Means and Ends

There is an old saying that we judge others by what they do, but we want them to judge us by our intentions. That more or less sums up one of the central confusions engendered by our embrace of modernity’s Absolute No. 1 Favorite Moral Heresy: consequentialism.

Consequentialism, for anyone not fully up to speed on basic principles of Catholic moral teaching, is the belief that good ends justify evil means. Despite the fact that this notion has been condemned ever since Paul wrote Romans 3:8, most moderns and postmoderns, including Catholics, deeply believe it anyway.

Consequentialism is not a left or right heresy but a perennial favorite across the spectrum of political allegiances. It undergirds both leftwing commitment to abortion and rightwing commitment to torture. It’s why Planned Parenthood lies for the Greater Good of Protecting Women and why Live Action lies for the Greater Good of Exposing Planned Parenthood. The Axis used consequentialist arguments for bombing London, Rotterdam, Pearl Harbor, and Nanking. The Allies used consequentialist arguments for incinerating children in their beds in Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

As a general rule, the way we assuage our consciences when we do evil for a good end is to pretend that the good end cancels out the sin that we do. If the good end we are seeking to achieve actually occurs, then we tell ourselves it was all for the best. So, as kids, we sneak into the piggy bank and steal the money to get Mom a birthday present, and she, being none the wiser, likes the present while never noticing the money is gone. Mission accomplished! Mom is happy, so what’s the problem? Indeed, wouldn’t it be petty and pharisaic, when Mom is so touched by her lovely present, to bring up the minor matter of some money that nobody will even miss? Of course it would! We meant well, and that’s all that matters! The good we did cancelled out the little matter of the theft. God, our God, has blessed us!

Of course, if our sin winds up not working and we get caught with our hand in the piggy bank, then we often tell ourselves a different story. So, for instance, if the piggy bank caper is discovered, we tell ourselves that what we intended to do was get a present for Mom. Sure, we got a little off base with the whole stealing thing, but what we intended to do was good. This makes our sin (we tell ourselves) okay. We’re not stealing the way bad people steal. Because bad people steal in order to do bad (like buying drugs or something). We were stealing in order to do good.

 

Because of this deep-seated need to compare ourselves with others (especially when we feel guilty), this notion that good ends taketh away the sins of the world is very deeply rooted, not only in how we think about our own sins but in how we think about the sins of others. We develop a stock set of characters in our minds who are easily defined Bad People — Nazis, child molesters, beheading terrorists, disgusting perverts, wife beaters, etc. — and we tell ourselves that Evil People like them are what real sin and evil looks like.

That may be true enough, as far as it goes. But we often make a cardinal mistake in misunderstanding why these people are so evil: namely, we tell ourselves that, unlike us, they do evil things for evil ends. When they commit some sin (we tell ourselves), they don’t have some good end in mind like us. So our sins are (perhaps, in some technical sense) “sins,” but they are easily excused because we meant well. Meanwhile, the sins of Truly Evil People are sins because they had no good end in view.

Because of this, we can easily tend to make Manichaean divisions between Truly Evil People (those whom we assume pursue evil ends by evil means) and charming rogues like ourselves (who pursue good ends by evil means).

Indeed, many of us seem to be pretty sure that the definition of “venial sin” is “to pursue a good end by sinful means,” while the definition of “mortal sin” is “to pursue an evil end by evil means.” Accordingly, we measure our sins by this criterion and come up smelling like roses — since, of course, our sins are always done in pursuit of some good ends while Truly Evil People . . . well, just look at them!

Truly Evil People like Them have no love whatsoever left in their hearts. They desire Evil itself and only mitigate their evil actions just so much as it might deceive people from seeing their obvious Evil goals. Charming rogues like us are diamonds in the rough, saints with dirty faces. Sure, we cut corners, but our goal is always a noble one.

Truly Evil People get up in the morning thinking, “How can I further the cause of Evil today?” Charming rogues like us may, sure enough, look out for number one a bit, but we mean well and, gosh darn it, you can’t help admiring that, even when we may have to get a bit rough with Truly Evil People by torturing them or dropping A-bombs on them.

Truly Evil People are monsters, and it is blasphemous to even speak of their desiring something good, because to do so humanizes them instead of righteously condemning them as the monsters they are. We charming rogues, on the other hand, should we find ourselves having to “go to the Dark Side” to fight the Truly Evil, always do so out of a noble fundamental commitment to goodness and are, in a way, self-sacrificing martyrs bravely willing to face even damnation by God Almighty Himself if necessary, if only that the greater good may be done by defeating Truly Evil people.

In fact, however, this notion that Truly Evil people are distinguished from us because they desire evil ends is false. That’s because every sin, whether venial or mortal, is committed in the disordered attempt to achieve some good end. Everything from the Holocaust to your hand in the cookie jar is the disordered attempt to obtain some good. And indeed, the more exalted the good end, the more the sinner can feel justified in doing something monstrous to achieve it. For this reason, sins do not become “not sins” merely because we intend some good end. For the simple fact is that everybody, from the kid fibbing about the piggy bank to Adolf Hitler, is seeking some good end. What makes a sin a sin is not that the end sought is not good, but that a good end is sought by evil means. The severity of a sin is measured not by the nobility of the end we seek — Hitler, after all, sought a glorious renewed Germany risen from the ashes of World War I — but by how radically disordered are the means we use to achieve that end (e.g., the death of millions innocent people).

 

So then: Here is a brief tutorial on the Catholic conception of sin. Nothing, not even Satan, is purely evil. That’s because evil is fundamentally parasitic on good. Satan is not God’s evil twin. He is a creature, infinitely inferior to God the Creator and who depends upon God for such meager possessions — existence, intellect, will, and power — as he still possesses after having radically perverted himself in total rebellion against God and assertion of himself. Insofar as he retains these goods from God, these goods remain good (albeit radically perverted), and he cannot undo them. If he could, he would cease to exist, since existence is a good.

In the same way with the even more inferior creature called Man — even the man we call Hitler — we find that all human sin is a radically disordered form of love, as Augustine tells us. Sin consists — always — in the pursuit of a good object by disordered means: putting what should be second in first place. In short, it’s not that the sinner doesn’t love; it’s that he loves things in the wrong order and puts, say, wealth or power (both good things) before persons or human beings before God.

This frightens us, and we love to trot out the rhetoric of outrage at this point. “Oh, so poor Hitler meant well because he loved his dog!” we shout. “So I’m supposed to feel sorry for Ted Bundy who was only looking for love, eh?” Note the Manichaean thinking: Truly Evil People can’t possibly be motivated by love. Nor can they possibly be seeking happiness or a good end. They do what they do because they are bad right through. If we entertain the possibility that Charles Manson or Heinrich Himmler sought some good end just as we do, then we (gasp!) humanize the grave sinner — which is as good as saying that they “mean well,” which is as good as saying that what they are doing isn’t even a sin! Why? Because that’s what we tell ourselves to exonerate ourselves of our own sins.

Except, of course, that this is all rubbish, because (to repeat) all sin — all of it — consists of the attempt to pursue a good end by evil means, mass murder as much as stealing from the piggy bank.

All sin, great and small, is an attempt to gain some Good (power, happiness, release from pain, etc.) by some disordered means, either colossally so or trivially so. That’s because the desire for happiness is not optional for us. It is built into our nature by God Himself. And so, as St. Thomas points out, we can’t not desire our happiness, which is to say, we can’t not desire some good end. The implications of this are startling — but only to people unfamiliar with the Catholic conception of sin. Hitler and Stalin both sought happiness. Charles Manson has spent his whole life in pursuit of some good end. So did Anton LaVey or any random sadistic fiend in one of Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers.

But here’s the thing: That’s not to their credit, nor does it baptize their crimes in the maudlin tears of “they meant well.” It’s simply a fact about how they, like all humans, are made and sent from the factory: We can’t not want our happiness. All we can do is choose to pursue our happiness in ways that obey God or in ways that range from venially to radically disordered (i.e., gravely evil) ways.

To say, “But I meant well” if we merely mean, “There was some good thing I was pursuing because I loved it and thought it would bring me happiness” is no sign at all that we are a saint. After all, Judas Iscariot could say as much. He wanted something good (i.e., money, peace from his tormented conscience, etc.). Hitler wanted happiness and various good ends (power, a greater Germany, etc.) He was motivated by love for something (his own glory, the glory of the Fatherland, a perverted and swollen love of country that vaunted itself again the love of his non-German neighbor and even against the love of God, as nationalism tends to do).

Every freakish monster in history, from John Wayne Gacy to Jeffrey Dahmer to Ted Bundy, was, in some way or other, seeking a good end (sexual pleasure, power, etc.) So does every sinner, great and small, who says, “Let us do evil that good may come of it.” Any idiot can want happiness, because it’s impossible for any idiot to not want happiness. The trick — always — is to pursue happiness without cutting moral corners — like, say, “You shall not murder.”

It is only when we pursue the good end without using sinful means — not robbing the piggy bank to buy Mom the present, not destroying the baby to ward off poverty, not incinerating children in their beds to win the war, not torturing the prisoner to save your skin — that we can truly say we meant well. Desiring happiness is a defining characteristic of what it means to be human. It is a great inbuilt faculty from God. But it is not the defining characteristic of a saint. For a saint seeks happiness by God’s means only and refuses the enticement of the devil to take shortcuts to Wisdom as he whispers, “You shall not surely die. Go ahead and disobey. In fact, it will make you like God if you do!”

The answer and model of resistance to all this is what Lent is all about. For Jesus too was tempted and, as with all temptation, He was offered not evil things but good things, and urged to embrace them in a disordered way: above the love of God.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Mt 4:8-10)

His answer must be ours, and His grace stands ready to make it so. That is the promise of Lent.

Mark P. Shea

By

Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He is a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and a columnist for Crisis Magazine. Visit his blog at www.markshea.blogspot.com.

  • Pammie

    I’ve never been much good at understanding or discussing theological concepts. As a Catholic when talking about such things (and their effect on politics and everyday life etc) my bottom line has always been “One may not do a bad thing to get a good thing”. Now I can better explain why and how that is reflective of Catholic teaching. Thanks!

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you for writing this! I have found that most people, including Catholics, tend to accept some sort of ends justifying the means, and refuse to accept that “doing something out of love” isn’t always the right thing. And thank you for bringing up the “Truly Evil People” point! This biased assumption has always driven me crazy– so many people say that they hope that Hitler is in Hell, but then go on to expect their lies and other “small” sins to be perfectly excusable. Every Catholic needs to read this and inform themselves.

  • joanie

    It totally makes sense to me that “two wrongs do not make a right.” When you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it does seem that context, gravity, and intention need to be looked at in evaluating the degree and type of sin in question and certainly that there is sin which is less serious, or venial or there are technical violations which do not carry with it the requisite intention, knowledge, gravity. It certainly is a worthwhile goal to combat all sin, including venial sin, in our actions and though not required to confess them. But, are we going to become completely “sinless” and is that something we should honestly believe we can accomplish. The preface to the catechism quotes the scripture which says “If we say we do not sin…” I don’t fault those who aspire to be sinless or perfect but sometimes I wonder whether a more pressing concern today is just a basic recovery of what some call “a sense of sin” altogether.

  • JZmirak

    The end does not justify the means. Nor does the means justify the end. If one’s ethical analysis yields a result that is catastrophic not to one’s self, but to innocent third parties, then there is probably something wrong with your arguments. Heresies such as pacifism, crackpot ideas like universal celibacy or poverty, are on their face false and can be solidly rejected BECAUSE of their consequences. So a good consequence of one’s actions is a necessary but not sufficient condition for one’s actions to be just. If the Church had preached universal celibacy (or poverty or obedience), the Jews and pagans would have been right, without any further examination of her claims, to reject the Gospel out of hand.

    I am deeply suspicious of the motives of those who exult in embracing counter-intuitive moral stances that injure innocent third parties, then preen about their purity. They remind me of the Jansenists, of whom it was justly said, “Pure as angels… proud as devils.”

  • thomas s

    good article: lays it out in a way that we non-ethicists can understand. but a question. granted that folks like Hitler, Stalin and you and I think we are pursuing some good and are willing to cut corners a bit (or a lot)to achieve it. yet, at some level, don’t we know (or should know) that not only are our means bad but that the ends which we seek are often bad/evil as well. didn’t even the Nazis know at some level that the “good” they were pursuing was not “good”? it’s sometime referred to as “deep conscience” (synderesis). or the law written on the heart.

  • sd

    @JZmirak

    It is certainly prudent and ethical to consider the consequences of your actions in all circumstances, and to revisit your thinking if you think that your planned actions will likely have destructive consequences. You may find upon such a “second look” that your original premises were flawed, that you did not fully understand the morality of the options before you, or that there is another option open to you that you did not originally consider. Nobody would dispute that using your own intuition about the effects of a particular course of action to pressure-test your thinking is a good thing to do.

    But sometimes there are situation in which you really do have two options: Option A is to do something that the Church teaches to be by its very nature wrong, but that will have consequences that are generally good. Option B is to do something that is not wrong, but that will have consequences that are generally bad, either for you yourself or someone else.

    And it seems to me that The Church goes to great lengths to say that Option B is the only option that is morally acceptable. I find this teaching difficult, as I find the ultimate logic of utilitarianism / consequentialism to be logically appealing. After all, shouldn’t we generally act based on the probability-weighted, utility-maximizing “best” outcome for all parties involved? But that’s not what the Church tells us to do.

    Your examples about pacifism, universal celibacy and universal poverty are irrelevant. The Church does not teach that war, sex, or holding property are, by their very nature, sinful. You might as well say “If the Church taught that being less that 6’4″ tall was sinful then we would be right to reject the Church’s impossibly high demands.” A lot of things would be criminally stupid and immoral if the Church taught them. Good thing for us – it doesn’t. Hard thing for us – it does teach many things, including things which are difficult to understand and even more difficult to implement in our daily lives, surrounded as we are by the pain and suffering of ourselves and our beloved brethren.

    I’d like for LiveAction’s tactics to be morally acceptable, as they are fighting an even greater evil. But they just aren’t. I’d also like for medical uses of already-existing embryonic stem cell lines to be morally acceptable (I’m not talking about the use of new embryonic stem cells lines that have not yet been created). After all, to my human logic it seems that the great harm of aborting these embryos has already occured and great human benefit might be derived from using the cells that exist now. And indeed that position is the position of many serious, conservative, pro-life Protestants and Jews. But the Church teaches that such uses are still morally unacceptable. And the Church, unlike my little brain, is guarded from error.

  • joanie

    I do wonder about the case of when one publicly points out another’s sin, in order to raise awareness of the type of sin, whether that is an instance of “the ends justify the means”, that a greater good is served through the detraction. It’s a difficult area when one genuinely wants to debate issues, particularly where an honest debate presenting both sides of an issue with equal validity isn’t set up to begin with. If there is leadership through obstruction or propaganda, deceit to begin with, it’s awfully hard to meet the assumptions upon which the actions are based through point to point argument.

    If one observes a fellow Christian who is doing something that could jeopardize the state of their individual soul, then perhaps it is first best if one can to contact them privately to relate the concern. Perhaps one would be grateful to be corrected, and possibly all the facts could be aired with a private conversation.

    If there is public scandal and one has no recourse to a private conversation then to raise the assumptions upon which the actions are based seems appropriate.

    In the case of Ms. Rose in particular, since it is being publicly discussed, one could wonder what the “grave” matter consisted of. There were no sex slaves being presented for hormones, abortions, etc., and, PP lost no profits from the expected income from the “services” they were anticipating delivering. Since PP’s very foundations lie in the eugenics movement, and there is no or little work conducted in the “parenthood” aspect of its moniker, which is all well known, it cannot be said either that PP has lost reputation. Indeed there are those who would say that instead of being appalled that PP would facilitate continued exploitation and possibly sex slavery of underage, possibly undocumented sex “workers” that rather they would applaud such initiatives as protecting the “public health” insofar as the patrons of these criminal rings disseminate disease to other sexual partners.

    It’s isn’t startling to realize that most of us, sometimes just in doing little more ostensibly than breathing, commonly commit venial sin. All sin, whether venial or mortal needs to be looked at in context. We could do endless hypotheticals and examples and none would in the end satisfy our comprehension on the subject because there are as many contexts as there are not just individual human beings but moments in a day.

    A little one might be very concerned that on a given Sunday sick in bed with stomach flu, they are missing Mass. It is still an act of charity to help that budding conscience to understand that if they were sick at home that day and did not intend to miss or avoid their obligation, that there is no sin committed, and nothing to confess. And the desire to be with Jesus, sick or not, is in and of itself a prayer and should be recognized and encouraged as a positive sign of our desire to avoid sin out of love for God so much as possible in the first place.

  • Todd Aglialoro

    “all sin — all of it — consists of the attempt to pursue a good end by evil means”

    This is simply false, Mark; in your zeal to root out consequentalism you’re sacrificing accuracy for glibness.

    In the subjective order, it’s true that we always act with some good in mind — what we *think* is good. This does not mean that we are always aiming at a true good.

    In other words, our end or intention can be intrinsically immoral, even if we fail to recognize it as such. Therefore not all sin is an attempt to pursue a (true) good through an evil means.

    Moral object, end (or motive, or intention), means: these are the three components of a moral act. In a given act, each of these component can have a morally good or evil character unto itself. The trick, when determining the morality of the act, is to evaluate them together. But you would have us believe that any morally evil act must have check marks next to “End: Good” and “Means: Evil.” Yet this is not Catholic moral teaching.

    Indeed, a morally good object and means can still add up to an immoral act if the end be bad. As Eliot put it, “The last temptation is the greatest treason/To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

    Do consider, then, that what may look to you like consequentialism — Lila Rose’s “lies,” for example, or waterboarding — or what may look to others like consequentialism (Trad providentialists who say that NFP is the same as contraception, or property-rights absolutists who don’t understand the universal destination of goods) may in fact be a more precise moral evaluation of an act, thanks to a better understanding of its components, than you or they are performing.

  • Brian English

    “For the simple fact is that everybody, from the kid fibbing about the piggy bank to Adolf Hitler, is seeking some good end. What makes a sin a sin is not that the end sought is not good, but that a good end is sought by evil means. The severity of a sin is measured not by the nobility of the end we seek — Hitler, after all, sought a glorious renewed Germany risen from the ashes of World War I — but by how radically disordered are the means we use to achieve that end (e.g., the death of millions innocent people).”

    So Hitler’s dream of a glorious greater Germany (which would include most of Eastern Europe), devoid of Jews, Slavs, Catholics, Gypsies, gays, the handicapped and other undesireables, was a good thing? Hitler just went out about achieving it in the wrong way?

    “Charles Manson has spent his whole life in pursuit of some good end.”

    Could you identify some?

    “Every freakish monster in history, from John Wayne Gacy to Jeffrey Dahmer to Ted Bundy, was, in some way or other, seeking a good end (sexual pleasure, power, etc.)”

    You should know from the article you wrote last week that sexual pleasure, considered in a vacuum, is not a good end, nor is seeking power for the sake of power a good thing.

    Is there any thing that you consider a bad end?

  • JZmirak

    I’d like for LiveAction’s tactics to be morally acceptable, as they are fighting an even greater evil. But they just aren’t.

    This has not been demonstrated. It has been repeated, ad nauseam, but by no means demonstrated. Read Janet Smith’s argument on the subject: http://tinyurl.com/4qccaqz.

    Your examples about pacifism, universal celibacy and universal poverty are irrelevant. The Church does not teach that war, sex, or holding property are, by their very nature, sinful.

    That’s right. I was using something called a “hypothetical.” Look it up.

    The argument stands: If someone in the early Church (before such matters were clearly and explicitly defined) HAD argued for any of these positions, arguments from scripture and tradition would have been unnecessary to refute them (though they might have proved helpful). You could and should have rejected these positions BECAUSE of their consequences. If the Church had accepted those positions, she would have had to be rejected.

    If a future Church council were to adopt pacifism, or some other such absurdity–as Catholic Worker types advocate–our moral sense would rightly tell us to leave her.

    Consequences are not irrelevant to moral arguments. An absurd consequence implies absurd premises or faulty logic. We should only with great reluctance, and suspicion, accede to arguments whose outcome outrages our moral instincts and generates outrageous consequences. That was Peter Kreeft’s central point in his contribution to this debate: http://tinyurl.com/6bhdwzn

    There have been previous occasions where the practical consequences of non-infallible Church teaching were so destructive that people simply flouted it–and the Church refined the teaching; for instance, usury.

    Natural Family Planning is also something that developed from necessity, and flew in the face of much traditional Catholic theology (for instance, St. Augustine’s writings), which the Church accepted because the consequences of unrestricted reproduction, in the wake of industrialism and the decline of infant mortality, were too heavy for married couples to bear. Of course, there are some who consider NFP evil, and lending at interest intrinsically evil. And they congratulate themselves for being “purer” than the rest of us–just the pacifists do. By making the Church’s teachings seem absurd in their quest for personal moral “heroism,” they are giving scandal of the gravest and most destructive kind.

  • sd

    @JZmirak

    “Consequences are not irrelevant to moral arguments. An absurd consequence implies absurd premises or faulty logic. We should only with great reluctance, and suspicion, accede to arguments whose outcome outrages our moral instincts and generates outrageous consequences.”

    You argument here is indistinguishable from the argument of those who say that the Church’s opposition to the distribution of condoms in Africa is immoral or that the Church’s opposition to performing abortions on women whose health and life are threatened by the continuance of pregnancy is immoral. Doing the “right” thing according to Catholic teaching will lead to a high likelihood of avoidable human suffering therefore the Church must be wrong.

    Now, I don’t think that’s crazy or evil. Just as I don;t think that the people who support LiveAction are crazy or evil. As I said, I find this type of reasoning deeply attractive myself. But it is consequentialism. And the Church, frustrating as she often is to our “natural” ideas about what’s good and bad, condemns consequentialism.

    A common joke in the conservative Catholic blogosphere is that anytime someone starts off an argument with “I’m a devout Catholic but…” then that’s a pretty good sign that they are not an especially devout Catholic. I’m beginning to think that anytime someone starts off an argument with “I agree that consequentialism is wrong but…” or “The ends don’t justify the means but…” then that’s a pretty good sign that they’re about to lay out the consequentialist case for their moral intuitions or personal preferences.

    Given that we’re all sinners, and all have a will and an intellect that is occasionally untrustworthy, I would propose that its a big warning sign if you can’t identify any of the truths of the faith that you assent to but only with great discomfort. After all, if you can’t say about any topic “I’d think this is OK if the Church didn’t teach otherwise” how can you be sure you actually submit to the Church’s teaching authority?

