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MODULE TWO

FUNDAMENTAL MORAL PRINCIPLES


TOPIC I: INTRODUCTION TO FUNDAMENTAL MORAL PRINCIPLES
Definition of Terms: Moral: The word moral comes from the Latin word mos which means
custom, or practice, or characteristic manner of acting, a more or less constant mode of
behaviour in the deliberate actions of man. Morality, then, deals with regularity. And there is no
regularity in mans actions without a rule or norm: hence, moral treat of norms for mans actions.
Principles: In Christian ethics we find different terms used to refer to what guides good actions. We
find terms like norms, ideals, laws, standards, principles and rules. Principle or a norm is a standard
of judgment.
Often we find the term moral norms used by many scholars.
A principle is an authoritative standard which serves as a pattern or model to which things of a
similar nature must conform. A principle should be universal, unchangeable, accessible to all and
applicable to all conditions. Norms (principles) are guides to being and doing, particularly guides to
types of action that are right or wrong, obligatory or permitted.
In other words, moral principle is the standard of judging the nature of the human act whether it is
good or bad. It is also a standard measure of what a moral being ought to be. What human beings
ought to be is moral, and what they ought not to be is immoral. So there are norms that refer to
character and other norms that focus on actions. But both focus on the morality of the human
person.
Moral principles then present themselves as criteria for distinguishing right from wrong in particular
situation. But, viewed in another way, moral principle plays a much larger role than this in the life
of the individual and in the moral welfare of the community. So the individual must find in his/her
moral principles growth points and incentives for moral development. The moral principles implied
here are not just those which serve to identify certain actions as right or wrong, but those which give
moral colour and direction to ones life.
Since moral principles focus on the persons characteri.e., a persons life, in his/her moral ideals
the person lays down once for all a moral policy according to which or towards which he/she will to
direct his/her life. They become his/her principles; they are the conscience he/she has formed for
him/herself.
These principles introduce order and pattern into his/her moral life and correct arbitrariness and the
tendency to bend with expediency or self-interest. But they do more. They act as a beacon drawing
him/her forward to become the person he/she ought to be. We conclude by saying moral principles
concern the sorts of persons we ought to be beingcharacter and the sorts of actions we ought to
perform doingaction. Both being and doing, or character and action, constitute interdependent
concerns and must be taken together in any complete ethics. The sort of person one is depends to a
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great extent upon the sorts of decisions and actions one has taken, and conversely, the sorts of
decision and actions which one has taken depend in part upon the sort of person one is.
Fundamental: These moral principles are fundamental because they are basic in helping human
beings to be morally good and are the basis of moral judgment of a human act.
The fundamental moral principles are:
a)
b)
c)
d)

Do good and avoid evil


Obey your conscience
Do to others what you want done to you
Love God and neighbor

