Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lance Armstrong, Means, and Ends

On sports talk radio the past two days, the general consensus concerning Lance Armstrong's admission to having doped his way to 7 Tour De France's has been this:

"I don't care that Lance cheated, he's helped so many people with cancer."

This is certainly an understandable sentiment.  We all know people taken by cancer, and so anyone who brings awareness and fund-raising clout to the fight is a most welcome participant.

But, as with all sin, Lance's lies didn't just affect himself.  It can't be said "well, he has to deal with his lies and get right with God."  Lance crushed people to keep the lie going.  He trashed people's credibility, tore people down, etc.

Most people, again as evidenced by talk radio on a day-in day-out basis believe something the Church considers VERY problematic...most people believe that the ends justify the means.  That is to say that most people believe the results are what matters, and if you have to break a few rules along the way, well, that's okay.

One of the best paragraphs of the Catechism is paragraph 1887:

"The inversion of means and ends...make Christian conduct in keeping with the commandments of the divine Law-giver difficult and almost impossible."

I had philosophy and theology teachers in college try to beat it into us that "the end justifies the means" that "the H Bomb being dropped on Hiroshima (bad means) was justified in the end because it probably would have saved more lives (good end)", that "a Jewish woman hiding in a basement from the Nazi's should kill her screaming baby (bad means) to save herself and her other children (good end)" etc. etc.

The Church very clearly says, however, that 

The end result never makes the way you got there okay

The way you got there was either good or bad

The ends NEVER justify the means

But as the Catechism notes, if we disagree with the Church on this idea, and we instead think that ends can justify means, then truly following God becomes

difficult and almost impossible

Why would thinking ends can justify means make it almost impossible to follow God...because as any teenager can tell you, if the ends justify the means, then pretty quickly Anything goes, as long as this long line of actions of mine is justified by something positive at the end.

This is an important thing we have to help people begin to understand again - the ends can't justify the means...even if the end is raising lots of money for cancer.  The end result is great, the path was not, and the path is not vindicated by the end result.