Category Archives: Sexual morality

Pope Francis’ Opens a Door to Sexual Nihilism

I take the liberty of quoting the entire article by Edward Pentin from the on-line edition of National Catholic Register,September 14, 2019. It is evidence that Pope Francis either endorses what I have called “The moral neutrality of sexuality” or is willing to have inconsistent sexual moral theologies taught as authentically Catholic. However, the moral neutrality of sexuality would be the sexual morality taught at the important the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences.

I have pointed out that accepting the moral neutrality of sexuality undercuts traditional Catholic sexual morality. Note that accepting the moral neutrality of sexuality is tantamount to accepting that no sexual acts are intrinsically morally disordered.

Let us pray that the Holy Father knows how to preserve Catholic Christianity as a serious religion if it in principle accepts that under certain conditions, with certain intentions and high probability of beneficial consequences any sexual act is morally permissible. The moral neutrality of sexuality undercuts the religious outlook of Catholic Christianity which views human beings as fallen, needing redemption for our sins, and divine help to avoid sin.

There is nothing like the struggle to be chaste, eg., struggling against temptations to masturbation, to convince us that we are strongly tempted to sin, we cannot avoid sin by our own efforts and we need forgiveness for our sins. Performance of the corporeal works of mercy is necessary for salvation. But they are far easier to perform than, say, practicing natural family planning. At least that has been my personal experience

The Catholic Register article follows.

New JPII Institute Professors Question Church Orthodoxy on Homosexuality, Contraception

Father Maurizio Chiodi and Father Pier Davide Guenzi currently teach moral theology at the University of Northern Italy in Milan, and both are well known for their questioning of moral absolutes.

VATICAN CITY — The latest development in what is becoming increasingly viewed as both a purge and a revolution of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute is the hiring of two moral theologians whose views on homosexuality and contraception contradict the magisterium.
The new professors, Father Maurizio Chiodi and Father Pier Davide Guenzi, both moral theologians at the University of Northern Italy in Milan, will begin teaching at the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences as part of its 2019-2020 curriculum announced this week.
Father Chiodi, whom Archbishop Paglia appointed as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2017, is to teach “Theological Ethics of Life” at the institute.
Father Guenzi is to lecture on the “Anthropology and Ethics of Birth.” Both professors, whose appointments follow highly contentious removals of long-serving lecturers in July, are well known for their questioning of moral absolutes.
In 2017, Father Chiodi gave a controversial Rome lecture on Humanae Vitae in which he used Chapter 8 of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, to justify contraceptive use in some cases.
More recently, he gave an interview to the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire in which he asserted that, while each homosexual person is called to chastity, “under certain conditions” and depending on circumstances, homosexual relationships can be “the most fruitful way” for same-sex attracted persons “to enjoy good relations.”
The interview appeared to suggest that Father Chiodi was open to considering homosexual acts as “objectively good,” according to bioethicist Tommaso Scandroglio, writing in the Italian Catholic daily La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.
Father Guenzi expressed similar views to Father Chiodi in another recent interview with Avvenire. On the subject of whether homosexual acts could ever be licit, Father Guenzi equivocated, saying it depended on the “relationship, between the intention of the individual and the sense of their actions.” In this regard, he added, “they may be deemed ‘imperfect’ as other sexual behaviors are, even within the life of a stable heterosexual couple.”
With respect to homosexual relations generally, he drew on Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8, to assert that every situation has to be discerned differently. In recent years “we have learned that the natural law must be continually rethought,” he said. “There are deep dynamics inherent to each human person which ask to be respected as inherent to the structure of anthropology.”
Fathers Chiodi and Guenzi are two of eight new lecturers to be hired by the institute this forthcoming academic year, all of them Italian, while other incumbent professors including Polish philosophy Prof. Stanislaw Grygiel, a close friend of Pope St. John Paul II, have been sidelined or given their marching orders.
Grygiel has said he believes the institute is being “destroyed” and that John Paul II’s anthropological teaching replaced by “sociological and psychological meanderings.”
Both Professors Chiodi and Guenzi are understood to be close associates of the institute’s grand chancellor, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, and effectively replace Msgr. Livio Melina, a former president of the institute who held the institute’s now-obsolete chair of fundamental moral theology, and moral theologian, Father José Noriega.
The removals in July of Msgr. Melina and Father Noriega, and the way they were dismissed, led to over 200 scholars worldwide, including well-known U.S. academics such as professor Robert George and professor. Scott Hahn, signing an open letter to Archbishop Paglia, and the institute’s president, Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, asking they be reinstated.
The personnel changes come two years after Pope Francis issued a decree refounding the institute and giving it a new name.
The Register asked Archbishop Paglia whether he could give reasons for employing Fathers Chiodi and Guenzi to teach at the institute in light of their views on homosexuality and contraception. He has yet to reply.

End of Register article

I authored a book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism Oklahoma City March 11, 2014. Sexual Nihilism is equivalent to the moral neutrality of sexuality. I argue that sexual nihilism leads to total moral nihilism which is frequently labeled moral relativism. See Book Web Page for more information about the book. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.

