"If you commit adultery with her in your mind, you have committed a sin even if she would never sleep with you in reality. The internal act of assent in your mind - that assent which says "if the circumstances allowed, I would do this" - is as much a sin as actually performing the act."
Excuse me but, Damn, that's a hard saying. Suppose my assent went only so far as to acknowledge that "if the circumstances allowed, I would like to do this. But I wouldn't." Would that get me off the hook? Or least provide some wiggle room?
He draws a further comparison between this kind of thinking and "the ticking bomb scenario for justifying torture":
You know the story: the bomb is ticking and federal agent Jack Bauer "must" torture someone to get information about it before it goes off. He's got to bite the bullet and do what those namby-pamby Christians who depend on him for their safety don't have the cajones to do, and the people he does it to are bad people anyway. They deserve what they get, and the lives of millions of innocents depend on them getting it from Jack.
Hypotheticals can be a useful intellectual tool in many circumstances. But as a means to "test" a moral heresy - say the heresy that torture might be OK in certain circumstances - they are pure evil.
Under the assumption, I suppose, that when we engage difficulties in this way, what we're really trying to do is justify a course of action already contemplated; that is, we've already at least half-assented to a thing we know to be wrong.
Actually, Jack committed worse than torture in one episode. He put a bullet in the back of his superior's head, under threat from the bad guys that his failure to do so would compel them to release a virus into a city, resulting in the deaths of a million people. Though he had come through for Jack on several occasions, his superior was a bit of a twerpy bureaucrat, just decent enough to infuse his demise with a sense of tragedy, just oily enough that no one would miss him too much. Jack even says, before pulling the trigger, "God forgive me." Wiggle room.
Still, I was wondering what you would do in Jack's place.
UPDATE: Zippy now has 69 comments in his box to the above-linked post, most transpiring between him and a rather persistent sceptic who seems not at all susceptible to persuasion, and almost none of which have anything to do with the original subject matter. It's now about the "telos of sex," or, in plain English, whether or not contraception might be an evil. Still, it's interesting. A fellow named Brendon, whom I found to be quite sharp, pipes up near the end; and as for Zippy, well, piercing logic aside, he's one hell of a patient man.
2nd Update: It's up to 82 comments now. I even jumped in, to absolutely no effect. Someday I'll convert somebody to something.
[Make that 90, and counting][102, and not counting].