DIGNITY AND RESPONSIBILITY OF BEING HUMAN
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
One of the greatest gifts God has given us is free will. This free will distinguishes us from everything else in the visible universe. It enables us to respond freely to the love of God. And that is what responsibility means: the ability to respond freely to the love of God. Free will, then, is our greatest dignity and most awesome responsibility.
Using our free will in making moral decisions is the very substance, the warp and the woof, of our every day life. Our free will decisions are not only expressive of our unique personality, they are also creative of it. Ultimately, they determine the unique person we will become. Moral decisions, always difficult have become much more so today in our complex, technological, rapidly changing society. There are no simple answers.
Terrified at the responsibility and the complexity we sometimes try to avoid making decisions. This is not possible. “Not to decide is to decide.” Life is not a spectator sport, it is a participator sport. There are no innocent by-standers in life, only people guilty of standing by.
feel that they lack sufficient knowledge, and want others, whom they deem
more competent, to make the decisions for them. Others have the requisite
knowledge, but lack the courage to exercise freedom and responsibility.
Some have completely deserted traditional morality for excessive permissiveness,
which justifies itself with statements such as: “it’s
ok as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone,” “if it is legal
it is moral,”
Free will is always a risk. There is always the danger of making the wrong decision. But God, in giving us free will, was willing to take the risk, and so should we. We must make our own decisions and willingly assume responsibility for them. In speaking about morality there is also the risk of being misunderstood and misquoted. We often hear what we want to hear. As one old professor used to say, “Lord, deliver us from our disciples.”
But the subject is so important to so many that it is worth taking the risk.
Several years ago, I started out to make what I thought would be a simple outline of how to make moral decisions, a sort of “rule of thumb.” I soon discovered that this is not possible. What started out to be a simple outline mushroomed into an interminable task.
But I have been richly rewarded for my efforts. This study has given me deeper insights into the whole of the spiritual life. I hope the reader will have the same experience. Moral decisions are made not only with the intellect and will, but by the whole person, body, mind and spirit, and involve all of the elements of spirituality. Faith, morality and sanctity are intimately connected.
When you buy a new car with it you get an owner’s manual. The people who made the car know what went into it and they give the owner instructions to get the best use out of it. But now it is his car and he can disregard the instructions and put water in the gasoline tank and gasoline in the radiator. But he won’t go very far. God created us and knows exactly what we need to get the best out of our life. But it is now my life and I can disregard the instructions and do what I want. Instead of loving people and using things, I can love things and use people to get the things I love. But I won’t have a very happy life. As our Moral Theology professor used to say, “Good moral is good medicine.”
This paper is simply an attempt to paint the big picture, to give a brief statement of the fundamental elements, which are involved in making a moral decision, a sort of anatomy of morality. It is written with the hope of clarifying some of the confusion and aiding in the formation of mature, responsible Christians. One can spend the rest of his life refining, developing and filling in all of the details.
All ideas, of course, have emotional overtones. This is especially true of moral ideas, which deal with our value system and therefore are very personal. This paper is not THE answer. It simply is an attempt to stir up interest and encourage further study.
All of this will be “old hat” for some. It should be. After all this is simply traditional Christian morality. You can check it out for yourself by reading the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” Part Three: Life in Christ.
GOOD MORAL IS GOOD MEDICINE
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