To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Evaluation of Feser’s Perverted Faculty Argument

This evaluation of Edward Feser’s* argument for traditional Catholic sexual morality is not a digression from my series of posts on the conceptual elements of moral thinking. The main point of my evaluation is to bring out that in moral thinking “ought” is moral fundamental than “good.” Or: thinking of what we ought to do is more fundamental than thinking of good to be accomplished by what we do.In the terminology of moral theory, I am making a case that moral thought is fundamentally deontological as opposed to teleological. Correct moral theory brings out that choices are to be driven by duty as opposed to being drawn by a goal (telos) of what is good.

I might be evaluating Feser’s article by a standard different from what he was trying meet. Feser’s goal might have been simply to show the correct formulation of the argument in the tradition of Aristotelian-Thomistic moral theory. I am evaluating his argument on the basis of whether or not it is an effective argument for the correctness of the basic principle of Catholic sexual morality.

To be an effective argument for the basic principle of Catholic sexual morality, the final conclusion has to be a statement that we OUGHT to follow the restrictions of Catholic sexual morality. A frequent criticism of natural law moral arguments is that they infer from a claim that there IS a way a system operates to a claim that that is the way we OUGHT to use the system.

For example,

The function of sexual intercourse IS to unite a man and woman in a union for procreation an rearing of children.
Therefore, sexual intercourse OUGHT to be used for uniting a man and woman in a union for procreation and rearing of children.

Feser writes on p. 381
No such gap, and thus no “fallacy” of inferring normative conclusions from “purely factual” premises, can exist given an Aristotelian Thomistic essentialist and teleological conception of the world.

But I challenge his argument mainly because we should not rest our argument on a conception of the world without admitting that such an assumption is taking a stance and thereby conceding that our argument is contingent upon that stance being correct. Moreover, I think that even if he explicitly conceded that he is taking a stance, he still makes a logical leap from “is” to “ought”
if his intention is to show that people ought to conform to traditional sexual morality.

It is in the use of metaphysics to justify moral claims about what people in the natural world ought to do where there might be inferences from “is” to “ought.”

In claims about the natural world, from an Aristotelian perspective, there may be no significant factual statement which does not also entail an “ought” statement because significant factual claims about any natural individual, species or system at least implies a claim about a final cause for the individual, species or system. However, factual statements entail an “ought” because there is an implicit premise to the effect:

If at the metaphysical level we can characterize a being with an essence E as choosing goal G, then at the natural level we can say that a being with essence E ought to choose G.

Such a premise should be explicit when used.

Consider Feser’s argument for traditional sexual morality. I present his whole deductively argument because it is so elegant. With the discussion of the premises in the article it is a clear and rigorous argument from Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics that conformity to traditional Catholic sexual morality IS an essential feature of a rational animal. But I focus only on the first and last premise.

His first premise as I mark it explicitly places his argument in metaphysics and not in physics.

1. Where some faculty F is natural to a rational agent A and by nature exists for the sake of some end E (and exists in A precisely so that A might pursue E), then it is metaphysically impossible for it to be good for A to use F in a manner contrary to E.

2. But our sexual faculties exist by nature for the sake of procreative and
unitive ends, and exist in us precisely so that we might pursue those

3. So it is metaphysically impossible for it to be good for us to use those
faculties in a manner that is contrary to their procreative and unitive

4. But contraceptive acts, masturbatory acts, homosexual acts, and acts of
bestiality involve the use of our sexual faculties in a manner that is con
trary to their procreative and/or unitive ends.

5. So it is metaphysically impossible for it to be good for us to engage in
contraceptive acts, masturbatory acts, homosexual acts, or acts of

6. But it can be rational to engage in an act only if it is in some way good
for us and never when it frustrates the realization of the good.

His conclusion is still at the metaphysical level. It tells us what is true about the essence of a rational animal.

7. So it cannot be rational to engage in contraceptive acts, masturbatory acts, homosexual acts, or acts of bestiality.

I use his term “metaphysically impossible” to emphasize that the conclusion is still a metaphysical claim.

So it is metaphysically impossible to be a rational animal and to engage in contraceptive acts, masturbatory acts, homosexual acts, or acts of bestiality.

Unfortunately it is all too obvious that it is physically possible to be a rational animal and to engage in contraceptive acts, masturbatory acts, homosexual acts, or acts of bestiality.

How can there be such a disparity between metaphysical truth and physical truth? The quick answer is that we are not as we ought to be. We get distracted by goods which are not our true good. So we do not choose as a fully rational animal would choose. We ought to choose as a fully rational animal would choose. And here we have the “ought” following from an “is.”

We need a premise (8) along the lines of:

8. We ought to choose and act on the physical or natural level as a rational animal characterized at the metaphysical level

* See Ch. 16 “In defense of the perverted faculty argument”
by Edward Feser in Neo-Scholastic Essays St. Augustine Press, South Bend IN 2015,

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. In Ch. IV of my book I make a case for traditional Catholic sexual morality. If I were to prepare a 2nd edition of my book I would think of using Feser’s argument because I think it is persuasive. I would only add that I am explicitly assuming a stance and I do need to add an “ought” premise. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.

