Situation ethics the new morality by Joseph Fletcher Ситуативная этика


VII Любовь оправдывает свои средства



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VII

Любовь оправдывает свои средства
Положение пятое: "Только цель оправдывает средства; ничего кроме"
Мы становимся циничными или приходим в отчаяние, в зависимости от собственного характера, когда наблюдаем за тем, как христианская этика на протяжении столетий упорно возглашает доктрину "цель не оправдывает средства". Это – бессмысленная абстракция, такая же, как сказать, что ценность вещи не равна ее стоимости, что ничто существует, что польза или бесполезность не имеет отношения к цене.

What Justifies a Means?


In the perspective of situation ethics it is amazing that almost unanimously this sententious proposition has managed to hang on with bland and unchallenged acceptance. Just as Socrates saw that the unexamined life is not worth living, we can say that unexamined ethical maxims are not worth living by. Therefore we have to raise the question, implicit in all that has gone before, "If the end does not justify the means, what does?" The answer is, obviously, "Nothing!"
Что же оправдывает средства?
«С точки зрения ситуативной этики, поразительно, что обсуждаемому сентенциозному положению удалось закрепиться почти во всех умах, завоевать прочное общее признание. Точно так же, как Сократ полагал, что неосмысленной жизнью не стоит жить, мы можем сказать, что неосмысляемые этические максимы не стоят того, чтобы жить в соответствии с ними. Отсюда, мы должны поставить вопрос, неявно предполагавшийся во всем предыдущем изложении, – «если цель не оправдывает средств, то что их оправдывает?». Ответ очевиден – «ничто!».
Unless some purpose or end is in view, to justify or sanctify it, any action we take is literally meaningless—i.e., means-less, accidental, merely random, pointless. Every action without exception is haphazard if it is without an end to serve: it only acquires its status as a means, i.e., it only becomes meaningful by virtue of an end beyond itself. And ends, in their turn, need means. It has been suggested that there is a parallel here to Kant's saying about percepts and concepts; to paraphrase him, means without ends are empty and ends without means are blind. They are relative to each other. In any course of action it is the coexistence of its means and ends that puts it in the realm of ethics.

It is related in Soviet Russia how Nikolai Lenin once tired of being told by Tolstoyan idealists that his willingness to use force, in foreign and civil wars, proved that he had no ethics, that since violence is evil (not "can" be but zs), and since his principles allowed him to use it, he therefore must believe that the end justifies the means. He finally rounded on them: "If the end does not justify the means, then in the name of sanity and justice, what does?" To this question he never got an answer—only open mouths and blank looks.

Если мы не имеем в виду никакой задачи или цели, которые оправдывали бы или санкционировали наши поступки, всякое предпринимаемое нами действие является буквально бессмысленным (meaningless) – то есть, не имеющим средств для обретения результата (means-less), несущественным, чисто случайным, суетным. Всякое без исключения действие никчемно, если оно не служит какой-то цели: оно получает свой статус действия лишь в качестве средства, то есть, оно становится осмысленным соразмерно значимости той цели, которая им движет. И сами цели, в свою очередь, нуждаются в средствах. Предполагается, что здесь имеется некая параллель кантовским словам относительно перцептов и концептов; перефразируя их, средства без целей пусты, а цели без средств слепы. Они соотносятся друг с другом. Во всяком действии именно сосуществование средств и целей есть то, что помещает его в область этики.

Рассказывают, как однажды в Советской России Николаю Ленину докучали толстовцы-идеалисты с разговорами, что его готовность использовать силу в международной и гражданской войнах свидетельствует о его безнравственности, ибо, поскольку насилие есть зло (не «может быть», а «является» таковым), а его принципы позволяют к насилию прибегать, то он, тем самым, должен считать, что цель оправдывает средства. В конце концов он вскричал: «Если цели не оправдывают средств, то, во имя здравого смысла и справедливости, что же их оправдывает?». На этот вопрос он ответа не получил – лишь разинутые рты и пустые глаза.

Должно быть совершенно ясным, конечно, что не всякая наличная цель оправдает всякое наличное средство. Все мы исходим из того, что некоторые цели оправдывают некоторые средства; и ситуационист не возводит этого во всеобщее правило! Как прагматик, он всегда задается вопросом о цене <решения>, и предполагает, что и в теории, и на практике все имеет свою цену. Прошу заметить – все. Даже «перл бесценный» – что бы это ни было – может быть продан ради любви, если ситуация потребует этого.

