When faced with difficult moral choices, where there seems to be only sinful options, prayer and discernment will see you through. Take for example, a relative dying from cancer. Everything that could be done to save this relative’s life has been done. Death is immanent. A decision needs to be made as to whether to give a heavy dose of morphine to the relative. If you allow the doctor to give the morphine to your dying relative, death will surely hasten. If you do not allow the doctor to give the morphine to your relative, death will eventually come, but the patient will die in excruciating pain. What do you do?
Making Difficult Moral Choices
We can apply the Principle of Double Effect to the decision-making process. If you can answer yes to all four of the following questions, then the Principle of Double Effect applies, and the resulting decision does not create a sin. Let us use the example above to explore this concept:
Question #1: Is the action, itself, good? In this case, is the decision to relieve the relative’s pain one of good intention? – Yes.
Question #2: Does the person making the decision have the right intention? – Yes, because the intention is to relieve the pain.
Question #3: Will the action taken be the means of a good effect? – Yes, the relative’s pain will be relieved.
Question #4: Will the good effect be proportional to the evil effect? – Yes, because death is immanent and all that could be done has been done. Yes, death is hastened, but when death is immanent, anyway, then the relief of pain is proportional to the hastened death. Knowing death is immanent, the withholding of pain relief could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
Weighing Our Decisions with Prayer and Discernment
When faced with gut-wrenching decisions, start with prayer to discern God’s Will. Always follow God’s Will. Yet, let’s face it. When faced with two evils, it is hard, at times, to determine God’s Will. Sometimes, it comes down to how we answer that fourth question. Why? Because we must choose between the lesser of two evils. Neither choice is good. Yet, a choice must be made. So, how we answer that last question should be determined by what is best for the specific person (like the relative in our example) or the common good.
Pray and discern before making such difficult moral choices. When your decision is based upon the intention of doing God’s Will, that is all that He asks of us. With that as your focus, He will grant you His Peace.
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