To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Respect For the Moral Law

In my normative theory of moral harm, I first proposed that moral harm is an ad hoc prescription that harm ought to occur because of a violation of a moral law. For instance, if the moral law is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor” and a man perjurers himself by falsely accusing his neighbor of theft, the ad hoc moral prescription is “Harm ought to happen because of this violation.”

Throughout my posts on moral harm, I have usually allowed the ad hoc proposals to be specified in more detail as “Harm ought to happen to perpetrators and accomplices in some proportion to the nature of the violation.” To specify that the harm be to perpetrators etc., helps make my theory closer to common sense.

Nonetheless, once harm is required for violation of a moral law, it remains to ask “For whom?” and “How much?” However, in this post I do not explore the questions of “To whom?” and “How much?” So, feel free to understand these ad hoc prescriptions for harm as demanding punishment to fit the crime for perpetrators. When I discuss collective guilt, inherited guilt and substitutionary atonement it is useful to bring out the separation of the issues of “to whom?” and “how much?”

Here I want to explore the significant enhancement of the theory made in the previous post. The enhancement is that genuine moral thought requires a type of fear. The ad hoc prescription cannot be interpreted simply as a normative statement that harm ought to be done for the violation. As I put it at the end of the previous post on wrath of God.

The major “take-away” from this post is that the prescription in morality that harm ought to happen upon violation of a moral law cannot be regarded as simply the statement of a prescription for harm. It needs to be understood as the expression of a being offended by the violation of a moral law, with the authority to command the harm threatened by the moral law and some capability to bring about this prescribed harm.

Similarly, the basic moral laws are to be understood as the actual commands of a being with the authority to issue the commands. Moral laws are not to be understood as primarily statements of the moral law.

The suggestion that moral laws are primarily statements of what ought and ought not be suggests a distorted picture of morality. It suggests that experiencing what is required by morality is obtained by consulting some moral law book to learn what is required. Now the distortion is not the suggestion of a immaterial moral law book. The distortion is the suggestion that experiencing the moral law is learning the fact that such-and-such IS written in the book. OUGHT cannot be based merely on what IS; not even what is commanded. An ought- an obligation- must be experienced as the reception of a command.

I admit that the suggestion of hearing a command from an immaterial moral authority is no clearer than the suggestion of reading a statement of a moral law in the immaterial law book of an immaterial moral authority. But the analogy to hearing a command corresponds better to the experience of being obligated than to reading a statement of the law.

Unfortunately, any serious discussion of the basic moral concepts will come in conflict with a dominant bias that there is nothing over and above that which can be investigated by the methods of natural science.

Let us return to the main question of this post. Amongst the constellation of concepts for moral thought we have uncovered that in authentic moral thought there is a concept of a type of fear. What is this fear? Like almost all concepts this concept of fearing to violate a moral law is a mixture of cognitive and emotional components: a feeling structured by thoughts. (Sometimes I like to call these thought/feeling complexes attitudes.) There is an emotion of fear but it is structured by thoughts about the moral commands. It’s a fear of the ability and willingness of the moral authority to have the harm which ought to occur upon violation of the law to actually occur. There is this fear about both violating the general moral laws and not having the ad hoc prescriptions for harm not being fulfilled.

I think we can call this fear of violating a moral law RESPECT for the moral law.

(I confess to being influence in selection of this English term for his German term Achtung as the concept characterizing the attitude of genuine moral thought towards moral laws. But I make no pretense of interpreting Kant.)

Why use “respect” which suggests more thought than feeling?

Moral laws are too frequently violated to suggest that people live in terror of the moral authority. Those who try to follow moral laws could be characterized as having a thoughtful fear. Even those of us who think moral laws are commands of God and violations provoke the wrath of God, I think could be characterized by having respect for the wrath of God. We do not expect God to send down fire and brimstone at, say, the many sexual sins. We think that God is offended by what goes on in bathhouses and believe that harm is and will be occurring because of what goes on. But we do not expect anything dramatic to happen. I am personally reluctant to classify the AIDs epidemic as God’s wrath blazing. But maybe I should.

But most of all it must be emphasized that fear of violations of moral laws and prescriptions is not so strong that it overwhelms our free will. Despite fear of violating moral laws, we can, and do, choose to violate them. Yet we can never choose to violate a moral law and have it be a correct choice. “Respect” is a good term for an attitude towards a rule that we know we can violate but can never be right in violating it.

Moral Harm vs. Moral Injury

I need to distinguish the concept of moral harm from the concept of moral injury. Moral harm is a concept I have introduced to connect a collection of concepts used in discussing morality. These are concepts such as retribution, atonement, collective guilt and penance. The concept of moral harm is offered as a concept to be used in characterizing what morality is – a concept for use in moral theory.

Moral injury is a concept introduced into clinical psychology to discuss the damage done to a person’s moral thought and sentiments after experiencing the stress of situations strongly violating the person’s moral beliefs and sentiments.

