At CWR, Sam Gregg has a good piece of analysis.
It was inevitable. Any discussion about marriage and the family during a synod of Catholic bishops was always going to involve questions of morality. Just as the furor around Humanae Vitae was always about much more than contraception, so too do various proposals presented to the 2015 Synod unavoidably touch on the Catholic understanding of the moral life.
One phrase that has received much attention before and around the deliberations of the Synod fathers is that of “intrinsically evil acts.” To be clear, there are no intrinsically evil persons. There are sinful acts and sinners: i.e., all of us. But no human being is by nature intrinsically evil. The Church, however, has always taught that there are certain actions which by their very nature—or, more precisely, by reason of their object—are incapable of being ordered to the good and whose illicitness admits of no exceptions. The most recent authoritative declaration of this truth may be found in Saint John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor. This mentioned intrinsically evil acts no less than sixteen times. Nor is there any question that the truth about such acts plays directly into several important subjects being addressed by the Synod.
Then there is the matter of conscience. This has been invoked by some prelates as a basis for legitimizing access to communion for someone who is, objectively-speaking, in a state of mortal sin but who believes, in conscience, that he is not. Conscience is certainly binding. But the well-formed conscience will know that there is never a good reason for someone to engage in an intrinsically evil act. If our conscience is a practical judgment which, as Pope John Paul reiterated, “applies to a concrete situation the rational conviction that one must love and do good and avoid evil” (VS 59), then our conscience can never justify what reason itself tells us to be an intrinsically evil act such as torture or genocide. If we, however, conclude that an act of torture or genocide is acceptable, that’s a sure sign that either our conscience is in a state of invincible ignorance or severely malformed, or that we haven’t engaged in an honest discernment of the truth.
Even the notion of allowing bishops conferences to determine how to address the often-difficult pastoral situations they face in their own countries (such as polygamy in Africa) is affected by the fact of intrinsic evils. Leaving aside the question of whether bishops conferences actually possess any such authority (which no less than perhaps the greatest of twentieth century Catholic theologians, Cardinal Henri de Lubac SJ, viewed as a dubious proposition difficult to reconcile with Vatican II’s teaching on the nature of collegiality), no Catholic bishop—not even the pope—or bishops conference can authorize any pastoral measure within their diocese or country that involves acceptance or tolerance of intrinsically evil acts. An act of euthanasia is just as intrinsically evil in Belgium as it is in California. As Veritatis Splendor pointed out 22 years ago, “When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the ‘poorest of the poor’ on the face of the earth” (VS 98).
Some Synod fathers have mentioned the need for the Church to look at reality and acknowledge the different state of affairs in which people find themselves. I agree. So here’s one reality that has been made manifest by contemporary discussions of intrinsically evil acts. It is this: that throughout much of the West the last fifty years havenot been marked by thorough catechesis in the truths of the Catholic Faith, or, as Vatican II stated in Lumen Gentium “the faith which is to be believed and applied to conduct” [fides credenda et moribus applicanda] (LG 25. My emphasis).
Just few snips. Read the whole thing there.