Если мы более верны <морально> той цели, которую преследуем, чем средствам, которые используем, – как это и следует, – то средства должны быть адекватными и соответствующими цели. Мы не должны забывать предупреждение Фомы Аквинского, что средства суть ближайшие цели, и что следовательно средства, которые мы используем, войдут в искомую и достигнутую цель, точно как мука, молоко и изюм, которые мы используем при печении пирога, войдут в готовый пирог. Средства суть ингредиенты, но не просто нейтральные инструменты, и на нас возложен долг отбирать их с величайшей тщательностью. Средства не являются чем-то этически безразличным. Например, в большинстве случаев превентивный контроль за рождаемостью предпочтительнее аборта.»


It should be plainly apparent, of course, that not any old end will justify any old means. We all assume that some ends justify some means; no situationist would make a universal of it! Being pragmatic, he always asks the price and supposes that in theory and practice everything has its price. Everything, please note. Even a "pearl of great price"—whatever it is—might be sold for love's sake if the situation calls for it.

If our loyalty goes more fully to the end we seek than to the means we use, as it should, then the means must be appropriate and faithful to the end. We ought not to forget Thomas Aquinas' warning that means are proximate ends, and that therefore the means we employ will enter into the end sought and reached, just as the flour and milk and raisins we use enter into the cake we bake. Means are ingredients, not merely neutral tools, and we are called upon therefore to select them with the greatest care. Means are not ethically indifferent. In most situations birth control by prevention, for example, is better than abortion.

But it is equally evident, from the other side, that not any old means is suitable to any old end. To recall A. C. Ewing and H. R. Niebuhr's key term, the means used ought to fit the end, ought to be fitting. If they are, they are justified. For in the last analysis, it is the end sought that gives the means used their meaningness. The end does justify the means.

The classical moralists and pious popularizers have tried, usually out of context, to absolutize and magnify Paul's remark in Rom. 3:8: "And why not do evil that good may come?" We say "magnify" because the remark was made in the heat of controversy with the antinomians, who were using human weakness and imperfection as a reason for doing what they pleased, undisciplined. Paul was certainly obscure and contradictory about the problem of the justice of God. Could he justly condemn man's sin if men are fated to sin and cannot of themselves escape it, needing Christ to rescue them?

As Theodore Ferris says, it was a "confused wrangle" in which Paul did "not provide a cogent answer to the questions he raised".171 He had seemed to the antinomians to be saying that our sinful self-indulgence gives God a chance to forgive us, which suited their purposes beautifully! G. H. C. MacGregor argues that Paul's hecklers wondered, therefore, "Why not be evil that good (grace) may come?" and then adds, in a perfect piece of intrinsic moralism, that this was an attempt to argue that evil is good, "and that is nonsense".172

It is logical nonsense, at the verbal level, yes. To make the statement "Evil is good" is a formal violation of the rule of noncontradiction. But the real error in it, by which all of them are victimized (Paul, the antinomians, and MacGregor), is the intrinsic theory under which, logically, a thing is either good or evil. But good and evil are not properties, they are predicates or attributes. And therefore what is sometimes good may at other times be evil, and what is sometimes wrong may sometimes be right when it serves a good enough end—depending on the situation.


Law Entangles Itself
With its terrible literalism and legalism, classical Christian ethics has lent itself to a vast amount of equivocal and even downright contradictory opinion. Think of the endless debates and Talmudic pilpul ground out to rationalize those numerous things men have to do by means that are often unwelcome and sometimes tragic. They have always twisted and turned around their foolish doctrine that means are intrinsically good or evil, that they are not to be justified by any end or usefulness external to the supposedly inherent "value" of the means themselves. This pilpul has been ground out of the legalistic mills to rationalize war's ruthless methods of forcing, killing, lying, subverting, violating; it has strained to find moral reasons for capital and corporal punishment, diplomatic subterfuge, surgical mutilations, and a whole host of things.

