The "lesser of two evils" is an important concept from the Catholic moral tradition that is being applied in a new way in the diocese of Albany, as RNS's Daniel Burke reports in this story of its needle-exchange program. (In the past few decades a few theologians have argued that that traditional moral stance could be applied to the use of condoms in countries where AIDS is rampant.) In any event, here is the story from Albany.
In launching its needle-exchange program earlier this week, the Catholic Diocese of Albany, N.Y., said the decision came down to choosing the lesser evil. Illegal drug use is bad, but the spread of deadly diseases is worse. The medical evidence is clear, the diocese argued on Monday (Feb. 1) when it began “Project Safe Point” in two Upstate New York locations through its local branch of Catholic Charities. Public health studies document that exchanging used syringes for new ones can effectively stanch the spread of blood-borne diseases such as AIDS, and even lead drug abusers to treatment and recovery. “To guide us, the church provides us with the principles of licit cooperation in evil and the counseling of the lesser evil,” the Albany diocese said in a statement. “The sponsorship of Catholic Charities in Safe Point, then, is based upon the church’s standard moral principles.”