Category Archives: Sexual morality

Gibt es Kein Gott, nur die Pflicht steht gegen das Nichts

The title of this post is taken from p. 269 of my book on sexual morality -actually only male sexuality- where I asked indulgence to speak as a Teutonic philosopher to express the major premise of my case for traditional male sexual morality. That major premise in English runs: If there is no God, then only duty provides us something indestructible to have lived for when at biological death each of us confronts totally vanishing if there has been nothing indestructible in our lives for which we lived. Nihilism is accepting your vanishing.

When asked for a short answer about what I wanted to show in my book claiming in its title that traditional sexual morality is an antidote to nihilism, I begin my answer with a warning that I try to use only assumptions which can be accepted by secular analytic philosophers. (Frequently, fellow Catholics ask me what I was trying to show.)

I address those who sense some anxiety about nihilism when they consider their biological death. I do not address the blessed innocents, even if intellectual geniuses, who sense no such anxiety.

I argue that living to make ourselves people who obey invariant moral laws is something indestructible in ourselves for which to live – that is duty die Pflicht. I go on to argue that we must find such laws governing our sexuality. I continue my argument by pointing out that if we do not find them in our sexuality, we are unlikely to admit such laws as governing any other area of our lives.

So, if there is no God in any traditional sense and no traditional sexual morality, then for each of us biological death is eternal total annihilation.

Perhaps, the implicit recognition of the nihilism conveyed by the moral thought of global elites helps explain the terror of COVID-19 infections. The prospect of infection, with even a slight chance of biological death, makes vivid “vanishing into the infinite pit of nothing” -total emptiness.

I worry that finding the meaning of life in conformity to moral laws is very close to nihilism. Most of my philosophic thought is a struggle against nihilism. So since publishing my book in 2014, I have been searching to find more in morality than laws.

I have found much more. The thought which has exploded into a rich picture of morality has been the hypothesis that the harm of violating a moral law is creation of a new moral law that some harm ought to be. This notion of a moral harm has led to personalizing morality as obedience to a moral authority which finally I interpreted as God. That is why in subsequent posts, I defend and develop a divine command morality. I have set aside the hypothesis: Gibt es kein Gott.

Email me your postal mailing address, and I will mail you a free copy of my booK: Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional sexual morality as an antidote to nihilism, Tulsa 2014.


Why the Modest Goal of Moral Apologetics?

In my previous post I wrote the following about the purpose of making a case making a case for a moral principle commanding what could accurately be labeled “Traditional Catholic Sexual Morality.

“We seek assent, even if grudgingly granted to our rationality and decency along with assenting to the claim that the principle we are defending is not irrational. Seeking that type of assent for a moral principle can properly be called moral apologetics.

Why do I take such a humble stance? I satisfy myself with moral apologetics because of the community I hope to reach. I a addressing the secular, or de facto secular, community of progressive and dominant opinion on sexual morality in the early twenty first century.

This dominant opinion forming community accepts, explicitly or implicitly, the moral neutrality of sexuality. Those who hold this view hold that in principle no sexual act is morally wrong. Immoral sexual acts, if any, are determined by the circumstances in which the act is performed, the intentions of the actors and the consequences of the act.

Amongst progressives the moral neutrality of sexuality is regarded as almost self-evident. I have set myself the task of confronting the dominant view on sexual morality with arguments to dislodge any assumption of self evidence and prerogative of moral decency for the moral neutrality of sexuality.

In my book I made clear that my goal was moral apologetics to contemporary secular society. Unfortunately, my book has probably never been read; let alone reviewed.

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 Ch. I in which I explicitly acknowledge that my goal is moral apologetics. 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.

There Ought to Be Suffering

This post interrupts the line of thought in my past several posts. That line of thought was why and how should we try to prove a moral principle. Here I return to the theme of moral harm as harm which ought to be as a result of violating a moral principle. I do not want reflections on proving a moral principle to lead me away from exploring implications of this notion of moral harm for understanding the Christian doctrine of redemption.

I review how I developed this notion of moral harm from an essay of Steven Pinker.* Then I apply it to the sensitive topic of my morally condemning homosexuality.

Pinker’s passage which led me to develop the notion of moral harm as harm which ought to be is the second “hallmark” in the following:

“The first hallmark of moralization is that the rules it invokes are felt to be universal. Prohibitions of rape and murder, for example, are felt not to be matters of local custom but to be universally and objectively warranted. The other hallmark is that people feel that those who commit immoral acts deserve to be punished. . .

we are born with a universal moral grammar that forces us to analyze human action in terms of its moral structure, with just as little awareness.”

I developed that hallmark into a thesis about a fundamental component of moral thinking, viz., if a moral law is violated harm ought to occur. I left the principle at a high level of generality. There was no specification of what the harm might be, on whom it should befall and how much. The very general thought is merely that moral principles carry sanctions. This does not mean that these subsidiary questions cannot be answered. There simply needs to be further moral thought to answer them.

Let me add here that right now I think that moral thinking contains almost no provisions for numerically measurable thinking on the quantity of harm and good.

I return to this notion of moral harm by considering its ramifications for a moral judgment I make. I think homosexual acts are morally wrong. I have argued for that position in my book**. Hence, I judge that the homosexual acts of 2020 Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg are immoral. Concomitant with that judgment is a judgment that he ought to suffer some harm for his homosexual behavior.