TOPIC II: FUNDAMENTAL MORAL PRINCIPLES


i) Do Good and Avoid Evil
Christian ethics teaches that natural law is the basis for judgments of conscience. As Christian ethics
understand natural law, it includes human goods as principles.
The first principle of morality directs choices towards integral human fulfillment. All people can
follow this moral principle because it has its foundation in natural law.
Natural Law: What is natural law and is it available to all?
According to St. Paul, even Gentiles find the requirements of morality which conscience discerns
written in their hearts.
Although the Gentiles do not have the law divinely revealed to the Jews, they naturally do have this
given standard of conduct (Rom 2: 14-16). Christian ethics calls these naturally known principles
natural law. They are natural in the sense that they are not humanly enacted but are objective
principles which originate in human nature.
But human naturefrom which derives the natural lawfinds its foundation in eternal lawi.e.,
Gods plan of creation. Eternal law (Gods plan of creation) embraces the whole of creation, and
any other law must correspond and somehow derive from it.
People can plan their lives reasonably only because in one way or another, they share in the
universal plan perfectly present in Gods eternal law. So people are naturally disposed to understand
some basic practical principles. These can be called in other terms primary principles of natural
law.
Since everyone knows them naturally, no one can make a mistake about them. They are the law
written in ones heart of which St. Paul speaksthe law whose voice is conscience. Another thing
to add is that natural law is a light of reason which is in us. No human being in exercise of his/her
spiritual faculties can fail to recognize role of natural law in his/her life and that of the society.
Practical Reasoning: Natural law gives us light of practical reasoning. Practical reasoning has two
phases: one concerned with what might be done, the other with what ought to be done. The two
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phases are not usually separated in practice. Instead they go hand in hand in seeking the course of
action. They are taken together in making judgments of conscience.
Do Good and Avoid Evil: Good is to be Done, Evil is to be Avoided:
Practical reasoning is thinking and judging about what is to be, not about what already is. It does
not simply report and explain: it entertains possibilities and projects lines of action. In the first
phase of practical thinking falls moral thinking, since moral reflection is concerned with what is to
be done and what is not to be done. This principle do good and avoid evil is the first principle of
practical reasoning. It calls the moral agent to act here and now by choosing the known good and
avoiding the known evil. Hence, this is a directive for action, not a description of good and evil.
Good here means not only what is morally good but whatever can be understood as intelligibly
worthwhile, while bad refers to whatever can be understood as a privation of intelligible goods.
Let us note that this first principle of practical reasoning directs reasoning/thinking toward the
fulfillment which is to be realized in and through human action. As it states Good is to be done,
Evil is to be avoided, one then says it does not tell us what is that good.
What is this Good and Evil? This principle is immediately known to be true once one understands
the meaning of good and evil.
Good here means not only what is morally good but also whatever can be understood to be truly
perfective of human persons, while evil or bad has the meaning of whatever deprives human
persons of their perfection or fullness of being. There are fundamental human goods that are to be
done, pursued, protected and promoted, namely, Self-integration or inner peace, which consists
in harmony among ones judgments, feelings and choices. Peace of conscience and consistency
between ones self and its expression a good in which one participates by establishing harmony
among ones judgments, choices, and actions (performance).
Peace with others, neighbourliness, friendship, or harmony between and among individuals and
groups of persons. Peace with Godor some morethanhuman source of meaning and value,
a good that can be called the good of religion. Human life itself, including health and bodily
integrity and the handing on and educating of human life, a good that fulfills human person as
bodily beings.
Knowledge of the truth and appreciation of beauty, goods that fulfill human persons as intelligent
beings. Playful activities and skillful performances, goods that fulfill human persons as
simultaneously bodily and intelligent beings and as makers and sharers in culture.
NB. None of the goods in question is the highest good or absolute good: none in other words, is the
Summum BonumSupreme Good, for God alone is this good. God is ultimate good from which
derives other goods.
But each of these goods is a real good of human persons and when grasped by practical reason,
serves as a principle or starting point for thinking about what-is-to-be-done. We conclude by noting
that God is the ultimate good from which derives the power to discern what is good and its basis is
God. Goodness is the wholeness of being and human acts are supposed to aim at that good. We do
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good because we want to be perfect as our heavenly father is (Mt 5: 48; Lk. 6:36) who is our
Creator and the end of man.
Evil is the absence or privation of good. We should avoid evil because it frustrates Gods plan for
us, i.e., eternal destiny. The truth concerning good and evil is recognized in practical and concrete
manner by the judgment of conscience.
ii) Obey your Conscience
Definition: In our ordinary life experience we often find ourselves saying: This is good; this is not
good or right.
There exists in each of us a sort of moral sense which leads us to discern what is good and what is
evil, just as there exists a sort of aesthetic sense which leads us to discern what is beautiful and
what is ugly. This inner voice we call conscience. Deep within his/her conscience man discovers
a law which he/she has not laid upon him/herself but which he/she must obey.
Its voice, ever calling him/her to love and to do what is good and to avoid what is evil, sounds in
his/her heart at the right moment. His/her conscience is mans most secret core and his sanctuary.
