1. The basic question which a fundamental-option theory must try to answer is: Why are some matters grave and some light? Or, as a fundamental-option proponent would formulate it: Why are some morally excluded possibilities such that choosing them is likely or certain to subvert one’s good fundamental option, while others are such that choosing them probably or certainly will not subvert it?
2. The various current theories do assert that some matters are such that choosing them is likely or certain to subvert a good fundamental option. These are morally excluded possibilities traditionally considered grave matter. At the same time, most proponents also assert that in some and perhaps many instances, immoral acts traditionally considered to involve grave matter can be done with sufficient reflection and full consent without subverting a good fundamental option.15
3. However, they do not explain why some matters are likely to subvert a good fundamental option and others are not. Much less do they explain why some immoral acts traditionally considered to involve grave matter can be done with sufficient reflection and full consent without subverting a good fundamental option. These explanations are lacking because, as was pointed out above, fundamental freedom is mysterious.
4. Besides failing to clarify the distinction between grave and light matter, current theories of fundamental option aggravate the problem. For the fundamental option of a Christian is supposed to be love of God or, in the case of anyone who is morally upright, an undertaking to live a morally upright life.16 But the puzzle about grave and light matter arises precisely because any deliberate sin seems incompatible with these standards (see A above). What needs to be explained is how any moral evil can be a light matter—how it can coexist in one’s heart with love of God or a commitment to moral goodness.
5. In sum, current theories of fundamental option recognize the need for a principle to distinguish the morally more and less important, as the traditional distinction between grave and light matter has done. They propose fundamental option as this principle. In their view, fundamental option is a disposal of the whole self in reference to God or to morality as such. Hence, the principle proposed to distinguish the more and less important is equivalent to the first principle of morality or embodies it.
6. Yet all deliberate sins are incompatible with the principle thus proposed—all are contrary to moral rectitude and to the perfect goodness of God. The implication is that the difference among immoral acts can only be one of degree, not of kind. But this implication is both contrary to the intentions of proponents of fundamental option and inconsistent with the data of the problem. Thus, current theories of fundamental option aggravate the problem as to why some moral evils constitute grave matter and some do not.
15. Less cautious proponents of fundamental option strongly hint or explicitly draw the conclusion that mortal sins are not a very common occurrence: Podimattam, op. cit., 67; Ralph J. Tapia, “When Is Sin Sin?” Thought, 67 (1972), 223–24; and (with respect to sexual matters) Charles E. Curran, Contemporary Problems in Moral Theology (Notre Dame, Ind.: Fides Publishers, 1970), 15–26, 167–68, and 174–80.
16. Fuchs, ibid., 22–23, says that the grace of Christ works in us so that “we may love God above all (fundamental option)” and be able to express this love with particular acts, internal and external. Timothy E. O’Connell, “Changing Roman Catholic Moral Theology: A Study in Josef Fuchs,” Ph.D. diss., Fordham University, 1974, 297–300, cites other places (including some unpublished material) in which Fuchs says the option is faith-charity-hope, but denies that this is any single act and asserts that single acts are only expressions of this option.