [The evil of losing one's business because of not being able to pay fines because of not providing Obamacare fades into insignificance compared to the evil of willingly facilitating the murder of innocent people in the womb].
It is especially the last-named factor ["intimacy of association"] which is a fruitful source of perplexity. [This bit about being able to distance oneself from the perception of being an accomplice out of concern for scandal is simply an added factor. Whether or not others know of the sin doesn't mean there is no sin. Note well that this bit about "distancing" is very common among some bishops. But, our Lord sees all, no matter how distanced one is. Hell is not so far that He cannot put someone there.]
In general, however, the following considerations will be of value in discerning whether in an instance of material cooperation the reason avowed [saving one's business by paying for Obamacare] is valid or not. The necessity for a more and more powerful reason [not to be an accomplice] is accentuated in proportion as there is
• a greater likelihood that the sin would not be committed without the act of material cooperation [It has been shown time and again that the introduction of contraceptives/abortifacients is immediately followed by a sharp rise in sexual activity, promiscuity and abortion. When you throw such things at people, they will be used, even and especially by those who would have stayed chaste until marriage.];
•a closer relationship between the two [The employer/employee relationship is about as close as it gets. If the employer provides abortifacients, the employee will feel encouraged to think that it is O.K. to use them with the blessing of the employer, even though the employer has said that he personally disagrees with their use. No one builds a crematorium in Auschwitz and then says to the Commandant that he personally disagrees with the use of the crematoriums. That would be ludicrous. It is what some bishops already do with very bad advice.]; and
•a greater heinousness in the sin, especially in regard to harm done either to the common weal or some unoffending third party. [The common weal is destroyed more easily and quickly and thoroughly in this way than in any other way. The unoffending third party, the innocent child in the womb, is murdered. This is a greater heinousness any way you look at it.]
It is to be observed that, when damage has been done to a third person [the murdered child in the womb], the question is raised not only of the lawfulness of the cooperation, but also of restitution to be made for the violation of a strict right [How does one even restore the right to life to one who is already murdered?]. Whether in that case the accomplice has shared in the perpetration of the injustice physically [Yes.] or morally (i.e. by giving a command, by persuasion, etc.) [Yes.] whether positively [Yes.] or negatively (i.e. by failing to prevent it) [Yes.] the obligation of restitution is determined in accordance with the following principle. All are bound to reparation who in any way are accounted to be the actual efficient causes of the injury wrought, or who, being obliged by contract [In this case, natural law and the ten commandments], express or implied, to prevent it, have not done so [There it is]. There are circumstances in which fellowship in the working of damage to another makes the accomplice liable to restitution in solidum; that is, he is then responsible for the entire loss in so far as his partners have failed to make good for their share. [One will be at a loss on the brink of hell, will one not?] Finally, mention must be made of the Constitution of Benedict XIV, Sacramentum Poenitentiae, governing a particular case of complicity. It provides that a priest who has been the accomplice of any person in a sin against the Sixth Commandment is rendered incapable of absolving validly that person from that sin, except in danger of death, and then only if there be no other priest obtainable. [I wonder what politically correct priests will say to our Lord about their lack of fatherly governance in parishes.]*
*The article’s bibliographical data are placed in this post after the “continue reading” button below.
* * *
The author of this article is a bit carried away with “intention”. This feeds into what would later be condemned by Pius XII as situation ethics with its proportionalism lacking, by definition, any true comparative possibility. However, one merely needs to ask what one is doing as well as what the intention is. For instance, providing flowers for your wife to beautify her dreary hospital room is no reason to steal flowers from the local flower shop. In this case of the provision of abortifacients, what one is doing is commensurate with why one is doing it, even if one comes up with different reasons. For instance, the what of buying Obamacare abortifacient insurance is evil. The only reason why one would provide abortifacients is to murder the innocent in the womb. Even if one says that one’s only intention is to save one’s business from being shut down by Obama, this rings as hollow as any cry for help that one screams out as one falls into hell.
By the way: There are those who say that since the murder of innocent people in the womb is only a possibility, though really a probability, there is not guilt involved. But that would be like saying that the gun dealer who sells a gun to someone for the specific purpose of killing innocent people is not guilty of a sin just because it snowed later that day and the intended victims got away. That’s just ludicrous.
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GENICOT, Theol. Moralis (Louvain, 1898).
About this page
APA citation. Delany, J. (1907). Accomplice. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved November 16, 2012 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01100a.htm
MLA citation. Delany, Joseph. “Accomplice.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 16 Nov. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01100a.htm>.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.