“Moral injury refers to an injury to an individual’s moral conscience resulting from an act of perceived moral transgression which produces profound emotional guilt and shame, and in some cases also a sense of betrayal, anger and profound ‘moral disorientation’. The concept of moral injury emphasizes the psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual aspects of trauma. Distinct from pathology, moral injury is a normal human response to an abnormal traumatic event. ”
Continue reading Moral Injury. for more details.

Usually, morally wrong acts cause harm in the natural world: physical or psychological harm. Moral injury is one of many kinds of natural harm which are caused by immoral acts. Moral injury is damage done to individuals by immoral acts. In contrast, moral harm is damage done to human morality simply by the violation of a moral law.

Two examples may illustrate the difference between moral harm and moral injury.

A young soldier has grown to admire the character of his platoon leader during training. This sergeant has become his model of how a man ought to be. He is a good father and husband as well as being a disciplined soldier. However, under combat conditions this sergeant “goes rogue.” He puts bullets into the heads of two prisoners after interrogation and on one occasion shot a woman going to a well because he said she was going to place a bomb in it.The sergeant lets it be known that anyone who reports him might not live long. Besides the physical damage this sergeant inflicts on his victims he also inflicts psychological harm on the young soldier who admired him. The young soldier becomes disorientated in his moral thinking. How could a good man be a killer?

Now the moral harm brought about by the sergeant’s egregious violations of the moral law “Thou shalt not kill” is addition to morality of a negative prescription that ought not be in morality. The prescription is that harm ought to occur to the killer. Morality is burdened with this negative prescription until it is cleaned up by the suffering of harm by the murderous sergeant.

For another example, consider the case of a fourteen year old Catholic boy who is struggling hard not to become a porn seeking masturbator. He recognizes the moral prohibition against intentionally seeking an orgasm outside coitus with a woman to whom he is committed for life. This boy seeks the advice of a priest. After several sessions with this priest, in some of which the priest has viewed pornography with him under the pretext of resisting temptation, there was a session in which they performing mutual fellatio. The boy left in shame and horror. He was painfully confused by sexual impulses and thoughts. Losing direction about what is right and wrong sexually is painful because you are totally under pressure from others on what you can and cannot do; and that direction from the outside, as opposed to inner direction, is totally ambiguous. Destruction of a sense of sexual inner direction along with losing hope in help from religion is a moral injury the priest inflicted upon the boy.

When we talk of sexual abuse, I propose that we restrict it to cases in which there was moral injury inflicted on one of the parties. I doubt that my proposal will be followed.

In this case of the priest and the boy, the moral harm is the damage done to morality by the priest violating the moral law against seeking orgasms outside marriage is a negative addition to morality of the prescription that harm ought to befall him. Our morality will be cluttered up with this negative prescription until some appropriate harm befalls this priest – until justice is done.

If the priest dies before any harm happens to him because of his seduction of the boy, many will lament that justice will never get done in this case. That failure to have justice done will remain forever in our morality as a failure to have a prescription fulfilled.

My notion of moral harm may not be a thought that people want to use explicitly. Indeed I do not know whether anyone has used it before. However, using it does help us understand some moral concepts we do use such as just illustrated: justice being done.

Using the Moral Harm Syllogism to Make Gay OK

This post’s title acknowledges Robert Reilly’s important book*
In this post, I use the moral harm syllogism to sketch out what could have been implicitly the strategy for mis-leading people to abandon a belief that homosexual acts are immoral.
The moral harm syllogism is the following valid pattern of reasoning. See also The Moral Harm Syllogism.

Major premise: If X is morally forbidden, then harm ought to follow upon performance of X
Minor premise: But seriously no harm ought to result upon the performance of X.
So, when thinking seriously, we should not hold that X is morally forbidden.

The strategy for undercutting a belief in the immorality of a practice is to persuade a critical mass of people to assert the minor premises.
Or to put it another way:

When progressives make an effective case that a practice ought no longer be considered immoral they show that harm ought not follow upon exercise of the practice instead of making a factual case that harm does not follow upon exercise of the practice.

The tactics for implementing this strategy can be broken down into four movements. Concomitant with all these tactical maneuvers is a program of sympathetically portraying practitioners of the allegedly immoral practice so that we tend to wish them no harm.

A very powerful tactic is de-criminalization. De-criminalization says we ought not bring about harm through legal punishment. Of course, there is the platitude “just because it is legal does not make it right.” But the platitude ignores the fact of how powerful a policy of saying that we ought not inflict harm through our legal system is in fostering a belief that we ought not inflict harm at all.

Personally, though, even if I strongly supported de-criminalization of homosexual activity, I still thought homosexual behavior was immoral.

Legality does not wipe out all forms of punishment because there are still many social mechanisms for making people suffer for their behavior. Anti-discrimination laws forbid informal social punishments.

Personally, I oppose anti-discrimination laws with respect to sexual orientation. But for the most part I do not want there to be discrimination unless the discrimination is used to discourage promotion of homosexuality. Keep it in the closet and follow the “Don’t ask, don’t tell “ policy. So, since I think that homosexuals ought to suffer the personal discomfort of marginalization, I do not agree with a minor premise for the moral harm syllogism “Seriously, no harm ought to follow upon practice of homosexual acts.”