There he/she is alone with God whose voice echoes in his/her depth. It is the voice of God in mans
heart. Conscience then is the judgment that one gives of oneself with regard to ones way of acting.
Conscience is a judgment about right and wrong, good and bad, perfect and imperfect.
Conscience may be defined as an act of the intellect judging that an action must be performed as
obligatory or must be omitted as sinful, or may be performed as lawful or is advisable as the better
course of action. It is a mans judgment on how he/she is to act here and now if he/she wishes to
please God. Conscience, then briefly, is a practical moral judgment.
The Judgment of Conscience: Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins
him/her at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices,
approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil.
According to St. Thomas, conscience is the mind of a man passing moral judgment which warns by
calling for reasoning. Hence, conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person
recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he/she going to perform, is in the process of
performing, or has already completed.
In all he/she says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he/she knows to be just and
right. It is by the judgment of his/her conscience that man perceives and recognizes the
prescriptions of the divine law. It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to
him/herself in order to hear and follow the voice of his/her conscience.
This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection,
self-examination or introspection.
Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions.
He/she must not be forced to act contrary to his/her conscience. Nor must he be prevented from
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acting according to his/her conscience, especially in religious matters. Hence, conscience is always
to be obeyed because it expresses the persons understanding of moral law and how it applies to a
particular human act.
Formation of Conscience: Since our conscience is not always certain regarding the morality of our
actions it needs to be correctly formed. The dignity of the human person implies and requires
uprightness of moral conscience (CCC, n. 1780).
Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright
and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good
willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human
beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment
and to reject authoritative teachings.
The education of conscience is a lifelong task. Prudent education teaches virtues; it prevents or
cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of
human weakness and faults. In the formation of conscience the word of God is the light for our
path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer, and put it into practice. Hence, conscience can be
formed through Revelation (Sacred Scriptures, Magisterium and Church Traditions), Natural Moral
Law, and Human experience.
We must also examine our conscience before the Lords cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the
Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the
Church.
To Choose in Accord with Conscience: Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a
right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law, or on the contrary, an erroneous
judgment that departs from them.
Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision
difficult. But one must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God
expressed in divine law. Some rules apply in every case in decision making, namely, One may
never do evil so that good may result from it;
The Golden Rule: Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. (Mt. 7: 12; Lk. 6:
31; Tob. 4: 15);
Charity always proceeds by way of respect for ones neighbour and his/her conscience: Thus
sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience,you sin against Christ (1Cor.8: 12).
Therefore, it is right not todo anything that makes your brother stumble (Rom. 14: 21).
Only the sure or certain conscience is a rule of morality that ought to be followed: to obey it is the
very dignity of man (GS, n. 1 6).
Kinds of Conscience: Considering the action, conscience may be antecedent, concomitant or
consequent.
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Antecedent: The intellect judges the morality of the act before it is done. This antecedent
conscience commands, exhorts, permits or forbids.
Concomitant: The intellect judges the morality of the act while it is being done. The concomitant
conscience animates the good action and disturbs the one who does the evil.
Consequent: The intellect judges the morality of the act after it has been done. This judgment, will
not change the morality of the act already done. The consequent conscience approves, excuses,
reproves or accuses.
All the above relies on the types of conscience insofar as the objective moral order is concerned.
There are different types of conscience in this regard, namely,
True (Right): True conscience is when one judges licit what is really licit, or illicit what is really
illicit.
False (erroneous): False conscience is when one judges licit what really is illicit, or illicit what
really is licit. This false conscience can be invincibly erroneous and vincibly erroneous.
Every person is bound to seek what is true in the sphere of morality according to his/her own
intellectual ability and he/she is judged according to that. One cannot evade his/her personal
responsibility nor can he/she transfer it to another being. All ones thoughts, words, deeds and
omissions are his/her decisions. Ones conscience is ones ultimate guide.
Although conscience is not infallible, nevertheless it is always to be obeyed. Conscience has its
limitations. Therefore, one must look for assistance to an authority distinct from itself. Ones
conscience may be impaired through ones own fault. These are: viz., i) habitual sin in the past; ii)
neglect of prayer; iii) unwillingness to examine ones own motivation; iv) refusal to seek the advice
of others or to be guided by the competent teaching authority. These are some the factors that cloud
the conscience without freeing it from guilt.
Sometimes we can be affected in our judgement by other things, viz., i) self-interest; ii) prejudice;
iii) passion or by the difficulty of weighing correctly all the factors involved. Such factors may