    The idea that we should “reject” the Church if she were to propose something that we find an “absurdity” has it exactly backward. Lots of people think that the Church’s teaching on contraception is an “absurdity,” or that the Church’s teaching on the real efficacy of Baptism is an “absurdity.” Is the right course of action for them to leave the Church right away, or to attempt, through prayer and reflection, to understand why the Church is dogmatic on these matters and to seek to bend their human will and mind to the greater truth of the Church? Note that the latter doesn’t require them to become mindless zombie, and it doesn’t require them to shut up about their misgivings about Church teaching. But it does require them to adopt the humility to say “well, this seems wacky but I’m going to respect it, and try to understand and accept it.” Not to mention maybe refrain from calling people who do accept the Church’s teaching on the issue at hand Pharisees or Jansenists or crazies or some other such.

    You seem to like to bring up the examples of the development of Church teaching on usury and the legal rights of religious minorities. But pointing out that church teaching can develop is a far cry from being able to conclude that if we don’t much like a particular Church teaching we can throw it out the window because surely it “will develop”.

  • JZmirak

    Yes, if you find that a Church teaching seems absurd you should try as best you can to understand it and accept it. Then you should see if (and at what level of authority) the Church really teaches it. John Courtenay Murray rightly disputed a non-fallible teaching on religious liberty, and presented his ideas for consideration. They largely prevailed at Vatican II. Were those American bishops who supported the American founding evil, because they favored religious liberty prematurely? Is it sort of spiritually raining, only we’re too sinful to see it?

    Not all of us are theologians. The Church’s non-infallible teaching on usury was incomplete, which is why it needed to change. It took laymen following their consciences, flouting it for centuries out of NECESSITY, until theologians caught up with economic reality. None of this endangers the Church’s infallible authority.

    The Church’s teaching on contraception needed clarification with the development of the Pill, because it seemed to avoid the moral problems raised by condoms. That clarification came at a very high level, and that should have closed the question. (If a papal statement clarifies this question, I will obediently accede–but the literalist position–don’t “lie” to save Anne Frank–is so counter-intuitive it would take a papal statement to silence me.)

    The Church offered a reasonable option to families in need of spacing children–NFP. We are duty-bound, even if we aren’t deeply convinced on this issue, to defer to Church authority. If the Church had NOT approved NFP, and had completely disregarded the concerns of married Catholics, we’d be facing a very different situation. The Church’s credibility would be in tatters. Those who promoted NFP in the face of rigorist opposition were doing the Church a great service. That is what I think Lila Rose, Janet Smith and Peter Kreeft are doing now.

  • FrKeyes

    an enjoyable read. I hope many people read this. Can I put it in my bulletin? Listen up, Folks! He’s right.

  • Mark Shea

    Knock yourself out. My stuff is happy to wind up in church bulletins.

  • Mark Shea

    You don’t seem to have really read my piece.

  • Todd Aglialoro

    The Church’s teaching on NFP and contraception is so instructive in this discussion, because it hinges both on end and means. Viz: to space births licitly, the reason for avoiding conception must be “serious,” and the means must not render the sexual act sterile. Catholic progressivists dissent from the teaching on the means side; to them it shouldn’t matter HOW you space births provided you have a good intention. Catholic providentialists carp about the end; the question of means is irrelevant to them because any child-delaying or -spacing motive is contrary to God’s command.

    In essence, to them NFP-users are consequentialists. And it kind of makes sense for them to think that, since good Catholics are so used to reminding each other that “the end never justifies the means” that any talk of “intention” or “consequences” sets off our little rigorist alarm bells.

    The problem is that ends do sometimes justify the means (just not immoral means). Indeed, with NFP we see that it is only the right end that can justify the means, and thus the moral act.

    This is why we need clear definitions and distinctions in these kinds of arguments — so far from viewing such things, as some seem to do, as Jesuitical tricks.

  • Mark Shea

    Thomas:

    Yes. The Nazis knew they were doing evil. That’s why, of course, they kept it a secret and spoke in euphemism about “relocation to the East” and “final solutions” and so forth. Euphemism is one of the first signs of a bad conscience. And, of course, we can’t not know certain things (like “murder is wrong”). However, like all grave sinners, precisely what the Nazis did was appeal to some good end they had in mind (a renewed Germany, the purification of the German people, a glorious new Empire, etc.) as the justification for the monstrous means they were employing. It was all gonna be great, once the eggs were broken and the omlette of Greater Germany was made. That’s SOP for Consequentialist thinking. It consists not of a lack of conscience but of the suppression of conscience by dint of tremendous amounts of will power. In this, it is exactly like Satan, whose perverted will likewise bends itself in the service of the self and turns his native language into a lie, as our Lord says.

  • Brian English

    The quotations in my comment are not from your article?

    And my question still stands — What do you consider a bad end? Does such a thing exist?

  • sd

    @Todd Aglialoro

    “The problem is that ends do sometimes justify the means (just not immoral means). Indeed, with NFP we see that it is only the right end that can justify the means, and thus the moral act.”

    This is in odd statement. The ends don’t justify the means in the case of moral mean since moral mean don;t really need to be justified. They’re moral, after all.

    That’s why the analogy between NFP and LiveAction breaks down. There’s nothing immoral about deciding not to have sex tonight. So the “emans” of not having sex tonight” is legitimate. And if the end of spacing out births is also legitimate, then NFP is fine. Legitimate means, legitimate end, voila, legitimate act.

    But the LiveAction case involves a means that is not legitimate. The Church teaches that lying, by its very nature, is wrong, and that lying consists of 1) uttering falsehoods, 2) knowingly, 3) with the intent of decieiving someone else. And that’s what the LiveAction folks did.

  • JoAnna

    I’m reminded of a quote from one of the Harry Potter books: “The world isn’t divided into good people and Death Eaters.”

  • Mark Shea

    Yes, you are cutting and pasting words, but not, apparently, with any interest in comprehending my point: which is that the ends do not justify the means. Perhaps this will help: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a4.htm#1751

    I suspect you are defining “end” differently than I am. For the purposes of this article, I mean “the happiness a person hopes to gain from something good they seek”. So, when Jeffrey Dahmer kills and eats somebody, I am not (obviously) saying that murder and cannibalism are “good ends”. I am saying that Dahmer (who like all humans cannot *not* seek his own happiness (according to St. Thomas) is attempting to gain happiness (his end) by a radically evil means (murder and cannibalism). In Dahmer’s case, it would appear that he was seeking sexual pleasure and a sense of power (both good things as far as they go).

  • Nobody

    Full-recourse loans for profitable interest are as immoral now as they were when Vix Pervenit was issued.

  • Nobody

    … but the Church explicitly stated that the change in pastoral guidelines cannot be construed to mean that profitable full-recourse loans for interest are now definitely to be considered morally acceptable. I quote:

    “The Sacred Penitentiary wished to define nothing at all about the question, debated by theologians, of the title derived from the law of the prince; but only to provide a norm which confessors might safely follow in regard to penitents who take a moderate profit determined by the law of the prince, with good faith and ready to accept the commands of the Holy See.

    Those, therefore, who in preaching teach absolutely that it is licit to take profit from a loan by title of the civil law … define by private authority a question which the Holy See did not yet wish to define.”

    Cardinal Gregorio, the Grand Penitentiary, to the Bishop of Viviers, explaining previous rulings that penitents who had taken profits under color of law were “not to be disturbed”. (Quoted in The Scholastic Analysis of Usury by John Noonan, p 380).

  • SteveK

    Mark said: “my point: which is that the ends do not justify the means.”

    Never – even when done properly? I can think of examples from everyday life where the end result is justified by the means used to reach that end. For example: I am justified in taking your TV set from your home (the ends) after paying you the asking price for it (the means).

    Please clarify.

  • Nobody

    Please clarify.

    Well, if you read the rest of what he has to say it is pretty clear that he means “good ends do not justify evil means”.

    Means have to first be evaluated on their own terms, independent of the end pursued. If the means is evil in itself, then no good end can justify it. That includes, among other things, lying to trap Planned Parenthood, nuking civilians to end a war, contracepting to avoid a hard or dangerous pregnancy, abortion to save the mother’s life, lying on official papers in order to immigrate illegally and support your family, and committing usury to support your family.

    Evil means can never be justified by a good end.

  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    @ Sd

    “The ends don’t justify the means in the case of moral mean since moral mean don;t really need to be justified.”

    Yes, you’re right. It’s the act that’s justified by the end, not the means. A morally good end can make good a morally neutral means, but not an immoral means.

    But your definition of lying begs the question, I’m afraid. The many knowledgeable and faithful Catholic persons who would condone what Live Action did are not arguing that a good end, or some kind of proportionality, justifies an act even though the means are immoral, they’re arguing that the means are not immoral — because your definition of lying is inadequate for the circumstances of the case.

    The need is there for a development of doctrine on truth and lying, just as the theology of marriage & sex developed to permit an attitude towards family planning that also would have made Augustine grind his teeth.

  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    “For the purposes of this article, I mean “the happiness a person hopes to gain from something good they seek”

    Ah. In that case you could just as easily have made your money line for this column “all sin — all of it — derives from the failure to form consciences capable of distinguishing apparent goods from true goods.” It would have been less clever-sounding and provocative but much closer to the mark.

  • sd

    Todd,

    Fair enough, but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the Church to “develop” its teaching on lying in a way that makes the LiveAction stings acceptable.

    Its plausible that the Church would declare at some point in the future that in order for a statement to be a lie that an additional criteria must be met – namely that the person the statement is directed to must have a “right” to know the truth. Indeed, such a qualifier almost made it into the CCC, but was taken out between the draft version and the final version. On the one hand, the presence of such a qualifier in the draft version indicates that the Bishops of the Church and their assisting theologians were open to the idea. On the other hand, the fact that this clause was specifically and deliberately dropped suggests that upon considered reflection they decided that it did not accord with the truth (And keep in mind, it was then Cardinal Ratzinger who directed the writing of the CCC). So who knows, but as I say, its plausible.

    Such a development would likely mean that it would be OK (to pick everyone’s favorite hypothetical) to lie to Nazis about the Jews you are hiding in your basement. Its not at all clear though that such a development would validate LiveAction’s tactics. The hypothetical Nazi, after all, comes to your doorstep and asks for information that he would not normally be interested in except for the fact that he wants to kill innocent Jews.

    But the LiveAction agent walks in the front door of the PP clinic and tells falsehoods about their identity in order to record a sting video. It seems to me that one normally has a natural right to know who is standing in the middle of one’s property. The fact the PP folks do many evil things does not mean that they cease to have any rights at all. If they did, then it would be permissible to kill them. But of course, its not.

    Or to use a comparable example, if the Nazi regime is evil then a Good German in 1940 might be excused from the normal Christian duty to obey the commands of the state if the commands in question were the unjust laws of the regume. For example, if there were a law requiring people to report the location of all Jews then our hypothetical Good German would not be obligated to follow that unjust law. But he would still be bound to follow the just laws of the regime. The Nazis presumably enforced speed limits on their roads. Enforcing speed limits is a normal and legitimate exercise of state power. So you’re not striking a blow for Truth, Beuaty and Goodness by driving 75 mph on the Nazis’ 55 mph roads. You’re just breaking the law.

    Its less plausible that the Church will declare at some point that a statement that would normally be a impermissible lie is acceptable if there is imminent danger to an innocent third party in telling thr truth. I say that this is less plausible for two reasons. First, there are lots of cases where one can avert harm to an innocent third party by doing some evil deed. But the Church is steadfast in saying that such deeds cannot be permitted. A Church built on the blood of martyrs isn’t going to casually start prioritizing life over truth. Second, making an exception in this case cannot be done by nuancing the definition of “lie” but by saying that lies are sometimes OK. Its a lot easier to maintain fideltiy to the Tradition if what you’re doing is changings what consitutes a type of act vs. changing the moral definition of the act. To the extent that Catholic teaching about usury has changed its not that “usury” is no longer considered a sin, its that its no longer always defined as “usury” to charge interest on loans.

  • joanie

    PP is an organization, and a money-making one. It is not a human being. As far as “rights” it doesn’t work that way in the law of corporations. It does not have human dignity. Since organizations are by and large about power, and investment and concentration of resources, for the most part it is the entity which must show compliance with certain regulations as a part of doing business. This is the world of commercial transaction. Minimum compliance in the world of business is one matter whereas the whole notion of ethics is a standard that is apparently not always attainable.

    You cannot “forgive” an entity the way one Christian forgives another. A corporation is not by its nature a social being. You cannot have a conversation with a corporation nor be in relationship or communion with one. At one time it was possible to show loyalty and respect towards a corporation, but in the current fast paced and ever changing era of employment and maximum, constant advertising this is not even held as something to be sought after.

    Yet I still think that the entire framework of sin is valid. Is it not possible that one could technically break a commandment and still not be committing sin. This is so because of what the Catechism teaches about sin, not because of the tendency to think in terms of which outcome we would best prefer (or what might be called consequentialism) in a given situation. It is not at all clear that in the PP situation that there was a calculation that “the ends justified the means”. Even if there was as people are saying “lying” involved, what occurred may not be, in the final analysis, sinful at all, venial or otherwise.

    If we are concerned for the state of Lila Rose’s soul then if we know her then we can contact her to inquire and help her along. (Though what are the alternatives, to write a letter to PP: “Dear PP, if a pimp showed up with underage, undocumented, non-English speaking sex slaves, for your services, hypothetically, how would your agents and employees respond and would you contact the appropriate civil and criminal authorities. Or not. Love, LR”).

    No one has responded as to whether or not the full requisites for mortal sin can be satisfied in the PP instance. It is true that we cannot know or tell the hearts of others even when we believe we have enough information to make our minds up.

    If we are going to get all worked up about every instance of “the ends justifies the means” or every venial sin committed everywhere then why do we not call attention to bloggers’ detraction of Lila Rose as a “liar”? Is that not an instance of the “ends justifying the means?” “It is ok to call Lila Rose (a real,human being) a liar, because I am doing so for a greater good, which is to raise awareness about lying.”

    It’s a pretty slippery slope that anyone can easily head right down (from bigtime authors and bloggers right down to the lowliest commenter) and I think this is why the Church makes the distinction between venial and mortal to begin with, it’s a good and useful and helpful distinction. It is not a great word but “fundamentalist” is something different from the way the Church regards how to view sin and examine consciences and what to do about it. We do need to attempt to pull out the mortal sins by their roots, no question. But when it comes to venial, it’s a different sort of opportunity to make progress along the spiritual life. Obviously there are great authors and spiritual directors to be found in the Church which have better and in-depth things to say on this. But when faced with the fact that especially venial sin is commonly encountered and everywhere, it is nearly impossible to uproot it all in one fell swoop. We are human. We are not perfect. So, spiritual directors commonly encourage people to take a look at the pattern of venial sins which emerge and obviously confession of these over time can be helpful. When one knows the general pattern and issues then it is then workable to substitute a positive virtue or habit for the old self-destructive, God-separating ones, even if venial.

    The entire structure to the way the Church regards sin is useful as is a consideration of the great context of virtues and the helps of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    Hope this helps. That and a fiver will buy you a starbucks…

  • Lauretta

    in your last comment you made a lot of personal assumptions. You stated that PP people have the right to know who is coming in to their office. Well, just maybe since they are killing babies and aiding in sex trafficking, the Church would say that they have given up that right. If they were to kill any one other than an unborn in such a heinous, pre-meditated fashion, the Church I am sure would say that, according to theology on capital punishment, they have given up their right to life. So, just maybe when you are doing something as heinous as those things, you do give up the right to know who is coming into your “business”.

    You also stated that it is moral to charge interest on loans because the Church has decided to not call that action usury any longer. Well, I don’t know if the Church would call what LA did a lie or not.

    I have mentioned a couple of times on different sites the possibility of this situation following under the category of double effect. No one has answered my query as far as I know. The Catechism states that if someone’s life is in danger, they can shoot and even kill someone because their intent was to stop the aggressor, not kill them. The aggressor’s death was an unintended effect of the act of protecting oneself. Could not the LA action be seen in the same light? Their intent is not to deceive someone, their intent is to stop the immoral actions of Planned Parenthood and the deception of the worker is an unintended side effect.

    Now I am going to lie and mark the box below when I have not read the rules. It seems to me that having those boxes on one’s comboxes is putting an undue temptation to sin before many of us and I believe that, in itself, could be a venial sin. There is no reason one has to have that box there. Just accept what people write or monitor the site and delete what you don’t like. Don’t keep putting this occasion of sin before us!

  • Lauretta

    the Catechism states in para. 2489: “No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.” This statement was not taken out, just moved to a different paragraph.

    Also, if the Church saw this as immoral, I find it hard to believe that there is not a statement somewhere forbidding Catholics to be undercover policemen, FBI or CIA agents or investigative reporters. I would feel much more comfortable accepting what you and Mark and others are saying about this if you could show me a statement from the Vatican, or even a bishop, that counseled people against these professions.

    I was made to lie again because I forgot to mark the box. I was not allowed by this site to be silent in order to not lie!

  • JPZmirak

    But the LiveAction agent walks in the front door of the PP clinic and tells falsehoods about their identity in order to record a sting video. It seems to me that one normally has a natural right to know who is standing in the middle of one’s property. The fact the PP folks do many evil things does not mean that they cease to have any rights at all. If they did, then it would be permissible to kill them. But of course, its not.

    Or to use a comparable example, if the Nazi regime is evil then a Good German in 1940 might be excused from the normal Christian duty to obey the commands of the state if the commands in question were the unjust laws of the regume. For example, if there were a law requiring people to report the location of all Jews then our hypothetical Good German would not be obligated to follow that unjust law. But he would still be bound to follow the just laws of the regime.

    Ah, so hiding Anne Frank MIGHT be okay, but Oscar Schindler’s actions–claiming he needed more Jewish workers at his factories, when in fact he didn’t, but simply wanted to keep them from the camps–were wrong because they were ACTIVE, not passive, because he sought out the opportunity to save the innocent by denying the truth to those who have no right to it?

    Do people one has good reason to believe are corralling Jews on behalf of the regime have the right to know that in fact one is an Allied spy, trying to save those Jews?

    And in what CONCEIVABLE sense of the word “justice” can one consider the American laws on abortion “just”? LiveAction were conducting an expose to show that even THOSE laws were being routinely violated… by presenting themselves to PP operatives and giving them the chance to OBEY those laws. It’s exactly like an undercover cop going to a gynecologist she suspects of molesting patients, and pretending she “needs” a cervical exam. It CAN’T be that being an officer of the law changes the morality… not if we’re talking an INTRINSIC evil, so don’t bother blowing that color smoke up my kilt.

    Reading sd, I’m strongly reminded of those doctrinaire Thomists in France who said it was a mortal sin to help the Resistance, since Vichy was the legally constituted government of France. Maritain argued against them ferociously from exile, and thank God many Catholics followed his advice, not theirs.

    And you’re right that it would be wrong to kill abortionists–but not for the reason you probably think. It’s because you’d be committing an act of war, starting a revolution on a small scale, and to do that one must meet the conditions for just war… and one of those conditions is missing: The likelihood of success. Read more here: http://tinyurl.com/4b7b83g

    No, I am not arguing that the end always justifies the means. I agree that the way to handle this is to redefine “lying” as the Church redefined “usury” and “baptism.” Nor need this open up a Pandora’s box of rationalized dishonesty. The Church offers a clear set of rules for reporting bad news about people (when needed) while avoiding the sin of detraction. Those same rules, applied to false statements given those with no right to the truth, would serve very well as a guide to one’s conscience.

  • sd

    @Lauretta

    “You stated that PP people have the right to know who is coming in to their office. Well, just maybe since they are killing babies and aiding in sex trafficking, the Church would say that they have given up that right.”

    But the Church says no such thing.

    “If they were to kill any one other than an unborn in such a heinous, pre-meditated fashion, the Church I am sure would say that, according to theology on capital punishment, they have given up their right to life.”

    The Church would say that the state may have the authority to take their life in such a case. A private party would never have such authority however. The murderer only forfeits his the right to life in so far as the state may have a legitimate reason to execute him. He doesn’t forfeit his right to life in so far as private citizens, acting on their own initiative, have legitimate reason to execute him.

    And even then, the convicted murderer doesn’t give up all of his rights to the state. A person normally has the right to worship God freely. The state cannot legitimately take that away from him, regardless of how heinous a crime he may have committed.

    “You also stated that it is moral to charge interest on loans because the Church has decided to not call that action usury any longer. Well, I don’t know if the Church would call what LA did a lie or not.”

    The Church gives us a very straightforward framework for assessing whether a statement is a lie or not. If a statement is : 1) False, 2) Uttered knowingly, and 3) With the intent to deceive, then its a lie. And lying is by its very nature wrong.

    The LiveAction statesment in questions were 1) False, 2) Uttered knowingly, and 3) With the intent to deceive. To argue otherwise would be to assert that 1) They were not false (i.e. the LiveAction agents were in fact pimps/prostitutes), 2) Were not uttered knowingly (i.e. the LiveAction agents didn’t know that they were not pimps/prostitutes) or 3) They did not intend to deceive (i.e. they did not think that the result of their statements would be that the PP workers would believe that they were pimps/prostitutes. Any of those three assertions is preposterous.

    “I have mentioned a couple of times on different sites the possibility of this situation following under the category of double effect. No one has answered my query as far as I know.”

    OK, I will. The principle of double effect does not apply. The principle of double effect governs situations in which a morally good means is used with consequences that are both good and bad.

    In summary:

    1) To use bad means to achieve a bad end: Always bad (obviously)

    2) To use good means to achieve a good end: Always good (obviously)

    3) To use bad means to achieve a good end: Always bad (less obvious, but that’s why we have a Magisterium. And that magisterium teaches that its never good to use a bad means to achieve a good end.

    4) To use a good means to achieve a good end, but with other consequences that are bad (i.e. there are some bad ends mixed in there): Depends. Here’s where the principle of double effect comes in. If the moral weight of the good end of a good means is greater than the moral weight of the bad end of a good means, then the act is permissible. If the moral weight of the bad end of a good means is greater than the moral weight of the good end of a good means, then the act is generally impermissible.

    The principle of double effect NEVER authorizes a morally wrong action so that good can come of it.

    “the Catechism states in para. 2489: “No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.” This statement was not taken out, just moved to a different paragraph.”

    No no no no. Para. 2489 does not authorize telling falsehoods to someone who does not have the right to the truth. It authorizes not giving information to people do not have the right to the truth. It would, for example, mean that if PP workers asked the LiveAction agents who they were, and the LiveAction agents refused to answer, that the LiveAction agents would be guilty of no sin whatsoever. But it emphatically does not mean that if PP workers ask LiveAction agents who they are, and the LiveAction agents answer with a falshood, that they are not guilty of sin. Quite the contrary.

