And that is the heresy at work in the “musings” of some who suggest positive elements in these relationships: Platonizing thinking of evil.
This is a kind of Platonism which thinks of evil as “non-existent”. How easy it is to slip into this kind of Platonizing “benign reading” of evil actions! Especially since leaders in the Church have tried their best the past 50 years only to point out the positive things, not to harp too much on the negative things. (More on the Council and this “Plotinian turn”, as I call it, in theology in another series of posts.)
But in fact, evil is not a mere “non-existence”. Not a mere “absence”. Rather, evil is the privation of a due good. By “privation” we mean absence in a subject. For instance, “blindness” is an absence in something. Blindness is not “sheer absence”. In the midst of my room, only I can see. But that does not mean that the space in the room is “blind” because there is “absence of sight” floating around the pure space of my room. The kind of absence we are speaking of is an absence in a subject. More precisely, it is an exact kind of absence, for it is an absence that involves a specific kind of subject, a subject that is supposed to have what is absent. My wall cannot see, but we don’t call it “blind”. Only that which is supposed to see can be blind. Thus, blindness is the absence of vision in a thing which is supposed to see. At long last, we see depicted our definition of evil: Absence of some good in a subject which is supposed to have that good. Or in short: Privation of a due good.
Now, Evil is an analogical term, which can signify moral privation or merely physical privation. That is, there is moral evil and physical evil. We have given the illustration with physical evil. It is a physical evil for me not to have my arm or the use of my arm. It is a physical evil for me not to have balance in my step. Moral evil is the absence of the due good in free action.
So, why do I say these musing people — those connected with the Synod on the Family who are asking whether or not there are positive elements in fornicating, in adulterous, and in homosexual relationships — are Platonizing?
Because they are failing to see the deep problem of the actual total situation of evil. They think very abstractly, not concretely. (A very bad pastoral policy, by the way. Very bad. They use abstract thinking about concrete shifting reality in order to bend those universal truths which are true in every situation. What an odd pair of contradictions, producing a course of action that is unwise in principle and foolish in practice!)
Let me spell this out. If you set about listing independently or one by one the “things that exist” and “only the things that exist”, of course you will come up with a list of “only good things”. For instance, the detective writes down, “A dagger, a hand, a man, a woman, blood, heart.” Each of these is “good” taken independently. However, when we look at the concrete situation and see that it involved the hand of a man, thrusting a dagger, into an innocent woman, tearing her heart to shreds, and thus causing her to shed blood…. Now we have the real story.
And we say that this act is evil, and it is evil. Our mere list of items is an abstraction from reality. We cannot muse on the list and say, “But the dagger is such a good dagger, with such a nice handle, … and pretty blade; the blood is so red and colorful – “Do you see how lovely the pattern on the sheet?”; what a strong hand he has; he took such powerful steps; what balance in his feet; what a nice smile he had; and he addressed her so kindly; and she really is so beautiful still… — and innocent!*$#!” This “listing out” the sundry good things that are elements of an act which is simply evil is utter nonsense. Abstract nonsense!
We must, rather, discern: What is the order of these various things, these elements? What happened here? Who did what to whom, and with what instruments? What was the end intended in the action? When we discern the end orchestrating everything, we hit upon the actual real thing that took place. Here, with the end, we have the reason for the being of everything human in this picture. The end was cold blooded murder. Now, that murder was a complex event and the complex parts are as it were instruments of it: His steps, his hand, his eyes, the dagger, its sharpness, etc. And everything instrumental to an end that is evil is itself evil. Period. “But what about the girl?” His Victim! “But what about her blood? Her lovely face?” Food for maggots!
Let us turn back to the salacious issue at hand: Adultery. Everything about the the adulterous couple’s action ordered to the end of the relationship as sexual is simply evil. Period. And when I say “relationship as sexual” I write precisely. It is not simply “what is ordered to adulterous sex” that is evil. It is not that we can only say, “What they did Tuesday night was evil, and the dinner beforehand that was its social preparation.” These are evil, yes. But there is much more that is evil here in the relationship. Whatever is ordered to the relationship as sexual is evil. The act of giving her flowers is evil. Of singing to her, evil. Of living with her, evil. Of calling her while at work, evil. Of organizing the garage with her, so that his things can fit in the garage, evil.
In practice, it ends up being very difficult to will anything for the partner (in such a relationship) apart from the end of the actual relationship as sexual. Difficult to divorce one’s sundry actions from the adulterous affair. Perhaps she is his secretary. Perhaps he pays her a just wage. Perhaps he doesn’t even make the affair a condition of her employment or of a positive atmosphere. Good. Then the just wage is good, and willed apart from the relationship as sexual. (But one must be honest. Perhaps her salary was gratuitously bumped as well. Just how would the atmosphere be without the affair? And at any rate, all that serenading, those chocolates, etc. – these all serve the lust.)
At last, What about the homosexual couple? Here, there is not only nothing in the relationship as sexual that is actually orderable to the good; there is nothing even hypothetically orderable. Why? The entire relationship as sexual is against nature. The only elements that can actually be considered positive are those that are willed apart from the relationship as sexual. And, let us be honest and sober, not drunk with delirium, almost everything regarding this relationship is in fact ordered to to the relationship as sexual.
Who thinks that a lengthy massage by one member upon another of an adulterous pair, or by one member upon another of a homosexual pair, can be willed and/or delivered apart from the relationship as sexual is clueless.