weaken the will or cloud the intellect and at times they may lessen or even take away completely
the guilt of sin, while not, of course, transforming an action which is in itself evil into a good one.
If our conscience is invincibly mistaken, we do not sin by following it, but an evil action remains
evil, even if we sincerely believe it to be good. Vincible ignorance or conscience does not at all
lessen the guilt, for it is out of negligence. So one should purge his/her negligence and arrive at an
inculpable judgement of conscience.
To be without blame everyone has the obligation to take whatever steps are necessary to assure that
the dictates of his/her conscience present the morality of an act as it really is objectively. We must
finally remember that we must do all we can to enlighten our conscience and find out what the
Church teaches. We must not forget that prayer is very important for our moral progress. Other three
types of conscience are;
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i) Perplexed: Confronted with moral problems one may take different attitudes. This is how
perplexed conscience is experienced by an individual. That is, when one is doubting what he/she
should do and is not able to solve the doubt, his/her conscience is said to be perplexed, e.g., a
mother with a sick child and going for the Sunday mass.
What should one do, in these or similar cases?
a) If time allows he/she should ask counsel, or consult books etc;
b) If time does not allow it, he/she should choose the lesser evil;
c) If one is not able to decide which one is lesser evil, one could choose any of the alternatives.
ii) Scrupulous: Scrupulous is from the term scrupulum which comes from scrupus a small
pebble.
The scrupulous persons spiritual journey may be aptly compared to that of a traveler who has a
pebble in his/her shoe. This pebble makes every step painful and hesitant. A scrupulous conscience
is that conscience which for slight motives or without any motives at all, often fears to do an action
thinking that it is a sin.
A scrupulous person is often tortured by doubts that he/she may be living in mortal sin, or he/she
may be constantly beset with an unfounded fear of having committed sin. Scrupulosity is a
religious-moral-psychological state of anxiety, fear and indecision. It consists of a more or less
constant, unreasonable and morbid fear of sin, error and guilt.
For such a person mortal/grave sin is everywhere. He/she cant look at anything; cant read
anything; cant touch anything Soon he/she wont be able to manage anything or think of
anything. They might as well not be alive. Certain people have reached this point, and it is an
extremely painful suffering, beyond anything that we can imagine.
A scrupulous conscience is no conscience at all. It is rather mere anxiety and fear. A scruple is,
above all, indecision of will.
iii) Lax: A lax conscience is that which, for slight motives and for motives which favour ones
cupidity, judges as not grave or licit what is really grave or licit.
Those with a lax conscience are said to have smeared their conscience in such a way that their
conscience becomes blunt by the habit of sin. They at times attach too much importance to some
small, especially external practices while at the same time they despise the great commandments of
the Lord, as the Pharisees did woe to you Pharisees and Scribes. (Mt. 23: 25).
Bad education, bad company, vehement and uncontrolled passions, sloth neglect of prayer, lust, too
much solicitude for temporal affairs, etc are the causes of the formation of a lax conscience. One
who with knowledge and will acts with a lax conscience sin gravely in a grave matter. This sin is at
least indirectly voluntary.
Authority of Conscience: Conscience often goes wrong sometimes invincibly (i.e., by no fault of
the agent and so without losing its dignity), but at other times voluntarily-vincibly (i.e., due to
negligence or vice, in which case it loses its dignity). Conscience, like any intellectual ability, can
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err because the human mind can be more or less mature, experienced, trained, healthy,
sophisticated, imaginative, prudent, integrated with passion, etc.
Conscience in only right conscience when it accurately mediates and applies that natural law which
participates in the divine law; it is erroneous when it does not. Hence, to maintain the dignity of
conscience, it follows: That we must do our best to cultivate a well-formed and well-informed
conscience in ourselves and those we influence;
That we must take responsibility for our actions and thus always seek seriously to discern what is
the right choice to make; That we should seek to resolve doubt rather than act upon it; never act
with a doubtful conscience; That we must follow the last and best judgment of our conscience even
if , unbeknownst to us, it is objectively in error; That we must do so in all humility, aware that our
choice may be wrong and so be ready, if we later realize it is, to repent and start afresh;
That we should avoid coercing peoples conscience: people should if possible be persuaded rather
than forced to live well and so be given a certain latitude (freedom-autonomy).
Conclusion
Conscience is important in human moral life, hence:
All are bound to seek, embrace and live the truth faithfully;
Conscience is experienced as an inner sanctuary or tribunal, rather than something external, yet it
mediates a universal and objective moral law which is given rather than invented;
Conscience is common to all human beings, not just Christians, and it is the very dignity of man, a
dignity the Gospel protects;
We will be judged according to how we formed and followed our conscience;
The moral law and the particular judgments of conscience bind the human person;
Agents may experience anxiety, contradictions and imbalances in conscience; and conscience may
err out invincible ignorance or being blamefully corrupted;
Claims of personal freedom or of obedience to civil laws, or superiors do not excuse a failure to
abide by the universal principles of good conscience;
Conscience must be properly formed and educated by ensuring it is dutifully conformed to the
divine law and submissive towards the Churchs teaching office, which authentically interprets the
law in the light of the Gospel;
Freedom of conscience, especially in religious matters, must be respected by civil authorities and
people not be coerced into any religious practice.
iii) Do to Others What you Want Done to You

