Up from Literalism

The past few weeks have seen a contentious, sometimes enlightening debate over how committed Catholics must be to truth-telling, in what circumstances, and at what price. The issue arose when bloggers responded acerbically to the pro-life sting operations of the heroic Live Action operatives who exposed Planned Parenthood’s use of our tax money in violation even of America’s lax abortion laws. The discussion has since gone viral, enlisting serious theologians and philosophers, raising vexed historical questions such as Pius XII’s and Angelo Roncalli’s (later Bl. John XXIII) use of false baptismal certificates to save Jews from Hitler, and occasioning a deep reconsideration of one strand in the Western theological tradition. I’ve learned quite a bit myself, including the lesson that I should always read the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on something before writing about it.

In my first contribution on the subject, I made too sweeping a statement about “mental reservation,” condemning alike the “broad” kind that only employs ambiguity and the “narrow” kind that essentially entails saying silently to yourself, “. . . except I don’t mean what I just said.” The Church, in the person of Pope Innocent XI, has taught that the first type passes Thomistic scrutiny, while the latter is indistinguishable from lying. And the dominant theological tradition in the Western Church follows the philosophical position outlined by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas that all false statements, regardless of context, amount to sinful lies — although Aquinas makes the distinction that lies told to save the innocent from harm are venial sins.

No serious person has suggested that this tradition is irreformable Catholic doctrine. John Henry Cardinal Newman knew that it wasn’t, as did the editors of the new Catholic Catechism, who published a draft that included a development of this teaching. It redefined “lying” as telling untruths to someone “with a right to the truth.” The revised edition removed that exception without condemning it, as it removed Aquinas’s main justification for capital punishment likewise without anathematizing it. But philosophers and theologians have rightly pointed out that the absolute, literalist position is the dominant one, and worthy of respect. Even when it strikes us — as it struck me, and Peter Kreeft, and countless other Catholics — as morally outrageous, we need to engage it seriously. Pounding on the table and saying, “That’s ridiculous!” just won’t do — any more than the other side of this debate can convince us of the literalist position by shrieking, “How dare you disagree with saints and doctors of the Church? Who do you think you are?” To that I answer calmly: I think I am a Catholic, not a Muslim. I think that I will keep thinking. I think the Church is not a tape recorder, but a live, roaring lion. If the lion roars, I will fall silent.

As I established last week, there are many positions that have been taken by doctors of the Church that became dominant for centuries without ever rising to the level of defined doctrine, which subsequently had to develop to account for new realities or better philosophical arguments. Saying this doesn’t imply any lack of gratitude for our geniuses and saints, the giants whose shoulders we stand on. We thank God for the men who laid the foundations and built the cathedral of Catholic thought, even when we differ with them about where to place the rain gutters and the gargoyles. Briefly, positions on which the Church developed profound new understandings include the following:

  • usury,
  • religious liberty,
  • torture, and
  • baptism of desire.

The Church’s current teaching on each of these issues would have shocked most medieval theologians — but none of these developments amounts to a contradiction. Unlike the Mormon church, we don’t have a theory of “continuous revelation” that allows the Church to flip-flop on central doctrines — as polygamy once was for them. Unlike Islam, we are not bound to mindlessly repeat the exact same understanding of every single teaching as it was codified in past centuries — hence Muslim men can marry nine-year-olds because Mohammed did. The Church is neither a jellyfish nor a fossil.

The greatest theologians in the Church have wrangled with the implications of the prohibition on telling falsehoods in defense of the innocent, precisely because it is so weirdly absolute. If we read “Thou shalt not kill” in the same way the literalists read “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” all Catholics would be pacifists. Indeed, we would have to be Gandhians, refusing even to defend a pre-teen daughter against a rape. If we read “Thou shalt not steal” this way, we couldn’t take back our property from thieves, impose any form of taxes — or “steal” a neighbor’s fire extinguisher to put out a kindergarten fire. That is how absolute the dominant Western tradition is on the subject of telling the truth.

There are two possible reasons for this absolutism: Either a) speaking only the literal truth at all times is uniquely important, such that telling an untruth is the moral equivalent of sodomy (i.e., an intrinsic evil), or b) the philosophical arguments underlying the absolutist position are flawed and need to be reexamined. As a colleague of mine pointed out, this isn’t a question of divine revelation or even theology. The absolute verbal pacifism implied by the literalist position is a philosophical issue, a question of human argument, of the sort on which the Church does not issue infallible pronouncements. We need to fight this out on the field of reason, which we then use to spot and follow the flag of revelation.