This thought that I ought to think that he ought to suffer some harm poses a problem for me. First, the proposal that there ought to be some suffering is repugnant. Second, I confess to not caring that Pete Buttigieg suffers. However, as I have argued in several posts, we are not serious about morality if we do not think that there ought to be unpleasant consequences for immoral behavior. Not caring whether the sanctions for violations of morality be applied is irrelevant for thinking that they ought to be applied

So, what kind of suffering do I think Pete Buttigieg ought to undergo? Not getting nominated as the 2020 Democrat candidate is a type of disappointment which is too loosely connected with his homosexual behavior to be a proper punishment.

Here is my proposal for the kind of suffering a man who has a practice of immoral sexual behavior such as: frequent masturbation, homosexual activity, fornication and adultery. From the stance I take on sexuality, proper sexual activity is confined to coitus open to conception in a lifelong monogamous marriage. Basic human goods are realized when sexuality is so confined. The harm which man who does not so confine his sexual activity ought to suffer is twofold First there is failure to attain these basic human goods along with a sense of not realizing these goods. Second, there is a realization, perhaps quite dim, that people who think properly about sexual activity judge that he ought not realize the goods of proper sexuality. Broadly speaking, he ought to suffer a sense of unworthiness, guilt and shame.

If I am right that this kind of inward moral suffering ought to occur in men who misbehave sexually, it seems reasonable that we should proclaim traditional sexual morality to facilitate occurrence of these negative moral feelings in ourselves and others when needed. Trying to post proofs of principles of traditional sexual morality is a way of proclaiming traditional sexual morality.

Mr. Butttigieg knows everything I could say. In so far as I care, my sympathies are that he does not suffer too much from the negative moral thoughts and feelings he ought to have.

* Pinker Article .

** 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 Ch. IV for my justification 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
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Moral Argument as Kantian Universalization

This post assumes some familiarity with Kant’s moral theory. However, this is not exegesis of Kant’s thought. What I write is best interpreted as going off on a tangent* from the text to develop my own thoughts from a fragment of Kant’s thought. In this case, my own thoughts are those of my past three posts: “How do we prove a moral principle?” And “What is accomplished by a proof of a moral principle?”

The fragment of Kant’s thought is his first statement of the categorical imperative in his Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals.**

It reads: Act only on maxims which you can will to be a universal law of nature.

In my previous post I came to the conclusion that relative to certain assumptions – a stance – a proper argument for a moral principle shows that activity in accord with the principle is rational activity and that activity in accord with the principle is directed towards attaining and maintaining conditions good for human beings over and beyond the good of being rational.

In the following I write of proofs as characterized above.

My Kantian speculation is that proof of a moral principle is showing that you can will a maxim to be a universal law of nature.

Let me illustrate this speculation with the principle for male sexuality of the previous post which I call the Paternal Principle.

As a maxim or principle for personal action the Paternal Principle becomes:

I shall not intentionally seek an orgasm except in coitus open to conception with a woman to whom I am committed for life to care for her and any child resulting from the coitus.

A “Kantian” proof that a man is acting in accord with laws of morality by following this maxim would show that any man acting in accord with principle is following a principle which is part of rational activity and is part of the human good of marriage. In other words, the proof shows what a rational seeker of human good would do. Any other course of conduct, for male sexuality, would be inconsistent with being a rational seeker of human good.

As the line of thought develops, an assumption that every human being is potentially a rational seeker of human good is a crucial assumption.

In light of such a proof one can will that nature be so constructed that every man actually acts on the principle on the basis of psychological-physiological laws of nature. But one could not consistently will that some potential seeker of human good be causally determined not to realize their potential.

In a way, the line of thought is that you can not consistently say “This is the way an ideal human being would act but in fact some human is not to act that way.”

This is far from standard ways of discussing Kantian generalization. The usual approach is to inspect a generalization of a maxim itself for consistency. The approach here is to consideration of consistency only after a moral proof of a principle has been presented. The question of consistency is “In light of a proof showing certain activity is what a rational seeker of human good would do, can maxims be consistently be willed as causal laws for what a rational seeker of human good does.”

I cannot resist alluding to the four examples Kant used to illustrate his categorical imperative.
1. Suppose it was shown that humans would flourish in their commercial life if all kept promises. It cannot be consistently that in a human society of rational seekers of human good some would not keep promises.
2. Suppose it was shown that rational seekers of human good made efforts to maintain their health and life. It cannot be consistently willed that it becomes a causal law that for such beings some choose to end their lives.
3. Suppose it was shown that rational seekers of human good made efforts to develop skills. It cannot be consistently willed that it becomes a causal law that some such seekers choose to develop no skills.
4. Suppose it was shown that rational seekers of human good made efforts to cooperate to help others attain human goods. It cannot be consistent will that it becomes a causal law that some such seekers become totally uncooperative.

* I have been off on this tangent for over twenty years

I wrote a book on Kant’s moral theory and religion It is
A Kantian Condemnation of Atheistic Despair: A declaration of dependence. Peter Lang, N.Y. 1997
See pp. 200ff for remarks on Kantian moral universalization.
See pp. 170 ff of my more recent book.
Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional sexual morality as an antidote to nihilism, Tate Enterprises, Oklahoma City, 2014

**handle nur nach derjenigen Maxime, durch die du zugleich wollen kanst, dass sie ein allgemeines Gesetz werde AK IV 421

Translations of Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Morals will have the AK edition vol. and p. # in the margins.

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
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

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.