Bill Donohue of the Catholic League (of which I am a proud member) issued a press release yesterday attacking an idiotic column by one Joe Feuerherd that appeared in the Washington Post. In that column, Feuerherd blasted the Catholic bishops of this country for supposedly telling him who to vote for under pain of eternal damnation. Donohue’s press release is, on the whole, excellent, but it makes a lamentable slip in the following passage:
Feuerherd would have us believe that the document [of the bishops] lists as “intrinsically evil” such things as “abortion, stem cell research and same-sex marriage.” He is twice wrong. The document does not call either stem cell research or same-sex marriage “intrinsically evil.” There are eight acts which merit that label: abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, the destruction of embryos, genocide, torture, racism and targeting noncombatants in war.
The sloppy wording of the last sentence makes it sound as though only eight things are “intrinsically evil” according to the teaching of the Church and her bishops, and that same-sex marriage is not one of them. But that is obviously untrue; there are many things besides those eight, such as murder, adultery, blasphemy, and incest. The list is much longer than eight. And since the list would clearly include homosexual activity, it would logically also include so-called “same-sex marriage.”
What Donohue presumably meant to say was not that “There are eight acts which merit that label,” but that “There are eight things that are so labeled in the bishop’s document.” But even if he had been more careful in his wording, and written just that, what would have been the point? The particular document of the bishops may not explicitly list “same-sex marriage” as intrinsically evil, but the Church’s clear teaching is that such arrangements are indeed evil and intrinsically so.
One has the uncomfortable sense that Donohue sees the adjective intrinsically here as merely an intensifier, like unspeakably, and wants to take pains to make clear that the Church does not put “same-sex marriage” in the same list of horribles as torture and genocide. But intrinsically means simply intrinsically. An intrinsically evil act is one that is objectively wrong in and of itself, and which therefore can never be justified by circumstances or consequences.
That being said, it is wonderful that Donohue took on Feuerherd, who is obviously a dolt.