 

I felt this from the beginning and yearned to cut through all the filigrees and penumbras surrounding “mental reservation” to hit the core of the argument: Is literal truth-telling always and everywhere the only proper use of human speech? But I don’t have the philosophical training to take on the task, and I knew I had to wait for someone to speak up who did. And now someone has — a woman whose wisdom I’ve treasured for many years.

Prof. Janet Smith, the leading defender of the Church’s teaching on contraception, has stepped forward with her usual courage and forthrightness to examine this issue — and her paper on the subject says in clear Thomistic language all the things that I have been groping inarticulately to express. Characteristically humble, with the proper piety toward the eminent sources whose arguments she feels constrained to correct, she scrutinizes the understanding of truth-telling that Aquinas adopted from Aristotle and asks candid questions: Is it sufficient? Does it adequately express our understanding of human speech in a fallen world, or must something be added? Given how central “truth” is to our understanding of God as the Logos, isn’t our love of Him as the author of “life” and the font of “justice” equally important?

I don’t have the skill or training to adequately popularize Professor Smith’s argument, so I urge you to read it for yourself and see whether it doesn’t do a better job than the literalist tradition of fully describing how language works in our lives, and striking the proper balance of truthfulness and justice. In my untutored opinion, it builds firm barriers against the “slippery slope” that leads to rampant lying, without imposing a standard of candor (no “lying” to Nazis, no tales of Santa Claus) that many of us find so absurd that it actually causes us scandal. But judge for yourself.

I’ll just point to what I think is the most important assertion Professor Smith makes: The understanding of language implied by the literalist position does not take full account of the price we pay for the Fall. In an unfallen world, we would never have died, used violence in self-defense, or even have eaten animals. After the Fall, with bodies pursued by predators and sinful men, afflicted by hunger and need, we were held by a merciful God to a different standard — and anyone who (like Gandhi or Tolstoy) denies us these rights is trying to smuggle us back into the Garden by the back door. As the experience of every utopian political philosophy teaches us, such ersatz Edens quickly turn into earthly hells. Property rights are one of the fruits of the Fall; deny them to the mass of men (those not specifically called to the Evangelical Counsels), and what you face is famines and tyranny. The need for Christian soldiers and policemen carrying pistols is likewise an outcome of the Fall. Embracing pacifism and anarchy won’t wish the Fall away; it will simply surrender the world to reckless predators and leave the innocent unprotected.

Lila Rose and her allies knew where the predators lurked and intervened to expose them and save the innocent. So did the German officers who schemed to assassinate Hitler. So do policemen who infiltrate drug gangs and soldiers who use deception (instead of torture) to interrogate terrorists. If we can find a better philosophical understanding of language, one that allows for the defense of the innocent instead of lumping it in with sodomy and adultery, I would call that a “win” for the Church and her credibility. Unlike Tertullian and some of his modern imitators, I take no satisfaction in believing what seems absurd. Yes, there are mysteries like the Trinity and the Eucharist that resist our rational scrutiny. The philosophy of language isn’t one of them. As Peter Kreeft points out, when a philosophical argument seems to outrage your moral sense, it’s a good sign that it’s probably inadequate, and needs a second look. The Church has recognized and corrected such inadequacies before, and unless you think that Protestants belong in jail and bankers in hell, you agree with her. So do I.

John Zmirak

By

John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as Editor of Crisis.

  • joe bissonnette

    The most impressive part of Janet Smith’s argument is not her rebuttal of the Aquinas – never lie tradition, impressive though this is. What is really impressive is the sense of the clean, disciplined beautiful mind of Aquinas. His love of truth was so clean that he could not bear even a jocular falsehood. He was so captivated by what is that he did not need to skew it to make it enchanting. His mind was clean and pure and free of falsehood unlike most of us who writhe within the lies we tell ourselves and each other. I can only image Aquinas confronted with a murderous Nazi or murderous abortionist throwing himself upon them, even if it meant certain death, rather than lying.

    As for myself I agree completely with Zmirak and smith and would lie to save a life in a heartbeat.

  • JPZmirak

    Joe, by Church definition “lying” is like “murdering” or “stealing.” We need to use a different term for untrue statements that aren’t sinful. Saying you would “lie” gives away the whole argument. I agree that Aquinas’ mind is an awesome thing to behold, as is Augustine’s. To deepen my understanding of this issue, I’ve been reading Hugh Daniel-Rops on Augustine’s life.