The gyrations of formal moral theology around these questions result, of course, from an unlovely lip service paid to a maxim that the practices in question all obviously contradict! Surgeons have to mutilate bodies to remove cancers, some priests have to give up married love and children for their vocations' sake, nurses lie to schizophrenics to keep them calm for treatment. But in such cases it is worth it.

Every little book and manual on "problems of conscience" is legalistic. "Is it right to . . ." have premarital intercourse, gamble, steal, euthanase, abort, lie, defraud, break contracts, et cetera, ad nauseum? This kind of intrinsicalist morass must be left behind as irrelevant, incompetent, and immaterial. The new morality, situation ethics, declares that anything and everything is right or wrong, according to the situation. And this candid approach is indeed a revolution in morals! At the same time, it is as ancient as the prophet Isaiah (ch. 4:1) who, foreseeing a day when the sex ratio would be imbalanced, said, "Seven women shall take hold of one man" to even things up. (With us, monogamy may be an ideal but it should not be an idol.)

Alexander Miller interviewed some of the French maquis after World War II, about their experiences in the resistance struggle. (It is a famous passage in his Renewal of Man.173) They had lived on lies (forged passports, ration cards, I.D. cards, etc.), by theft of food and supplies, by killing occupation officers and collaborators, sometimes even killing one of their own members in danger of arrest and exposing their whole conspiracy. He asked if everything, then, is permissible? Their reply was clear and crucial. "Yes, everything is permitted—and everything is forbidden." Miller's comment was that "if killing and lying are to be used it must be under the most urgent pressure of social necessity, and with a profound sense of guilt that no better way can be presently found." We should change his "guilt" to sorrow, since such tragic situations are a cause for regret, but not for remorse. But the main point is as he puts it.

Ponder this: Along the Wilderness Road, or Boone's Trail, in the eighteenth century, westward through Cumberland Gap to Kentucky, many families and trail parties lost their lives in border and Indian warfare. Compare two episodes in which pioneers were pursued by savages.

(1) A Scottish woman saw that her suckling baby, ill and crying, was betraying her and her three other children, and the whole company, to the Indians. But she clung to her child, and they were caught and killed. (2) A Negro woman, seeing how her crying baby endangered another trail party, killed it with her own hands, to keep silence and reach the fort. Which woman made the right decision?

We have already seen, in the discussion of our first proposition, that love only is always good, and that the intrinsic theory of value traps its holders into the untenable position of making absolute prohibitions of certain acts, regardless of the circumstances. Examples are telling a lie or committing suicide, when they could lead to a great deal of good. We also saw that intrinsicalism sometimes results in stigmatizing as a "lesser evil" such loving deeds as stealing a man's gun to keep him from shooting somebody in anger.

As Paul said twice in his first letter to Corinth (chs. 6:12 and 10:23), this intrinsic approach simply fails to grasp that it is not its being lawful that makes a thing good but only whether it is expedient, edifying, constructive—whether it builds up. Some sense of causation is essential to ethics, else we shall all be like the auto magnate who complained, "If these traffic jams didn't cause our workers to be late, we could make two hundred more cars each week".

What else could make a thing lawful, according to the only law left in the New Testament, i.e., Jesus' Summary? The answer is clear. Nothing. Nothing makes a thing good except agapeic expedience; nothing can justify an act except a loving purpose. Theodore Roosevelt was either not altogether honest (candid) or altogether thoughtful when he said, "No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency".174 He was mired down in intrinsicalist legalism. Love could justify anything. There is no justification other than love's expedients. What else? In a particular case, why should not a single woman who could not marry become a "bachelor mother" by natural means or artificial insemination, even though husbandless, as a widow is?

Roosevelt's dogma calls even God's decisions into question, challenges God's ethical insight. According to some theologies, William Temple's and Josiah Royce's, for example, the problem of evil (how to explain its presence in a world created by a God who is both all-powerful and all-loving) is best resolved by the tutelage theory, the theory that God provides evil to drive men to rise to moral levels they would never reach without having to struggle and sacrifice and wrestle with evil.175 Here is a theodicy based squarely on the view that the end justifies the means!

Once we realize and truly accept that only love is good in and of itself, and that no act apart from its foreseeable consequences has any ethical meaning whatsoever—only then will we see that the right question to ask is, Does an evil means always nullify a good end? And the answer, on a basis of what is sometimes called "due proportion," must be, "No". It always depends upon the situation. When people oppose government lotteries because "gambling is wrong" they are petrified legalists; when they conclude against them as a policy carrying more evil than good, we can take them seriously—even if we do not agree.