However, with sympathetic portrayal of homosexuals in the media, promotion of anti-discrimination legislations and gay-pride events, marginalization is vanishing. A single person, or just a few, cannot marginalize a group. Not even the Catholic Church is large enough to marginalize homosexuals in our society. Perhaps, then the question of whether social harm ought to occur vanishes because there is no social harm.

Let me add, though, that I feel sorry for people living in a house flying a rainbow flag. I think that the sense of self one must have to accept oneself as homosexual could be a pain which is some, or all , of the harm which ought to befall someone for homosexual practice. As I argued in my book**, if I accepted homosexuality in myself, I would suffer the despair of nihilism.

Another way of thinking that harm ought to follow upon practices considered immoral is to believe that in due course nature will bring about harm such as disease. Some might have thought that the AIDS epidemic was what ought to have come about and that we should have let it run its course. But there is a tactic which could be called the “therapeutic stance.” On this stance, we ought to minimize or eliminate all harm arising from natural causes. Since the therapeutic stance is widely adopted, the AIDS epidemic became a significant catalyst for leading us to think that harm ought not be resulting from homosexual activity.

Personally, I was ambivalent about trying to wipe out the AIDS epidemic. Nonetheless I made financial contributions to research to find causes and cures.

A fourth tactic is to lead people to think that it is positively harmful to try to correct homosexual behavior. We ought not even think that homosexuals ought to suffer the pain of trying to change their sexual orientation. Making reparative treatment illegal is a bit stronger than anti-discrimination legislation.

*Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything Robert Reilly, Ignatius Press, 2014

**My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. See pp. 72ff. for discussion of moral harm. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.

To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
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A “Kantian” Condemnation of Artificial Marital Birth Control

This post interrupts my critique of theory of the moral neutrality of sexual activity. But it is related to the critique of this theory by arguing that some sexual activity, viz., artificial marital birth control is immoral.

In a National Catholic Register article in the May 1, 2010 issue Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC, published an article “We Must Explain Why Contraception is Wrong.” Fr. Schneider made an important point for preserving our traditional Catholic moral teachings when they are being challenged from inside and outside the Church. A good way to start confronting these challenges is to offer a variety of arguments for critical evaluation and improvement during the next several months. I propose that we declare 2019 the year of Chastity during which amongst other things to strengthen our chastity we redevelop rational defenses of Catholic teaching on sexual morality. Fr. Schneider offered three arguments in his article. In this post, I sketch out another which can be called:

A “Kantian” condemnation of artificial marital birth control. It is one of many which should be considered along with being reformulated in the next few months.

This is not Kantian scholarship. I rely only on the overview type of knowledge of Kant one might acquire in a survey course in ethics.

Artificial marital birth control is use of physical or chemical techniques to prevent conception during or after coitus by a married couple.

The explicit, or implicit, maxim of a married couple who use artificial birth control can be expressed as follows:

We will perform the reproductive act which we are entitled by our community to perform but for a period of our choosing we shall prevent it from being a reproductive act.

Now consider the Kantian “Categorical Imperative” that we ought to act only on maxims which we can consistently will to be universal laws of nature.

Generalizing such a maxim as a universal law for humans could be expessed as follows:

People shall perform the reproductive act which they are entitled to perform by their community but for a period of their choosing shall prevent it from being a reproductive act.

Such a generalization is inconsistent because given basic demographic principles it leaves open the possibility of the reproductive acts becoming insufficient for reproduction in the sense of reproducing a population. Current demographic facts show that this possibility is being realized.

In appraising this argument, the first question should be an examination of the Kantian Categorical Imperative and then of technical points such as my use of the logical principle that a claim C is inconsistent if C implies possibly not-C.

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. In my book, I examine the case against artificial marital birth control in Ch. VIII Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.

To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Pope Francis on the Role of Satan in Sexual Abuse

Let us endorse Pope Francis recognition of the devil’s role in the sexual misconduct of some priests.

In this post I diagnose the action of the devil as insinuating the theory of the moral neutrality of sexual activity into human thought and profess that ultimately prayer in addition to reason is very helpful, if not needed, to combat the morally corrupting theory of the moral neutrality of sexuality.

As a reminder of Pope Francis’s thoughts on the role of the devil in sexual abuse, consider an excerpt from an April 1, 2019 National Catholic Register translation of of Pope Francis’ March 31, 2019 in flight press conference on his return flight from Rabat Morocco

In a question a Ms. Cristiana Caricato, TV2000. noted: “you often denounce the action of the devil, you did so also at the recent Vatican summit on abuse”.
Pope Francis emphasized his realistic stance about a devil by responding :

“I try to give you all the explanations and also the limits of the explanations. But there is a point that cannot be understood without the mystery of evil. Think of this: virtual child pornography.” . . .”this is not understood without the spirit of evil. It is a concrete problem. We must solve it concretely, but say that it is the spirit of evil.”. . . “to overcome the spirit of evil is not ‘washing one’s hands,’ saying ‘the devil does it,’ no. We too must struggle with the devil, as we must struggle with human things”.