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This is the Golden Rule in Christian teaching (Mt. 7:12). It is called Golden Rule because it cuts
across all cultures and religions. It is also called the rule of reciprocity. It is the principle of fairness.
It is the principle that is the injunction that we are to do no injury to no one. This is the principle
that reminds us that we ought not intentionally damage, destroy, or impede basic human goods, etc.
It is a call for exchange of the gift of love among persons where we should not treat human beings
as means but end in themselves.
Being in the image of God the human person possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just
something, but someone. He/she is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession, and of freely
giving him/herself and entering into communion with other persons bringing about the existence of
social solidarity. Social solidarity will eventually lead to the attainment of the common good, of
which the first good is the good of peace.
iv) Love of God and Neighbour
We find this principle well put in the Scripture (Mt. 22: 37-40; Lk. 10: 25-37).
From the above bible passages, this is the moral principle from which the moral precepts of the
Decalogue are derived. Love is a life-giving principle of the Gospel and has the power to animate
all Christian actions. It is unconditional gift to us from God who is love itself and who invites us
into communion of love with others. It is a gift and task. We love God because he created us; and he
is the source and end of our being. God is the Supreme good and source of all goods. He has created
us in His own image and likeness (Gen 1: 27) and endowed us with free will and intelligence which
enables us to know, love and serve him. In addition, to love him is to love and cherish all goods
basic human goods.
We love our neighbours because we acknowledge in them the dignity of the human person created
in the image and likeness of God. One love ones neighbour by willing that the good of human
existence flourish in him/her. We love God and others because he loved us first (Jn. 4: 11-12). The
commandment of reciprocal love represents the law of life for Gods people, hence, it must inspire,
purify, and elevate all human relationships in society: social, economic, political, cultural and
religious dimensions.
We can put into practice the love of neighbour by practicing the art of loving, which has six
components: viz.,
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)