We could, we might, decide that the whore in the Greek movie Never on Sunday, was right. In Piraeus near Athens she finds a young sailor who is afraid he cannot function sexually as an adult and virile man, and suffers as a prey to corrosive self-doubt and nonidentity. She manages things deliberately (i.e., responsibly) so that he succeeds with her and gains his self-respect and psychic freedom from a potential fixation on sex itself.

Look at the account written by an Episcopal priest in a slum parish on the Eastern seaboard.176 Trying to penetrate the teen-agers' subculture, based on the structures of gang or street-club organization, he arranged for the Knights and their Debs to treat his church as home base. Faced with frequent pregnancies in their pattern of sexual promiscuity, he raised the question with them whether, if they would not be chaste, they ought not to use contraceptives.

He found, not surprisingly, that they were ignorant of such matters. Disease, illegal abortions, bastardy reigned. But did he help them, in spite of what he calls the "very wide chasm" between their behavior standards and his church's? He says not a word about this, and one fears that his silence is not discretion but an implicit admission that legalistic "idealism" cut him off from a loving decision to help them. (Legalistic puritanism has also prevented relief agencies from helping client-mothers to use contraceptives, thus adding enormously to relief costs, on the ground that a promiscuous woman and her children should suffer for her sins.)


The Four Factors
And what is it, then, that we are to take into account as we analyze and weigh and judge the situation? What do we look for, what question do we ask? There are four questions of basic and indispensable importance to be raised about every case, four factors at stake in every situation, all of which are to be balanced on love's scales. There are no foregone decisions.

The first one, the primary one, is the end. What is wanted? What is the object sought; what result is aimed at? A student, for example, might want a new and highly useful thesaurus. But then, as a second factor, by what means could he acquire one; what method should he employ to bring about the end he seeks? It might be stealing or borrowing or buying, and to get money to buy it he might steal or save or beg or borrow or gamble. This, then, brings into view the third factor at stake, his motive. What is the drive or "wanting" dynamic behind the act? Is the student moved by covetousness or charity or scholarship or ostentation or bibliomania?

Finally, every serious decision maker needs to ask the fourth question, What are the foreseeable consequences? Given any course of action, in the context of the problem, what are the effects directly and indirectly brought about, the immediate consequences, and the remote (sequelae)? This last question means, we must note, that there are more results entailed than just the end wanted, and they all have to be weighed and weighted. Along with getting the thesaurus, there may come other things: impoverishment, a neurosis nurtured, professional growth, resentment by a wife or creditor, successful completion of an important thesis.

Rigoristic, intrinsicalist legalism often takes the position that to be wrong an action need be at fault on only one of these four scores, whereas in order to be right it must be right on all four. When Kant, the grandfather of modern ethical absolutizers, wrote his essay On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives, he made it quite clear that in his ethics a lie to a would-be murderer, to save his victims' life, would be wrong. The situationist prefers the ethics of the civil law, in which the failure to tell the necessary He might very possibly make one an accessory before the fact of the murder!


Четыре фактора

<учитывающихся при принятии решения в ситуациях: цель, средства, намерение, последствия>
«Ригористический, интрисикалистский легализм часто занимает ту позицию, что для того, чтобы быть дурным, поступку достаточно погрешить хотя бы против одного из этих четырех пунктов, тогда как для того, чтобы быть верным, он должен быть верным по всем четырем. Когда Кант, дедушка современных этических абсолютистов, писал свое эссе «О мнимом праве лгать из человеколюбия» он высказался совершенно ясно, что, согласно его этике, солгать покушающемуся на убийство ради спасения намеченной им жертвы – будет неверным. Ситуационист предпочтет здесь этику гражданского права, в которой неспособность сказать необходимую ложь может, весьма вероятно, быть расценено как соучастие в подготовке убийства!