    The Church distinguishes between refusing to answer a question and answering it with a flat out falsehood. The former is generally acceptable (and certainly would be when the truth would be put to use for immoral ends by the person asking the question), but the latter is not.

    The Church didn’t simply move the statement in the CCC, it deliberately let stand an exemption from the general duty to communicate truth in one manner (refusing to answer a question) while deliberately pruging from an early draft an exemption in another manner (answering a question with a falsehood).

    Its not even like one can argue that the Church hasn’t gotten around to formally addressing whether or not its OK to utter falsehoods to someone who doesn’t have a right to know the truth. The Church obviously considered this, as it addressed the question in the affirmative in a draft of the CCC. But the final version changed course, removing the language that would have said that this was OK. So we’re left with a CCC that was promulgated to be a clear and authoritiative summary of Catholic teaching, that defines what a lie is, that says that lying is wrong by its very nature, and that could have made an exception to the definition of a lie to allow for the use of falsehood in the situation contemplated above, yet made no exception.

  • Zac

    Hi Lauretta,

    I’m surprised no one has answered your query about double-effect.
    Double-effect is only relevant when our act is morally neutral. ie. Every double-effect scenario contains a morally neutral act, with one morally good effect and one morally bad effect.

    So, shooting a gun is a morally neutral act…neutralising an attack is the good effect, while harming or killing the attacker is the bad effect.

    But ‘lying’ or ‘asserting an untruth as true’ is not a morally neutral act…or at least, this is the issue in debate. ‘Double-effect’ arguments will not resolve the Live Action controversy because the moral neutrality of ‘asserting an untruth as true’ is disputed.

    Besides, if we try to fit the Live Action case into the double-effect model, it doesn’t fit. The act is ‘lying’ or ‘asserting an untruth as true’. The first effect is that the PP person was deceived. What is the second effect? We can’t claim that ‘stopping PP’ is the second effect, because it is not the direct result of the act. ‘stopping PP’ would come only after a long string of acts and effects…though it may be the underlying motive all along.

    regards,

    Zac

  • Lauretta

    If I were shooting a gun at a target or an animal, or up in the air, I would say that it is a morally neutral act. But to shoot a gun at a person, I would not classify as a morally neutral act in any circumstance. If I shoot my 12 gauge shotgun at someone, I know he will die. I may not want him to die, but he is going to anyhow. I will have deprived that person of a good, life, and to me, there is going to be an element of evil in that act, no matter what my intention.

    Live Action’s act of exposing PP has caused them already to at least say they are going to retrain their personnel and the legislature is discussing not giving them federal money. I would say that this may go a long way toward clamping down on the evil that is occurring through PP with our tax money.

    Also, what about undercover cops and investigative journalists? Are they in mortal sin because they spend their lives lying to expose others? Has the Church addressed this at any time?

  • deacon jim russell

    Here we go again… Mark Shea’s personal magisterium concludes LA lied, but the Church’s magisterium has not. Thanks, Mark, but I will stick with the Church on this one.

    Deacon Jim Russell

  • sd

    @deacon jim ruusell

    “Here we go again… Mark Shea’s personal magisterium concludes LA lied, but the Church’s magisterium has not. Thanks, Mark, but I will stick with the Church on this one”

    We should all stick with the Church. But the Church has not (as far as I can tell) said anything one way or another about the specific conduct of LiveAction. Which shouldn;t come as a surprise to anyone, since the Church almost never says anything about the morality of any person or group’s acts.

    The Church does provide guidance though on what is right and what is wrong and how to tell the difference. In some cases it is indeed a tough call. But the definition of lying as laid out in the CCC is pretty clear. To believe that LiveAction didn;t lie you would need to believe one of the following:

    1) That LiveAction agents didn’t speak falsely (i.e. that they were in fact pimps/prostitutes)
    2) That LiveAction agents didn’t know they were speaking falsely (i.e. they really weren’t aware of the fact that they were not really pimps/prostitutes)
    3) That LiveAction agents didn’t want PP workers to believe them (i.e. that they weren’t intending to make the PP workers believe what they were saying)

    Seems like an awfully big leap to me to believe any of those three things. Kind of absurb, really.

  • Zac

    Hi Lauretta,

    sorry, I can’t help on church teaching, just the double-effect issue.

    I agree that the death of the attacker is evil, since it is -by definition- harm to the good of life. Yet this does not mean you are culpable, or that your actions are wrong. Responsibility lies with the attacker, because his attack is the cause of your defensive actions.

    Of course, if you use the shotgun, it had better be a very serious situation putting you in fear for your own life. Otherwise it will be hard to argue that you only intended to defend yourself.

    I can understand why this might seem difficult to accept, but I think we have to be wary of taking too much responsibility for others. The attacker is responsible for his own actions, he has the choice to *not* attack you, while you have the right to defend yourself against his attack. To deny you the right to defend yourself is tantamount to denying the right to life. It’s simply an extrapolation from the right to life that people may get themselves killed if they go around attacking others.

  • Mark Shea

    It’s ironic that you allude to Dr. Kreeft’s piece and then conclude that I’m somehow acting as a magisterium of one to say that LA lied. Because it is Dr. Kreeft that uses the word “lying” and goes out of his way to defend doing so. When the defenders of Live Aid call it lying, it’s lying. James O’Keefe, Lila Rose’s friend calls these stings lying too. And he frankly and openly declares that, inspired by Saul Alinsky, he does this because “the end justifies the means”: http://thwordinc.blogspot.com/…sions.html

    FWIW, I regarded the lie to Planned Parenthood as trivial and a venial sin–but a sin. What prompted me to write was not the initial triviality, but the increasingly stupid and disastrous arguments–arguments up to and including the amazingly blasphemous claim that Jesus was a liar, so it’s all good–being mounted by people bent on baptising lying for Jesus as a good instead of just dealing with the fact that it’s a sin. Obviously, we are still feeling the reverberations from that because, as ever, Live Aid was seeking some good end, so our consequentialist culture continue imagine that the good end justified the bad means of lying. The net result will be that PP will now be able to say, “See! Prolifers are liars. Attack the crisis pregnancy centers in NY and give us more money!” and defenders of lying for Jesus will have handed their friend in the NY (and other states) legislators a nice shiny sword for running them through. Defend consequentialism all you like, Deacon. It remains a Faustian Bargain. You lose what you wanted and get nothing in return. It’s how that game always works in the end.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Mark….we call the prevention of conception after rape “contraception”, too, but it is not a moral wrong taught against in Humanae Vitae.

    I jusr can not condone a definitive statement from you that they are lying when for 2000 years the magisterium has clearly permitted theologians to hold different views on this subject.

    It is kind of like insisting there really is a limbo even though the magisterium does not.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    And,Mark, please do not accuse me of defending consequentialism. What a distasteful and unnecessary remark. I know the difference between magisterial latitude and consequentialism. Simply put, while I have respect for your insights, you,ve simply thought yourself into a corner on this one.

  • Michael PS

    On 4 March 1679, Pope Innocent XI condemned the following propositions as “at least scandalous and pernicious in practice.”

    26. If anyone swears, either alone or in the presence of others, whether questioned or of his own will, whether for sake of recreation or for some other purpose, that he did not do something, which in fact he did, understanding within himself something else which he did not do, or another way than that by which he did it, or some other added truth, in fact does not lie and is no perjurer.

    27. A just reason for using these ambiguous words exists, as often as it is necessary or useful to guard the well-being of the body, honour, property, or for any other act of virtue, so that the concealing of the truth is then regarded as expedient and zealous.

    28. He who has been promoted to a magistracy or a public office by means of a recommendation or a gift can utter with mental reservation the oath which is customarily exacted of similar persons by order of the king, without regard for the intent of the one exacting it, because he is not bound to confess a concealed crime.

    43. What is it but venial sin if one detract authority by a false charge to prevent great harm to himself?

    44. It is probable that he does not sin mortally who imposes a false charge on someone, that he may defend his own justice and honour. And if this is not probable, there is scarcely any probable opinion in theology.

    On the wider point, St Thomas defines the will as a rational appetite. Because there is some finite goodness in all intellectually cognisable objects, our will can consequently move toward a vast number of objects (whether these objects are mind-independent or not).

    This is obvious enough: every volition presupposes an end, and the notion of an end implies the notion of goodness. The goodness may be either virtuous, useful, or delectable good, but it must always be desirable.

    The will is not determinately fixed toward one type of good. Just as sight is not determined to see one colour (say, red), the will is not determined to will one thing. Rather, as the formal object of sight is colour, the formal object of the will is the good

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Michael, you are stretching a pope’s rightful condemnation of laxism beyond its limits. None of the laxist errors you cite above touch on the issue at the heart of the LA question.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Michael, on second read, I hope I did not misunderstand the intent of your comment. My apologies if I did….

  • joanie

    Again it is not totally clear that a real actual person exhibited the moral fault people allege here by “lying” according to what the Catechism says. Was there intent to lead another into error? One can hope that the pedophile won’t show up to the underage child’s house with condoms etc prepared for their encounter. Especially when that pedophile is a prominent member of the community. One could fully expect that a PP employee would reply with a morally upright course of action and intend, since that is what the law dictates, that they would comply with the law. That the employees asserted that they planned a course of action that would not comply with the law or protect minors could not be predicted by anyone. No one knew what would happen.

    Whether Ms. Rose is following the advice of one Mr. O’Keefe, again, sounds more in the realm of gossip. Just because this person describes things according to a mentor of Saul Alinsky does not then convict the heart of Ms. Rose, and nor does it in the consequentialist concern posited here justify characterizing Ms. Rose as a big venial sinner or otherwise. Nor does the concern that PP affiliated groups will now decide to characterize all prolifers as liars. Anyone even tangentially involved in prolife knows that abortion advocates have characterized prolifers as liars and all sorts of things for many years, that is not new, and will not necessarily change by any action of any prominent or less prominent prolifer. What is advanced by abortion groups is propaganda, not fact. While one does hear prolifers state that it is possible that abortion advocates mean well for the common good but are deceived or misled, the same cannot be said for the abortion side where unfortunately I have no recorded instance of an abortion advocate acknowledging that prolifers do any good, at all. Even religious orders who do nothing more than pray and help pregnant mothers get attacked.

    Since the catechism does not state that “consequentialism” (this ism) is in and of itself a sin, or adhering to it is not a sin, I don’t fault those who feel that they must accuse another that she is a liar because they are convinced that it will serve a greater good. I can’t know their hearts or intentions. Even if I debate that the goal of protecting the prolife movement from being described as a bunch of liars by the abortion advocates, I cannot know another’s intentions.

    The entire framework for what constitutes sin does not serve so much so we can check off others’ violations of commandments since we can never know their hearts and intentions but it serves so we can be about the business of examining our own hearts, consciences, interior dispositions, willful intentions.

    No one is saying that venial sin is not sin so I don’t know how the above quoted Papal document clarifies. The distinction between mortal and venial sin is useful and helpful. Venial sin is sin and it is best confessed though not required to be confessed.

    But if we are going to hold up Ms. Rose as a public sinner for her deeds, whether it does constitute lying, or something different, venial sin, or not, and arguably, not sin at all, then we have already apparently bought into consequentialism for I read here that this is itself is being justified for a greater good. If it is arguable, which it is, that it was not sin at all doesn’t charity and the entire catechism dealing with the eighth commandment dictate that we ought to refrain from judging her heart, or even the heart of Mr. O’Keefe?

    We could talk all day about endless hypotheticals and there are hypotheticals to be had in number as are blades of grass. Canonists and theologians must obviously discuss trends or new types of issues but what help is it for us to discuss real people’s supposed flaws, even in the Catholic world?

    We are not concerned as a fundamentalist approach with every technical violation of a commandment from the outward appearance. An examination of conscience entails a review of sinful acts, mortal and venial. To constitute sin one must have made an interior choice in one way or another. Even if one weighed an outcome as to what was most desired or not or preferred (consequentialism) or what seemed a greater good, doesn’t in and of itself mean that one sinned or formed an intention to sin. It’s hard to stop humans from imagining what they would like to see happen.

    We should of course be on guard about all sin and if it is venial then there are steps we can take. But the fact that the Church does encourage us to be mindful about venial sin and to confess it though it is not absolutely required, to me, doesn’t justify branding Ms. Rose with a scarlet letter as a bigtime sinner among us. Or even this Mr. O’Keefe about whom I know nothing other than what has been revealed here.

    Now if you want to put forth a vision for where prolife ought to be headed in these times, where the important areas are, who can play a key role, what resources can be brought to bear, then that is great. If you want to privately contact individuals whom you know to say, “I am concerned about the state of your soul”, and try to be encouraging, then that is a good thing too.

    What if a 12 year old girl was brought to a clinic for an abortion by an abuser in her family who has and is coercing her. If she lies to the abortion clinic employee and says that she is 19 and that her 19 year old boyfriend is the father, is she lying? And if she is lying, is she sinning?

  • Scott W.

    If one’s position is that LA lied and that’s ok, then yeah, one is defending consequentialism.

    If one’s position is that LA did not lie, then I suppose one could say thay are not defending consequentialism, but quite frankly, it reminds me of the pro-priestess guy who said he accepted the Church’s teaching on male-only priests and even Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, but guess what? The Church hasn’t specifically defined what maleness is. There is no mental reservation in play here (where various theologians differed). Saying you are a pimp when you are not is a flat-out lie and the Church is unambiguously clear are wrong by their very nature.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    SD…speaking falsehood is only HALF the CCC definition of lying. Many other possible conclusions exist about the LA choices, apart from the few you mention.

  • joanie

    It’s not that the Church hasn’t specifically defined what lying is, it of course has and does in the Catechism. It also defines whether an act of lying is a sin or not and what type. Any kind of -ism, consequentialism or whatever certainly can be noticed in trends of types of behaviors as -isms and yet that is not the level of specificity required to determine whether an action constitutes sin.

    Publicly describing a real actual person as a one who has sinned by lying, for whatever reason, whether in order to bolster PP’s reputation, to denigrate the individual’s, to save the prolife cause from a perception or an attack among abortion advocates of excessive lying, to raise awareness about lying both venial and mortal, whatever the desired consequence, could also be described as consequentialism, and technically also could violate commandments, Jesus’ words and teachings in the Gospel, and, I guess more pointedly, may, or may not, constitute sin, venial, mortal, upon a thoroughgoing and honest review of one’s own conscience.

    If you have concerns about the way prolife is heading and whether PP complies with the law, there are many avenues open. One way perhaps is to inquire with different civil and criminal regulatory agencies as to how they verify PP’s compliance with the laws. Is it realistic to believe that upon inquiry that PP would change its practices. Given what happened in Philadelphia with Gosnell where for decades civil and criminal authorities had credible and minimal information of the infanticide and butchering of women which was going on yet looked the other way and did not investigate or follow up on notice they had, it’s hard to believe that PP would publicly or otherwise fully cooperate with inquiry with regard to this sort of practice.

    Why do detectives patrol internet chat rooms posing as pedophiles to begin with. We all know there is no shortage of takers out there even when it is widely known that numerous law enforcement agencies do have agents who pose as pedophiles via chat room or email. A detective could intend that the one on the other side of the chat does not decide to get in the car and drive several hours away armed with condoms and who knows what else ready for their encounter with a minor or with a mother offering her children or whatever the scenario. But when that choice is made and when commits to a course of action, it is made by an individual who always has a choice to not do that.

    Or when a detective goes undercover for months or years with the mafia. They might even become a “made man”.

    These people are not intending that the criminals actually follow through on their stated intentions to harm. But they intend to witness how a criminal actor or organization works and provide this information to those who should know of it. The ones who then take steps which if followed through could constitute criminality or noncompliance with civil regulations always have a choice to do something else.

    Is it so far out of the realm of possibility that one could fully hope and believe to be offering an opportunity to another to choose a better or different path?

    It might not be lying, and it might not be sin. I’ve never met anyone able to read another’s mind and heart.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    “all sin — all of it — consists of the attempt to pursue a good end by evil means”

    In a custody case in which I was involved the mother who I represented was awarded custody of two small children. The father of the children decided to reverse the custody award over visitation just before Thanksgiving several years ago by shooting to death the three year old boy and the three year old girl. For good measure he shot to death the woman who he was living with who I suspect died trying to protect the little girl who was shot to death the day before the little boy was shot to death. He dumped the bodies of the children in a river and after being apprehended refused to disclose the location of the bodies or inform the authorities whether the children were alive or dead. My client lived in an agony of hope and dead for over a week until a fisherman came across the body of the little girl. I can think of no good end this murderer had in contemplation for his actions.

  • Brian English

    “Yes, you are cutting and pasting words, but not, apparently, with any interest in comprehending my point: which is that the ends do not justify the means.”

    You are trying to do far more than that. You are insisting that various monsters throughout history were not as monstrous as usually claimed because they all intended good ends. It was only when they fell prey to consequentialism that they went astray.

    I don’t see how you can parse a person’s intent like that, nor how you can completely separate means from ends. Hitler’s dream of a Greater Germany included, from its inception, the destruction of all groups he considered sub-human or otherwise unworthy of living in the Aryan State.

    But suppose Hitler had used “acceptable means” to accomplish his goal? Suppose he offered to buy-out all Jewish homes and businesses and resettle Jews in Palestine; would that economic ethnic cleansing be a good end in your eyes?

    “I suspect you are defining “end” differently than I am. For the purposes of this article, I mean “the happiness a person hopes to gain from something good they seek”. So, when Jeffrey Dahmer kills and eats somebody, I am not (obviously) saying that murder and cannibalism are “good ends”. I am saying that Dahmer (who like all humans cannot *not* seek his own happiness (according to St. Thomas) is attempting to gain happiness (his end) by a radically evil means (murder and cannibalism). In Dahmer’s case, it would appear that he was seeking sexual pleasure and a sense of power (both good things as far as they go).”

    Does a terminally ill person who commits suicide seek a good end (ceasing their pain and suffering) but only goes about it the wrong way (killing themselves)?

  • Brian English

    Are Catholics precluded from being undercover police or spies?

  • joanie

    Maybe the description of the word “good” in Mr. Shea’s definition should be qualified to not be “The Good” or “goodness” but that one who commits sin does desire a particular outcome or effect and that while maybe not “good” is the best word, “desirable” or “favorable” to them the actor might be more of what it is about.

    The Catechism’s teaching of what sin is and what it is not is useful and helpful. It is not the actual outcome, desired or sought after by the actor, or not, but what was in the mind of the actor at the time and what the act consisted of.

    It is a necessary thing that the criminal laws require evidence of both intent and the action in order to convict people of a completed crime.

    But the Church is not in the same business of criminal enforcement of laws, legal justice, public conviction through evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and imprisonment.

    Necessarily the fate of one’s own soul depends on turning one’s own self in to receive the grace and mercy of forgiveness through confession. Even if a priest witnesses us commit an atrocity while we are heading to the confessional, unless he has a remarkable gift indeed by and large he does not know our hearts and cannot confess for us and do what we need to do before God. Even if he accuses us it is not going to adequately reconcile us to God. And even the worst sinners, even while doing time for their deeds, are not beyond the reach of God’s mercy. The Church in and of itself condemns no soul to hell. Only the Lord can judge what is in our hearts.

  • Andy

    Again it is not totally clear that a real actual person exhibited the moral fault people allege here by “lying” according to what the Catechism says. Was there intent to lead another into error?

    The people in the video presented themselves as pimp and underage prostitute, despite not being pimp and underage prostitute. They were clearly saying something that wasn’t true. Was there intent to lead another into error? By declaring the falsehood, LA was trying to tape a PP employee breaking the law. LA presented a nonexistent crime (prostitution in general and specifically underage) and used the deception to provoke an illegal reaction. In what way is that not leading someone into error?

  • Anthony Keiser

    “Are Catholics precluded from being undercover police or spies?”

    If they gotta lie…well, yup.

  • sd

    @Deacon Jim Russell

    “SD…speaking falsehood is only HALF the CCC definition of lying. Many other possible conclusions exist about the LA choices, apart from the few you mention.”

    In multiple instances above I’ve laid out the defintiion of a lie and noted that three criteria must be met for a statement to be classified as a lie. I never claimed that speaking falsehoods was in an of itself the sin of lying. If that were the case, people who say things mistakenly and actors would be guilty of lying. Rather, for a statement to be a lie it must be 1) a Falsehood, 2) Uttered knowingly and 3) Uttered with the intent of deceiving the audience. All three criteria are met when a LiveAction agent walks into a PP clinic, claims to be someone they are not, and does so with the intent of capturing the reaction of the PP to this false scenario on video.

    The relevant paragraphs from the CCC are below:

    2482 “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.” The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: “You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

    2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.

    2484 The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.

    2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. The culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray.

    2486 Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    SD…you are attempting toapply the general norms of the CCC to a specific special case, a case debated by theologians for centuries, a case the magisterium PERMITS debate on.

    This is like saying you can not attempt to prevent conception after rape simply because the CCC teaches against contraception. The general norm is insufficient in determining the morality of partiular special cases.

  • joanie

    Actually it does not say “uttered with intent to deceive”.

  • sd

    @Joanie

    “Actually it does not say “uttered with intent to deceive”.”

    Well, I suppose that’s correct. Instead it says:

    “speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving”

    How that’s in way different for “uttered with the intent to deceive” is beyond me.

  • Lauretta

    I still believe that the core of this discussion centers on the intent of LA. I don’t believe their intent was to deceive but to discover whether PP would participate in criminal activity. In order to know that, one has to give them the opportunity and then record it in some way so that the authorities have proof. Otherwise it would be a case of he said, she said.

    I am still waiting for a statement of some sort from the Church that condemns undercover work and investigative reporting. That would set my mind at ease as to what the Church’s position is on these situations.

  • joanie

    And what of the part “to lead someone into error”?

  • joanie

    Were they really “lying in order to try to tape a PP employee in breaking the law”? The PP employee made statements about what they “might” do, what they could do, what they planned to do, if and when the underage, undocumented, non-English speaking pregnant sex slaves materialized at their clinics. Just because PP will not post on their website “We will give abortions to, treat with hormones or possibly sterilize, minor, undocumented, non-English speaking pregnant sex slaves, with no questions asked and send them home with the pimp who pays our fees for these services” doesn’t mean that they did not mean what they said and that they did not believe that what they were doing was cool and ok. We know this because, it didn’t just happen in one instance but it was consistent.

    There does not appear to have been intent to lead another into “error” because there were no sex slaves who would be harmed. They were witnessing, and exposing to consumers, the way in which PP the corporation seems to entertain and discuss its potential business transactions. Ms. Rose did not lead another into any error at all. The employees as I described above seemed to have made their own choices to propose the course of action they desired on their own. They could have called 911 so that the pimp would be arrested but that was not their choice. Unless you can read the heart of another, it’s hard to slander Ms. Rose and convict her of sinful lying, venial or mortal in this case.