to love all;
be first to love;
to love the other as ourselves;
making ourselves one with others;
to love Jesus in the other; and
to love until love conquers: mutual love.

Loving ones neighbour as oneself excludes egoism and means accepting fulfillment of others as
part of ones responsibility.
TOPIC III: SOURCES OF THE FUNDAMENTAL MORAL PRINCIPLES
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The sources are the fountain from which springs the fundamental moral principles. Faith and
Reason represent the two cognitive paths of Christian ethics, hence, the two sources of the
fundamental moral principles.
Faith, which receives the divine word and puts it into practice, effectively interacts with reason. The
understanding of faith, especially faith leading to practical action, is structured by reason and makes
use of every contribution that reason has to offer. As we noted Christian ethics studies in the light of
Christian faith and reason, the principles that the human person must follow in order to live a
meaningful life and gives guidance for human action towards the realization of his/her ultimate
goal.
Hence, fides et ratio (faith and reason) remain the two principle sources of the fundamental
moral principles. This can be summarized under revelation and human nature.
This can further be seen as:
Revelation, which include Sacred Scriptures and Church Tradition, entrusted to the Magisterium of
the Church:
Natural moral law; which include Natural/empirical sciences and Human experience.
Revelation is the act of God through which He moves the person to proclaim the divine truths about
God, man and creation as given in the Scriptures handed on by the Church tradition and taught by
the Magisterium.
Sacred Scriptures: These are the biblical insights beginning with the book of Genesisthe Gospel
and the writings of the Apostles. Sacred Scriptures has significant role in shaping human behavior.
2Tim 3: 16-17 underscores this role, All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.
Sacred Scriptures is the source of all saving truth and the rules of conduct. It is the source of
holiness and spiritual life.
Church tradition is handed on by word of mouth. These are the holy traditions of the Church
expounded by the early writers of the Church, i.e., the teachings of the Fathers and Doctors, the
decisions of Councils and Popes, the witness of the saints, the writings of approved theologians and
philosophers. All societies are nurtured by their traditions from which they derive their original
purpose, their constitution and organization, their basic principles and their ideals, their way of life,
their rules and laws.
Natural moral law is discovered by human reason as is inscribed in the nature of creation (animate
and inanimate). The twofold points of natural law knowledge are the physical world and the human
person. Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it thus Created in God's image and called to know
and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are
also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but
rather in the sense of "converging and convincing arguments", which allow us to attain certainty
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about the truth. These "ways" of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure:
the physical world, and the human person (CCC No. 31, cf. also Nos 32, 33).
Human experience is whereby an individual or society comes to learn and know how to make a
sharp distinction between what is good from what is bad. This entails the experience of the Church
and her members throughout her history among peoples of all cultures and social, political and
economic systems. Under this we emphasize the contemporary experience of the people of God
struggling to live out their faith in justice and love, enlightened by natural law ethics.
This can again be based on their faith and reason. By faith they live their life showing great
supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei), that govern their life on matters of faith and morals.
People unfailingly adhere to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment and applies it
more fully in daily life. Example of how we gather human experiences include suffering, joy,
education, the contributions of human and natural sciences. Hence, through reason human
experience is enriched by human and natural science in discernment of good from evil.
The natural sciences/empirical sciences: In this we have the relevant findings of non-Christian
thinkers and writers on social, political and economic life of man. This means as well that Christian
Ethics draws on the lessons to be learned from the experience of different non-Christian findings in
various areas of human life: e.g., in social, political and economic systems.
N.B. The Christian ethics uses these in order to show the harmony between revealed truth and right
reason which should govern human acts.
TOPIC IV: THE MORALITY OF HUMAN ACT
Introduction: Whenever the subject on the morality of human act is addressed what comes
immediately is the place of human freedom. Hence it is good to look the question of human
freedom in order to understand well the standard on which to discuss the morality of human act.
Human Freedom: In CCC No. 1730 God created man a rational being, conferring on him the
dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. God willed that man should be
left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely
attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. Man is rational and therefore like God; he
is created with free will and is master over his acts.
Freedom and Responsibility: In order to understand the morality of human act we should
understand the existing relationship between freedom and responsibility. However, we look at the
definition of freedom: Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do
this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes
one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains
its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude (CCC No. 1731).
There are two forms of freedom that can be distinguished in moral life: namely,
Basic freedom or freedom of self-determination;
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Freedom of choice.
In basic freedom human beings decide about their beings as persons, i.e., about the person they
wants to be or who they want to be in their life. For example, a person exercises this freedom when
he/she decides that he/she wants to be an honest person in character. In the freedom of choice they
decide about their concrete actions, i.e., about what they are doing to realize their being. For
example, if one wants to be an honest person in character then he/she exercise the freedom of
choice by choosing to act honestly all the time.
These two forms of freedom find their counterpart in the two forms of decisions: viz.,
The existential decision, wherein a person decides on the fundamental project of his/her life;
The particular (categorical) decision, which concerns concrete, particular actions.
We note that As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is
God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or
of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or
blame, merit or reproach (CCC No. 1732). Again The more one does what is good, the freer one
becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to
disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin" (CCC No. 1733).
Freedom and Human Act: In relation to human acts, we underline that an essential condition of
moral action is freedom of will. Without at least a minimum of freedom of decision, no moral act is
possible. The Catechism holds, Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they
are voluntary.
Limitation of Freedom: However, human freedom is a limited freedom, a freedomin-situation.
We operate in a world which we did not create, a world with its own possibilities and limitations.
For example, we cannot flap our arms and fly! Effective decisions can only be made within the
confines of the possibilities present in the real world of physics and chemistry, a world with its own
history and geography.
Freedom, therefore, is not the ability to bring about any kind of situation one wishes. It is the ability
to deal with the situation which actually exists. It is the ability to act for reasons which we choose
but do not invent out of nothing. It is the ability to operate within the possibilities that actually exist.
We are not helpless before these limitations. We can grow in our-self-knowledge and in
understanding of our motives and needs; we can learn about new possibilities and develop new
skills.
Freedom and Self-Determination: In a moral sense, one is said to be truly free when he/she is
master of his/her actions. Only God, then, is free in the full sense of the word. Creatures partake of
the freedom of God. They are said to be really free, not when the can do whatever they wish, but
when they, realizing their condition as creature, exercise dominion over themselves and choose to
obey Gods will.

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For his/her self-determination the human person is responsible before God. Our Lord told his
disciples: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and
the truth will make you free (Jn. 8: 31-32).
What is to be free?
a)
b)
c)
d)

to be free means to use ones freedom in truth;


the truth is that we are beings created by God;
the truth is that we must acknowledge God as our creator in our conduct;
it means that we must obey the laws given by God for our conduct.

