This is a question that we ask often. When we are faced with moral choices, we want to know whether it is right or wrong. I remember many years ago giving a formation to a group of Catholic Lawyers on the question of divorce. After spending half a day with my learned friends, the final question put to me…. Is it right or wrong to be involved in divorce proceedings? I guess it is so much easier if someone just told us the answer rather that being tied down with the inner processes of our own conscience.
The question of right and wrong brings up the issue of whether there is objective truth? What is right to someone may be considered wrong by another person or vice versa. How then can one choose what is right?
The challenge seems to be not so much in issues that concern the commandments but rather things that happen in our daily lives. For example, is it OK to tell a lie in order to protect a colleague? It is in these little things that we do without thinking much that affects the choice we make of what is right or wrong. Sometimes our choices are guided by the consequences that provide justification for our actions… I told a lie because I wanted to protect my friend! Does that make the lie justifiable?
Many of us know the story of Robin Hood and how he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. The circumstances that led to Robin Hood doing what he did may seem justifiable to many since he was giving to the poor (as some would say) but the very act of stealing itself is wrong. We know that stealing is an act of taking something from someone unlawfully. In this case, we have glorified Robin Hood because he helped the poor who were oppressed. It is not my intention to judge whether what Robin Hood did was right or wrong but only to highlight that the choices that we make daily are often guided by its consequences.
This is a worrying trend because there will be times when the ends cannot justify the means and if we are only going to be guided by the consequences, we are threading on thin ice. For example, abortion cannot be an option for a family that is facing financial difficulties even though some may say…why bring a child into the world when the parents cannot provide the best quality of life? Can killing justify better quality of life? Is it right or wrong?
“The very sad part about human nature is that we tend to comment only on those who do it wrong and neglect to balance it with praise for those who do it right.” – Keith Ready