  • Mark

    Your vanity appears weekly and your prudence appears weakly.

  • Brandon Watson

    JZmirak said,

    Consequences are not irrelevant to moral arguments. An absurd consequence implies absurd premises or faulty logic. We should only with great reluctance, and suspicion, accede to arguments whose outcome outrages our moral instincts and generates outrageous consequences. That was Peter Kreeft’s central point in his contribution to this debate.

    This seems to me to be a very serious misunderstanding of Kreeft’s point. Absurd consequences imply absurd premises or faulty logic only if the standard of absurdity is transitive; sense of outrageousness is not transitive but at most merely an effect on us that could be due to any one of three things: that the premises are absurd, that the logic is faulty, or that our sense of things is faulty. Kreeft himself, of course, is well aware of this (he often makes use of the fact in arguing against other positions), and would never make the mistake of simply assuming that because the conclusion seems outrageous that either the logic is faulty or a premise is outrageous — at most it tells us to check to see if the premises, considered in themselves, are outrageous. What Kreeft is actually arguing is that if something is an intuitive moral judgment of the sort we call moral common sense, it should be seen as (at least defeasibly) a plausible candidate for a judgment that’s close to fundamental principles of moral law.

    Which is fair enough; but we have to ask if this is really a matter of “moral common sense” given how controversial the matter obviously is (which shows that not everyone actually has this supposedly general intuition), and given that we know from other areas just how distorted our moral judgments about truthfulness and honesty in our culture can be. But that’s another set of arguments. What’s definitely the case, though, is that Kreeft’s argument can’t be used to short-circuit moral self-critique: we always have to ask the question, Is this apparently intuitive reaction really just the result of biases (e.g., in our culture) that we can’t see in proper perspective because we’re so used to them? Kreeft recognizes this explicitly, although in the essay in question he doesn’t get around to fully addressing (and explicitly recognizes that he’s not doing so, as well). It’s important not to take what was clearly never intended to be more than a very limited argument about where to start our inquiry as if it were a general defense of where to end it. That way lies mere absurdity.

  • sd

    @joanie

    “And what of the part “to lead someone into error”?”

    The LiveAction agents were not pimps/prostitutes. They clearly wanted the PP workers to believe that they were pimps/prostitutes. Which is to say, they wanted the PP workers to believe an error. Thus the falsehoods they uttered were intended to lead another person into error.

  • sd

    @Laurettea

    “I still believe that the core of this discussion centers on the intent of LA. I don’t believe their intent was to deceive but to discover whether PP would participate in criminal activity.”

    Under that strain of logic than no falsehood uttered with the objective of achieving some tangible outcome down the line can be classified as a lie. In other words, lies are exceptionally rare – almost non-existent.

    Of course that’s not true. Lies are told all the time. And in almost every case the liar is trying to attain some other end. But their intent in lying is to deceive another person.

    Let’s say you pick up your iPhone from the conveyer belt at the security line at the airport, but I say to you “that’s my iPhone, yours must still be in the scanner” when I know that that’s false. I then walk away with your iPhone. I’ve clearly lied to you. No functioning adult that I’ve ever met would argue that I have not in fact lied to you.

    But “No” I say, “I didn’t lie to you because I didn’t intend to deceive you, I intended to get an iPhone.”

    See how ludicrous that is? My ultimate objective was indeed to get your iPhone. But my intent in telling you that the iPhone was mine was to deceive you. After all, if you were not deceived (i.e. if you were not led into error) then my plan of getting your iPhone would not have been successful. To the extent that I’m actively trying to get your iPhone, and I’m uttering falsehoods to do so, and I am uttering falsehoods because I know that if you are not deceived then you won’t let me walk away with your iPhone, then I’ve lied to you.

    Now, my “end” here is clearly bad. I have no right to your iPhone, so I’m lying in the service of theft. I’ve commited two sins – I’ve lied and I’ve stolen your property. But the Church teaches that its not acceptable to lie (or commit any other sin) with even a good end in mind – like for example exposing the wickedness of PP.

  • joanie

    @ sd

    I don’t see how any of us could say that Ms. Rose “wanted” the PP workers to do anything in particular. How do you know what they “wanted”? Perhaps they wanted to see what would be said. They could even have hoped that a worker, any worker, would merely just call 911. Can you say that they really “knew” what would happen? If a detective is on a chatroom representing that he is a 13 year old girl and interested in meeting a middle aged pedophile for an encounter, does he “know” or “want” that man to begin to take steps to follow through, to invite the “child” to meet up with him for an explicit reason?

    I still don’t see how it is ok to discredit or employ detraction to impugn a real person as a sinful liar? So what, you want to, say PP is innocent and good, or, you want to say that you are worried about prolifers’ reputations as liars generally, so fine, what do you think we need to do in the prolife world to deal with the fraud that is PP? Or do you just want to keep saying this person is a sinful liar over and over again because you feel your cause justifies this technical commandment violation?

    If we are worried about all of the commonly encountered and technical violations of commandments then we shouldn’t be engaging in detraction of a human being as a sinful liar.

    If we are worried about PP appearing lily white to the world then I guess it makes some sense to attempt to squeeze Lila Rose into all the technical requirements for lying even if it isn’t sin. But then I guess that would be consequentialism, which is not necessarily always a sinful approach, and as we all know a perfectly workable social practice that countless people from Machiavelli on down adhere to. But that is not the Christian approach as to what to do when you observe someone, your brother or sister in Christ engaging in what looks like sin. For what steps to take, see the Catechism re: charity.

  • Nobody

    A lies for a good end, films the lie, and publicizes it widely.

    B acknowledges the goodness of the end, but insists that the lying is still wrong.

    A whole bunch of people engage in sophistical attacks on the contention that lying is wrong, even when done in pursuit of a good end.

    Defending against those attacks is itself characterized as detraction against the orignal person who not only told the lie but publicized it.

    That’s pretty rich.

  • Nobody

    If you want to see a really contentious application of the principle that lying is always wrong, check out this discussion of lies told to protect illegal immigrants: http://www.whatswrongwiththewo…o_one.html

  • John

    As has been asked many times previously: Since undercover police work, by its nature, entails knowingly speaking falsehoods with the intention of deceiving others, is it an inherently sinful occupation?

    I need to know if I have to go to confession and find a new profession.

    By the way, SD, there is a distinction between deceiving someone and leading them into error. The “error” spoken of in the CCC is “truth” error, not “fact” error.

  • crazylikeknoxes

    I’ve been watching this one from the fence. But I do need to see an answer to John’s question. Is undercover work a sin? Not only that, but what about helping a fugitive (such as a priest, or runaway slave, or Jew)?

  • Nobody

    If you have a job which by its nature requires you to lie, then yes, you should leave that job.

    Whether or not the lies told require sacramental Confession depends on whether or not they meet the criteria for _mortal_ sin. Not all wrongs meet the criteria for mortal sin; but that doesn’t make it OK to do them, and it especially doesn’t make it OK to teach others that it is OK to do them.

  • Micha Elyi

    …rightwing commitment to torture…
    –Mark Shea

    Lying is grave matter.

  • sd

    @John

    “As has been asked many times previously: Since undercover police work, by its nature, entails knowingly speaking falsehoods with the intention of deceiving others, is it an inherently sinful occupation?”

    If a job requires telling lies then yes, doing that job is immoral. Its not clear though that undercover policework neccessarily requires telling lies. It is morally permissible to hold back information in some cases, to make use of certain types of mental reservations and to ask questions that lead another party to conclude something that is false. The Church has stated that all of these things are allowable. What is not allowable is directly uttering falsehoods with the intent to deceive.

    On a related note though, undercover policemen are generally not permitted, even under civil law, to entrap suspects. Yet the LiveAction agents under discussion materially tempted the PP workers to sin and sin gravely. Even if there were no lie involved per se their actions would still be morally suspect given that they tempted another human being into offering to assist in a grave evil.

    “By the way, SD, there is a distinction between deceiving someone and leading them into error. The “error” spoken of in the CCC is “truth” error, not “fact” error.”

    If that were the case then, for example, cases of financial fraud would not involve lying. After all, if I utter a bunch of falsehoods about a fraduulent insurance policy to a little old lady in order to bilk her out of thousands of dollars in premiums I haven’t led her into “truth error” but merely “fact error.” If there is anyone who think I haven’t lied to her in this case please raise your hand.

    But even if that were true it would be irrelevant. The CCC uses different language in different places to define lying. Paras. 2483 and 2485 use the “lead into error” language. But para. 2482 says simply “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.” And para. 2486 says “…a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision.”

    Note that the latter statement (from para. 2486) doesn’t say anything about the other’s “right to know” but simply says that a lie is a statement that inhibits his “ability to know.” That is, the lie presents false information which interferes with the other person’s knowledge and their ability to make use of that knowledge in forming judgements. If I tell a person that I’m someone I’m not, and they take action on that false belief, then I’ve interefered with the knowledge that they have of the situation.

  • Mark Shea

    You are trying to do far more than that. You are insisting that various monsters throughout history were not as monstrous as usually claimed because they all intended good ends.

    No!No!No! *I* am saying that what made them monsters was that they chose radically evil means in their attempt to attain happiness. You, being a consequentialist who believes that desiring happiness somehow mitigates the evil of an act, assume that I think as you do. But I don’t. Precisely what made these monsters monstrous was that they chose to do radically grave evil in pursuit of the happiness they sought. You are doing *exactly* what I described here:

    This frightens us, and we love to trot out the rhetoric of outrage at this point. “Oh, so poor Hitler meant well because he loved his dog!” we shout. “So I’m supposed to feel sorry for Ted Bundy who was only looking for love, eh?” Note the Manichaean thinking: Truly Evil People can’t possibly be motivated by love. Nor can they possibly be seeking happiness or a good end. They do what they do because they are bad right through. If we entertain the possibility that Charles Manson or Heinrich Himmler sought some good end just as we do, then we (gasp!) humanize the grave sinner — which is as good as saying that they “mean well,” which is as good as saying that what they are doing isn’t even a sin! Why? Because that’s what we tell ourselves to exonerate ourselves of our own sins.

    I don’t see how you can parse a person’s intent like that, nor how you can completely separate means from ends. Hitler’s dream of a Greater Germany included, from its inception, the destruction of all groups he considered sub-human or otherwise unworthy of living in the Aryan State.

    I’m aware of that. He had a radically flawed understanding of patriotism, as I mention in the article. All sin, as Augustine says, is disordered love. But that does not patriotism per se an evil. In the same way, idolatry is disordered love of some creature. That does not make creatures evil, nor the rightly ordered love of creatures an evil.

    But suppose Hitler had used “acceptable means” to accomplish his goal? Suppose he offered to buy-out all Jewish homes and businesses and resettle Jews in Palestine; would that economic ethnic cleansing be a good end in your eyes?

    Acceptable means to accomplishing the goal of a rightly ordered state would have to include doing justice to all the citizens of that state. So “ethnic cleansing” is right out since forcing citizen of a state to leave is radically contrary to the common good. I can imagine some situation (like 19th century American attempts to repatriate slaves to Africa so that they could have their own country) might be attempted with the cooperation of citizens who wanted to attempt such an experiment (that is, more or less, what the Zionist movement was, after all). But all depends on the citizen remaining free to take or leave the offer. If the State forces him to leave, we are looking at precisely the sort of deportation that the Catechism calls “intrinsically and gravely immoral”. The government can’t just go around kicking people out of their homes because of their race.

    But then you knew that.

    Does a terminally ill person who commits suicide seek a good end (ceasing their pain and suffering) but only goes about it the wrong way (killing themselves)?

    Yes. A suicide, like every other person, acts in such a way as he supposes will bring him some good because he can’t not desire his own happiness. In this case, the good being sought is peace/the end of suffering/etc. The sin (assuming full culpability, which is assuming a lot since many suicides are profoundly ill and have very minimal culpability) is precisely in seeking the good end of peace, freedom from suffering, etc. is a radically disordered way.

  • crazylikeknoxes

    It is clear that undercover policework neccessarily requires telling lies. You describe undercover work at the end of your post: “If I tell a person that I’m someone I’m not, and they take action on that false belief, then I’ve interefered with the knowledge that they have of the situation.”

  • joanie

    So just to clarify, what greater good would we aiming for when we characterize a real person as a sinful liar? Isn’t detraction also against the same commandment which sets forth the prohibition against all lying that sd references? Or is detraction here ok since it is a means to a “good” end (or several different assorted “good” ends)? Is detraction “always” a wrong or is it ok some of the time?

    You’ve made your case to condemn Lila Rose here over and over sd. But we don’t all have to buy it. You don’t know her intentions so you can’t judge. And even if you think you ought to judge, you can’t tempt others into also judging and condemning this person. And no one is saying that lying is just fine, even a six year old knows that lying isn’t a good thing. You can quote the catechism but you can’t read people’s hearts. It’s just that simple.

    And no, I’m not at all convinced that undercovers are involved in “immoral” jobs. Sorry.

  • Brian English

    “No!No!No! *I* am saying that what made them monsters was that they chose radically evil means in their attempt to attain happiness. You, being a consequentialist who believes that desiring happiness somehow mitigates the evil of an act,”

    Interesting that you chose to leave out the last sentence of my comment, which read: “It was only when they fell prey to consequentialism that they went astray.” So, I in fact stated exactly what your position is. Doesn’t that creative editing of comments strike you as being dishonest?

    In addition, you are the one saying, in the next section of your article you quote, that we “humanize” Himmler and Manson by acknowledging they had good intentions but just went about attaining them the wrong way. The monstrous as less monstrous.

    And there is nothing “Manichean” about seeing Hitler, Himmler and Manson as thoroughly evil men. They were, even if you can’t see it.

  • Mark Shea

    Brian:

    Incredible as it may seem to you, one can be both human *and* deeply evil. That, again, is my point. The fear of “humanizing” monstrously evil people is a fear that only afflicts people who don’t understand the Catholic conception of sin, which is, after all, that it is committed by human being, not members of some separate species. You could grasp these simple truths if you wanted to. But since it’s plain you are laboring to miss the point, I’m done attempting to speak reasonably with you. Bye.

  • Nobody

    @joanie:

    That word, “detraction”: you keep using it, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

    If Lila Rose had lied in secret, it would be detraction to publicize that lie unnecessarily as a way of destroying her reputation.

    But none of the people you are accusing of detraction made LR’s lie public. She made it public herself. And the main thing people seem to be objecting to at least in this thread is not LR’s lie taken in itself; but rather to the legions of attempts to say that lying in the way LR lied is good. Calling an evil act good, teaching that an evil act is a good act, is a very dangerous and destructive thing to do. Warning people – people like yourself – away from that danger and destruction is quite clearly an act of charity.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Hi nobody. The magisterium does not agree with your assessment that lila rose and live action committed an evil act of lying. The magisterium PERMITS the opposite view.

    Your argument is with the magisterium, not the supporters of LA….

  • Nobody

    Deacon Jim:

    As far as I am aware, the Magisterium has been completely silent on the particular acts of LR – which is precisely what I would expect. The only times I am aware of the Magisterium pronouncing on the acts of particular persons is when a person is excommunicated. Even then, it is doubtless the case that many excommunicable acts never result in formal excommunication. I am not aware of anyone claiming that the actions of the folks at Live Action are excommunicable offenses.

    That the Magisterium has not proclaimed the LA acts wrong is true, and entirely irrelevant.

  • Christine

    SD: Glad you’ve got everything figured out. For my part, I’ll wait until the Magisterium has definitively pronounced on the matter of undercover stings before making any dogmatic judgments. Any other position strikes me as lacking in humility or wisdom.

    Please read the definition of entrapment before proceeding to accuse Lila Rose. Entrapment involves planting an idea into a person’s head who otherwise would not have committed the crime, then luring him to commit it. That is *nothing* like what Lila Rose did. First, PP has a history of illegal activity and failure to report underage abuse, so this sort of action documented on video is precisely what PP does over and over again. Lila Rose went in there, threw out tentative questions, and objectively documented the response. There was ZERO pressure placed on the PP employee to lie, and (since charity demands that I offer others the benefit of the doubt), I’m sure Lila Rose was secretly hoping the PP employee–for the good of her soul–would not break the law. But there was no “tempting” involved, no secret wishes to cause another to stumble, etc. as you seem to claim (which strikes me as a sin against charity, for you to make such excessively negative assumptions about her intentions).

  • Brian English

    “The fear of “humanizing” monstrously evil people is a fear that only afflicts people who don’t understand the Catholic conception of sin, which is, after all, that it is committed by human being, not members of some separate species. You could grasp these simple truths if you wanted to.”

    So this article was about those simple truths? You know that’s not true. What this article was about was your zeal to attack other Catholics as consequentialists causing you to adopt the ludicrous position that men like Hitler and Himmler were seeking good things, but just went about achieving them in the wrong way.

    Humanizing Nazis to demonize other Catholics. Pathetic.

  • Brian English

    “If a job requires telling lies then yes, doing that job is immoral.”

    Although I don’t have the exact figures, I am certain a fairly high percentage of the NYPD is Catholic, and a proportionate number are certainly involved in undercover work. I wonder why Cardinal Dolan hasn’t demanded that all of those officers resign from those positions?

  • Mark Shea

    Since, as Thomas points out, it’s not possible not to seek one’s own happiness and, as Augustine points out, all sin is disordered love, it follows that the man you describe was after some good in a radically perverted way. Homicidal rage can fill the sinner with a sense of power and control (in themselves, not bad things any more than power, existence and will are in Satan). The vengeance-filled maniac you describe will doubtless tell himself some lie about how his victims were getting what was coming to them because they got in his way (a grossly perverted claim of a good: justice). Indeed, great monsters often seem to make appeals to justice and whine about being unfairly treated. Such perverted claims do not negate justice itself, of course. It remains a good. Similarly, the grossly perverted self-love of the butcher you describe is, as Augustine describes, disordered love. It’s not that he doesn’t love something. It’s that he loves himself above all claims of any justice, charity, or mercy to any other human being. He imagines that be doing this, he will get something (a sense of power, the pleasures of vengeful rage, etc) that will make him happy. Power and pleasure are not, in themselves, evil. But in seeking these good in a grossly and radically perverted way, he commits the horror you describe. He does *not* “mean well” thereby. He means to do grave evil in pursuit of something he believes will make him happy.

  • Mark Shea

    There are forms of deception that are morally permissible. So you don’t have to give information to people who don’t have a right to it. But that doesn’t mean you can seek people out and lie to them since lying is intrinsically immoral. So if you have a job that involves deception but not lying, that can be morally permissible. But, as Nobody, said, if you job demands that you lie, it is asking you to commit a sin. If you want more detailed info, please go to my blog at the National Catholic Register and see the very detailed discussion I conducted last month and earlier this month.

  • Brennan

    I came across this quote by Dr. Jeffrey Mirus in an article he wrote about lying for This Rock magazine, and find it apropos when going over the Catechism and what it says regarding topics like lying and irregular circumstances:

    “Alas, the matter is not so easily resolved. For, as it turns out, when the official Latin text of the Catechism was released in 1997 after a process of revision, the right to know was dropped. The operative sentence now reads simply: “To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error.” Of course, the Catechism is intended as a basic compendium of Catholic doctrine, assembled with due ecclesiastical care, and not as a collection of definitive infallible pronouncements permanently settling every question on every topic it covers. In other words, the change in definition does not mean the original formulation was wrong. But it does mean that the editors of the Catechism were not prepared to endorse it in an official Catholic reference work.”

    http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2008/0809fea3.asp

    On a further note, when Dr. Kreeft discussed this issue he did write:

    “On some other occasion I may take the time to argue logically against the serious arguments of the pro-life critics of Live Action, and about the proper definition of

  • joanie

    @Nobody

    Again, since we don’t know what Lila Rose’s intent was, we cannot condemn her as a sinful liar. Past the intent aspect, it doesn’t seem clear that she was sinning according to the catechism. Just because certain actions are publicly known, her heart and thoughts, her intentions are known to her alone.

    If we do condemn her here as a sinful, public liar, then, we too must answer to the same commandments and subject our deeds to the analysis of consequentialism and ask whether we feel our violating the commandment is acceptable since we do so in the service of some desired result.

    It troubles me that you seem unable to give another human being the benefit of the doubt when you don’t know what is in their heart. It is entirely possible that she did have the intention you ascribe to her.

    Even if she admitted she formed some intention, it could possibly have only been a venial sin, in which case, again, it doesn’t seem worth turning her into some horrific liar about something that for most of the time many people commit almost like breathing. Venial sin in general matters but again I don’t see that it’s a worthwhile topic that justifies tempting others into contempt towards another human being.

    Would that we were all so scrupulously obsessed with respecting the letter and spirit of all of the commandments in our own actions, then abortion would not exist and it would not plague our nation with genocide today.

  • Christine

    Jeffrey Mirus, a Thomistic scholar, wrote an insightful piece on lying back in 2008:

    http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/articles.cfm?id=242

    One effort to do so has gained considerable favor among theologians in the last hundred years. This is the proposal to tweak the definition of lying as follows:

  • Lauretta

    You stated that it is sometimes permissible to deceive someone. What does deceive mean? It means to make them believe something is true that is not. One of the synonyms is lying. Please distinguish how deception is different than lying. LA did deceive PP. They, by acting, convinced the PP employees that they were something they were not. That would seem to fit the definition of deception I read in the dictionary.

    I am going to again ask for a statement from the Church admonishing policemen and journalists that undercover work is not morally permissible. Until that statement is provided I don’t think that this argument can be settled.

    It still seems to me that we are discussing this issue far too much when we are doing things in our homes that cause much more harm than what LA did. Things that are done for no good ideal but because we are selfish, lazy, undisciplined, etc. I would be happy to put my “sins” of lying if I did what LA did up against a lot of other things that I do. I’m sure God would not even notice those “lies” in comparison.

  • Nobody

    Again, since we don’t know what Lila Rose’s intent was, we cannot condemn her as a sinful liar.

    As far as I can tell, the only person speaking in those terms is you.

    What she objectively did – and recorded, and publicized widely – was lie. To what extent she is culpable of sin for lying is between her, her confessor, and God.

    By the subjectivist standards you are attempting to employ in the defense of lying for the greater good, it is impossible for you yourself to determine that others engage in detraction. After all, you can’t know what anyone’s subjective intention happens to be. So by the same standard you apply to lies – that it is impossible to determine that a given act is a lie because it is impossible to know subjective intention – it is just as impossible to determine that a given act is detraction.

    So I don’t know why you bother with the constant assertion that others are engaged in detraction. By your own standards for the evaluation of moral acts, it is impossible for you to make that determination.