This latter implies self-determination. Does it imply that if we determine by ourselves our own
conduct we will be independent of God? No, for it would be a contradiction. In fact, we determine
by ourselves our own conduct when we decide what is good and what is evil. We determine by
ourselves our own conduct when we deny any objective norm. We decide by ourselves our own
conduct when we admit only subjective norms of conduct.
Freedom, therefore, does not mean doing everything that one likes or wants. The CCC puts it The
exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything (CCC No. 1740). It is false to
maintain that man, the subject of this freedom, is an individual who is fully self-sufficient and
whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods (CCC No.
1740).
The Vatican II notes that men of today appreciate freedom highly and rightly so. Yet they often
cherish it improperly, as if it gave them leave to do everything they like, even when it is evil (G.S.
17). They consider freedom threatened not only by physical or psychical coercion, but also by the
claims of moral norms and by the predisposition through habits good in themselves through virtues.
This leads to an inclination to assert freedom in the NO to precepts and authority.
In exaggeration of this attitude, anticonformism on principles is considered as a special realization
of freedom. With this goes the tendency to view the binding orders of the community, the state and
the Church from the start as a menace to ones own full freedom. Let us note that freedom contains
in itself the criterion of truth, the discipline of truth. Freedom begins with the movement towards
God in truth and love which is the exercise of the right and duty of religious liberty. This movement
towards God is what makes possible any act of freedom. We can further note that freedom is the
ability to direct oneself abidingly towards what is good. This means to realize what is truly good
and to devote oneself to God.
Freedom of Choice: Further freedom implies that we are capable of doing good without constraint.
This is the truly human way of proceeding in the choices-big and small which life puts before us.
Hence, when one obeys Gods will, he is really exercising his freedom. One is free because he/she
possesses the faculty of determining him/herself with regard to what is good and possesses the
faculty of choice. In fact, to be free is to be able to choose, and to want to choose. To be really free
is to live according to ones conscience. Freedom is the capacity to decide what is good by oneself
and not through external constraint.
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The Human Acts: In human beings experience, we find quite a variety of actions. These actions
can be classified into two categories; viz., human acts and acts of man. Acts of man comprises of all
biological processes such as breathing, digestion, spontaneous swallowing, sensory impulses like
feeling pain as well as spontaneous psychic reactions that precedes the activity of intellect and free
will, like the first movement of anger and sympathy. These acts of man are indeliberate.
We are concerned with the other type of actions; viz., human acts which come from mans gift of
freedom. Freedom makes man a moral subject. Man exercises his/her freedom responsibly through
particular acts which express his/her basic direction of life. When one acts deliberately man is the
master of his/her acts. Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment
of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil.
They are regarded as human acts and different from acts of man, because they are made of two
important elements; i.e., previous knowledge of the intellect and free will. In every human act there
are three things to be taken into consideration; viz., object, intention, and circumstances of an
action. These are regarded too as factors that determine the morality of human acts: these are,
the object (what) chosen as the good towards which the will deliberately direct itself;
the intention (why) is the end in view for which the agent undertakes an act. The end is the first
goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of
the will towards the end; it is concerned with the goal of the activity.
A good intention does not make behaviour that is intrinsically disordered such as lying and
calumny, good or just. Hence, the moral principle: the end does not justify the means.
the circumstances (how, where, who) which are particulars of the human act that affect the moral
object. The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act.
They contribute to increasing and diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts. They can
add or diminish the agents responsibility (such as acting out of fear of death). They cannot change
the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself
evil.
Good Acts and Evil Acts: A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and
of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself;
e.g., praying and fasting in order to be seen by men. The object of the choice can by itself vitiate
an act in its entirety. Such acts as fornication are always wrong to choose, because choosing them
entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.
It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that
inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress, or emergency, etc) which
supply their context. There are acts, which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances
and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object, such as blasphemy, perjury,
murder and adultery. Hence, one may not do evil so that good may result from it. All in all, these
human acts rely on the judgment of conscience; hence, what type of conscience one has affects the
morality of these acts.
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TOPIC V: HUMAN VALUES


