Christian: Moral Theology in the Light of Vatican Ii

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CHRISTIAN
M ORAL THEOLOGY
I N THE LIGHT OF VATICAN II

Realization of the Moral Value in Human Acts
Chapter

J

V

REALIZATION OF THE MORAL VALUE
IN HUMAN ACTS
H a v i n g acquired the k n o w l e d g e of his moral responsibill a n d task, m a n must realize the guidelines a n d imperatives t h e m o r a l law in his a c t i o n s . A c c o r d i n g l y t h e n a t u r e un c haracteristics of h u m a n acts must be studied next, which ac e n a b l e m a n to proceed t o w a r d s or also to d e p a r t from hi u l t i m a t e e n d a n d to attain or to miss it.

A.

Concept and n a t u r e of the h u m a n act
I.

Concept of the human act

H u m a n acts (actus humani) a re actions that proceed from i nsight into the nature a n d purpose of o n e ' s doing a n d from c o n s e n t of free will; or shorter, they are acts which proceed f rom insight and free will. T h e y can also rightly be called p ersonal acts.

H u m a n acts are to be distinguished from acts of man
(actus hominis), w hich are performed without intervention < i >
i ntellect a n d free will. T h e y comprise all spontaneous biological a n d sensual processes, like nutrition, breathing, sensual impressions; all acts performed by those who h a v e not the use o f reason, like p e o p l e a s l e e p , lunatics, d r u n k e n p e o p l e ; all s p o n t a n e o u s reactions which precede the activity of intellect a n d will, like first reactions of anger or sympathy. Likewise d istinguished from h u m a n acts are forced acts which, though e ffected with s o m e insight and cooperation of the intellect, a re carried o u t against a m a n ' s personal decision and will ( e.g. coercion of a defeated e n e m y to destroy his citadels). S o m e authors s u b s u m e forced acts under the acts of m a n as w ell.

A s the definition of the h u m a n
a re t w o principles w h i c h constitute
a n d a volitive constituent.
The intellectual constituent. T h e
s o m e t h i n g a n d seek it only if it is
2 28

act m a k e s plain, there
this act: an intellectual
will can decide for
first k n o w n . H e n c e the

229

I mman act is v o l u n t a r y o n l y if its different e l e m e n t s a r e - •fficienuy known. This requires as essential conditions for I I h uman act knowledge of the aspired object, attention to the n otion with which the object is to be pursued, and j u d g m e n t m i the value of the act. T h e reason is that m a n cannot will w ithout knowing what object he is concerned with, without

b eing m a s t e r a n d t h e r e f o r e c o n s c i o u s o f t h e a c t h e i s t o p erform in order to realize the aim, and without evaluating t he a c t i o n in its c o n c r e t e n a t u r e as a d e s i r a b l e g o o d or u ndesirable evil, which appraisal also includes the j u d g m e n t o n the moral value of the act.

I n order however that the latter j u d g m e n t be experienced a s a d e m a n d by a p e r s o n , m o r e is n e e d e d than m e r e l y a p urely c o n c e p t u a l k n o w l e d g e ; an e v a l u a t i v e k n o w l e d g e is n eeded, which touches and involves the heart of the person. This already relates to the volitive constituent of the h u m a n a ct; for the affirmation and acceptance of a value ensues from t he will.

I t is to be noted that an action is h u m a n , a n d therefore g ood or bad, only under those of its aspects which are known. I f a man robs and strikes a person not knowing him to be
a p riest, he is guilty of criminal injury but not of a personal s acrilege. If a w o m a n receives the gift of a pearl necklace, n ot knowing that it is stolen, s h e is not guilty of any offence, b ut a victim of ignorance w h i c h excuses her from guilt. The volitive constituent. E v e r y v o l u n t a r y act of m a n i ncludes a necessary element, the quest for good (the formal e lement of every desire), and a free element, the c h o i c e of t he concrete object in...
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