  • Nobody

    Questions of legitimate deception, etc have been dealt with extensively. See for example Ed Feser’s recent article, and all the background articles to which he links. He addresses all of the “what about …” issues being brought up here and more.

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co…l-law.html

  • Christine

    Nobody,
    Feser doesn’t really address the issue of justified deception in any great depth. He takes as a given the Augustinian/Thomistic absolutist approach, and goes from there. But of course, there are other traditions within the Church that contradict this absolutism–which Bd. John Henry Newman wisely recognized and acknowledged:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2011/02/27/cardinal-newman-on-lying-and-equivation/

    “What I have been saying shows what different schools of opinion there are in the Church in the treatment of this difficult doctrine; and, by consequence, that a given individual, such as I am, cannot agree with all of them, and has a full right to follow which of them he will. The freedom of the Schools, indeed, is one of those rights of reason, which the Church is too wise really to interfere with. And this applies not to moral questions only, but to dogmatic also.”

  • crazylikeknoxes

    I’m not trying to be dense, but what is the difference between deception and lying? I mean, a lie can consist of deceptive acts as well as speech, no? And what is the authority about lying to people who don’t have a right to the information sought? Do you mean a legal right to the information, or is there such a thing as a moral right to information? The concept seems more than a little vague. Even if the “right to know” language were in the Catechism, I don’t think it would apply to a situation involving slave catchers or even priest hunters.

  • Br. Gabriel, OP

    @crazylikeknoxes

    The clearest definition of lying is “to speak a falsehood with the intention to deceive. This is they type of act that is contrary to the virtue of truth. However, there are different types of lies. They break down into three categories: 1. jocose 2. utility 3. malicious. The third is the most grave while the first two are the least. I mention this for two reasons. The first is because people forget that the vice of lying needs to be understood with reference to the perfection of the virtue of truth. The second reason is that you (and this whole discussion) is concerned with the lying for the sake of utility. It is the deliberate violence done to the virtue of truth that makes lying an exceptionless norm, i.e., an intrinsic evil. It is always a violation of truth’s nature.

    Now what might be meant as legitimate deception are those acts that are not “false speech.” For instance, a person may think something false about you but you don’t correct them. This is a form of deception if this withholding of information is itself just, i.e., information that is not due to the other person. It may also be permissible to withhold information or (speak craftily) if prudence dictates. These are both forms of deception, yet, they are not ‘speach-acts’ that are lies.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Hi nobody….you misunderstood my point. It is ENTIRELY relevant that the magisterium has let this theological debate continue for 2000 years. Nor does the CCC coverage of lying touch on this special moral case. I do not expect the magisterium to address the LA action specifically. I am saying it has not addressed this species of moral choice directly, which is why it is utterly inappropriate for Shea to accuse me of defending consequentialism merely because I embrace the approach of theologians other than aquinas or augustine on this issue. Shea and others are in the wrong for mischaracterizing the competing view as a form of heresy when the magisterium does no such thing. He owes me and others an apology for doing so, as I see it.

    Deacon Jim R.

  • LT

    I think the only thing you could add to this in support of everyone is trying to do good, is what Aristotle said, and Aquinas followed, about the good: ‘everything we do, every art, every craft….seems to aim at some good,so it has been well said that the good is that of which everything aims.’…Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

  • Fernanda

    I’m curious what the author would think of the incidence in Scripture of Jesus driving out the money changers from the temple. Jesus got physically violent in this situation–making a whip and swinging it, overturning tables…

    Clearly, the greater good was to restore the spirit of prayer to the temple, to make it not longer be a den of thieves. The means to achieve that good are normally frowned upon.

    Yet we know Jesus committed no sin. How does this story fit into the author’s thesis?

  • joanie

    @nobody
    You are right that it would be the same for me to conclude that you are engaging in detraction for I do not know your heart.

    But you are the one who asserts that it is not necessary to have any interior disposition but merely to “objectively” do something that fits the definition. So by your standards you engage in detraction and you seem to be doing this to serve an end that you seem interested in, holding one individual up for public scorn.

    As I stated, if we are all going to be very concerned about one another’s venial sins, or concluding that one another is sinning when we do not know what is in another’s heart, then, I expect that we will be so (subjectively, objectively) spiritually evolved that abortion and all else PP is interested in providing as a “service” to enable people to further patronize and exploit and violate underage minors to serve their own favorite ends.

  • crazylikeknoxes

    Thanks for the response. I agree that what we are talking about is lying for the sake of utility. I know some people focus on motive, but for me the issue is more contextual or, as you put it, utilitarian. I am not wholly convinced that lying is wrong in all contexts. A ready example is killing. Killing in self-defense is acceptable, killing in the context of abortion is not. But, if I am understanding your and Shea’s position correctly, then “it is wrong to lie even to the murderer who comes to your door demanding to know where to find his intended victim.” (Edward Feser).

    Also, if the evil in lying consists in the violence done to truth, then I don’t see what basis there exists for legitimate deceptions, mental reservations, and crafty speech. Such conduct may be equally compromising of the truth.

  • Michael PS

    An example of deception with out lying is equivocation: “Is X about?” “He went out at about 10 o’clock” [Even though he has since come back] or, in answering a question, one might say, “I really couldn’t say,” meaning either “I don’t know” or “I am under a duty not to tell you” or “He isn’t here,” meaning “not in this room.”

    Another is wide mental reservation, as when a priest denies knowledge of something, which he knows under the seal of the confessional. The reservation here is a matter of general knowledge and so is not considered false. Again, certain phrases have aquired a special meaning – “Not at home” = “Not receiving visitors,” or “I don’t have the money” = “I don’t have the money for that purpose.” Similarly, using a made-up name, as an incognito is not considered a lie, for it is a mere label one assumes for a particular purpose, like a stage-name or a nom de plume

    In these cases, no false statement is made and the hearer is not so much deceived as deceives himself, by misconstruing what is said.

    Manuals of moral theology contain numerous examples; the authors seem to have enjoyed exercising their ingenuity, in devising examples.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    “Since, as Thomas points out, it’s not possible not to seek one’s own happiness and, as Augustine points out, all sin is disordered love, it follows that the man you describe was after some good in a radically perverted way.”

    I disagree Mark. I think quite a bit of sin is done for the sake of the sin itself, and not for any good. The classic example is Saint Augustine and the pear tree:

    “There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which was not tempting either for its color or for its flavor. Late one night–having prolonged our games in the streets until then, as our bad habit was–a group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried off a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs, after barely tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart–which thou didst pity even in that bottomless pit. Behold, now let my heart confess to thee what it was seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error–not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.”

    If all men sinned only in the attempt to do good, the problem of evil would not be nearly as complex as it is.

  • crazylikeknoxes

    I think we must agree to disagree. If I ask if someone is home and am told they went out, but not that they returned, then I have been led into error by speech and/or conduct against the truth. That may be equivocation, but I would also consider it lying. In the case of Live Action, if they dressed as pimps and went to Planned Parenthood and said, “hypothetically speaking, if I knew underage prostitutes in need of an abortion …,” that would be acceptable?

  • JohnofAustria

    Pro-lifers have always, with naivete, asked Planned Parenthood straight up what they do and have received almost nothing but lies in response. Actors ask them different questions differently and we get the truth. Doesn’t sound like anyone led them into “error”. Rather they were led to finally tell the TRUTH. Oh, I’m sorry, that’s my clunky consequentialism again.

    P.S. – Lauretta’s right about your box being a temptation to sin.

  • Mrs. F

    Some time not too long ago, another author here (Rev. Longenecker, perhaps?) posted an article explaining how an action done with good intentions can have both morally evil and morally good consequences, and how this can, in some cases not be sinful. I also recall reading this in Fr. Laux’s book Catholic Morality, which was a religion text for our homeschool curriculumn last year. As I understand it, if someone breaks into my house in the middle of the night, kills my dog, who was barking, and starts coming toward the bedrooms where my children and I were sleeping peacefully moments ago, I am allowed, by both legal standards and Church teaching, to defend myself and my children. I am allowed to use my shotgun to do so. It is allowed because my intention is defending myself and my children from an imminent (and that’s important, I think) threat to out lives and/or safety (I’m not just shooting to shoot), and though it results in a moral evil (the death or severe injury of the intruder), it also results in a moral good (the safety of myself and my children). The good result is as immediate as the evil and is as important as the evil. This is my understanding of this teaching–I hope I’m accurate.

    So, how does this affect instances that can look like evil means for good ends? Can Live Action’s sting operation be viewed as a good intention (to discover the truth or reveal corruption, perhaps?) that had both a good and bad end (the lies vs. corruption revealed?)? Can something like undercover work be viewed as something with two ends, but morally permissable because the good end overshadows and comes as soon as the bad end and it is done with good intentions? Some cases are very clear-cut, but it seems to me that some are quite tangled and truly could only be judged by God, as He sees our hearts and minds more clearly than we do. Are these two teachings in conflict, or is it only through careful weighing and applying a strict rubric we can distinguish when some things fall into one catagory or another?

  • Nobody

    @joanie:
    You are right that it would be the same for me to conclude that you are engaging in detraction for I do not know your heart.

    Right. Not only that, but you can’t conclude that abortionists or planned parenthood operatives are doing wrong under your subjectivist approach to moral judgment. in short, your subjectivist approach to moral judgment makes moral judgment impossible; so why should anyone listen to you when you make moral judgments?

    You might be interested to know that the idea that an act cannot be judged immoral without reference to the acting subject’s intention is heretical:
    For this reason

  • Christine

    Mrs. F,
    You hit on the point that many have been trying to make–that there may be an analogy between the morality of murder vs. self-defense and the morality of lying vs. justified falsehood, and that this distinction depends on the particular facts of the situation.

    The definitions offered above about categories of lying (jocose, utilitarian, and malicious) are Thomistic definitions–and one would have to first accept Aquinas’s position before adopting these. Of course, it’s Aquinas’s absolutist position on lying that is precisely in question here, and other traditions have existed in the Church that have taken a different approach.

    Deacon Jim Russell wrote:

    it is utterly inappropriate for Shea to accuse me of defending consequentialism merely because I embrace the approach of theologians other than aquinas or augustine on this issue. Shea and others are in the wrong for mischaracterizing the competing view as a form of heresy when the magisterium does no such thing. He owes me and others an apology for doing so, as I see it.

    This is an issue that some have had with Mr. Shea. In his zeal to defend the virtue of honesty, he has at times violated this virtue by committing the sin of rash judgment, assuming those in disagreement are just a bunch of shady consequentialists more interested in bending the truth than following it. He can’t accept the possibility that perhaps, perhaps, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Fortunately, we have at least one Blessed and possible future Doctor of the Church who has recognized the issue is slightly more complex than given here…

    And something else: For those making the ridiculous claim that Lila Rose “entrapped” PP by offering tentative questions and objectively documenting its reactions, you might as well also argue that Inside Catholic’s requirement that we check the “I have read and agree to The Rules” box is a form of entrapment, since IC knows well that half its readers do not bother to read the rules before commenting, and therefore IC is presenting an occasion of sin by tempting us to check this box in order to comment. See where this scrupulosity and rigorism lead? Hogwash!

  • Nobody

    @Mrs. F:

    What you are talking about is the principle of double-effect. The problem with invoking the principle of double-effect here is the same as invoking it (say) in a case of adultery: because adultery is intrinsically immoral, it is always wrong to do it, no matter what good end it is directed toward.

    Suppose a wife commits adultery to save the life of her spouse. Is her act a good act? No, it is not, because a good intention cannot make an intrinsically immoral act into a good one.

    The heresy of consequentialism involves justifying intrinsically immoral acts by appealing to the good consequences which are pursued by the person comitting them. In other words, consequentialism is an attempt to apply the principle of double-effect to intrinsically immoral acts, when in reality it only pertains to behaviors which are morally neutral in themselves and have both good and bad effects.

    An additional problem here is that the principle of double-effect can only be invoked when the bad effect does not cause the good effect. So suppose we stipulate that the lie itself is merely a “bad effect” (!) of the act. Even so, the lie is what caused the good effect, that is, the exposure of Planned Parethood’s vile and illegal activities. So even if the lie were merely a “bad effect” as opposed to the concrete behavior itself, it still would not be justifiable under the principle of double effect.

  • Christine

    Nobody: Your argument begs the question. We already acknowledge that lying is intrinsically immoral. What we contest is whether or not Lila Rose’s actions constitute “lying”. If you take the Aquinas/Augustine view, it does. If you take the Chrysostom/Cassian view, it does not. The Magisterium has yet to definitively pronounce on the matter.

  • sd

    @Christine

    “Nobody: Your argument begs the question. We already acknowledge that lying is intrinsically immoral. What we contest is whether or not Lila Rose’s actions constitute “lying”. If you take the Aquinas/Augustine view, it does. If you take the Chrysostom/Cassian view, it does not. The Magisterium has yet to definitively pronounce on the matter.”

    But the Church, in the CCC, has laid out a clear definition of lying. A definition by which LiveAction’s statements in these sting videos are clearly lies.

    Yes, over time various theologians have debated the issue, and many venerable saints and teachers have come to a definition of lying which is different from that outlined in the CCC. But so what? You could say the same thing about many issues, including, for example, the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

    Pope John Paul II’s introduction to the CCC states:

    “The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.”

  • Lauretta

    This is one of those issues that, as a convert(from atheism), has set off an alarm in me. I will call it my “How can this be true?” alarm. I have another term but it is more colloquial so I will refrain from using it now. As I was learning the faith, certain things that Catholics explained to me just did not seem to add up. Limbo for unbaptized babies, capital punishment, war, etc. My concerns about these issues have been laid to rest over the past several years by clarifications by the Vatican or learning more about the what the Church actually taught about the subject.

    I am having the most difficult time trying to understand how telling the “truth” in a situation such as the scenarios presented with those hiding Jews, slaves, etc. is a higher good than “lying”. If one tells the truth, one may not be committing the sin of lying but they are certainly aiding anther person in committing the mortal sin of murdering another as well as the evil of another person being killed. So, if one tells the truth they personally haven’t committed a sin but have allowed two evils to occur. How can that be a higher good? Where is the love? And I mean Godly love not sentimentality. Where is the sacrifice? I am keeping myself from sinning supposedly but at what cost? The life of one and the spiritual death of another.

    We seem to keep coming back to the superiority of truth over life. Why do we think that way? Someone said that God is Truth which he is, but he is also Life. Primarily he is Love–shouldn’t love be our measure for deciding what is right in a situation? How is telling the truth in that situation more loving, more of a sacrificial gift of self, than lying?

    Someone said that it is totally against God’s nature to lie. Well, it is also against his nature to die but he took on human nature and died to show us the depth of his love for us. We are also called to offer our lives up for another at times.

    Some of the examples given as acceptable equivocations just sound silly to me. Also, I don’t see how hiding someone that another is searching for is any less of a lie than telling them they are not in your home. Judas betrayed Christ by a kiss, an action, not a word. Our actions speak as much or more than our words do many times. I don’t think we can limit our definition of lying to words or phrasing things a certain way to confuse people. That just seems dualistic to me.

    I will continue to follow this discussion but if I am ever faced with such a scenario, my conscience(which I try to form properly) tells me that I would be wrong to tell the truth.

  • Nobody

    I am having the most difficult time trying to understand how telling the “truth” in a situation such as the scenarios presented with those hiding Jews, slaves, etc. is a higher good than “lying”.

    There is a crucial moral difference between positive acts and refraining from acting. One need not speak at all. Indeed, refraining from acting at all is precisely what the Church tells us to do in such a situation:

    In the case of the positive moral precepts, prudence always has the task of verifying that they apply in a specific situation, for example, in view of other duties which may be more important or urgent. But the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever. Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is concretely recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids.Veritatis Splendour

  • Nobody

    On the other hand, the fact that only the negative commandments oblige always and under all circumstances does not mean that in the moral life prohibitions are more important than the obligation to do good indicated by the positive commandments. The reason is this: the commandment of love of God and neighbour does not have in its dynamic any higher limit, but it does have a lower limit, beneath which the commandment is broken. Furthermore, what must be done in any given situation depends on the circumstances, not all of which can be foreseen; on the other hand there are kinds of behaviour which can never, in any situation, be a proper response

  • Nobody

    An oft-unexplored aspect of the Nazis at the door scenario, it seems to me, is that they might kill you if you simply refuse to talk, rather than either lying or giving up Anne Frank.

  • Lauretta

    Very true, Nobody, and it would more than likely prompt them to think that you are hiding someone, so after they killed you, they would tear your house apart until they found those hiding. A whole bunch of bad consequences from your avoidance of lying.

  • crazylikeknoxes

    Your concerns with this issue seem fairly close to mine. If I’m ever on the lamb, I know where not to hide! Joking. I don’t think this will we resolved anytime soon. Good one about The Rules box.

  • Brian English

    “But the Church, in the CCC, has laid out a clear definition of lying. A definition by which LiveAction’s statements in these sting videos are clearly lies.”

    I hate to inject something as frivolous as common sense into this high-brow discussion, but do you seriously believe that when the Church issued this version of the Catechism it meant to condemn, as engaging in continuing sinful actions: (1) all police who go undercover using false identities; (2) all police who represent themselves as children on the internet to try to apprehend child predators; (3) all spies who use false identities; and (4) all investigative journalists?

  • Lauretta

    According to many experts on this, yes.

  • Nobody

    A whole bunch of [hypothetical] bad consequences from your avoidance of lying.

    You can always come up with lots of bad consequences from refraining to do an intrinsically immoral act in a hypothetical scenario. It is often the case in real scenarios too: abortion to save the life of the mother is never morally licit; occasions where it is done are all too real. That is (apparently) why consequentialism has such appeal.

    Consequentialists are always raising dire consequences as the reason why we should embrace consequentialism, just as atheists are always raising the problem of evil as a reason why we ought to reject Christianity. That is because the issues raised are genuinely troubling. If you are Catholic, though, you know which side you have to come down on.

    As for undercover work, etc: I would say that in practice it is probably a lot more morally problemmatic than most want to admit, while at the same time I don’t endorse the straw man that all undercover work, investigative journalism, etc is inherently and necessarily sinful.

  • Fernanda

    So… The Catechism actually says undercover police work, spying and investigative journalism are immoral?

    I’m open to that either way. It’s easy to pick on Lila Rose because she stuck her neck out and she’s not part of any establishment.

    Is Mark Shea prepared to write a similar article calling out the folks who do this sort of thing day in and day out as part of their jobs?

  • Christine

    SD wrote:

    “But the Church, in the CCC, has laid out a clear definition of lying. A definition by which LiveAction’s statements in these sting videos are clearly lies.”

    SD: The original version of the Catholic Catechism include a definition of lying that would have exonerated Lila Rose. It later replaced that one with the current definition.

    I agree with Jeffrey Mirus’s analysis:

    Of course, the Catechism is intended as a basic compendium of Catholic doctrine, assembled with due ecclesiastical care, and not as a collection of definitive infallible pronouncements permanently settling every question on every topic it covers. In other words, the change in definition does not mean the original formulation was wrong. But it does mean that the editors of the Catechism were not prepared to endorse it in an official Catholic reference work.

  • Nobody

    I think that Christine is getting to what is really the heart of the dispute: that those who support Live Actions methods can only do so by rejecting the way lying is defined in the Catechism. Rejecting the Catechism’s definition of lying is concomitant to endorsing Live Action’s methods; and people who would endorse Live Actions methods need to realize that in doing so, they are necessarily rejecting the Catechism’s teaching on lying.

    It is true that that Catechism isn’t infallible; but those who reject it on a certain point should, it seems to me, be absolutely certain that they really do know better on the particular point than the Pope who endorsed it, under his Apostolic authority, as a sure norm for teaching the Faith.

  • Christine

    Nobody: Sorry, but you’re taking a hardline stance that the Magisterium herself has never taken. And stop accusing everyone who disagrees with you as a mere consequentialist.

  • Nobody

    … you’re taking a hardline stance that the Magisterium herself has never taken.

    Well, “never,” in this discussion, other than in the Catechism and Veritatis Splendour.

  • Brian English

    “As for undercover work, etc: I would say that in practice it is probably a lot more morally problemmatic than most want to admit, while at the same time I don’t endorse the straw man that all undercover work, investigative journalism, etc is inherently and necessarily sinful.”

    According to your interpretation of the Catechism, do police, spies and investigative reporters who use false identities engage in intrinsically immoral behavior? Yes or no? It is a simple question.

  • Melinda T

    {And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.”

    But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it came about when it was time to shut the gate, at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.”

    But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. (Joshua 2:3-6).}

    Here is an example of a lie which resulted in great good and Rahab ended up in the genealogy of Jesus..though its said that she wasn’t praised for her lie but for her faithfulness….it seems a fine line but an important one…and I can see how this would apply to Lila Rose…and those who hid Anne Frank, and Schindler as well…thank God for them all…

  • Lauretta

    My understanding is that contraception is intrinsically evil. But I have read that the Church has allowed contraceptives to be used in the situation in Africa, I believe, where nuns were in imminent danger of being raped. Also, doesn’t the Church allow a contraceptive pill to be taken by women who have been raped in order to prevent ovulation? Aren’t these exceptions to the prohibition against an intrinsic evil? Might unusual and extraordinary circumstances make something permissible that would ordinarily not be permissible?

    Someone mentioned the issue of abortion and the life of the mother. I was taught that in that circumstance, if both the mother and child were to die if nothing was done, then it is permissible to abort the child. One circumstance that would apply is in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. If the baby is far enough along to have the possibility of viability, then the baby could be delivered by C-section and the baby could be treated and an attempt made to save his life.

    Also, do we know whether or not LA has had spiritual counsel on the matter? We might be arguing about this when they already have permission to do it from someone in authority.

    I keep thinking about the parable of the talents when pondering this issue. At times I think that we might be “protecting” that which God has given us when he was us to be more radical–to love no matter the cost.

  • Christine

    Nobody wrote:

    I think that Christine is getting to what is really the heart of the dispute: that those who support Live Actions methods can only do so by rejecting the way lying is defined in the Catechism.

    Calumny is a sin against the virtue of truth. You’ve committed that sin by what you just said about me.

    In no way, shape, or form have I rejected the Catechism’s teaching on lying, and there is NOTHING in anything I’ve written to support your conclusion. If you really care about the virtue of truth, as you claim, then I expect a full retraction of your slanderous remark and an apology.

    The reason I believe the Catechism doesn’t precisely speak to this issue is because a literalist application of its definition would lead to absurd results. It would make jokes/pranks (“jocose lies”) a sin. Are pranks meant to deceive? Yes, albeit temporarily. Do pranks lead another into (factual) error? Yes, for a time. According to the CCC’s own definitions, then joking and playing innocent pranks would be inherently sinful. Common sense tells you then that the CCC is clearly NOT addressing such situations with its definition, and therefore it does not apply across the board in every single circumstance literally. I do not believe the CCC speaks precisely to the issue of undercover stings, and people like you who keep pounding their fists and insisting that the Magisterium has definitively spoken on the matter are being more dogmatic than the Magisterium itself.

