Sunday, June 06, 2004

Only people without faith can say "The end justifies the means."



Today I've heard some comments critical of a departed president of whom I was fond. The commentor pointed out the Reagan practice of arming various thugs around the world in order to use them in the Cold War against communism. He claims that we've been reaping the rewards of this strategy ever since.

Perhaps that's right. Communism was a very great evil, which is a fact that must be pointed out often to young people these days. But can you fight evil with evil? In other words, can you use a bad action to get rid of a worse evil? Is winning the Cold War and saving Europe from Soviet tion worth arming Osama bin Laden and the like?

For a Catholic, the answer must be an emphatic no. We are not permitted to do evil so that good may come, no matter how small the evil or how great the good.

But this teaching seems very hard, especially when one does reflect on just how bad the Soviet Union was. So perhaps we should rephrase it in a positive way: Faith requires the Christian to live in a firm assurance that everything turns out well, in the end. The theological virtues of faith and hope and charity are all connected. Faith in God leads us to hope for what God has promised, which is eternal life. The Christian must know that despite despots and killers, everything ends well. Having hope that everything ends well makes it unecessary for us to do evil actions to gain good ends, since we are sure that in the end, despite everything, we will get the Good End.

To say that we aren't allowed to do evil, no matter what, is the same as saying that we expect the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come, amen.

P.S. I remain fond of Reagan, and I pray that he may attain eternal rest.

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