In a world based on calculations, it is the calculation of consequences that determines what should be considered moral and immoral. In this way, the category of the good vanishes, as Kant clearly showed. Nothing is good or evil in itself; everything depends on the consequences that may be thought to ensue upon an action.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 31
Reflection – Consequentialism is the recurring decimal of modernity. The persistent idea that we can do evil because good things will result from it crosses all lines of political persuasion and ideological commitment. We can torture prisoners to get information to save lives; we can abort babies to relieve women who are in distressing circumstances; we can lie to advance our political/social cause; we can calumnize, detract, slander, savage people who oppose our agendas; we can have sex with anyone and in any way we please because… well, because it feels good! And that’s a good consequence!
On and on it goes. The rigorous commitment to a binding moral law, to an absolute sense that we simply must not, cannot, shalt not do an evil act, no matter what good may emerge from it—this is rare nowadays. Conservatives advocate torture; liberals advocate abortion; almost everyone advocates fornication and contraception and lying for a good cause.
Now the Church has always posited the principle of double effect, when a single act has two consequences, a good and an evil one, but the key point there is that the act itself cannot be intrinsically evil, nor may the evil consequence be desired.
Consequentialism is attractive because, of course, we ultimately get to do whatever we want. We just have to pinpoint the good effect we are going for. Like the bank robber asked why he robbed banks who answered, “Because that’s where the money is.” Why tell lies? Because that’s how I get what I want, duh!
But the price we pay is too high. The price we pay is that the very idea of good and evil is drained of meaning. All that is left is power, and getting what I want. And this plunges us into a world of the jungle, of raw struggles for domination and control. Who will have the upper hand? Nature is red of tooth and claw, and when human beings jettison the moral law we too get bloodied in the fight for survival and dominance. A bloody mess is what we’re left with.
The only way to preserve a world that is human and humane, where there is a sense of right and of rights, is to maintain a world of moral order, of intrinsic good and evil that must be acknowledged, even as we struggle to live righteously. Consequentialism in all its forms must be recognized, called what it is, and vigorously resisted and rejected. We are all called in this struggle to moral effort which may at times rise to the level of moral heroism—fidelity to the moral law is sacrificial. But the alternative is bestial and demonic—the naked worship of power. So we gotta choose: what’s it going to be?