  • Mark Shea

    If all men sinned only in the attempt to do good, the problem of evil would not be nearly as complex as it is.

    True. Which is why I have never said that all men sin “in the attempt to do good.” Obviously, your crazy murderer and Hitler and all the other bad guys we have discussed were not “attempting to do good”. My. Entire. Point. is that these people (and, by the way, us when we set our wills to sin) are attempting to do *evil* in the hope that *they* will attain something that will make them happy (i.e. some good). It’s kind of futile to appeal to Augustine against Augustine. Because Augustine’s point about the pears is not that his sin was not disordered love, but that it was. It’s true that his attempt to gain happiness was nonsensical: all evil is ultimately absurd and nonsensical since it sets one’s will against Him who is truth itself. But that doesn’t mean that the sinner is not making a grab for something he thinks will make him happy. Satan doesn’t fish with a bare hook. He always baits it with something good and tells you it will make you happy. In Augustine’s case, it was precisely the disorder loved of himself and his own will (both good things given him by God) over the love of God and neighbor that he (absurdly) thought would give him happiness. It gave him nothing, because evil always, in the end, is the assertion of our nothingness.

  • joanie

    @Nobody

    So what “kinds of behaviour” is itemized in V. S.?

    Also, you are incorrect to say that mine is a “subjectivist approach”. Are you unable to refrain from just insisting on labelling and branding everyone who debates here?

    At any rate, one can certainly say, consistent with the encyclical you excerpt in small part above, that abortion is immoral and to proceed to have or provide one, with knowledge and intent (which only the Lord knows), consistent with the definition for sin in the catechism, is a mortal sin.

    Similarly engaging in detraction, under the same conditions with knowledge and intent, is sinful.

    So your point here is that you, a mortal, can conclude that certain people have committed mortal sin without knowing their intention or heart? And you are citing Veritatis Splendor as giving you this authority?

  • sd

    @Christine

    “SD: The original version of the Catholic Catechism include a definition of lying that would have exonerated Lila Rose. It later replaced that one with the current definition.”

    Yeah, but that’s the point. The draft version contained an exception that was specifically edited out in the final version. And its not like there were thousands of such revisions between the draft and the final versions. The list of changes in the definitive 1997 edition of the CCC is very short given the overall length of the document. The Church, in its teaching mission, made a choice to modify the language in the draft.

    And even if the original language had not been retracted, its not at all clear that this would have “exonerated” the LiveAction people. First, it was only one paragraph in the section on lying that was modified. Thus the other paragraphs in the CCC that define lying simply as a falsehood intended to deceive (2482), and that condemn lying because it inhibits the ability (not the right) of the hearer to have true knowledge (2486), were still in the original and final versions.

    Further, even if the language in the draft version had been left unchanged, and even if there were not other passages in the CCC that defined lying more strictly, then we’d still be left with the question of whether PP workers have a right to know who is sitting in their offices. Which they clearly do. Its not as if accurate information would have been used for evil purposes. They would have kicked the LiveAction folks out of their offices had they known that they were there to record a “sting” video, but there is nothing immoral about kicking someone out of your office.

    People who are engaged in evil pursuits don’t give up every single one of their rights. If they did, it would be OK to kill PP workers, which clearly its not. Under the scenario you lay out it may well be acceptable to tell falsehoods to PP workers to directly interfere with their ability to perform an abortion, but not to tell falsehoods to them to induce them to say damning things on videotape.

  • sd

    @MelindaT

    “Here is an example of a lie which resulted in great good and Rahab ended up in the genealogy of Jesus..”

    Yep. David is also in the geneaology of Jesus. He killed a man so that he could have sex with his wife. And that also had some “good” consequences, since Bathsheeba eventually gave birth to Solomon who is credited with writing some of the OT and who built the temple in Jerusalem. But God wasn’t exactly pleased with this chain of events (to put it mildly). Not everything done by every ancestor of Jesus is laudable. Indeed, not even everything that turns out well in the end done by every ancestor of Jesus is laudable.

  • Christine

    SD: The difference between the Rahab and King David examples is that God explicitly rebuked David for killing Bathsheba’s husband, whereas Rahab was not only blessed by God for uttering a falsehood to protect the Jewish spies, but her act was “credited to her as righteousness,” as St. James notes. So your comment is not to the point.

    As to your claim that Lila Rose “induced” PP to say damning things on videotape–Lila Rose no more “induced” PP to sin than a mother induces her child to sin by asking him to tell her who stole from the cookie jar. The mother may know well that her child may be prone to lying–but that doesn’t make her guilty of creating an occasion of sin by asking the question. If you watch the tapes, you’ll see that Lila Rose’s questions are very tentative, there is no pressure whatsoever placed on the the employee, who is free to say yes or no–and who voluntarily chooses to do what PP employees systematically do: look the other way in the face of underage abuse.

    I prefer to assume the best about Lila Rose’s intentions–that she went there to objectively document PP’s response to a situation, hoping in her heart that the employee would obey the law, but discovering otherwise.

    Also, your response concerning the definition of lying in the CCC fails to address the issue. Applying the CCC’s definition literalistically would result in absurd consequences, such as jokes/pranks being inherently sinful because they intend to deceive and lead another into error (at least temporarily). This excessively literalist approach reminds me of the Pharisees, who would rather berate Jesus for allowing his disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath than concern themselves with feeding their hungry brothers.

  • Nobody

    Yes, well, I guess that’s about all for me then. Have a safe ride home, and remember to tip your waitresses.

  • Christine

    Nobody: Since you’ve clearly refused to apologize for your calumny, you’ve proven to me what I’ve suspected all along about many rigorists–such as yourself–with whom I’ve been debating: you’re more interested in being right than in seeking the truth. I have no respect for people like you, who have the veneer of righteousness yet don’t think twice about slandering their neighbor. I won’t be dealing with you anymore.

  • Brandon Watson

    Christine, I’m not sure I see where you have actually proven that Nobody was guilty of calumny. The one part of Nobody’s comment that you quoted simply said, “I think that Christine is getting to what is really the heart of the dispute: that those who support Live Actions methods can only do so by rejecting the way lying is defined in the Catechism.” But it is not a sin to reject the way something is defined in the Catechism; and indeed, Nobody explicitly pointed that out in the next paragraph from the comment you were reacting to.

    I notice that you have suggested that Nobody is guilty of rigorism, calumny, false righteousness, slander, and lack of concern with the truth, and that likewise, you have in this thread suggested that Mark Shea is guilty of dishonesty (specifically, violations of the virtue of honesty) and rash judgment; and that SD is guilty of sins against charity; and that everyone who is arguing for the Augustinian/Thomist position of rigorism and scrupulosity. On behalf of all of us who have in this discussion defended the general form of that position of which variants are held by St. Augustine, St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, Bl. John Duns Scotus, and others, I thank you for your zealous efforts in attempting to perform the charitable work of fraternal correction. However, I would suggest that your evidence for most of these claims is weak at best.

    However, I would also suggest that all of this is ultimately beside the point. In all this dispute over lying there are really only three questions of importance:

    (1) Is it morally legitimate, and consistent with Catholic teaching, for a Catholic to accept one of the versions of the Augustinian/Thomist/Bonaventuran/Scotist/Liguorian position that lying is the speaking of falsehood with the intention to deceive?
    * Reason for thinking the answer is Yes: The list of saints, who know something about morality, who have held this position is very, very long; what is more, many of those saints not only held the position but argued specifically for it. Further, it has been the overwhelmingly dominant view of Catholic moral theologians across a wide variety of cultures and times. Further, the CCC is most naturally read as affirming it, since it quotes Augustine and makes claims that fit this position very, very well.
    * Consequences of answering Yes: It is neither detraction, nor calumny, nor rash judgment, nor lack of charity, nor failure of compassion, nor scrupulosity, nor rigorism for someone to conclude on the basis of it that a particular action, like that of Live Action, is wrong and should not be imitated. Nor is it any of these things if one is simply arguing that the position is true, or that it is better or less morally dangerous than the alternatives.

    (2) What specific alternative is being put forward to this position, and what is the specific evidence that that position is consistent with Catholic teaching, especially (but not only) Catholic teachings against consequentialism and laxism?
    :: This is a real and important question, and every genuinely Catholic alternative must have reasonable and clear answers to them. It is the test of whether it can even be put on the table as a genuine option for Catholics. The Augustinian/Thomist position easily passes the test with flying colors. Every other position has to pass the same test and show, with specific arguments, that it, in the specific form in which it is put forward, is not consequentialist, &c.

    (3) Does that specific position actually have the results claimed for it?
    :: It has, for instance, been suggested in comments above that if the version of the sentence, with the right-to-know-the-truth qualification, that existed in the unofficial English draft translation of the CCC, were accepted, it would clearly put Live Action in the right. I have not once seen any proof that this is the case; and in fact positions that have a right to know qualification have historically exhibited massive variations since they were first developed by Protestant jurists, and many of them would not have the result claimed. (There are so many different kinds of rights, and so many different ways rights can be grounded or annulled or immune to annulment, that details matter a great deal with such a position.) Likewise it has been suggested that the principles of Cyprian, or Chrysostom, or Newman, would give this result; I have seen no actual argument for this, either, and given that (A) both Cyprian and Chrysostom are using words that are much, much broader than the words we use to mean ‘lie’ (both of them include, for instance, cases of withholding the truth, breaking a promise you should not have made, and simply letting people be deceived without enlightening them), and that (B) Newman’s argument is simply an argument that “whereas the rule of Truth is one and the same both to Catholic and Protestant, nevertheless some Catholics were lax, some strict, and again some Protestants were strict, some lax” and that Catholics are not therefore inferior to Protestants on this point, it really does need to be argued. And so on through all the rest.

  • Zac

    Lauretta,

    Rape is an intrinsically evil act of violence, against which the victim has the right to defend herself. This extends to the use of contraception to prevent pregnancy. Most discussions of contraception are in the context of a marital relationship, in which case they are contrary to the goods of marriage. But I would be surprised to find anyone claiming that contraception is *intrinsically* evil.
    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0566.html

    Abortion, however, *is* intrinsically evil, because by its very nature it is contrary to the good of life, not to mention charity and justice. In cases of ectopic pregnancy, doctors may remove the fallopian tube, despite knowing that the child will thereby die. This is permitted in accordance with the principle of double-effect. However, other methods that kill the child as a means of removing it constitute abortion and are not permitted.
    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/medical_ethics/me0140.htm

    Regards,

    Zac

  • Nobody

    (blink)

    Zac, my understanding is that contracepted sexual acts are most definitely intrinsically immoral. A rape victim is not choosing a contracepted sexual act, though, because the rape victim isn’t choosing a sexual act at all: the not-choosing-a-sexual-act-at-all is what makes it rape.

    Also, folks are not using the term “rigorist” correctly, as I understand it. A rigorist is really a kind of probabiliorist: he thinks that when the majority of respectable theological opinions on act X are that act X is wrong, that – the fact of that majority of theological opinions – makes it wrong to do act X. A rigorist believes in a kind of deontological democracy of theologians, where theologians make an act wrong by asserting their opinions. Personally I think that is just another form of moral relativism/subjectivism, and I reject it absolutely.

    Thinking rigorously is not “rigorism”.

  • Michael PS

    Therefore, touching Rahab in Jericho, because she entertained strangers, men of God, because in entertaining of them she put herself in peril, because she believed on their God, because she diligently hid them where she could, because she gave them most faithful counsel of returning by another way, let her be praised as meet to be imitated even by the citizens of Jerusalem on high. But in that she lied, although somewhat therein as prophetical be intelligently expounded, yet not as meet to be imitated is it wisely propounded: albeit that God has those good things memorably honoured, this evil thing mercifully overlooked.

  • Zac

    Hi Nobody,

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood, but I don’t think we are in disagreement. If we agree that contraceptive methods, devices or procedures can be used to prevent conception after a rape, then these methods etc are not intrinsically immoral; but as you state it, the immorality of contraception is contingent on its use in certain circumstances. If contraceptive methods etc were intrinsically immoral, they could not be used even after a rape…as is the case with abortion, which is immoral even when pregnancy has resulted from rape.

  • Brian English

    “then we’d still be left with the question of whether PP workers have a right to know who is sitting in their offices. Which they clearly do.”

    Why? They offer services to the general public and receive taxpayer money to support providing those services. In addition, How many people do you think go to PP and use phony names?

    Is it really your position that PP workers have a privacy right to advise real pimps and prostitutes on how to circumvent the law, and must be protected from fake pimps and prostitutes who will reveal what the PP workers are doing? I do not think that is the result the Catechism is aiming for.

  • Lauretta

    This is a quote on contraception:

    On September 17, 1983, Pope John Paul II told a group of priests that

  • Nobody

    Zac:

    I’m pretty sure we disagree about contraception. Furthermore, the Church most definitely teaches that contraception is intrinsically immoral.

    The error people are making, as I understand it, rests in the fact that choosing to contracept cannot be separated from choosing to engage in a sexual act: the sexual act isn’t a mere circumstance of contraception. It is literally impossible for someone who is neither choosing nor contemplating choosing a sexual act to contracept.

    Again, the reason a nun in Africa who attempts to get her attacker to don a condom before raping her is not contracepting is because the nun in question is not choosing to engage in a sexual act at all.

    Aborting a child-of-rape is immoral because it is murder, plain and simple: the child is in no sense attacking her mother, it was the rapist who attacked her mother.

    I view this as a significant digression from the subject at hand, though, so that’s probably all I’ll say on it. In fact I had expected to quit the thread entirely until I saw your post calling into question the intrinsic immorality of contraception.

  • Christine

    Brandon Watson wrote:

    It is neither detraction, nor calumny, nor rash judgment, nor lack of charity, nor failure of compassion, nor scrupulosity, nor rigorism for someone to conclude on the basis of it that a particular action, like that of Live Action, is wrong and should not be imitated.

    Correct–it isn’t; if you’ve followed my remarks, you’d see I haven’t done what you claim.

    First: I never accused anyone here of detraction.

    Two: Yes, it is a serious charge to accuse another of rejecting Church teaching; I would never accuse another of doing that without solid evidence, since I consider such rejection a sin. It is indeed calumny for Mr. Nobody to make that claim about me, particularly when nothing I’ve written supports it. I do not reject the CCC’s definition of lying; I do not believe the CCC itself meant to give an exhaustive definition of lying for all time that applies everywhere and in all places (which seems evident when applied to the “jocose lie”–which no one here has bothered to deal with). The investigative role-playing that Lila Rose conducted seems to fall into a grey area that the CCC does not directly address–and one does not have to come to this conclusion by “rejecting” its definition of lying.

    Three: A number of times here and elsewhere I’ve seen so-called zealous defenders of Truth sinning against charity by assuming the worst motives possible about Lila Rose, e.g., that she went into the PP clinic secretly hoping and wishing she would catch PP breaking the law. Charity demands (as the Catechism teaches) that we give others the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of their motives, so I have no problem assuming Ms. Rose went in there secretly hoping the PP employee would obey the law, for the good of her soul; the fact that she documented otherwise is not her fault.

    Fourth: I never accused anyone here of “failure of compassion” or “scrupulosity.” Let’s please not be careless with words and claim I’ve done things I haven’t actually done.

    Fifth: It is indeed rash judgment to automatically assume that anyone who disagrees with your position is a consequentialist more interested in bending the truth than upholding it. I’ve seen Mr. Shea, Mr. Nobody, and many, many others here and elsewhere make that unjust assumption.

    Sixth: Rigorists are those who essentially prefer law over charity. When someone is more concerned about a Nazi’s right to truth than an innocent’s right to life, then yes, I cannot help but link them to the Pharisees and their excessive concern with the law over concern for their neighbor. When I see proponents of this position then go on, without apology, to commit sins of calumny, rash judgment, sins against charity, etc., then it discredits them further.

    Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have said that the right to life precedes all other rights, and without the right to life, all other rights are useless. That right is not absolute; one can forfeit one’s right to life by, e.g., murdering others. The state may impose the death penalty and take away your right to life then. The same goes for the Nazi, who has forfeited his right to truth by his heinous actions. He has forfeited his right to truth, and does not deserve to know where the Jews are hidden.

    I disagree with you about the “overwhelming support” of the Augustinian tradition; the reason the “right to know” formulation was introduced is because Augustine’s definition was problematic and in some cases unworkable and absurd (the jocose lie, social pleasantries, etc.). Even if it has received “overwhelming support,” as you claim, the Magisterium has never officially declared the Cassian/Chrysostom interpretations heresy, and has allowed freedom for one to embrace either tradition (as Bd. Newman noted).

    Another tradition that received “overwhelming support” in the Church has been usury–but the teaching proved utterly unworkable, and the Church had to revise its definition–but the revision was rather late in coming. I assume, if Mr. Nobody and those of his ilk had lived before the time of its revision, they would have accused those who disagreed with the Church’s position on usury as a bunch of shady consequentialists.

  • sd

    @Christine

    “SD: The difference between the Rahab and King David examples is that God explicitly rebuked David for killing Bathsheba’s husband, whereas Rahab was not only blessed by God for uttering a falsehood to protect the Jewish spies, but her act was “credited to her as righteousness,” as St. James notes. So your comment is not to the point.”

    Whoa whoa whoa now. Let’s not rope St. James into the justification of lying business. James indicates that Rahab found favor with The Lord for welcoming the Israelites and for sending them off to hide from their pursuers. He does not indicate that she found favor with The Lord for lying.

    Which is exactly St. Augustine’s interpretation as well. That Rahab is to be praised for the good she did, but that the fact that she did much good does not justify the sin of lying she committed.

  • Nobody

    Another tradition that received “overwhelming support” in the Church has been usury–but the teaching proved utterly unworkable, and the Church had to revise its definition–but the revision was rather late in coming. I assume, if Mr. Nobody and those of his ilk had lived before the time of its revision, they would have accused those who disagreed with the Church’s position on usury as a bunch of shady consequentialists.

    People keep saying that, but it simply isn’t true. As near as I can tell, most people just don’t know what usury is and is not (which hasn’t changed since the Middle Ages).

    It is true that pastoral instructions to confessors with respect to usury have changed; but as I observed (with citation) above, the Church does not intend those instructions to say anything at all about moral doctrine with respect to usury – to the extent that preachers in Viviers who were preaching otherwise had to be reined in by their Bishop.

    Rigorism, again, doesn’t mean prioritizing truth over charity. Truth and charity are not in opposition; someone making an error in charity is also making an error in truth. I described the meaning of rigorism already above, and don’t see the point in describing it again.

    Finally, if I’ve accused anyone of being a “shady consequentialist” or anything of the like, I’d appreciate a citation of where I did that. (On the other hand, folks have quite explicitly accused me of calumny, detraction, and other things which are patently untrue).

    I maintain that people who support Live Actions methods are making an error about moral truth, and that yes, the error of consequentialism is generally (though doubtless not always) part and parcel to that error. I also maintain that in order to make this error, one must necessarily place onesself in opposition to the definition of lying in the Catechism. Again, that doesn’t make them wrong — the Catechism is not infallible, and no, it is not intended to be comprehensive treatment of all possible moral cases, but yes, when it was written this specific issue about the definition of lying was addressed and consciously resolved in this particular way. But does mean that someone who is considering taking that position, contrary to the Catechism, ought to be really, really sure that they’ve comprehensively studied the issue and really know what they are doing.

    Finally, along with other commentators I haven’t seen any particularly compelling evidence that this is the case: all I’ve seen is a lot of complaints that the result defies common sense or intuitions whatever. That is fine as far as it goes, but is extremely weak: the wrongness of lots of moral wrongs defy the common sense and intuitions of lots of people. In that sense the digression into contraception makes a useful example.

  • sd

    @Christine

    “Three: A number of times here and elsewhere I’ve seen so-called zealous defenders of Truth sinning against charity by assuming the worst motives possible about Lila Rose, e.g., that she went into the PP clinic secretly hoping and wishing she would catch PP breaking the law. Charity demands (as the Catechism teaches) that we give others the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of their motives, so I have no problem assuming Ms. Rose went in there secretly hoping the PP employee would obey the law, for the good of her soul; the fact that she documented otherwise is not her fault.”

    One need not say anything about what LiveAction agents “wanted” to find when they presented their false scenarios to PP workers to understand their motivations. They intended to deceive the PP workers, and took along video cameras to catch the responses to these deceitful scenarios. They may well have “hoped” that the PP workers would kick them out and call the police, but they clearly didn’t expect them too. If they expected them to do so, why on Earth would they have gone to the trouble of setting up the “sting” operations in the first place, why would they have done so multiple times, and why would they have gone to great lengths to create video and audio records of the encounters? Further, this is an organization that has produced similar “sting” recordings in the past.

    So if you choose to believe that the LiveAction agents sincerely wanted to be kicked out of the PP clinics that they visited having not gotten any incriminating behavior on tape then you’re free to do so. But that doesn’t have any impact on the question of whether they lied or whether in lying they have done something wrong.

  • Christine

    SD: I’m well aware of Augustine’s interpretation of Rahab’s deceit. Augustine is not the Magisterium. St. Cassian and St. Chrysostom had opposite interpretations, and these have not been condemned by the Church as false or heretical. The point I was making is that your example of King David’s sin with Bathsheba is not on point, sin God explicitly rebuked him for that sin, whereas Rahab’s actions (founded on her deception) were praised in both the OT and the NT.

  • sd

    @Christine

    “I disagree with you about the “overwhelming support” of the Augustinian tradition; the reason the “right to know” formulation was introduced is because Augustine’s definition was problematic and in some cases unworkable and absurd (the jocose lie, social pleasantries, etc.).”

    The idea that LiveAction’s tactics are only in question because the CCC has some sort of remarkably weird and strict definition of what constitutes a “lie” is just not right.

    If someone walked into your home, claimed to be someone they were not, with the express purpose of getting you to react to this deceitful scenario (and, for good measure, recording your reaction on tape), then you would say that you had been lied to. If you said that you didn’t think you had been lied to I’d question your fundamental judgement. Indeed, if you had not been lied to in this circumstance, what exactly would constitute a lie?

    To defend LiveAction’s tactics you need to do one of two things. Either you need to say that lying is not always wrong, or you need to say that waht they did was not lying.

    The first of these options runs straight against the Magisterial teaching of the Church. Lying is and always has been defined as a sin, and the Church is crystal clear that sins remain sins even if the person committing the sin has good intention or if there are good consequences of committing the sin.

