Immorality – taken to include conduct or thinking contrary to established standards of morality, from which they may differ according to race, culture and creed – may include acts of violence, sexual misconduct, profanity, sacrilege or other acts considered subversive, perverse or harmful; it also encompasses ideological deviation, including heresy, subversive literature and pornography, or obscenity of any kind. It may even include such afflictions as alcoholism and drug addiction.
One can therefore establish three kinds of immoral actions, which can be judged as such by referring to the three basic principles: whether they are immoral either in themselves, or because the person who enacts them lacks the right to do so, or because of the dangers they provoke without sufficient motive.
Immoral actions in themselves are those where the constitutive elements are incompatible with moral order, that is to say with healthy reasoning; where conscious and free action is contrary either to the essential principles of human nature or to the essential relations which it has with the Creator and with other men, or to the rules governing the use of material things, in the sense that man must never become their slave but must remain their master. It is therefore contrary to moral order that man should freely and consciously submit his rational faculties to inferior instincts. When the application of the tests, or of psycho- analysis or of any other method reaches this extreme, it becomes immoral and must be refuted without discussion. It is naturally up to your conscience to determine in the individual cases, the lines of conduct to be rejected.
Actions which are immoral because the person who enacts them has no right to do so, do not in themselves contain any essential immoral element but, if they are to be licit, they must suppose the existence of an explicit or implicit right as will be the case in the majority of instances for the doctor and the psychologist. Since a right cannot be taken for granted, it must first of all be established through positive proof by the person who assumes it and based on a juridical reason. As long as the right has not been obtained, the action is immoral. But if, at a specific time, an action appears to be immoral, it does not still follow that it will always remain such, because it can happen that the right shown to be lacking is acquired later. Nevertheless, the right in question can never be taken for granted. As We said previously, again in this instance, it is up to you to decide in concrete cases, many examples of which are quoted in the publications of your specialization, whether this principle is applicable to such or such an action. Thirdly, certain actions are immoral because of the danger incurred without a proportionate motive. We naturally refer to moral danger for the individual or the community, either regarding the personal property of the body, of life, of reputation, of customs or with respect to material assets. (Papal Writings, 10 April 1958).
What is moral to one person or group may be immoral to another person or group, and all parties to the disagreement may have legitimate, persuasive reasons for what they believe.