Тут мы снова выступаем против всеобщих правил и категорического императива. Но мы не признаем и вообще никаких императивов, кроме гипотетических: то есть, поступок востребован лишь в том случае, если этого требует ситуация ради <целей> любви. Шопенгауэр однажды сказал, что, назови Кант свой легалистский абсолютизм «категорическим императивом» или «фицлипуцли» <божество инков, требовавшее кровавых жертвоприношений. - А.К.>, он все равно останется «теологией прусского капрала восемнадцатого века, ударившегося в абстракции». Шопенгауэр верно расценил этот абсолютизм Канта как «апофеоз бессердечия, прямо противоположный христианской морали <выше всего ставящей любовь и полагающей в ней всю ценность>».8»


Here we are up against universals and the categorical imperative, once more. But we recognize no imperatives at all except hypothetical ones: i.e., an action is imperative only if the situation demands it for love's sake. Schopenhauer once said that whether Kant called his legalistic absolutism "the categorical imperative" or "fitziputzli", it was still "the drill-sergeant theology of eighteenth-century Prussia with the drill-sergeant turned into an abstraction",177 He rightly called it the "apotheosis of lovelessness, the exact opposite, as it is, of the Christian doctrine of morals".178

Ever since Chrysostom's day it has been said that the essence of sin lies in the confusion of means with ends. When a thing becomes an end in itself, as money does with a miser, rather than a means to some personal good as its proper end, there is sin. If narcotic euphoria is sought as an end in itself, rather than as a means to analgesia or mental healing (opium-morphine addicts do this), that is sin. But it is of special importance here to emphasize from the situationist's angle of vision, that ends, like means, are relative, that all ends and means are related to each other in a contributory hierarchy, and that in their turn all ends become means to some end higher than themselves. There is only one end, one goal, one purpose which is not relative and contingent, always an end in itself. Love.

This is worth stressing. Not only means hut ends too are relative, only extrinsically justifiable. They are good only if they happen to contribute to some good other than themselves. Nothing is intrinsically good but the highest good, the summum bonum, the end or purpose of all ends—love. We cannot say anything we do is good, only that it is a means to an end and therefore happens in that cause-and-effect relation to have value.

Bishop Kirk came close to an extrinsic, situational view when, speaking of the old rule about means and ends, he said, "The correct form of the maxim, in fact, is 'circumstances alter cases.' And this is obviously true. An act which is right in some circumstances may be wrong in others".179 But he only came close; he did not, alas, say (as he should have) that an act which is wrong in some cases would be right in others. He failed to reach home because he acknowledged only one side of the coin. His bid for freedom from legalism was too fainthearted.

There are those who invoke the "wedge" principle against any attempt to weigh relative values. Exceptions to a law are a dangerous wedge, a camel's nose in the tent, they say. Euthanasia, for example, is said to be "an act which, if raised to a general line of conduct would injure humanity, [and] is wrong in the individual case".180 A particular case of loving-kindness, if everybody did it, would mean chaos or cruelty.
«Находятся такие, кто использует идею «клина» против всякой попытки взвешивать относительные ценности. Исключения в законе, как они говорят, составляют опасный клин, позволяющий расколоть его целое, лазейку <для беззакония> . Эвтаназия, например, есть согласно этому мнению «акт, который, будучи возведенным в общий принцип поведения, будет несовместим с требованиями гуманности и потому плох в каждом отдельном случае».10 Что в частном случае может быть делом любви и доброты, если станет делаться каждым, будет означать хаос и жестокость.
Legalists argue that the consequence of disobeying law, moral or civil, is that it weakens law and order and that the "ultimate" result "would be" anarchy, no matter how desirable the immediate consequences. An English court recently gave the lightest possible prison sentence to a father convicted of ending the life of a Mongolian idiot son, on the ground that although the judge might have done the same thing in those circumstances, to let him escape the law and penalties of murder would encourage others to commit murder and weaken the social fabric.
Легалисты приводят тот аргумент, что последствия нарушения закона, нравственного или юридического, в том, что они ослабляют закон и порядок вообще, и что «конечным» результатом этого «должна быть» анархия, неважно, насколько желательными могут быть непосредственные последствия. Английский суд приговорил недавно к наименьшему из предусматривающихся законом наказаний, тюремному заключению, одного отца, осужденного за убийство сына-монголоида, на том основании, что, хотя сам судья мог бы поступить в той ситуации так же, позволить хоть кому-то избежать действия закона и наказания за убийство – значит подвигнуть других к совершению убийств и подрывать основы общества.

