I recently became involved in an online discussion, and was wondering if you may be able to provide me some insight (I searched your blog, and didn't see where it may have been discussed before). The key question we're disagreed on is whether material sin involves a moral evil.Good question.
I've been arguing from the position that it does--that it still offends God, that it still constitutes the privation of moral goodness, but that the individual is not culpable for the moral evil. My interlocutor has been arguing that it does not--that because the person does not know the action is wrong and does not consciously choose the wrong, that therefore there is no moral evil.
Although in a way academic, I think this distinction is important and material sin is not all that infrequent. Can you maybe provide some insight, or point me towards some resources that could help me understand this better?
Assuming that the act in question contravenes a moral norm, it would be a sin and a moral evil. This is regardless of whether or not the person who commits the act is aware of it's sinful nature. A moral evil exists whenever God's law is broken. Period.
When a person commits a material sin, they break God's law without knowledge that their action had such an effect. But, regardless of their knowledge, God's law is still broken, it is just that the guilt of this action is not imputed to them. They are not culpable or held accountable for it.
So, the question here is really not whether or not a moral evil exists but whether or not the person in question is to be held accountable for it. The objective immorality of an action does not depend on our awareness of this immorality.
I hope that helps. Here are some links where you can learn more:
- Baltimore Catechism #3: On Sin and It's Kinds [see nos. 285 and 286]
- Baltimore Catechism #4 (or An Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism): On Sin and It's Kinds [see no. 54]
- Scrupulosity: The Occupational Hazard of the Catholic Moral Life [see "Solution #1: Distinguish between Material and Formal Sin"]
- New Advent: Sin [see "II. DIVISION OF SIN: Material and Formal Sin"]
- New Advent: Evil [see the third paragraph on moral evil]
- Heresy, Schism, and Apostasy
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Material Sin
- Pope Pius XII: On Psychotherapy and Religion [see nos. 38 and 39]