  • Briana

    How are Live Action’s recent actions different from those of investigative journalists who write expos`es on corrupt practices they’ve uncovered in governments and businesses? would all these people be corrupt as well because they did their work undercover?

  • Rich Browner

    While I do laud the main theme of this piece, and I am heartened to see the development of doctrine discussed, I have to say I find it still unfortunate that the author consistently needs to vilify the followers of Islam.

    Do we really have to say, “I think I am a Catholic, not a Muslim. I think that I will keep thinking.”

    Gratuitous generalities about Muslims does not serve the Church, nor the truth. There are quite a few muslims who think, and this statement is simply needless. It perpetuates an us/them mindset that also does not serve. We cannot presume how one and a half billion Muslims interpret their sacred text anymore than they can presume how we interpret ours. Sure, there are a few that are quite literal in their interpretation, but I can say that about Christians as well.

    To blanketly imply that Muslims do not think only stagnates conversation and conversion in hearts that could already be quite steeped in anger and resentment, not to mention pride.

    This piece is somewhat ruined by this unfortunate inclusion. It would have been fine without it.

    Sorry to be always be the pill, but I felt it needed saying.

  • Steve Skojec

    I haven’t had the chance to read Dr. Smith’s paper yet, but what you’ve written here so exactly expresses what I’ve been trying to say in every argument I’ve had about this in the past couple of weeks that I can only imagine it will be completely sensible, and probably quite refreshing besides.

    I’ve been straining to push the issue that if faith does not, in fact, contradict reason, then in the instance of an imposed absolute moral prohibition against deception to save the innocent there is either a problem with the God who demands it, or the institution which conveys it.

    The notion that the conception of lying as defined in moral tradition as inadequate suits my grasping need to reconcile the mind of the church with the irrefutable nature of reality. Any child could tell you what the right thing to do is, and yet the Church says we mustn’t?

    It can’t be so, unless something is very rotten in Rome. (Well, other than the usual things.)

  • freddy

    I read Janet Smith’s paper and was delighted at both its logic and accessiblilty. (It is a mark of brilliance that can make difficult complex subjects understandable to the average reader, like me.) I’ve been hoping to see her paper discussed. Thank you!

    One of the most disheartening things I learned about my fellow Catholics during this debate was that there are some who, no doubt following the Catechism much better than I do, really do believe that parents who tell their children about Santa Claus are lying.

  • Brian English

    “Joe, by Church definition “lying” is like “murdering” or “stealing.” We need to use a different term for untrue statements that aren’t sinful.”

    Verbal Defense? Investigative Privilege? Evasion of Unjustified Interrogator?

  • Brennan

    I’ve wondered in this discussion, “Doesn’t charity rule all?” So if a wife asks if she looks fat in her jeans you don’t necessarily tell her the truth and say, “Why yes, honey, you do!” Charity would dictate a different response.

    If Nazis ask if you are hiding any Jews, Charity would seem to dictate that you do whatever you can to get rid of them, not tell them that yes, you are, then congratulate yourself on avoiding a venial sin as the Nazis drag the Jews away to a concentration camp.

    So also it would seem that the actions of Live Action are charitable in the sense of exposing evil. For this they should be applauded, not merely given the tuppence of “Well, maybe it was only a venial sin.”

  • tom in ohio

    Did the real mom believe Solomon would cut her kid in two, did David not realize Nathan meant him. Joseph deceived his brothers and Rahab out and out hid Jews and lied about it.

    Whatever Lila Rose did, it was not intrinsically evil. That much is clear.

    Thanks John.

  • Brian English

    “Sure, there are a few that are quite literal in their interpretation, but I can say that about Christians as well.”

    Rich, I believe you left out the words “hundred million” after the word “few” in your statement above.

  • buffaloknit

    This sentence and the idea behind it is the best one in this piece:

    The absolute verbal pacifism implied by the literalist position is a philosophical issue, a question of human argument, of the sort on which the Church does not issue infallible pronouncements. We need to fight this out on the field of reason, which we then use to spot and follow the flag of revelation.

    Thank you for pointing us towards Prof. Smith’s paper-I look forward to reading it!

