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November 6, 2004

Re: Lesser of two evils


Dear Madam

The principle of 'double effect' or 'lesser of two evils' raised by Christopher David (Letters 30, October) is regularly misapplied and certainly does not apply to condom use for several reasons.

Firstly, moral evil, evil thoughts, words, omission or action such as condom use, is a greater evil than physical evil such as disease, famine, HIV, (Catechism 311).  Secondly, the principle has strict conditions including that the action (condom use) be morally good or indifferent, which it is not.  It also includes that 'one cannot use a bad means (condom use) to gain a good end'(save life).  The principle also requires that 'there are no good options'.  For example, two political candidates holding equal pro-abortion voting intentions while one is pro-euthanasia and the other against euthanasia - there is no good option to vote for, only the 'lesser of two evils'.

We hear calls for 'those who cannot live chastity' to 'opt' to use a condom.  However, there is no such thing as 'cannot live chastity' as there is no such thing as 'cannot love'.  The choice to live chastity is always present (the good option) because God has given free will to all and has created man in His own image.  This leaves the case of rape - even between spouses.  However, for someone to say "You can rape me as long as you use a condom", is not rape, this is consent with a condom.  Victims of rape are perfectly free to use commensurate force to repel an aggressor.  Such force would not be morally evil where the use of a condom is always morally evil.

Yours faithfully

Chris Mason, Co-ordinator, United for Life