The lesser of 2 evils is an evil

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Laurence, you wouldn’t believe the absolute pro-McCain dogmatism among some Catholics, and especially among those who call themselves “traditional.” (Indeed, polling shows that those who identify themselves as “traditional” are lobsidedly Republican and support the GOP and its policies.) The last time I checked, killing babies outside the womb was also an evil, but the fact that McCain plans to continue with zest a war that regularly results in toddlers and infants having their flesh burned off by American bombs seems to bother none of them. Apparently, if one is a “conservative” or “traditional” Catholic, Catholic Just War theory is a big waste of time.

When confronted with a serious moral problem, Christians are bound to choose “none of the above” when confronted with two evils, even when one is a greater evil than the other. Consider a thought experiment:

You have been captured by a band of criminals. In a room stands you, two criminals, and 11 children. Criminal A hands you a gun and tells you to shoot one of the children in the head or the other 10 will be murdered by criminal B who has a machine gun. What do you do?

UPDATED Saint Augustine established about 1600 years ago that the proper response in this case is to say “I chose neither. I will not cooperate in committing evil.”

This is the proper response for several reasons:

1. 10 children are not worth more than 1 child. Each human person is infinitely valuable, and for you to cooperate in the murder of one of them, no matter what your motivation, is to be a murderer, and no less a murderer than the one who murders 10. Humans cannot be reduced to math equations in Christian morality.

2. If criminal B proceeds to murder 10 children, you are not morally culpable. The murderers are the criminals, not you. You have a responsibility to not damn yourself and to not cooperate in evil.

3. You cannot predict the future. You don’t know that if you shoot the one child that the criminals will keep their words and spare the children. It could be that you will all be murdered no matter what, and all that you have accomplished is to become a murderer yourself. You also don’t know that if you spare the one, that the criminals won’t spare all of you for some other reason.

There is no ethically relevant different between this case and the case of choosing between a rabid pro-abortion candidate, and a rabid pro-war candidate. McCain, in my judgement is a godless man who thinks that Catholic Just War theory is utterly meaningless, and who thinks it’s hilarious to sing songs about bombing women and children in Iran.

Besides, there is absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that a McCain presidency will result in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, or that abortion will be seriously rolled back at all. God knows 8 years of recent Republican rule (6 of them with virtually total GOP control)produced nothing in this regard.

Many Christians are choosing to shoot the one child in the vain hope of saving the lives of the other 10. For this, they wil be called to account.

Another timeless truth – “It is better to endure an evil than to commit one.”

UPDATE: People. People. Of course I’m assuming I don’t have to outline every hypothetical for you. We have to assume that you can’t just shoot the criminals with the gun they give you for some reason. Perhaps they’re not actually in the room with you and the 10 children are in another room. I’m also assuming that you’re not a ninja or that you can’t catch bullets in your teeth. You have to roll with the analogy. One reader writes:


Shoot criminal B in the head and try and knock out criminal A with the hand gun!

(As a Christian I can do that right?)


I guess you knew that was coming….

This reader is joking, but you get the idea…

No shooting the criminals! Although that would be morally permissible.

3:56 pm on November 2, 2008