The difference between intrinsic evil and basic values

Democrats are attacking Paul Ryan for being a bad Catholic, because he believes individuals, not the government, are responsible for caring for the needy in our society.  He’s never indicated that he wants to destroy the current overblown, bankrupt safety net we have now, but Ryan makes it plain that he believes all people are better served through greater wealth, rather than bigger government.

In a post about the decline of Catholic Democrats, Stephen White beautifully distinguishes between those things that are intrinsic evils, so that all citizens must fight against a government doing them, and those things that reflect values, and that are up for debate when it comes to the roles that individuals and governments must take:

In Catholic teaching there are some things that are always wrong — intrinsic evils, we call them — things that no amount of moral gymnastics or creative casuistry can justify. High among such evils is the intentional taking of an innocent human life — including human life in the womb. All Catholics are expected to work to make the civil law reflect, as fully as possible, what the Church teaches with absolutely clarity: Abortion can never be justified.

Many, many other issues require prudent judgment: Medicare growth rates, marginal tax rates, defined-benefit versus defined-contribution entitlements, even the decision whether or not to go to war. These matters have moral implications, but getting the right answer means using one’s best judgment to discern the best response amid complex circumstances. There is no moral principle that tells you categorically what the interest rate should be on a federal student loan or even whether the government should offer student loans. Reasonable people can and do disagree on such things, and in good conscience, too.

The above is not difficult to understand — unless, of course, you don’t want to understand it.

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