    The second of these options condtradicts the CCC. As Nobody has pointed out, that CCC is not per se infallible (though it is presented to the faithful by the Magisterium as a reliable guide to faith and morals) and so one could in theory say that the CCC simply gets the definition of lying wrong.

    But to do that, you would then need to argue that its not lying to mis-represent yourself to someone in order to prompt them to action. Does anyone, apart from the desire to keep on supporting a political tactic that they think is effective in the fight against the evil of abortion, actually believe that?

    And finally – yes the “right to know” formulation was introduced. Then it was dropped. The CCC as officially issued to the Church does not contain this formulation. The fact that such language was in an early draft is irrelevant.

  • Christine

    SD wrote:

    One need not say anything about what LiveAction agents “wanted” to find when they presented their false scenarios to PP workers to understand their motivations.

    Really? Weren’t you just saying some comments ago that Lila Rose went into these clinics to “induce” PP employees to break the law, i.e., to sin? I prefer to think her motives were to objectively document how a PP employee would react in a particular circumstance. That’s far different from your claim, which would necessarily include more sinister motives on her part.

    As to Nobody’s response, the only thing that is “patently untrue” in any of this is that I’ve rejected Church teaching or the Catechism’s definition of lying. I do not think the CCC’s definition of lying is in any way incompatible with my position, so he may need to think a little harder on the topic and reformulate his opinion. The current CCC definition doesn’t repudiate the definition in the original version, which he seems to wrongly assume. And the very fact that the original definition was carefully thought out and included and went to press with the approval of the Holy See ought to at least alert people to the fact that the definition is nowhere settled, obvious, and irreformable, as so many here seem to claim.

  • Nobody

    The fact that such language was in an early draft is irrelevant.

    Well, I consider it of at least some significance that it was proposed in the draft, considered, and deliberately dropped. It is a different case than if it had never been considered: then one might plausibly argue that the current text was published as a kind of summary without considering the nuances of the particular question. In fact, though, the particular question was considered and the exception was deliberately left out.

    Contrast this to the Catechism’s treatment of theft:

    2408 The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one’s disposal and use the property of others.

    In the case of lying, though, the Magisterium deliberately left out the qualification after consideration. That is more significant, it seems to me, than if the qualification simply were not in the text.

  • Christine

    Usury has always been morally impermissible–but it is the definition of usury that has changed. The Church used to adhere to Aquinas’s absolutist stance forbidding lending with interest:

    The lender cannot enter an agreement for compensation through the fact that he makes no profit out of his money: because he must not sell that which he has not yet and may be prevented in many ways from having.

    (ST II-II.78.2 ad 1)

    Although this definition made sense in 13th century economies, it soon proved unworkable and unjust to later lenders, whose loss of profit was virtually assured. The Church recognized this and, though it still condemns usury per se, revised its definition to allow lending with (reasonable) interest.

    And those who claim the CCC endorses Augustine/Aquinas’s absolutism (I don’t believe it does) need to deal with the problem of jocose lies and social pleasantries, and why such things are not sins, since strict application of the absolutist position would make them sinful. In fact, one commenter even claimed Aquinas considered jokes to be venially sinful, since they deceive people, albeit temporarily. If anyone actually believes this is what the CCC definition of lying means to condemn, then I have a hard time continuing this conversation further with them…

  • sd

    @Christine

    “And those who claim the CCC endorses Augustine/Aquinas’s absolutism (I don’t believe it does) need to deal with the problem of jocose lies and social pleasantries, and why such things are not sins, since strict application of the absolutist position would make them sinful.”

    First of all, its difficult to argue that the CCC isn’t aligned with Augustine’s view of lying when para. 2482, which leads off the discussion of lying, begins with a quote from St. Augustine: “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.”

    Second, social pleasantries present no problem for even a strict reading of the CCC on this topic, because if a society uses certain typical words and phrases as pleasantries then one is not attempting to deceive another by deploying them. For example, if its social convention to ask people you pass in the hallway at work “how’s it going?” and for them to reply “fine,” then the reply of “fine” is not a lie even in situation where the person saying it is having a lousy day because the verbal exchange itself is not meant to communicate information. The shared culture of the two people specifies that certain stock phrases will be exchanged from time to time not as a way to meaningfully exchange information but as an acknowledgement of the other person in passing.

    Pranks are a bit more difficult to assess. If one has a circle of friends in which pranks are common and a means for the group to bond with one another in mutual enjoyment, then faslehoods communicated in the course of a prank are likely not lies. Like social pleasantries, they form part of the shared verbal landscape of a community of persons who know one another and expect to play tricks one on another over time.

    Pranks played on complete strangers however, I’d have to say are lies. Maybe very minor lies (venial sins) but lies (and thus sins) nonetheless (c.f. the movie Borat, which is very funny until you realize that the fun is being had at the expense of people who did not consent to the antics, at which point its becomes apparent just how shitty the scenarios are). Because when one interacts with complete strangers, the expectation is that one’s statements are true or otherwise that one is not acting charitably.

    But in any event telling someone who you’ve never met, who would not open up to you if they knew you were really a political activist of a markedly different political persuasion who is carrying around a hidden video camera, that you are a pimp, is neither a social pleasantry nor a prank. Its just a lie.

  • Brandon Watson

    Christine,

    (1) I never said you claimed anyone was guilty of detraction; where you claimed something I specifically said that you claimed it. The latter part of the comment wasn’t intended to be about you, but about what the title of the comment said it was: the nux or kernel of the issue. Detraction was raised by several other people in the above comment thread, as you must be aware if you have bothered to read any of the discussion above, and lack of compassion has been raised before elsewhere. You explicitly used the phrase ‘scrupulosity’ yourself in describing consequences of the Augustinian position above; I quote:

    And something else: For those making the ridiculous claim that Lila Rose “entrapped” PP by offering tentative questions and objectively documenting its reactions, you might as well also argue that Inside Catholic’s requirement that we check the “I have read and agree to The Rules” box is a form of entrapment, since IC knows well that half its readers do not bother to read the rules before commenting, and therefore IC is presenting an occasion of sin by tempting us to check this box in order to comment. See where this scrupulosity and rigorism lead? Hogwash!

    In other words, please keep in mind that things addressed to you are not always about you. Indeed, very little in the discussion is about you, or me, or anyone else.

    (2) Nobody didn’t accuse you of rejecting Church teaching. First, Nobody was making a general claim about the position Nobody was opposing, and merely building on something you had said. As far as I can see, it is you who made it personal. Second, Nobody only said that that position requires rejecting the definition of the Catechism; and went on immediately to note that the Catechism is not infallible. It is thus possible to reject definitions in the Catechism without rejecting Church teaching; the claim that Nobody was making was that people who have positions that diverge from the CCC need to have extremely good reasons for their positions.

    (3) It may well be that you’ve seen people attribute awful things to Lila Rose and others; that tells us nothing about whether any particular person in the discussion is guilty of any of the sins you are claiming.

    (4) As to your charge: “It is indeed rash judgment to automatically assume that anyone who disagrees with your position is a consequentialist more interested in bending the truth than upholding it. I’ve seen Mr. Shea, Mr. Nobody, and many, many others here and elsewhere make that unjust assumption.” This may be, but where have you properly proven it in order to be able to make the charge? You’ve certainly stated it, and other things, enough; but how many people in this discussion who have disagreed with you have not been charged by you with dishonesty, rash judgment, calumny, rigorism, or lack of concern for the truth? And where have you actually published the arguments that they are really guilty of these things? Surely you’ve put in place safeguards to make sure that you are not engaging in calumny and rash judgment yourself. So where are they?

    (5) It is false to say that “Rigorists are those who essentially prefer law over charity.” Rigorism is the position condemned by the Church that holds that, in cases where we are not dealing with intrinsic evils, then either it is always impermissible and imprudent to to deviate from the safest course unless it is at least almost certain that it is the right course. Rigorism, like laxism, is a failure to give prudence its proper place in moral thought.

    However, I know that you did not intend to accuse Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Scotus, and Liguori, among many others, of rigorism and of putting law above charity, despite the fact that they regularly say things similar to what you are criticizing, and, indeed, in several cases some of them argue that all uttering of falsehood with the intent to deceive is itself an offense against charity. So it’s not at all clear what you think is to be gained by calling people rigorists in this context.

    (6) There is no “Cassian/Chrysostom tradition”. Cassian, Chrysostom, and Newman have completely different positions on the subject. So whose position are you actually taking? What are your actual principles? You are extraordinarily confident that Aquinas and all the others were wrong, so you must have an excellent alternative account of lying that deals with all the problems you claim the Augustinian position has to deal with. But I can’t find it anywhere; all your comments about alternatives are either very vague, or lump together radically different viewpoints as if they were the same. What is your position?

    Further, you are completely ignoring the point of my third question. You haven’t done anything to show that if we follow Cassian (who is very critical of deception in general and only allows any kind of deception where it is absolutely essential to salvation or charity), or that if we follow Chrysostom (who mostly just allows letting people be deceived when it is clear that they themselves will benefit from it), or anyone else, that it will have any of the results that you are suggesting it would.

    In other words: I have seen no arguments in this entire discussion, from you or anyone else, that opponents of the Augustinian position are really and truly following Cassian, or Chrysostom, or Newman. All I’ve seen are vague references to these few scattered saints, without any indication that their actual arguments are being respected in the slightest. Anyone who claims that the broadly Augustinian position is untenable owes us a clear alternative account, with reasonable evidence that it does not entail consequentialism and other false doctrines. But where is it? I’d love to see it. What is your actual account of lying, how does it avoid the problems you attribute to the Augustinian position, and what about it grounds it in Church teaching so as to be definitely consistent with it?

  • Nobody

    Well, there are all sorts of things we could talk about here. We could talk about trade credit at the medieval fairs; we could talk about the differences between mutuum and societas, and how the words “lender” and “loan” in modern ears don’t do justice to medieval thought; we could talk about titles to interest with varying degrees of theological support, e.g. lucrum cessans, damnum emergens, etc; we could talk about Franciscan credit agencies which loaned money to the poor at interest with Papal approval and protection; we could talk about insurance, the sea contract, the triple contract; we could talk about Pope Callixtsus V’s (IIRC) declaration that labeling a societas (asset-recourse) contract a “loan” doesn’t make it usury and thereby excuse the borrowers from paying it back; heck, we could talk for days, using far more words than a combox discussion can support.

    We could talk about how no matter how far and wide that discussion roams, Christine will never produce a Magisterial statement to the effect that:

    The Church recognized this and, though it still condemns usury per se, revised its definition to allow lending with (reasonable) interest.

    … and that the reason she won’t produce such a pronouncement of usury-definition-revision is because it doesn’t exist.

    All that, though, would merely lend credence to the idea that any of this has anything to do with what is under contention here about lying.

    When it comes to lying, a Catholic who supports Live Action’s methods has to, in effect, re-insert words into the Catechism which were deliberately considered in draft and then deliberately left out. That isn’t a crazy thing to do. It isn’t an inherently heretical thing to do. It isn’t even an inherently consequentialist thing to do; though the vast majority of arguments I’ve seen in its favor are consequentialist arguments. If you must stand on that ground, and you’ve absolutely done all due diligence and know exactly what you are doing, then by all means stand on that ground.

    At the same time, though, it is only fair to anyone who might be reading this to acknowledge openly the shakiness of that ground.

  • Christine

    Nobody: So you’re claiming there has been NO development in doctrine with regard to usury?

    By the way, I do believe Lila Rose, under the doctrine of broad mental reservation, is free from sin in her conduct; one of her videotapes shows her claiming to be involved in

  • Nobody

    Nobody: So you’re claiming there has been NO development in doctrine with regard to usury?

    No. Where did I make such a claim? More importantly what, precisely, is the relevance to the morality of Live Action’s methods?

    On second thought, nevermind. This discussion is well past its sell-by date. Have a nice weekend.

  • Lauretta

    This discussion has gotten intense today. I can certainly understand both positions and if I were to just read Augustine and Aquinas and the Catechism without looking at those ideas in real life, I would tend to agree with Mark, Nobody, sd, etc. But when looking at the Word that is proclaimed in the world in which we live(creation), then things get a little more difficult to discern. Also, the instances given in Scripture such as Rahab and Solomon would lead me to disagree with the first group. God is portrayed in the Old Testament as acting quickly when someone does something that he really disagrees with, such as David’s chastisement, Lot’s wife, Onan’s sin, Sarah’s husbands in Tobit, etc. But in the examples of Rahab and Solomon who certainly said that which was not in their minds in order to deceive others, there were no consequences. Why is that? Christine, in the quote following brings up more current examples which does not seem to bring forth any chastisement from the Church:

    “What I do is question the workability of Augustine

  • Zac

    Nobody, I suspect this is an argument over definitions of terms. The link I provided earlier quotes from the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services:

    “A woman who has been raped may defend herself against a conception resulting from sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medication that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”

    The article states: “In preventing pregnancy, most rape treatment protocols recommend anti-fertility drugs to be administered within 72 hours and over a period of several days. These drugs, such as Ovral, inhibit ovulation. However, some contraceptives may also affect the endometrium of the uterus, causing the expulsion of a conceived ovum. This latter effect is problematical.”
    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0566.html

    By my understanding, a drug or medication that prevents conception is a contraceptive, as in the literal meaning contra-(con)ception. You appear to be defining contraception according to its more typical context – as used by consenting sexual partners to prevent conception.

    Strictly speaking, I think it is more accurate to define contraception as the means, regardless of context. Hence, references to the intrinsic immorality of contraception are really referring to ‘contracepted marital acts’ or ‘contraception in a marital context’.

  • Nobody

    You appear to be defining contraception according to its more typical context – as used by consenting sexual partners to prevent conception.

    No, I’m not. I’m saying that one cannot, strictly speaking by precise moral definition, choose to contracept, unless one is also choosing (or preparing to choose) to engage in a sexual act. The choice of a sexual act or preparation for a chosen sexual act is an essential element of the moral act of contraception, not merely a circumstance.

    Practical or colloquial understandings are not precise moral definitions. They can be very helpful in deciding what to do in a particular case; but to use them to generalize is a mistake.

    The consequences of getting the precision wrong are to declare – as you did above – that (contrary to Catholic doctrine) contraception is not intrinsically immoral.

    But contraception – understood as a moral act an essential component of which is choosing a sexual act – is intrinsically immoral. So yes, while the practical result in a particular case may be the same, the resultant generalization to morality that you make from it is completely, emphatically wrong. Contracepted sexual acts are always and intrinsically immoral. A rape victim is not choosing to engage in a contracepted sexual act for which some special exception is made, because a rape victim is not choosing to engage in a sexual act at all.

  • Zac

    So, you are saying that the rape victim who – after the fact – uses drugs or medicines typically understood as ‘contraceptive’ in order to avoid conception, has not in fact used contraception?

  • Michael PS

    Lauretta
    As to the OT examples, St Augustine observes

    But as for us, when we ask whether it be the part of a good man sometimes to lie, we ask not concerning a person pertaining to Egypt, or to Jericho, or to Babylon, or still to Jerusalem itself, the earthly, which is in bondage with her children; but concerning a citizen of that city which is above and free, our mother, eternal in the heavens. And to our asking it is answered,

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Those who refuse to admit that the Magisterium of the Church PERMITS more than one view regarding special cases associated with the eighth commandment are apparently more interested in being “right” or winning the argument than they are in establishing what is true. (Which is in itself highly ironic.)

    Those who accuse Live Action of “Lying for Jesus” appear to be purposely avoiding many aspects of this issue:

    1. The loooong history of theological speculation and discussion regarding when “speaking falsehood” is not sinful.

    2. The clear application of the basic tenets of moral theology, especially as expressed in Veritatis Splendor and the CCC, that *support* the view that LA sting operations are morally permissible.

    3. The comparative value of some aspects of Church teaching regarding special cases in which actions otherwise viewed as intrinsically evil are accepted as morally permissible (e.g., the “contraception” issue).

    4. The clear and profound SILENCE of the Magisterium over 2000 years regarding any positive teaching on special cases connected with the eighth commandment, a continued silence in the face of the debate and discussion of Church Fathers and Scholastics who, I daresay, UNDERSTOOD that a plurality of opinion could exist on this question as long as the Magisterium remained silent.

    5. The inconsistency of the “Lying for Jesus” camp in its assessment of the work of undercover police officers and similar professions that *require* “lying” (so-called) to achieve its moral objectives.

    6. The clear and well-reasoned public support for alternative views voiced by many staunchly Catholic public figures such as Drs. Janet Smith and Peter Kreeft.

    The facts ARE clear–Live Action’s practices are as fully “Catholic” and “moral” in their scope as are similar practices designed to neutralize or diminish the aggression of an unjust agressor. NOTHING in the Catechism or the Magisterium’s other documents contradicts this.

    Now, can we all get back to our regularly scheduled good Catholic lives??? :-)

    In Christ,

    Deacon Jim Russell

  • Nobody

    Zac: yes, precisely, as a moral matter. (How people talk about such things in everyday conversation is another thing entirely).

    A rape victim is not choosing a contracepted sexual act, by the very definition of “rape”; because such a person is not choosing a sexual act at all. It isn’t that contraception is ordinarily immoral, but that rape is a special case where it is permitted. It is that it is not even possible for a rape victim to contracept – where ‘contracept’, again, is a moral term not an everyday term – with respect to the rape, because a rape victim is not choosing the sexual act.

    Strictly speaking the very notion of “a rape victim contracepting” is self-contradictory, since choosing a sexual act is intrinsic to contracepting and a rape victim by definition is not choosing the sexual act in question.

    There are no exceptions whatsoever to the absolute prohibition of contraception. Contraception is intrinsically immoral.

  • Nobody

    Mind you, if any of the unspecified “techniques” you refer to are abortaficient it becomes an entirely different moral evaluation.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    In case there is anyone who has not seen what Newman says regarding this issue, here it is:

    “What I have been saying shows what different schools of opinion there are in the Church in the treatment of this difficult doctrine; and, by consequence, that a given individual, such as I am, cannot agree with all of them, and has a full right to follow which of them he will. The freedom of the Schools, indeed, is one of those rights of reason, which the Church is too wise really to interfere with. And this applies not to moral questions only, but to dogmatic also.”

    Note G–”Lying and Equivocation,” Apologia Pro Vita Sua

    As such, it is clear that Newman does NOT agree that there is only one permissible approach to this question.

    Deacon Jim Russell

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Just to be clear, Nobody:

    The Catholic Bishops of the US have *approved* Catholic hospitals’ administration of non-abortifacient *contraception* (so-called) to women who are rape victims. This is an exact parallel to the “lying” question, since the term “lying”, like the term “contraception” can be utilized in a way that is in one case intrinsically evil, and in another is NOT so. This is not a defect in the moral principles at work–rather, it is a defect of the use of English, insofar as more precise and refined terminology is harder to utilize in debating the issue. Although Janet Smith does it best by distiniguishing “lying” from “speaking falsehood”.

    Deacon Jim R

  • Nobody

    @Deacon Jim Russell:

    I certainly haven’t argued that there is “only one permissible approach” to this question. I’ve stated the contrary explicitly, several times.

    On the other hand, where there are mutually incompatible answers only one of them can ultimately be right. And where there are different approaches, certain approaches can be on far shakier ground than others. I think that is very much the case here.

  • Lauretta

    Thank you, Michael PS, for that quote. I understand that in heaven there will be no lying or falsehoods or whatever we want to call them. There won’t be anyone trying to harm us or another either, which would be the reason for the necessity of “lying” here on earth.

    The more I ponder all of this, the more confused I get. I was thinking of Abraham’s test this morning and reread the scriptures. It sure sounded like God said something to Abraham that he knew he was not going to do. And then Jacob’s deception and on and on. I just don’t see the condemnation from God for these acts like I see for other sins. And Jacob’s deception was purely for his own advancement, he was not protecting anyone.

    It just seems to me that to apply the “no telling of falsehoods at any time for any reason” doctrine, one has to twist and rationalize so many scriptures and other real life occurrences to fit that doctrine, that pretty soon the stories don’t even sound like the original situations.

  • Nobody

    The Catholic Bishops of the US have *approved* Catholic hospitals’ administration of non-abortifacient *contraception* (so-called) to women who are rape victim.

    Yes, of course. Because doing so is not, morally, an act of contraception: it isn’t an exception to the absolute prohibition of contraception, because it isn’t contraception at all. I’ve also outlined why that is the case: the very notion of someone choosing to contracept while at one and the same time not choosing or preparing for choosing a sexual act is self-contradictory. Sexual acts are intrinsic to contraception; moral acts are chosen by the acting subject.

    Lots of people of course have claimed that LA’s methods are not, morally, acts of lying. Those various claims, even from eminences such as Peter Kreeft, appear to rest on little more than strongly asserted intuitions that it just has to be that way: that intuitively outrageous consequences follow if its not that way. Again, that’s fine as far as it goes, but is very weak. Shaky ground indeed.

  • Lauretta

    Nobody, your explanation seems a little confusing to me. I know what you are saying but the term contraception, as understood by us dummies, just means against conception. So, when nuns take a pill anticipating that they may be raped, that sounds just like what others are doing when they take the same pill. The only difference is that the nuns are anticipating a sexual act that they are not consenting to while other women are anticipating a sexual act that they are consenting to. It looks like they are both trying to prevent conception, which is what the term means.

    Most of the statements I have read from the Magisterium condemning contraception put it in the context of marital or nuptial or conjugal relations. I would think it might be a little easier to explain that the Church is trying to protect the marital act by condemning contraception, and not making a statement on contraception itself. But that is just how my brain finds it easier to process!

  • sd

    @Lauretta

    “So, when nuns take a pill anticipating that they may be raped, that sounds just like what others are doing when they take the same pill. The only difference is that the nuns are anticipating a sexual act that they are not consenting to while other women are anticipating a sexual act that they are consenting to. It looks like they are both trying to prevent conception, which is what the term means.”

    I think that’s close to the right interpretation, but not quite right. The Church doesn’t teach that there is anything morally wrong about the collection of chemicals that make up a birth control pill. They’re just chemicals, after all. What is morally wrong is choosing to have sex in such a way that artifically interferes with the natural end of sex – which is both unitive and procreative. The nuns or rape victims in these scenarios aren’t choosing any sort of sex, and thus to administer drugs to them to prevent ovulation is not morally problematic.

  • sd

    @Deacon Jim Russel

    “The Catholic Bishops of the US have *approved* Catholic hospitals’ administration of non-abortifacient *contraception* (so-called) to women who are rape victims. This is an exact parallel to the “lying” question, since the term “lying”, like the term “contraception” can be utilized in a way that is in one case intrinsically evil, and in another is NOT so.”