I agree with Pope Francis that we must struggle with the devil. But how?

To resolve the sexual abuse crises we need to be clear about the misdeeds, we need to understand their causes and how to prevent the operation of those causes.. There are two kinds of misdeeds in the abuse crises. On one hand, there are the sexual acts of priests; usually with boys. On the other hand, there are the so called cover-up by clerical officials of the actual sexual misconduct. As a Catholic it is proper to regard the misdeeds as sins and their causes as temptations. Catholic tradition tells us that the world, the flesh and the devil are the sources of temptation to sin.

The sexual misdeeds always involve mortal sins: Always by the seducer and sometimes by the seduced. In this post, the focus is on the sources of the temptation to these mortal sins. In my opinion, many of the cover-ups are at most venial sins. Outright perjury is, of course, a mortal sin. I suspect, however, that many of the cover-ups were simply imprudent acts of mercy and forgiveness. We do not need to invoke the devil to explain imprudent acts of mercy and forgiveness. Any parent with a wayward child understands that temptation all too well as coming from a natural love for their children. Imprudent love for one’s children can be classed as a temptation coming from the flesh – human nature. I concede that it is almost certain that many of the cover-ups were motivated by a concern to protect the reputation of the clerical order. Such a temptation could be interpreted as coming from the world – concern about status in society. And the temptation could be called clericalism. It seems unlikely that concern about clerical rights and privileges are operative in a man lusting for a boy, or girl for that matter. Indeed, if a priest uses his clerical status to seduce a boy, lust explains his succumbing to temptation and “clericalism” only labels a means he has chosen to act out his temptation.

So-called clericalism is relevant for explaining the cover-ups; not the sexual sins. So let us turn to the role of the flesh and the devil in temptations to the actual sexual sins. Strong sexual desire, which I here equate with lust, may be a necessary condition for a sexual misdeed; but it is not sufficient for explaining sexual sins.

I propose that the devil by making available to us moral rationalization* techniques together with lust is almost sufficient for sexual sins. There still needs to be the free choice even after moral rationalization has concocted all sorts of excuses for setting aside moral rules.

In previous posts, I have sketched out how a devil corrupts human thought by providing moral rationalization techniques. One of the main posts is What is Satan?

Here is a brief synopsis of my model for the devil. God created an intelligence almost as great as his own. The function of this intelligence is to convey God’s thoughts to humans by placing God’s thoughts in human thought. (Angels are beings for conveying God’s thoughts.) Human thought comprises those thoughts which are somehow common to all human beings. Whoever thinks can think what is in human thought. God gave this supreme messenger free will. It could convey to human thought what God willed or it could choose to will something else. This supreme messenger rebelled by chosing to reserve to itself whether or not it would convey what God willed. Before conveying what God willed, it would consider whether or not it had reasons for passing on what God willed. This supreme messenger was the first moral rationalizer and it passed on to human thought this thought of rationalization-seeking reasons for setting aside the moral law.

Hesitating to obey an command known to come from God is illogical and immoral. By logic about the concept of God what comes from God is right and ought to be. So this moral rationalization of this supreme messenger is irrational and immoral.

In brief, the work of the devil is making available to human thought rationalizing thoughts for following the temptations of the world and flesh. In regard to sexual temptations the basic rationalizing technique is the thought of the moral neutrality of all sexual activity. According to this moral rationalizing thought there are always considerations which can justify any sexual activity. When under the pressure of lust simply thinking that there might be justifying considerations can lead one into succumbing to sexual desire.

So to struggle against the devil when sexual temptations arise is to block oneself from any rationalizing thoughts, which all depend upon the thought of the moral neutrality of sexual activity. Prayer and religious activity may not be necessary conditions for blocking rationalizing thoughts from becoming active in your thought. But I, and presumably those who have recommended prayer, have found that prayer and religious activity are sufficient for filling the mind with thoughts and sentiments which keep out rationalizing thoughts.

* I modify “rationalization” with “moral” because in general “rationalization” is an honorific term suggesting the removal of objections raised by reason. However, I intend “moral rationalization” to be a pejorative term. In moral rationalization, objections – reasons against- are raised which logically and morally ought not be raised. Indeed, my model of Satan is type of rationalization.

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. In my book, I argue that the assumption of the moral neutrality of sexual activity ultimately undercuts all objective morality. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.

To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Political Correctness Undercuts Apologies for Clerical Sexual Abuse

I am writing this post, shortly after the Vatican conference of bishops on sexual abuse. There, and elsewhere, lay Catholics as well as clergy are asked to learn to appreciate the deep suffering of and immense damage to all the boys and young men with whom priests performed homosexual acts.* Kathleen Beckman in her book Praying for Priests expressed well this call for sympathy and condemnation by writing “The weight of sorrow for the abuse victims is unspeakable, as is the pain of betrayal by clergy.” Leading clerics, including the Pope, offer public apologies with such words.

I am not responding well to the call for universal sympathy with the victims and righteous anger towards the perpetrators. I cannot sincerely endorse the apologies. The apologies sound like official vague pronouncements to make the officials look good and appease the public. But they do not make the officials look good. Nor do they appease the public. The condemnations and expressions of sympathy are overstated for the intended audience which, nonetheless demands overstatement which it will not accept as sincere.

