Thursday, January 20, 2011

The vice of being overly cautious.

It’s a vice I find most common on blogs dedicated to some moral issue, such as torture, or some perceived moral issue such as capital punishment or immigration.

Similar to scrupulosity, it’s a vice of taking what is good, i.e. desire of right action, but taking that desire to an evil extreme.

It’s an undue fear or aversion to act which incapacitates the sufferer. And is typically manifested as an undue fear or aversion of committing some evil such as sinning against human dignity or something similar.

For Instance :

‘Human dignity’ is a term where we have a sense of its meaning, but not a practical sense of how to precisely apply it. The same is true of the term ‘torture’. We have a sense of its meaning, but not precisely. So that when those two imprecise terms are applied to a single problem by those who suffer the vice of being overly cautious, the outcome is inaction. Inaction from fear of committing a sin against human dignity from fear of committing an act of torture.

Or let the issue be capital punishment or immigration where the imprecision is due to prudence which is by its nature not precise, once again, the outcome is inaction.

Inaction doesn’t sound so bad, but sometimes actions simply have to be taken and inaction is not a reasonable option.

Also, as is common to all vices, those who suffer from it see themselves as the mean, and true right action as the extreme. So they in turn see anyone who doesn’t likewise suffer from their vice to be evil in some manner. With the hardcore libs assuming the worst evils in those who don’t agree with them, and the conservative types assuming a more charitable view.

But they both assume, or at the very least suspect, some lurking evil in those who disagree with them, all objections from the overly cautious of not judging others not with standing. And this is where the actual problem is, because online bloggers are not ever going to be in a position to decide if someone will be executed or not, or decide if this person is being tortured or not.

But they are in a position to write on the subjects, and they are in a position to discuss the issues with others in their comment boxes, and they are in a position to discuss those issues at their parish or over dinner, or the park. And it is there, at those places that their vice of being overly cautious is most harmful to themselves and to others.

Or let me put it this way :

A Catholic understanding would be to agree with Scarlett when she appreciably said "What a cool liar you are, Melly." Whereas those who are afflicted with this unfortunate vice mistake their modern sensibilities for understanding of Church teaching.

Those afflicted by the the vice of being overly cautious scrupulously condemn Melanie, where as a Catholic recognizes that God gave us common sense which Melanie rightly applied.

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