    Um, no this is not an “exact” parallel at all. If you want to draw parallells between these two issues, the most logical would be that the Church’s “permission” to use birth control for rape victims is equivalent to the Church’s (common sensical) “permission” to speak falsehoods unknowingly (i.s. saying things that are not true because you are mistaken, not because you are trying to deceive). In both cases an act which would be immoral if done with the full consent of the will is morally OK when done without the intent to break a commandment.

    On the larger question, I find your reasoning to be problematic. You seem to be suggesting that because there has been debate on this question among theologians over time and because the Magisterium has not ruled definitively on this matter* that its inappropriate to conclude that LiveAction has sinned. Okey dokey, fair enough. But then you then turn right around and say that therefore it is clear that LiveAction has not sinned. At this point you’ve stopped being internally consistent. If there has been great debate among the worthy teachers of the Faith over time about the morality of these types of acts, and if the Magisterium has not provided definitive guidance, then we absolutely cannot conclude that there is no sin here. You can’t have it both ways – you can’t argue around what the CCC teaches by saying that there is no Magisterial consensus on the issue while turning right around and saying that LiveAction is clearly doing nothing wrong. If it’s such a gray area, then you would have to admit the very breal possibility that LiveAction has indeed committed sins. The culpability of LiveActions agents may be lessed or even nullified if this is such a mysterious fog on contradictory opinion, but there is a right answer to the question.

    *Now, I find the notion that the Magisterium has not ruled on this issue suspect. We do have the CCC after all, which leads off the series of paragraphs on lying with a quote from Augustine that defines lying in a very strict manner (speaking any falsehoods with the intent to deceive). We also know that an ealry draft of the CCC contemplated slightly more expansive language in another paragraph but that this language was deliberately removed in the final, definitive version promulgated by Pope John Paul II. And we do know that if a given act is a lie then it is immoral and cannot be justified. So maybe the Magisterium hasn;t resolved this question to your satisfaction. But as Nobody has pointed out above, that still doesn;t mean that all possible answers to the question have equally strong backing in Church teaching.

  • Nobody

    @Lauretta,
    The only difference is that the nuns are anticipating a sexual act that they are not consenting to while other women are anticipating a sexual act that they are consenting to.

    Right, and that is an essential difference: the nuns are not anticipating choosing a sexual act; and choosing (or anticipation of choosing) a sexual act is an inherent part of contracepting.

    Morally, we are responsible for the behaviors we actually choose. A rape victim, by the definition of rape, is not choosing the sexual act: it is being forced upon her by someone else.

    Confining our strict understanding of contraception as a moral act to the context of marriage can be deceptive(*), because that would imply that outside the context of marriage contraception per se is OK: that is, that it is not an additional moral wrong to contracept when one engages in fornication or adultery. But it is an additional moral wrong to engage in contraception while (e.g.) fornicating, because contracepting, as a moral species unto itself, is intrinsically immoral. It is always and per se morally wrong to choose to engage in a contracepted sexual act, whatever else may obtain.

  • It is true that confining the discussion to the context of marriage keeps discussion in the only area where it is possible to make an otherwise morally good act into a sinful act by contracepting; so as matter of pastoral emphasis, as opposed to precise definition in moral theology, it often makes sense to center discussion on marital relations as opposed to extramarital relations. When you are talking to married people trying to do the right thing, the main thing is to help them know what the right thing is to do for their own situation.
  • Lauretta

    Might there not be a certain confusion stemming from the different ways various cultures look at legal issues? I am not a scholar but it seems to me that certain groups have the understanding that an action that is not expressly condemned is allowed while others believe that an act has to be positively stated as being permissible before it is moral. If the Church operates more from the first premise, that something is allowed unless it is specifically deemed to be immoral, then we might conclude that since the Church, as far as we know, has not expressly forbidden undercover work, etc. then it is permissible. Any thoughts?

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    “Nobody” wrote:

    ****Yes, of course. Because doing so is not, morally, an act of contraception: it isn’t an exception to the absolute prohibition of contraception, because it isn’t contraception at all.*****

    This is pretty inaccurate, in my view. Of course, by definition, any act chosen to deliberately frustrate conception is obviously *contraception*. The “absolute prohibition” of contraception, according to Humanae Vitae, is an absolute prohibition of contraception in MARITAL relations. And *that* is why an act of contraception (yes, contraception) used in a post-rape situation is still assuredly an act of contraception done with contraceptive intent (or in a “preventive” sense by those living chastely but in fear of rape).

    For example, Humanae Vitae doesn’t even *address* using contraception *oustide* of marital relations; it doesn’t and shouldn’t, because it’s a non-starter. She can’t condone either fornication/adultery *or* contraception in fornication/adultery, obviously. But the “absolute prohibition” regards the use of contraception in *marital* relations.

    Post-rape contraception is assuredly a form of contraception–but it’s NON-marital contraception and is permitted as an act of legitimate self-defense against an unjust aggressor.

    You also wrote:

    ****Lots of people of course have claimed that LA’s methods are not, morally, acts of lying. Those various claims, even from eminences such as Peter Kreeft, appear to rest on little more than strongly asserted intuitions that it just has to be that way: that intuitively outrageous consequences follow if its not that way. Again, that’s fine as far as it goes, but is very weak. Shaky ground indeed.****

    It’s not really as “shaky” as you assert. In fact, Dr. Janet Smith’s work is quite thorough. I am taking a slightly different approach in the essay I’m currently drafting. Stay tuned.

    The thing I am most concerned about is that the “Lying for Jesus” camp is continuing to portray opposing views (at least Shea and others have) as participations in the heresy of consequentialism, and they do not seem to admit, as Newman does, that faithful Catholics can embrace other views.

    I suppose Shea’s argument is, ultimately, with Newman and not with me….

    God bless,

    Deacon Jim Russell

  • Lauretta

    “Confining our strict understanding of contraception as a moral act to the context of marriage can be deceptive(*), because that would imply that outside the context of marriage contraception per se is OK: that is, that it is not an additional moral wrong to contracept when one engages in fornication or adultery. But it is an additional moral wrong to engage in contraception while (e.g.) fornicating, because contracepting, as a moral species unto itself, is intrinsically immoral. It is always and per se morally wrong to choose to engage in a contracepted sexual act, whatever else may obtain.”

    Pastorally, Nobody, how would you address the issue of contracepting while fornicating? Would any pastor tell a couple that is fornicating that they have to stop contracepting? I could see where you would want to inform them if they are using a method of contraception that also aborts babies, so that they will know that they might be killing their children, not just avoiding them. But would anyone really tell them that they need to be having children while they are fornicating? I just don’t see the practical application to the distinction you are making. As Deacon Jim stated, pretty much all of the statements I have seen the Holy See make are addressing the issue of contraception within marriage.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Hi, SD–

    You wrote:
    ******Um, no this is not an “exact” parallel at all. If you want to draw parallells between these two issues, the most logical would be that the Church’s “permission” to use birth control for rape victims is equivalent to the Church’s (common sensical) “permission” to speak falsehoods unknowingly (i.s. saying things that are not true because you are mistaken, not because you are trying to deceive). In both cases an act which would be immoral if done with the full consent of the will is morally OK when done without the intent to break a commandment. ******

    Not so. The “exact parallel” here is rather simple–a term used for something that is “intrinsically evil”–contraception–is ALSO used to describe a nearly identical action (contraception pre- or post-rape) that is NOT intrinsically evil. Similarly, the term “lying” is being used to refer to an intrinsically evil act AND an act that is not being asserted to be intrinsically evil. Thus “lying for Jesus” is being used pejoratively by folks like Shea, in my view, to describe the view of those who do NOT mean to suggest the “speaking falsehood” or “lying” being done is intrinsically evil….

    You wrote:
    ****On the larger question, I find your reasoning to be problematic. You seem to be suggesting that because there has been debate on this question among theologians over time and because the Magisterium has not ruled definitively on this matter* that its inappropriate to conclude that LiveAction has sinned. Okey dokey, fair enough. But then you then turn right around and say that therefore it is clear that LiveAction has not sinned. At this point you’ve stopped being internally consistent.******

    But I don’t recall bringing in the concept of “sin” at all in this discussion.

    In fact, it should be scrupulously avoided. And THAT is indeed my point. I’m saying that the *actions* or moral choices undertaken are certainly *just* as permissible to the faithful Catholic as “not” performing those actions. This also *necessarily* means that those who *do* choose to undertake those actions should NOT be judged AT ALL by fellow Catholics. This is where Shea and others totally miss the mark–both conducting a Live Action “sting” and *not* doing so are equally permissible moral choices for faithful Catholics. Pointing fingers at Live Action or anyone else is *exactly* the wrong thing to do, because both “doing” and “not doing” such things are equally permissible in Catholic moral teaching.

    You wrote:
    **** If there has been great debate among the worthy teachers of the Faith over time about the morality of these types of acts, and if the Magisterium has not provided definitive guidance, then we absolutely cannot conclude that there is no sin here. You can’t have it both ways – you can’t argue around what the CCC teaches by saying that there is no Magisterial consensus on the issue while turning right around and saying that LiveAction is clearly doing nothing wrong.*****

    You can and indeed SHOULD have it both ways, SD–that’s the point. It’s no one’s job but GOD to judge whether LiveAction members have sin on their souls. No one–I repeat, no one–should be trying to “judge” that. The starting point *has* to be that LA members are choosing one possible and appropriate approach–”doing” the sting instead of “not doing” it. Both choices are available because the Magisterium does not prohibit either one, and therefore both are currently *presumed* to be morally acceptable by the Magisterium and by the moral agent.

    ***** If it’s such a gray area, then you would have to admit the very real possibility that LiveAction has indeed committed sins. The culpability of LiveActions agents may be lessed or even nullified if this is such a mysterious fog on contradictory opinion, but there is a right answer to the question. *****

    Maybe you’re hitting on the “right answer” by pointing to the fact that the evil of a lie resides in the very *intention* which exists as part of the intrinsically evil object of lying. Citing Augustine, it is the “intention to deceive” (although the CCC gives two other “definitions” of lying). This is perhaps why the Magisterium has NOT officially taught anything else beyond what it has–ALL lies necessarily include the “intention to deceive”, by definition (at least according to Augustine and the CCC). “Speaking falsehood” is only *half* of Augustine’s definition, as copied in the CCC. And it’s not *our* job to judge a soul’s intentions, at least in this case. This is one of the more confusing aspects of this–that the “object” of lying *includes* a specific evil intention (just like the “object” of murder includes a specific evil intention that accompanies “killing”).

    You wrote:

    *****Now, I find the notion that the Magisterium has not ruled on this issue suspect. We do have the CCC after all, which leads off the series of paragraphs on lying with a quote from Augustine that defines lying in a very strict manner (speaking any falsehoods with the intent to deceive).*****

    NOT SO….The CCC uses THREE different “definitions” of lying, expressed three different ways….

    ***** We also know that an ealry draft of the CCC contemplated slightly more expansive language in another paragraph but that this language was deliberately removed in the final, definitive version promulgated by Pope John Paul II. ******

    The “early draft” thing doesn’t really enter into it as far as I’m concerned. Other than that it shows the CCC is attempting to give the best GENERIC description of what it means to lie. It does not deal with special cases.

    *****And we do know that if a given act is a lie then it is immoral and cannot be justified. So maybe the Magisterium hasn;t resolved this question to your satisfaction. But as Nobody has pointed out above, that still doesn;t mean that all possible answers to the question have equally strong backing in Church teaching. *****

    It can be easily shown that the CCC does not prohibit the LiveAction sting, by using the CCC itself. In fact, statements from the CCC can easily support the work of Live Action. Further, it can be shown that, throughout the CCC, the attempt is not to resolve finer theological points under discussion or debate (e.g. “limbo”), nor is the attempt to address the numerous special cases that attach to particular questions in moral theology.

    God bless,

    Deacon Jim Russell

  • Nobody

    Would any pastor tell a couple that is fornicating that they have to stop contracepting?

    In Confession, a penitent who contracepted while fornicating ought to confess to both.

  • Nobody

    Deacon Jim Russell:

    Are you formally advising, here, that penitents who have contracepted while fornicating need not confess the contraception?

  • Nobody

    Think about it, folks.

    Bob and Sally have been shacked up for years, and contracepting to boot. They’ve come around, though, and have decided to make things right, get married in the Church. Part of that process, of course, is going to Confession.

    Bob goes to confession, acutely aware of the fact that he has been contracepting for all these years. Yet according to the understanding of intrinsic evil in general and contraception in particular that some folks in this discussion have – which for some reason folks believe has something to do with morally evaluating Live Action’s methods – Bob should be advised that he has no need to confess that he spent all those years contracepting. No concern at all, don’t worry about invalidating his Confession, just stay mum. Contracepting wasn’t a sin because it was ‘covered up’ by other sins he was already committing at the same time. The sin of contraception is something only married people can commit.

    We can’t properly understand moral evil without understanding repentance and forgiveness, it seems to me. And the approach that some folks have been taking looks to me like it breaks when it encounters the penitent soul.

  • Lauretta

    In the circumstance you give, Nobody, then yes, it would be appropriate to bring up the issue of contracepting while fornicating as a wrong action. I am assuming that one who is fornicating is not confessing, and if he(or she) were to go to confession, the first order of business for the confessor would be to discuss the fornication. If they stop fornicating then they won’t be contracepting will they? It just seems like a rather unnecessary topic since a couple who stops contracepting while fornicating is still in a state(objectively) of mortal sin as well as very possibly bringing children into a very unstable home situation.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Nobody–now how could you possibly infer that I even *might* be suggesting that contraception shouldn’t be confessed???

    Wow, surely that’s not all you got out of my reply and comments above???

    It may come as a surprise to you, though, to learn that Humanae Vitae specifically deals with *marital* relations. Does that surprise you?

    Please go back once more and address the actual points I made, if you like, but let’s not get bogged down in the implications of HV’s focus on marriage. Though, I would like to ask you this, out of curiosity: Do you believe contraception wreaks the exact *same* kind of damage *within* marriage as it does *outside* of marriage via fornication/cohabitation???

    God bless,

    Deacon Jim Russell

  • Nobody

    @Deacon Jim Russell:
    -now how could you possibly infer that I even *might* be suggesting that contraception [in EXTRAMARITAL relations] shouldn’t be confessed???

    Because in the context of claiming that a rape victim is capable -as a moral matter – of performing a licit act of contraception, you said this:
    The “absolute prohibition” of contraception, according to Humanae Vitae, is an absolute prohibition of contraception in MARITAL relations.

    Apparently you believe this formulation – that contraception is only absolutely prohibited within marriage, but not without – is critical to your moral theology: the same moral theology you are using to justify LA’s methods, that is, to claim that LA’s lies, which they recorded and broadcast themselves, are not lies. If it were the case that contraception is not prohibited outside marriage, though, then you’d either have to come up with some reason to believe it is an additional wrong in the case of fornication but not in the case of rape; or, barring that, that someone who contracepted while fornicating needs to confess the fornication but not the contraception.

    Your whole moral theology on the subject seems hopelessly confused, to me.

    A rape victim is not capable of performing a licit act of contraception, because a rape victim is not capable of performing a moral act of contraception vis-a-vis the rape at all. In order to perform an act of contraception, one must be choosing or contemplating choosing a sexual act, and be further choosing some behavior which mutilates the natural fertility of that chosen sexual act. A rape victim isn’t choosing or contemplating choosing the sexual act in question at all, and therefore does not, as a moral matter, contracept at all.

    The pertinence some folks seem to see in the putative ‘contracepting nuns’ dispensation rests on the idea that contraception is only prohibited within marriage, and elsewhere exceptions are carved out. But contraception isn’t prohibited only within marriage. It is always and everywhere morally wrong. Just like lying.

    Anyway, I’ve tried to quit this thread twice before. Third time is the charm, since I really don’t think we are getting anywhere. Pax all around.

  • Deacon Jim Russell

    Nobody–sorry you’re leaving the conversation before actually addressing my points. But I shall address yours below.

    You wrote:

    ****Apparently you believe this formulation – that contraception is only absolutely prohibited within marriage, but not without – is critical to your moral theology: the same moral theology you are using to justify LA’s methods, that is, to claim that LA’s lies, which they recorded and broadcast themselves, are not lies. If it were the case that contraception is not prohibited outside marriage, though, then you’d either have to come up with some reason to believe it is an additional wrong in the case of fornication but not in the case of rape; or, barring that, that someone who contracepted while fornicating needs to confess the fornication but not the contraception. *****

    A couple things to note: there is no such thing as “my” theology. I simply note the *obvious* fact that Humanae Vitae focuses on *marital* relations, a point you don’t seem willing to recognize as accurate or true. Also, you have avoided responding to my question regarding the difference of moral “quality” between contraception in marriage and contraception in fornication/cohabitation.

    I also note that, apparently, you are not agreeing that a deliberate act designed to frustrate conception is, in fact, an act of contraception. I think most people would disagree with you. On my part, I continue to wonder why this is so.

    Further, it actually IS the case that contraception is not completely prohibited outside of marriage, as is evidenced by the US Bishops’ teaching permitting post-rape contraception in Catholic hospitals. I’m sure we totally agree that using contraception after a rape has a completely different moral quality than using it in marriage, right? But please don’t keep saying that one is “real” contraception and one isn’t–in doing so, you make my point for me, ultimately, because the whole point of the analogy between lying and contraception is that the same action and intention (trying to frustrate conception through some action that keeps egg and sperm from uniting) is described using the same word, even in Catholic moral theology, but in one case it’s an intrinsic evil, and in another it’s not. Obviously the moral quality of each act is distinct, but the language resorted to is the same.

    So goes it with the word “lying”–it is utilized by many (possibly most) people to describe the act of “speaking falsehood”, but in one case that act is intrinsically evil (because it includes an evil intention) while in other special cases it is NOT intrinsically evil.

    That is the sum total of the usefulness of the analogy. Everything else being said about contraception in this conversation may be interesting (or not), but it’s not really relevant.

    You wrote:

    ****Your whole moral theology on the subject seems hopelessly confused, to me.****

    Well, since I don’t have something that is “my” moral theology, I can’t readily account for any hopeless confusion you might encounter–perhaps reading it again would help?

    *****A rape victim is not capable of performing a licit act of contraception, because a rape victim is not capable of performing a moral act of contraception vis-a-vis the rape at all. In order to perform an act of contraception, one must be choosing or contemplating choosing a sexual act, and be further choosing some behavior which mutilates the natural fertility of that chosen sexual act. A rape victim isn’t choosing or contemplating choosing the sexual act in question at all, and therefore does not, as a moral matter, contracept at all. *****

    Seriously???? You really don’t believe one can “contracept” after relations, only before???? Really? Then I would suggest your confusion may rest on biological, rather than moral theological, grounds….I mean, help me out here, as I’m trying to understand your position–it sounds like you may think contraception is possible only *before* relations?

    You wrote:
    ****The pertinence some folks seem to see in the putative ‘contracepting nuns’ dispensation rests on the idea that contraception is only prohibited within marriage, and elsewhere exceptions are carved out. But contraception isn’t prohibited only within marriage. It is always and everywhere morally wrong. Just like lying.*****

    Your insistence that this is so does not make it so, I’m afraid. But you have helped to make my analogy stronger, I think. Contraception obviously IS permitted “outside” marriage in *one* particular case–as a response to rape. The moral “object” of an act of post-rape contraception is a *different* moral “object” than in the case of marital contraception. Both bear the label of “contraception” but only one is an intrinsic evil.

    The same is true with those using the term “lying” to loosely describe “speaking falsehood for a just cause”. Much of the “Lying for Jesus” confusion rests on this issue–the same term has been used by some to describe two different realities.

    My analogy, and the point of it, stands.

    God bless you (and don’t hesitate to reply if I’ve not properly understood your view).

    Deacon Jim Russell

  • Zac

    Thanks for clarifying, Nobody, and confirming the difference in our terminology.

  • armani key holder

    nice share .so informative Thank you so much?
    armani key holder

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Never forget that old saying, that no creature so accursed can be, that in which a loving eye some good can see.

    To that, I’ve got to respond to a different point:
    ” That’s because every sin, whether venial or mortal, is committed in the disordered attempt to achieve some good end. ”

    I think you’re missing the sins , whether venial or mortal, that are committed in invincible ignorance to achieve no end at all, due to our inability as a species to correctly foresee the future. 

  • Nate

    Reminds me of Huxley’s “Ends and Means” which is all about this very topic. It was not just the Fascists who used evil means for good ends, but increasingly, “democracies” are falling into that sin. In fact, the USA does this all the time.

    Huxley says that the evil means that we use to attain good ends actually makes the good ends bad. Thus, a rapist might rape for sexual pleasure (a “good”) but the sexual pleasure that he attains is actually perverse pleasure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.e.olszewski Richard E Olszewski

    “John Wayne Gacy to Jeffrey Dahmer to Ted Bundy,” Bad examples; these three are not the worst of a bad lot.

  • Christine

    Mark could you please follow these thoughts through for me? Would violence ever be non-sinful? e.g. Spanking a child – an evil means? What about shooting an intruder who comes into your home? if they intend to steal? if they intend to rape your daughter? they are in the process of beating your children? if they are shooting people in a crowded school? Your article above seems to conclude that there would never be justified war or self-defense. Help! Is complete passiveness the only righteous path?

    • chezami

      Nope. The Church’s Just War tradition speaks to this. There is a legitimate right and obligation to defend innocents from an aggressor by appropriate use of force. See CCC 2309.and following.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I think Judas’s good end, was much much more than just the thirty pieces of silver. I personally think he really thought that Christ’s preaching was becoming dangerous- that he agreed with the Sadducees and Pharisees that charged Christ with inciting riot and revolution against the Roman Empire.

    In fact, Augustine was STILL defending, 300 years later, the Body of Christ against those charges.

  • Pingback: Means and Ends

  • Rock On

    St. Thomas points out, we can’t not desire our happiness, which is to say, we can’t not desire some good end.

    All we can do is choose to pursue our happiness in ways that obey God or in ways that range from venially to radically disordered (i.e., gravely evil) ways.

    Interesting article. Interesting thoughts.

    I never thought of Hitler or Stalin as anything but horrific monsters. Its easier that way. Very interesting.

  • Rock On

    not incinerating children in their beds to win the war…….its prophetic.
    Written in 2011??

    ……not torturing the prisoner …..

    God forgive us……….we never learn.

    Should there be an accounting and an historical record so we can learn???
    I mean in regards to WW1 or VietNam or any of the wars, are their absolutes?
    How does one fight an enemy?? Diplomacy never works…..or dont we want it too?

  • Rock On

    There is an old saying that we judge others by what they do, but we want them to judge us by our intentions. That more or less sums up one of the central confusions engendered by our embrace of modernity’s Absolute No. 1 Favorite Moral Heresy: consequentialism.

    The Rubicon has been crossed. Man turns away from God once again.

  • MENU