At first sight this looks like a realistic awareness that there are remote as well as immediate consequences to be taken into account in every decision. But actually it is only another disguise for Kant's abstract rule that every act in order to be moral must be universally willed. There is no human act, no matter how lovingly willed, which could not lead to evil if the circumstances were of a certain pattern—and to say "universal only for exactly similar conditions" is to run away from the variety of life.


На первый взгляд это как будто реалистическое предупреждение, что существуют не только непосредственные, но и отдаленные следствия, которые надо учитывать, принимая решения. В действительности же это лишь другое обличье того кантовского абстрактного правила, что каждый отдельный поступок, для того чтобы считаться морально верным, должен быть в то же время предписан в качестве всеобщего закона (must be universally willed). Не может быть в человеческом поведении ничего, с какой бы любовью оно ни совершалось, что не могло бы повести ко злу, если обстоятельства сложатся определенным образом – и потому сказать «всеобщий закон, но для в точности сходных обстоятельств» – значит закрыть глаза на сложность жизни.
The wedge is very much like reactionary objections to new increases in our human control over the conditions of life. If we allow the use of contraceptives, it is said, people will selfishly stop having children. (Often it will stop people stupidly having children!) The adequate answer is Abusus non tollit usum (Abuse does not bar use).

The wedge is not used, obviously, against our having executioners for capital punishment, or soldiers, or celibates. The "generalization argument" (What would happen if everybody did it?) is actually one of the maneuvers used to discredit personal responsibility and leave law in control. It is a fundamentally antisituational gambit. It is a form of obstructionism, a delaying action of static morality.


Идея «клина» очень во многом схожа с реакционными возражениями против последних достижений в области гуманного контроля за условиями жизни. Если допустить использование контрацептивов, говорят, люди в силу своего эгоизма прекратят заводить детей. (Чаще их использование позволяет не заводить их по глупости!) Лучший ответ на это – Abusus non tollit usum (злоупотребление не исключает употребление).

Идея «клина» не используется, как мы видим, против того, что мы имеем исполнителей смертных приговоров, солдат или людей, давших обет безбрачия. «Обобщающий аргумент» (что будет, если все станут поступать так же?) есть фактически один из маневров, применяемых для дискредитации идеи личной ответственности и для того, чтобы оставить закон у власти. Это – глубоко антиситуационистская уловка. Это – форма обструкционизма, попытка статичной моральности затормозить ее развитие.»


8 Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality, tr. by A. B. Bullock (The Macmillan Company, 1903), p. 6. (В русском переводе: Артур Шопенгауэр. Об основе морали. (В книге: Артур Шопенгауэр. Свобода воли и нравственность. М., 1982)

10 J. V. Sullivan, Catholic Teaching on the Morality of Euthanasia (Catholic University Press, 1949), p. 54.

Hallowing the Means
However you decide your choices, the end justifies the means. It certainly cannot justify itself. Furthermore, the only self-validating end in the Christian situation ethic is love. All other ends and all means are justified according to the changes and chances of unlimitedly diverse situations.

What has often been quoted as a proof of the Jesuits' double-dealing and evasion of the "moral law" is, in fact, to their credit; we embrace their maxim wholeheartedly: Finis sanctxficat media (The end justifies or sanctifies or validates the means). This is precisely what our principle of extrinsic or contingent value leads to. Brunner put it in much the same fashion, that "the necessary end sanctifies the necessary means".181 Therefore he could speak of "the hallowing of the means by the end". (N. H. Søe of Denmark said of Brunner, "He never turned out to be a Sitnationsethiker". But all the evidence says that Søe is mistaken.182)

It is a snare and a delusion to think that we can escape doubts and conflicts by turning to law. One legalist moralist has written of a captured spy's problem, "Direct suicide would constitute a bad means to a good end, even though he fears to divulge vital information through coercion and torture. The same case would occur if a priest feared that he is to be tortured in order to force him to break the sacramental seal. He should pray for strength to be silent, but he may not commit suicide".183 Here we see a head-on collision between the absolute of life (not so much of its preservation as of its nonsacrifice!) and the absolute of secrecy.

