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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

April 11, 2008

The Morality of Human Acts

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the morality of human acts depends on

—the object chosen;
—the end in view or the intention;
—the circumstances of the action.

Explore these factors in more detail with your students.

The moral object can be determmined by asking, "What action is involved?"

The intentions ofthe person are uncovered with the questions, "Why am I doing this?" A bad intention makes evil and act that might have been good. A good intention does not make a bad act good.

The circumstances involve questions beginning with who, where, when, and how. The circumstances of an action can contribute to the increasing or decreasing moral goodness or evil of an act, but they cannont change to good an act that is morally evil.

Have the students work on their own or in small groups to develop moral dilemmas. Then have them exchange papers and work toward identifying the moral object, intention, and circumstances in each. For example:

Lori is an accomplished pianist and she credits her mom for her success. Lori's mom has worked an extra job since Lori was young in order to provide for musical training for Lori. Now, as a senior, Lori has a good chance of winning a full musical scholarship to college. The one question remains her government class. A "C" in the course will not look good on Lori's transcripts. During a key test, Lori realizes she has studied the wrong material. Lori has never cheated before, but she can't blow that scholarship now. Besides, she reasons, she will never take another government class again. She nudges the foot of her boyfriend sitting in the row across from her. He moves his arm so that Lori can see his paper. Quickly she copies the answers to the first ten problems of the fifty-question test.

Moral Object
To cheat or not to cheat.

"I am doing this to pass the test."

I am copying from my boyfriend.

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