Sunday, December 6, 2015

Evil is Not Good

On Wednesday, December 2, 2015, at about 6:59 p.m. UTC, 10:59 a.m. PST, two people killed 14 others at a holiday office party in San Bernardino, California.

The killers were located and stopped a few hours later, and died during an armed confrontation with law enforcement. I put names of the dead, and a few links, at the end of this post.1

I'm still experiencing anger, disgust, and several other emotions in connection with this latest mass murder. It's an unpleasant sensation, but I'd probably be more concerned if I didn't notice any emotional response.

Being Human

Experiencing emotion is part of being human. Emotions are "...the connection between the life of the senses and the life of the mind...." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1764)

Reason is part of being human, too. But I have free will, so thinking is an option: not a requirement. I'm better off if I think before I act, though. (Catechism, 311, 1730, 1778, 1804, 2339)

Being angry, or sad, or disgusted, isn't good or bad by itself. What matters is what I decide to do about the feelings. (Catechism, 1762-1770)

If I let my anger or disgust grow into hate, directed at the killers or anyone else — that would be a very bad idea. (March 1, 2015; July 13, 2014)

Emotions 'just happen,' and anger can turn to hate, eventually turning to the desire to kill another person. It's 'natural.' So: why is letting murderous rage take over my mind a bad idea? Isn't 'letting nature take its course' the 'natural' thing to do?

Maybe it is. But letting a situation develop without intervention or interference isn't an option when I can reasonably predict bad results.

If I was a perfect human, I would love and desire what is good. I might be angry at the evil actions acts of another person, and love the person committing them. (Catechism, 1765, 1933)

But I'm not perfect. I inherited a wounded nature, and deal with the consequences of a profoundly wrong choice made by the first of us. (Catechism, 390, 396-401, 1707)

What I do matters because I'm human: a creature made from the stuff of this world, filled with God's breath; someone, not something.

It's not just me: all humans matter. We are made "in the divine image:" beings made of matter and spirit, body and soul. (Genesis 1:27, 2:7; Catechism, 355, 357, 362-368)

Jiminy Cricket and "a Law of the Mind"

I think some things folks do are "good," in the ethical sense; and some actions are "bad."

I use my conscience to tell which is which. I'd better explain that.

My conscience is not my list of likes and dislikes, or the social sense that tells me what to wear when I go outside: although the latter is a little closer to the mark.

One of my culture's clearer definitions of "conscience" is from a 1940 musical fantasy, "Pinocchio:"
"A conscience is that still small voice people won't listen to."
(Jiminy Cricket, in Walt Disney's "Pinocchio;" via
I don't yearn for the "good old days," and that's another topic. Topics. (July 12, 2015; May 3, 2015; August 29, 2014)

I'm a Catholic, so my conscience is a "law of the mind:" "a judgment of reason" showing me whether something I'm about to do is good or bad.2 (Catechism, 1778)

My conscience isn't what I think should be so, or shouldn't be. It builds on natural law, ethical principles woven into reality, and is a part of me that I'll be educating as long as I live. (Catechism, 1776-1785)

How natural law is applied varies a great deal. Folks in different cultures and eras face different circumstances. But the underlying principles of natural law do not change.3 (Catechism, 1789)

Doing evil so that good will follow is never acceptable, for example; we must always respect our neighbor, and our neighbor's conscience; and the Golden Rule always applies. (Matthew 7:12; Catechism, 1789, 1957-1958, 1954-1960, 2259-2262, 2268-2270)


The basics are simple: love God, love my neighbors, see everyone as my neighbor, and treat others as I'd like to be treated. (Matthew 5:43-44, 7:12, 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31 10:25-27, 29-37; Catechism, 1789)

Living as if the basics matter is not easy, but hating my neighbor is never an option — not even if my neighbor does something that's very bad. (September 6, 2015; July 5, 2015; January 18, 2015)

Judging whether an act is good or bad is part of using my conscience: it's a basic requirement for being human. I'm even expected to think about the actions of others. (Catechism, 1778, 2401-2449)

Think about it: I'm not loving my neighbor, if I see nothing wrong with someone stealing my neighbor's lawn mower: or killing my other neighbors.

It's a matter of hating the sin, loving the sinner: and leaving the judging of persons to God. (Catechism, 1861)

I must not let myself hate the couple who murdered more than a dozen people in San Bernardino this week. That's because all humans are people, with equal dignity: no matter where our ancestors are from, or how we act. (Catechism, 360, 1700-1706, 1932-1933, 1935)

Not hating the killers is one thing. Not seeing mass murder as an evil act is — more than daft. Human life is sacred. Every person's life is precious and murder is wrong: no matter how annoying, useless, or inconvenient their existence is. (Catechism, 2258, 2268-2283)

More about life, death, and acting as if love matters:

1 Mass murder; November 2, 2015; in San Bernardino, California:
  • Victims
    • Aurora Godoy, 26
    • Bennetta Bet-Badal, 46
    • Damian Meins, 58
    • Harry Bowman, 46
    • Isaac Amanios, 60
    • Juan Espinoza, 50
    • Larry Kaufman, 42
    • Michael Wetzel, 37
    • Nicholas Thalasinos, 52
    • Robert Adams, 40
    • Shannon Johnson, 45
    • Sierra Clayborn, 27
    • Tin Nguyen, 31
    • Yvette Velasco, 27
      (Source: Reuters)
  • Killers
    • Syed Rizwan Farook, 28
    • Tashfeen Malik, 27
      (Source: Reuters)
News and background:
2 A Catholic view of "conscience:"
"CONSCIENCE: The interior voice of a human being, within whose heart the inner law of God is inscribed. Moral conscience is a judgment of practical reason about the moral quality of a human action. It moves a person at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil (1777-1778). An examination of conscience is recommended as a preparation for the reception of the Sacrament of Penance (1454)."
(Catechism, Glossary, C)
3 Some of my take on morality, ethics, natural law, and all that:

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.