The same kind of "perplexity" arises for legalism when the conflict is between the rule of secrecy and the demands of love-justice, when a priest learns "under the seal" that an innocent man is about to die for the penitent's crime. Canon law forbids him to reveal what he knows. Why is the spy's life more important than the lives of his fellow countrymen? Why is the priest's seal more sacrosanct than the life of the luckless victim of circumstances, waiting in death row? (It would seem that self-preservation comes first, then keeping the seal inviolate, and a poor third is neighbor-love!)

Therefore, in the relativities of this world where conscience labors to do the right thing, we may always do what would be evil in some contexts if in this circumstance love gains the balance. It is love's business to calculate gains and losses, and to act for the sake of its success.

On this ground, then, we must flatly oppose the classical means-ends rule in Christian ethics and moral theology. We have to refuse to omit doing a preponderantly good deed just because the necessary means happens to be evil "generally" or because it entails some evil. For us, whether it is good or evil, right or wrong, is not in the deed but by its circumstances. William James liked to say that truth does not exist ante rem, before or apart from the facts as lived, but in rebus—in the lived event itself. And so with the good! Several years ago Congress passed a special bill giving citizenship to a Roumanian Jewish doctor, a woman, who had aborted three thousand Jewish women brought to the concentration camp. If pregnant, they were to be incinerated. Even accepting the view that the embryos were "human lives" (which many of us do not), by "killing" three thousand the doctor saved three thousand and prevented the murder of six thousand!

If, for example, the emotional and spiritual welfare of the parents and children in a particular family could best be served by a divorce, then, wrong and cheap-jack as divorce often is, love justifies a divorce. Love's method is to judge by particularity, not to lay down laws and universal. It does not preach pretty propositions; it asks concrete questions, situation questions. Getting a divorce is sometimes like David's eating the reserved Sacrament; it is what Christ would recommend. The fact that Jesus is reported in the Gospels as having blessed David's act on the basis of the situation, while he also absolutized the prohibition of divorce, poses a problem for Biblical scholarship (especially troublesome to the literalizers and legalists) but it does not confuse Christian ethics, at least of the situationist stamp. We are quite clear about it: to will the end is to will the means.

Only the end justifies the means: nothing else.
VIII
Love Decides There and Then
The Sixth Proposition: "Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively".
Sometimes executives with a taste for irony exhibit a comic desk sign which reads, "My Mind Is Made Up, Don't Confuse Me with the Facts!" It is a sad bit of humor because it points a finger at a fatal yet widespread form of spiritual and moral insecurity.
Wanted: A System
Too many people at heart long for an ethical system of prefabricated, pretailored morality. They want to lean on strong, unyielding rules. It was all very well, they complain, for Paul to say that living by law is like slavery (Gal. 4:21-26), "but after all, we aren't St. Pauls". Even if he did say that those who stick to the law are no better than slaves, we still need law—and if not the Torah, then something like it, something more "Christian."

People like to wallow or cower in the security of the law. They cannot trust themselves too much to the freedom of grace; they prefer the comfortableness of law-Better the policy of the Grand Inquisitor; better bread and circuses. If, as the philosophers say, man became "the tragic animal" by transcending instinctually determined choices and acquiring conscience, then it's at least better to keep that tragic burden of conscience to a safe minimum! In a way they are right; moving over from law to love (Paul called it "grace") is a painful and threatening step to take.

The situationist, cutting himself loose from the dead hand of unyielding law, with its false promises of relief from the anguish of decision, can only determine that as a man of goodwill he will live as a free man, with all the ambiguities that go along with freedom. His moral life takes on the shape of adventure, ceases to pretend to be a blueprint. In all humility, knowing that he cannot escape the human margin of error, he will—in Luther's apposite phrase—sin bravely.
The Gray Area
When we wrestle with real problems of conscience, not easy or obvious ones, we are in "the ethical penumbra"— where things are not too certain. In between the brightly lighted side of a satellite, where the sun's light reaches, and the dark side turned away (the umbra), lies the shadowed, partly lighted area in between, the penumbra. So many decisions in life are of this kind; they fall in between. This "penumbric" concern of situation ethics is parallel to Bonhoeffer's penultimate concern with history and the world.184 It meets things here and now, without a romantic focus on the past or an escapist focus on the future.

This is where the call to sin bravely is sharpest.



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