Friday, May 28, 2004

The Just Adultery Theory

On Wednesday, I was given a book, It's a Sin to Build a Nuclear Weapon; The Collected Works on War and Christian Peacemaking of Richard McSorley, S.J. The following is from Fr. McSorley's The Violence That is War;

Paralleling the just/unjust war theory is the Just Adultery Theory. A look at it helps us see how differently Christians towards murder and adultery. A Christian minister or priest who openly preaches the Just Adultery Theory would be run out of his church; not so with the just/unjust war theory. Yet both theories equally violate commandments of God; "Thou shall not kill," and "Thou shall not commit adultery." Both set up conditions to get around commandments. Conditions for just adultery are:

1. Last Resort. Every other means of getting along must be tried: discussion, advice of a third party, reconciliation of differences, expressions of affection, anything short of adultery.

2. Good Intention. There must be no intent to harm one's spouse or any other person. Revenge for unfaithfulness of one's partner would not be considered a sufficient cause, nor would the need for more children, or a second home. The cause must be genuine love and affection for the companion in adultery, needs that cannot be satisfied in any other way, and conversely, a genuine need of that love and affection on the part of the one initiating the adultery. The main point to be kept in mind is that the adultery must be in defense of love. There must be pure intention. This condition entirely excludes aggressive adultery, which is sometimes called "rape."

3. Protection of the Innocent. The aggrieved partner must not be harmed. Every effort at secrecy must be made; no open flaunting or even informing the aggrieved partner would be consistent with this condition. If children are born of the adultery, both partners to the act must have the intention of caring for the children. The use of a contraceptive device, or the intent of having an abortion, violate this condition and make the adultery immoral.

4. Proportion. A favorable balance of good over evil must be reasonably hoped for. The foreseeable harm to absent partners, and to living children, must be weighed against the need for affection and love on the part of the adulterers. This need must honestly predominate over the cumulative harm.

The damage to family life, and the weakening of the respect for the marriage bond, must be offset by the marked increase in human love, affection and respect for the human person who is endangered by the social effects of adultery.

Provided these conditions are fulfilled, adultery is not a violation of the Gospel, but an act of love and mercy.

Absurd? Perhaps, but less absurd than the just/unjust war theory. Adultery is a personal act. It does not kill millions of people, or even one person. It does not have government support. It always allows for the possibility of repentance and reconciliation which are precluded by killing. On balance from the view of morality, the Just Adultery Theory has much more in its favor than the just/unjust war theory. Why is it, then, that most Christians understand the weakness of the Just Adultery Theory, but are blind to the greater weaknesses of the just/unjust war theory? Could it be that we understand morality to be limited to a person and to personal conduct, and that what a group or a government does is beyond the limits of morality?

Or do we put the authority of a government above that of God? If a president, king, dictator or general says an action is necessary for the defense of a country, do we say a Christian may do it, and not be guilty of sin? Since the president knows more about what is required for national security than anyone else, then each Christian can obey in good conscience. It follows that if the leader says, "Rape," the Christian rapes. If the leader says "Kill," the Christian kills.

If, as a follower of Jesus, a person can intentionally kill another human because the president says it is okay, then surely he can rape another if a president, king or dictator orders it.

Can we serve both God and government when the government orders what God forbids?
Let's stop using the just war theory to justify the use of force. Let's stop claiming it is possible to love our enemies as we murder them. Over 11,000 innocent Iraqi civilians are dead. It is time to abandon absurd theories, and to begin to speak clearly.

John Dear, in the article linked above , made these comments regarding Fr. McSorley;

Though he was a teacher and peacemaker, he was first and foremost a man of God, a person of prayer, a contemplative.

I remember him calling me one summer day in the early 1990s. He said that he had done everything he could to work for the abolition of ROTC on Catholic campuses, everything except pray for that intention. He had decided that he would pray for the end of ROTC, war and nuclear weapons out loud at every Mass for the rest of his life.

One month later, ROTC was temporarily closed at Georgetown (for lack of funds). He attributed this to his prayer.

As we remember Richard McSorley, at this critical moment when our nation prepares to bomb Iraqi children and continues to maintain a massive nuclear arsenal, we might want to take up Richard’s prayer, and ask the God of peace to abolish war, ROTC, nuclear weapons, poverty and every form of violence, once and for all. Surely, he is now petitioning God face to face to grant our prayer.

Thank you, Richard, for your prophetic life.

May we take up where you left off.

May the church become a church of peace.

May we become people of nonviolence.

May war finally be abolished.
Thanks for the book, R. I'm going to continue reading now.


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