We begin by distinguishing human values from worldly values or disvalues as enumerated by St.
Paul in Col. 3: 5-15. A value is an ideal which is treasured and held in high esteem. It is a good that
is pursued by a moral agent for self-perfection and self-realization, through all the concrete
situations of his/her life and in intersubjective dialogue with his/her fellow man and God.
Value is some reality that man spontaneously recognizes as possessing an intrinsic worth. The
person him/herself is the basic value, the centre of values. He/she is also the bearer of values. Values
cut across all cultures and religions in all countries. Values are known by various communities, but
there is lacuna insofar as implementation is concerned. Value calls for a norm in order to express it
and protect it. The norm is in this case a summon or an invitation to exercise liberty, arising from
the value in the object, an invitation to man to preserve and nurture value in freedom.
The relationship between values and principles is an undoubtedly one of reciprocity in that moral
values are an expression of appreciation to be attributed to those specific aspects of moral good
which these principles foster (CSDC, n. 197). The values include: human life, peace, justice, love,
honesty, charity, temperance, truth, freedom, fortitude, humility, respect, chastity, kindness,
understanding and forgiveness. The human person comes to the grasp moral value only gradually.
Moral education would have to take into account this gradually maturing process. It should
primarily aim at instilling genuine values in the minds and hearts of youth. Moral guidance should
be concerned with helping a person to realize the values implied in a given situation.
All the values which contribute to community of love between persons need to be protected and
fostered. So the institutions and environment within which persons must live and grow should be
the object of deep concern. We should wish not only the growth of individuals, but also the
development of economic, cultural, social and political life in such a way that these institutions
provide an atmosphere in which personal liberty, justice, love and truth can flourish. Only on this
can peaceful coexistence be sustained.
This brings to our attention the National Value System in our New Constitution. The national values
and principles of governance includepatriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power,
the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people; human dignity, equity, social justice,
inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised; good
governance, integrity, transparency and accountability; and sustainable development.
This aims at calling the citizenly to internalize these values in order to change the attitude in all
sectors of service. Thus the moral/ethical behaviour based on these values by any leader is not a
choice but an imperative if this country will eventually change. It is unfortunate that many people
who are incensed are those who are not role models to the young people. What is bedeviling our
socioeconomic and political life in our African countries is lack of substantial virtuous and moral
behaviour of our leaders. A value free leadership has ruined the society in all levels.

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TOPIC VI: JESUS VISION OF LIFE


A number of bible passages give us Jesus teachings and vision on life: Mt. 5: 3-12 (beatitudes); Mt.
25: 31-45 (last judgment); Lk. 10: 25-37 (Good Samaritancompassion neighbour); Lk. 12: 4148 (faithful servant); Mt. 5: 13-14 (salt and light); Jn. 8: 12 (light of the world); Eph. 5: 8-9; 1Cor.
12: 12-27 (Analogy of the body: unity); and Col. 3:12-14.
There are a number of issues affecting us today in our society that we need to evaluate in the light of
Jesus vision of life. For example, unemployment, permissiveness, violence, discrimination, hunting
down of witches(Kisii and Malindi: old people), tribalism, culture of cheating (mobile phones), the
search for wealth at any cost thus making money the end of everything, prostitution, corruption,
indulgence into hedonistic lifestyle, taking alcohol and doing drugs, peer influence (mob
psychology), gangs (Mungiki, Sugusugu, Chinkororo, etc.
From the above passages Jesus looks at life issues in a different way, and responded in words and
deeds accordingly. He underlined the importance of self-giving, identification with the other, culture
of giving; care, compassion, love and no indifference.
Jesus viewed life as sacred by virtue of being created in the image and like of God. This was
manifested in His words and deeds, thus unveiling Gods loving plan for humanity. He protected
and promoted the dignity of human life. He gave (sacrificed) Himself for the redemption and
liberation of man. He identified with the weak, poor, sick, socially marginalized, etc.
Jesus taught on three dimensions of relationship: man with God, man with fellow human beings and
man with the rest of creation. This means Jesus wanted the essential liberation and redemption of
all, i.e., reconciliation of all in Him. For Him authentic life is a call to Holiness (Mt. 5: 48).
Holiness is not limited to the sanctuary or to moments of private prayer, it is a call to direct our
whole heart and life toward God according to Gods plan for this world (OBrien and Shannon,
2003, 655).
Jesus vision of life is that of integral redemption and liberation of humankind. Humankind should
be seen from both spiritual and temporal dimensions. This is clearly spelt out in Jesus programme
of His social ministry as spelt out in Lk. 4: 18-19. This means Jesus wants man to be free from all
types of enslavement: social, moral, economic, political, cultural or religious. We are called to
participate in Jesus mission guided by His vision of life.
Man is called to look with hope toward ultimate union with God. Therefore the whole vision of
Christ on man is that the human person, in himself and in his vocation, transcends the limits of the
created universe, of society and of history: his ultimate end is God Himself who has revealed
Himself to men in order to invite them and receive them into communion with Himself.

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