In this post I attempt to diagnose why the official language seems so empty. The gist of my diagnosis is that the apologists are speaking primarily to an audience who believe that sexual activity is morally neutral but they use language which is appropriate only if they believe that there are special moral rules for sexual activity. Or put it this way. The audience wants the apologists to use the language appropriate to condemning the acts as intrinsically immoral and express regret that the boys on whom the acts were performed suffered moral corruption. But the audience does not believe that any sexual acts are intrinsically immoral but do believe that any harm done to the boys was psychological.

Let’s review the distinction between moral outlooks which hold that there are sex specific rules and those which hold that sexual activity is morally neutral by considering fellatio. Catholics should accept that there is a sex specific moral rule against fellatio. By this rule fellatio is intrinsically immoral. Under no circumstances, regardless of the mental states of the actors or consequences of the acting, it is immoral. Those who hold that sexual activity is morally neutral, hold that the morality of an act of fellatio depends upon the circumstance, mental states of the actors and the consequences of the action.

Now, only if you hold that fellatio is intrinsically immoral can you render unqualified moral condemnation on the seducer and hold without qualification that the seduced suffered the moral harm of moral corruption by being led into participation in an immoral act.

If I hold that the morality of fellatio of one male upon another is morally neutral, then the morality of the act depends upon the circumstances, the intentions of the participants and the consequences of the activity. Under the assumption of the moral neutrality of sexual activity, that these cases of homosexual acts between priests and boys need to be investigated more closely on what moral judgments to make and how to allot our sympathy.

I think the failure of the apologies and expressions of sympathy fail because of so-called “political correctness.” Politically correct language is language the public demands but which they will believe is insincere.

*I discuss homosexual acts because I am a male. Homosexual acts are the only kind I can imagine for these cases. I have never experienced any attempt of a priest or religious professional to seduce me.
*My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. In my book, I argue that the assumption of the moral neutrality of sexual activity ultimately undercuts all objective morality. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.

To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Professor Alan Goodman on Moral Neutrality of Sexuality

In a February 12, 2019 article in the on-line magazine iai (Institue of Art and Ideas) a distinguished philosopher,Alan H. Goldman | Kenan Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at College of William and Mary, presented the stance toward sexual morality which I labeled “sexual nihilism” in my book*. Professor Goldman’s stance on sexual morality is dominant amongst philosophers in secular universities of the United States and Western Europe. They have helped to make it almost common sense amongst the millions, if not billions, participating in the sexual revolution. As I noted in a previous post this stance on sexual morality is corrupting Catholic moral theology.

Professor Goldman presents an overview of his stance in his beginning sentences.

“There is no such thing as sexual morality per se. Put less dramatically, there is no morality special to sex: no act is wrong simply because of its sexual nature. Sexual morality consists in moral considerations that are relevant elsewhere as well being applied to sexual activity or relations. This is because the proper concept of sexual activity is morally neutral. Sexual activity is that which fulfills sexual desire. Sexual desire in its primary sense can be defined as desire for physical contact with another person’s body and for the pleasure that such contact brings.” . . . “Sex itself is not a moral category, although it places us in relations in which moral considerations apply. It gives us opportunity to do what is otherwise regarded as wrong: to harm, deceive, or manipulate others against their will. ”
. . . “Sexual desire aims directly at the pleasure derived from physical contact.”. . .”It is not a desire to reproduce or to express love or other emotions,”. . . “Overly restrictive sexual ethics derive from definitions that wrongly build these extraneous motives into the concept of proper sex.”

Note that Professor Goldman is presenting a moral claim. He is summarizing how we morally ought to make moral judgments about sexuality. Of course, I have no objections to making moral judgments about how we ought to think about sexual morality. The point of the reminder is that Professor Goldman’s stance expresses a moral judgment which needs to be defended against reasonable challenges. Despite its widespread acceptance, it is not a settled issue.

His definition of “sexual activity” does not effectively separate sexual activity from reproductive activity. His definition becomes “Sexual activity is that which fulfills desire for. . . physical contact with another person’s body and for the pleasure that such contact brings.” The definition is obviously too broad. There is a need to specify the kinds of bodily contact and special pleasure of those kinds of bodily contact. Such specification will require mention of reproductive organs.

In any event, an open challenge to this now standard stance on sexual morality requires making a case that sexual morality is not and ought not be a collection of moral rules specifically for moral control of human reproductive activity. Use of reproductive organs is central in human sexual activity. If there is such a collection, some of the rules would specify morally appropriate use of our reproductive organs; more likely morally inappropriate use. Traditional sexual morality is such a collection.

At this time, there is a need to re-open consideration of whether or not human reproductive behavior ought to have specific moral rules.

Here I want to propose two factual reasons for re-opening the question. I am not suggesting that facts show what ought to be. Certainly, I am not suggesting that traditional sexual morality -what ought to be sexually- can be established by what is the case. I am simply sketching out some facts to motivate re-considering whether it is reasonable to think that there are sex specific moral rules.

