A major factor considered by ‘Western’ Governments in responding to the Russian attack on Ukraine has been the question of whether this or that type of action would hurt the ‘West’ more than it would hurt Russia. Seemingly that has been considered primarily with regard to stopping importation of Russian gas and oil. The Ukrainians’ top priority is to defeat the invasion, and they point out that it is being financed from the
proceeds of gas and oil sales. The ‘West’ say that to stop such supplies immediately would be so adverse to ‘Western’ countries and to the world economy that it is too high a ‘price’ to pay for resisting Russia’s activities, and therefore the gas and oil imports must be ‘phased out’ instead of stopped suddenly.
It is a secular application of a moral question: to what extent may it be justifiable to restrict a response to something wrong in order to avert adverse effect for the responder? Other ways of wording it are: would the effect(s) be more beneficial than burdensome? and ‘on balance, would this response be ‘worth it’? This ‘balancing exercise’ is illustrated in the criteria for a ‘just war’ (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” paragraph 2309).
The answer to the question may depend on whether the responder is the direct victim of the wrong or a benevolent supporter of that victim. It seems likely that a direct victim is free to respond by risking more than may be gained, but is a benevolent supporter entitled-or even obliged-to be more cautious because of effects on himself or on people to whom he owes a duty?
A risk of adverse effects may arise because the perpetrator of the wrong has threatened, or is reasonably believed to be able to impose, punishment for opposition. For example, it has been reported that President Putin has threatened a lightning-speed military response to certain acts against his forces. Again, consideration of the moral question of whether to commit such acts may have to differ as between the Ukrainians and their ‘Western’ allies.
The possibility of reprisals for resistance must have a long history. Good examples occurred during the Second World War. On 27th May 1942, the Nazi governor of Czechoslovakia, Reinhard Heydrich, was fatally injured by a bomb which was thrown beneath his car. The assailants were found, and paid with their lives, but vengeance was wreaked also on many others, such as the inhabitants of a village which was chosen for destruction -all the male ones were shot, all the females were sent to a concentration camp, and all the children were sent to Germany to be adopted.
During the same year, a group at Munich University who called themselves “White Rose” began producing anti-Nazi leaflets, posting them to known sympathisers with a request that copies be made and circulated. In mid-February 1943, a caretaker witnessed one of the leaflets being sprinkled in the University’s corridors, and raised the alarm. Arrests followed quickly, as did executions.
At the same time in Austria, an anti-Nazi named Franz Jagerstatter declared a conscientious objection to being summoned for active mj}itary service. He would not take the oath of total obedience to Hitler. As did St. Thomas More centuries earlier, he asked his wife (rhetorically) whether an extension of life would justify professing an egregious lie. He, too, was beheaded. The War continued, unaffected.
Despite any sympathy with those resisters and acknowledgement of their courage in accepting great risk to themselves, some might wonder whether their actions were justified. They were justified in the sense that they arose from a desire to weaken the practical power of evil, but in practice they seem to have been wholly counter-productive: they were fatal for the heroes, made no difference to the status quo, and resulted in great suffering to other people. If the practical objective is not achieved and adverse circumstances are worsened, can the relevant act(s) be regarded rationally as justified? If, furthermore, such results are foreseeable, should the idea be abandoned?
Does this have any application to your own position, particularly in responding to the surrounding
‘culture’? ls resistance to today’s contra-Catholic phenomena ‘worth it’? Lack of advocacy for such
resistance suggests that some of our spiritual leaders seem to believe that it is not; some have even advised
against it, or refused to allow publicity for it. Many people have no interest in resisting, and others approve of what shouJd be resisted.
People who would want to resist may hesitate. They may simply lack the necessary courage, or expect that resistance would be unsuccessful or that it would disadvantage them, or have no idea of what practical action is possible for them (it is important to note that none of those factors deterred the people who brought about the present situation, and that at one time those people were the minority).
Perhaps the most likely context in which the matter may arise for decision is that of employment: in the ordinary course of employment, someone is asked to do something which helps to implement or otherwise support a sinful principle or policy- often one which has legal approval. Should the worker try to avoid such complicity, and- if attempted avoidance fails – simply refuse?
The basic and overriding moral rules are that one may never do evil even if good may result from it, that the rightness or wrongfulness does not always depend on one’s intention or on the surrounding circumstances, and that personal opinion must not be given precedence over the moral law or the Magisteriurn of the Church (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” paragraphs 1756, 1789, and 2039).
Hesitation to refuse complicity with a sinful policy might easily arise from a prospect of dismissal from one’s employment, and from fear of considerable difficulties which would result. There are legal rules which theoretically can provide protection, but European ‘human rights’ law has been interpreted and applied in ways which denied such protection to Christian opponents of the ‘new orthodoxy’.
Just as abortion is, according to reports, often committed because of pressure from relatives and friends, it can be expected that a worker who wishes to resist a sinful instruction will be pressurised to prioritise care for family and home, and preservation of employment’s financial advantages. A likely gambit is ‘Your refusal won’t change the policy anyway, so how does refusal make sense?’ A wavering resister may tell himself that ‘someone else will [do whatever it is] ifl don’t’ (which is equivalent to a Satanic ‘Beatitude’ of ‘Blessed is he who copies sinful examples; he shall receive my thanks).
He will probably hear also advice that (for example) the problematic instruction is a small matter in which obedience does not necessarily prove real agreement with the policy being thereby served. That was tried out on St. Thomas More. He resisted both what a superior authority required of him and pressure to put his family first. Consequently he was executed. Resistance today (at least where this article is read) does not risk that result, but quite possibly less serious ones. They should be seen in correct perspective, but so should any way of averting them. ‘Following orders’ is not always justified, as the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal acknowledged. We must keep in mind also the principle that no human activity, even in temporal affairs, can be withdrawn from God’s dominion (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” paragraph 912).