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Final Causality Shift as an Indicator of Intemperance
The bad kind of change in plans...
Have ever had a change of plans? In some professions, this can happen within seconds of the formation of a prior plan. At one point you were doing/planning one thing and then the next new information comes and changes the situation entirely. However, sometimes it is ourselves who change our minds about our plans. Our plans are what may be called the final cause of our action i.e. what causes the carrying out of the action to be worth it. At first, we can set out to accomplish x but after we begin our end shift from x to x+y. When engaging with finite goods, the y variable can push our intent (the final cause of our act) into an immoral space we did not initially intend but gave in to a new temptation brought on by circumstances.
First, let us arrange the meaning of "x to x+y". A great example would be the first temptation and sin. The conversation of temptation indicates that Eve was close to the forbidden tree and that Adam was within conversational distance of Adam, i.e. they were lingering near that which is forbidden. Then a new temptation comes, and their initial intent x (lingering near that which is forbidden out of curiosity) becomes x+y (adding intent to eat the fruit for additional reasons revealed in the text). This may be called a near occasion of sin. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines this as "external circumstances--whether of things or persons--which either because of their special nature or because of the frailty common to humanity or peculiar to some individual, incite or entice one to sin.". The moment that the goal for which we were acting is surpassed and we intentionally continue, the end we seek has consciously or mostly consciously changed. Under normal circumstances, this is ok, but flirting with boundaries can be morally and spiritually dangerous. Just as in the case above, when it is dangerous, we are also not disposed to resist this new temptation (y) which is not far from our initial intent (x). A key example of this would be drinking with friends that are arguably intemperate in their consumption of alcohol and use it to deal with their sufferings, etc.
In conclusion, "discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour"(1 Peter 5:8). It is precisely when we are forgetting the love of God or not feeling it that we are most at risk of this Final causality shift being contrary to our relationship with God. We may begin indulging in something that at the outset may be legitimate but as action is taken new temptations arise that we were not prepared to defend against. The shift from x to x+y is not necessarily where the culpability lies either on this account. However, it may lie in the prior circumstance of x since it is a near occasion of sin, drawing the sinner quickly into x+y. This means change of plans is dangerous and ought to be avoided. Of course, a spiritual director or confessor, can help clear up any ambiguity. X can be people, situations, locations, etc. wherever virtue is sooner lost than gained.
From Mike Martinez, SJ :
I had one nail through one hand,
But I was still afraid to be crucified with both.
My unnailed hand longed to
Wrench out the hammered nail
Of my martyred hand.
I tried to leap off the cross
Out of agony and doubt,
Dreaming how it would feel to be completely nailless again.
It was just a thought.
The beautiful pain rooted me in my humanity.
My nailed hand — bloodstained, petrified, disturbed, toiling,
Became so human.