The first factual consideration is the special ,if not unique sense of harm, that people frequently allege when they allege that they were sexually wronged. This is exhibited in the #MeToo movement and by some young men when they had sexual relations with a priest when they were in their early teens. It seems that they are complaining of having suffered a sexual wrong.

The second factual consideration is that if moral inhibitions evolved to help humans reproduce themselves, it would not be surprising that moral inhibitions for certain uses of reproductive organs would have evolved. It would not have hurt the growth of homo sapiens to have principles inhibiting masturbation and homosexual activity.

I grant that the fact that a moral principle comes from nature does not show that it is a correct moral principle. However, if it comes from nature the principle is in our culture as a moral principle. To set it aside as erroneous requires moral arguments. It is on the table to be discussed.

*My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. In my book I explain how traditional sexual morality comes from nature and develop a case that this natural morality is the correct morality. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.

To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Synopsis of Subverting Catholic Sexual Morality

As a member of the Columbus Ohio Downtown Serra Club, one of my assignments as secretary is to write reports of luncheon talks for our newsletter. What follows is a report, using third person, on my own talk I wrote for our newsletter. The text of the full talk is in my previous blog post

A member of our club gave the talk at our first 2019 St. Charles luncheon meeting on January 11. Program chair Dan Tarpy introduced Charles F. Kielkopf with the following remarks relevant to the topic of his talk: “An Assumption in Moral Philosophy which is Subverting Catholic Sexual Morality.”

He was educated in St. Paul, Minnesota by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondelet and the Christian Brothers. After military service in the 11th Airborne, he returned to St. Paul and earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Mathematics from the University of Minnesota. From 1963 to 2000 he served in the Philosophy department of The Ohio State University. Professor Kielkopf’ s most recent books are: A Declaration of Dependence: A Kantian Condemnation of Atheistic Despair, 1997 and Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism. 2014*.

The assumption subverting Catholic sexual morality is that no sexual act by itself is morally forbidden. Whether or not a sexual activity is morally permissible depends on factors apart from what is done such as the circumstances in which it is done, the intentions of the actors and the consequences of the act. In short, the assumption holds that sexual acts are morally neutral. This assumption contradicts traditional Catholic sexual morality. Catholic sexual morality condemns homosexual acts and masturbation as intrinsically disordered. To say that homosexual acts and masturbation are intrinsically disordered is to say that there are no circumstances regardless of the intentions of the actors and consequences of the act in which homosexual acts and masturbation are morally permissible.

Professor Kielkopf pointed out that the assumption of the moral neutrality of sexual acts has had almost axiomatic status for the past fifty years in the moral theories taught in the major secular universities and some Catholic universities. Such moral theories rationalize the so-called sexual revolution beginning in the sixties. As a result, the moral neutrality of sexual acts is part of the conceptual framework of our culture. If it were not for the moral laws of nature written in the human heart referred to by St. Paul in Rom: 2:15, the assumption would be part of common sense.

The assumption subverts Catholic sexual morality because Catholics are participants in contemporary culture. It takes effort to hold to unfashionable stances and avoid being totally shaped by our surrounding culture.

Professor Kielkopf gave evidence that the language of some high clergy indicate that they may make the assumption.

Kielkopf cited use of “clericalism.” “Clericalism” is used to designate use of clerical status to coerce consent. So, instead of condemning McCarrick’s homosexual acts, he is accused of a misuse of power. Misuse of power is only a circumstance in which his homosexual acts were committed.

At the beginning of 2019 Catholics are rightly anxious about the prospect that moral thought assuming the moral neutrality of sexual acts will become dominant in our Church. If so, our Church will become only a frill in our culture which might occasionally be called upon to support some welfare policy. Our Church will have no basis to demand the dominant culture to pay attention to the meaning of life for individuals.

Secular moral philosophy’s assumption of the moral neutrality of sexual acts is really just part of an assumption of the moral neutrality of every act. Under this broader assumption, the role of moral thinking is to decide how to get the fairest division of pains and pleasures from acts. So, in principle, any kind of act may turn out to be right. If pains significantly outweigh pleasures a life is not worth living. It is right to terminate such lives.

Traditional Catholic sexual morality is part of a larger moral vision which holds that human beings have natural capacities such as sexuality, concern for beauty, concern for community, concern for truth and life itself. There is a good to be realized by each of these capacities. Morally right acts promote these goods. Acts which directly frustrate attainment of these goods are intrinsically wrong. The moral meaning of life for individuals is to form themselves to be the kind of people who promote these goods and avoid the intrinsically wrong acts. The full meaning of life for individuals is to live a morally meaningful life because that is what God created us for.

Professor Kielkopf noted that there is hope for Catholic friendly moral philosophies which can compete with the dominant Catholic unfriendly secular moral philosophies. An example he cited was the new natural law theory started by Germain Grisez.

As a final suggestion, Professor Kielkopf suggested that Serrans think about developing ways to find out the type of moral philosophy taught to seminarians and then try to ensure that they are taught moral philosophy which supports the Catholic vision.