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wrong to lie no matter what the situation.

" Obviously, said the sitnationists, one should not lie habitually; nevertheless, in some situations. lying is the most loving thing to do. For example, it is right to lie in order to sav e Jews from the Nazis. (Most ofthe time the arguments weren't about King hut about sex.} McCabe's response to this approach to ethics shows the importance he gave to language. He notes with regard to the language of moral absolutes that "it is quite important to notice that being absolutely wrong is not the same as being very very wrong. A man might hold that lying is absolutely wrong while at the same time reiiardin" it as often a rather trivial offense. All that 'absolutely' says is that whatever makes it wrong is independent of circumstances." Whether these kinds of absolutes exist was (and still is) precisely the debate. It is true, McCabe sa)'S, that love is a basic moral concept. And he agrees that the word "love" is in some sense related to context. What counts as a lo\ing act and how we recognize one will depend on our own biographies^whether, for instance, we were loved as a child. "Love" is a word one learns to use over the histoiy of one's life, and in this respect it is unlike the word "tree." Once you've got "tree" down, you've got it. Yet there is one crucial qualiBcation McCabe wants to make. There must be something the word "love" can never mean if tlie word is to have any meaning at all. McCabe compares tliis view of words to the place of dogma in the Catholic Church. "It must be possible for a Christian to say I don t know how they will be formulating Christianity iu the 24th centuiy, but at least I know they won't be Arians or

Nestorians.'" Similarly, there must be some kinds ofhnman behavior which could never be called ioviiig" if the language of love is to reniiun meaningful. He thinks killing ehildren is a good candidate for being that something which can never be culled loving. However one describes an actand every act will have a multitude of relevant deseriptionsif tbe description "killing children" applies to it, then we can know the ac t isn't loving.

SECOND CRITIQUE McCabe makes of situation ethics applies to any type of <|uandar\' ethics. which focuses ou the moral rightuess of individual acts. (\)uaiidan' ethics is piaeticed. for exam|)le, by Randy Cohen, resident etliicist ofthe New York Tinu^s Magazine.) Situation ethies says that all the relevant eireumstaiiees must be taken into account be-

EtllicS is not about

fore an act can be '^''"7' ''''' or wrong.

But lum; MeC^abe asks, can we know when we right from have all the relevant information? How do we wrong, but know where to draw about living the frame around a sitaccording to nation? Without absolutes we can't know tbe deeper what love is, and withnieauiug out a frame we can't know where the act in of our lives. (juestion encls. These are not(|uaint reflections, in the context of Catholic moral theology, they anticipated John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor iu which the pope condemns Catholicism's own version of situation ethics, proportionalism. Some acts, John Paul asserts, are intrinsically evil. No account of relevant circumstances can justify certain kiiuls of behavior, (The pope and McCIahe would disagree, however, about which acts belong in this category. McCabe

McCabe on prayer
People often complain of "distractions ' during prayer. Their mind goes wandering off on to other things. This is nearly always due to praying for something you do not really much want; you just think it would be proper and respectable and "religious" to want it. So you pray high-niindedlv for hig bnt distant things like peace in Northern Ireland or you pray that your aunt will get better from the lluwhen in fact ;ou tio not mnch care about these things; perhaps you ought to, but you don't. And so your prayer is rapidly invaded by distractions arising from what you really do want^promotion at work, let us sav. Distrat tioiis are nearly always your real wants breaking in on your prayer for edifying bnt bogus wants. If vou are distraeteil, tiate your distraction back to the real desires it comes from and pray about these. When you are praying for what yon really want you will not be distracted, People on sinking ships do not complain of distractions tlnring their prayer (God, Christ and Us).


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