  • sd

    Even if we were to somehow convince ourselves that this or that “reasonable sounding” paper by this or that lay theologian somehow takes precdence over the relatively straightforward teaching of the universal Church as laid out in the CCC, we still would need to apply judgement to determine whether the LiveAction sting operations is or is not acceptable. To which I would note:

    1) LiveAction’s tactics involved making false statements, with full intent and full knowledge that they were false, with the goal of leading other people into error (kind of the textbook defintion of “lying,” which the CCC condemns). Yes, a draft version of the CCC listed an additional qualifier needed to classify a statement as a “lie,” but that’s the point of having a “final” version of a document – to correct errors that made it into early drafts. Yes, the Church does indeed develop its doctrines over time. But on this point it hasn’t. Suggesting that its OK to toss aside clear Church teaching because in some cases what seems to be clear to us is later explained in a way that leads to a different understandings of the underlying truth is to traffic in the same category of error that various “Spirit of Vatican II” types traffic in when they suggest that their preferred change to the modus operandi is surely just around the corner.

    2) The false statements were not made under duress or to save another person from imminent harm. Yes, they were part of an ongoing effort to de-fund Planned Parenthood and ultimately to reduce or eliminate abortions, but the harm being opposed here isn’t proximate in the least bit. If we tell ourselves that its OK to do things in opposition to PP that normally wouldn’t be considered OK (like telling a person who’s asked you who you are something patently false to get them to say things to a hidden camera that they would not say if they knew who you really were), then where precisely would you draw the line? Is it OK to commit financial fraud against PP to drain their bank accounts? Is it OK to cut the electrical lines into their offices? Is is OK to burn down their buildings at night when nobody is there? Is it OK to burn down their buildings during the day when people are there?

    3) The false statements set up a scenario that had the (perfectly foreseable if not outright desired) end of causing PP workers to sin and sin gravely, as surely they did when they offered to cover up child prostitution. In other words, PP workers (who are after all human beings whose salvation The Lord desires) commited a sin, it was probably an objective mortal sin (whether or not the subjective culpability of the PP workers “rose” to the level of mortal sin), and that sin would not have been committed had the LiveAction agents not intentionally made false statements. Under what fancy-pantsy philosophical scheme can you square that with Church teaching?

  • Maiki

    It isn’t about literalism or weird positions on things. Live Action lied — they told untruths to lead someone into error. They weren’t playing a game, or acting for an audience, or using “mental reservation.” They lied — that was their objective action.

    You can argue, that PP, like a Nazi, had no right to know Live Action’s true profession. But PP didn’t ask or seek Live Action out. Live Action provided false information out of their own free will to participants who just as well not ask or know.

    Live Action also didn’t do it to save lives directly or indirectly. Their actions exposed certain employees of PP as disregarding mandatory reporting laws. That is it.

    I’m not saying that Live Action is gravely sinful. But the analogies and excuses don’t fit. It is best to go with the “Live Action feared God and for that they should be praised, but their lies shouldn’t be praised. ”

    It isn’t about distorting language or wondering whether Church teaching will change in Vatican III. It is about following the Catechism here and now and doing the best we can when difficult situations arise.

  • JP Zmirak

    where precisely would you draw the line? Is it OK to commit financial fraud against PP to drain their bank accounts? Is it OK to cut the electrical lines into their offices? Is is OK to burn down their buildings at night when nobody is there? Is it OK to burn down their buildings during the day when people are there?

    Good questions. I answer them in my analysis of the use of violence against abortionists here, using “Just War” criteria:
    http://tinyurl.com/4msar9g

  • Brian English

    “The false statements set up a scenario that had the (perfectly foreseable if not outright desired) end of causing PP workers to sin and sin gravely, as surely they did when they offered to cover up child prostitution.”

    The grave sin occurs when the PP workers give advice on circumventing the law to real pimps for real child prostitutes. Live Action merely got them on tape doing what they do.

    What about police who run these types of operations? What about the police who pose as children on-line to catch child predators? You actually believe they are sinning?

    “Their actions exposed certain employees of PP as disregarding mandatory reporting laws. That is it.”

    Is that all? How about aiding and abetting statutory rape?

  • sd

    Brian English:

    The grave sin occurs when the PP workers give advice on circumventing the law to real pimps for real child prostitutes. Live Action merely got them on tape doing what they do.

    What about police who run these types of operations? What about the police who pose as children on-line to catch child predators? You actually believe they are sinning?

    First of all, I wouldn’t be so sure that the PP workers in question have ever given advice to actual pimps on circumventing the law. Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t. But you simply cannot infer from the fact that they were caught on tape that they do this sort of thing in other contexts. When one party manipulates the truth with the intent of “exposing” the bad behavior of another they run the very real risk of inducing behavior that wouldn’t have occured otherwise. For one thing, I suspect that most actual pimps aren’t exactly free and casual about relating to total strangers the fact that they are prostituting under-age girls with questionable immigration status. Pimps may be evil, but I doubt they are blatantly stupid.

    But even if not – even if pimps walk into PP clinics every single day to seek professional advice on how to cover up child prostitution, and even if PP workers routinely assist them to the detriment of their own souls and in offence against God, that still doesn’t give anyone the right to induce them to sin in this way even one more time.

    The PP workers thought they were dealing with an actual pimp and so their actions in assistance of what they believed to be child prostitution consitute gravely immoral acts. In other words, brand new sins (likely mortal sins), sins that offend the justice of The Lord, occur right there on the videos and would not have occured had LiveAction agents not used deception to set up a scenario in which such sins could (and were expected to) take place. That simply cannot be justified. Its not given to us – any of us – to monkey around with another human being’s chances of eternal salvation or damnation, no matter what good end we are trying to accomplish.

    Let’s say I have a married female co-worker, who I know cheats on her husband regularly (let’s say for the sake of argument that I’m single). I wish to “expose” this vile sin, but I have no proof and her husband refuses to belive me when I tell him his wife is sleeping around. So I seduce her, take her to my apartment where I have a hidden camera, and videotape us talking about having sex and then kissing on my couch (I go no further than kissing – I kick her out before doing anything else). Now, the Church would certainly teach that under normal circumstances seducing and kissing a married woman is a very serious sin. And if you’re married giving in to seduction and kissing someone who is not your spouse is a VERY serious sin. “But hold on!” I say. I’m not doing anything wrong at all. I was simply using deception to “expose” the foul behavior of another. The fact that the woman in question almost certainly commits a fresh mortal sin in this scenario (remember, she gave in my seduction, went to my apartment, and kissed me after we discussed having sex) is of no matter because I just “know” that she’s slet with other men who were not her husband in the past. You think what I’ve done is OK? Would you feel comfortable going before the seat of judgment with that on your conscience?

  • Mark

    “We need to use a different term for untrue statements that aren’t sinful.”

    Righteous tactical deception?

  • Brian English

    “But you simply cannot infer from the fact that they were caught on tape that they do this sort of thing in other contexts.”

    Planned Parenthood is the flagship institution for the “progressive” approach to sexuality. Age of consent laws and anti-prostitution laws interfere with that agenda. The behavior caught on tape (on this as well as on other ocassions) is part of the culture there.

    “”But hold on!” I say. I’m not doing anything wrong at all. I was simply using deception to “expose” the foul behavior of another. The fact that the woman in question almost certainly commits a fresh mortal sin in this scenario (remember, she gave in my seduction, went to my apartment, and kissed me after we discussed having sex) is of no matter because I just “know” that she’s slet with other men who were not her husband in the past.”

    One of the most troubling aspects of the argument that has been going on for the past few weeks has been the willingness of otherwise intelligent Catholics to basically assert that we are so incapable of moral reasoning that we need brigh-line rules of behavior that have to be applied strictly to every situation in order to prevent us from getting out of control.

    Do you have any evidence that investigative reporters or police who engage in these types of activities end up being unable to control themselves and go on to commit assaults or arson in pursuit of their goals? If you don’t have that evidence, why do you believe the people at Live Action are likely to end up shooting up or burning down Planned Parenthood Centers if we allow these types of sting operations?

  • CC

    Lying to anyone is wrong, even Planned Parenthood. However …

    “Is it OK to cut the electrical lines into their offices? Is is OK to burn down their buildings at night when nobody is there?”

    Or slash the tires of employees? Or sabotage their computer networks? Etc.? Frankly I don’t see the problem.

  • Michael PS

    It is pretty clear that the Tradition permits what Dr Smith calls “conventional falsehoods,” usually referred to as “wide mental reservation.” Innocent XI, at the very least, refrained from condemning them, although the works from which he singled out examples of “narrow mental reservations” for condemnation were full of examples of them. The meaning of words can only be drawn from the way in which they are used and that means taking account of the whole context.

    Likewise, the use, in certain circumstances of evasion and equivocation has always been sanctioned, the underlying principle being that deception is, indeed, sometimes justifed, whilst the uttering of a deliberate falsehood is not. So, her example of the man opening his neighbour’s door and saying “there are no Jews in my house” would not be held to be lying.

    To that extent, there has been a development of the teaching, both of Augustine and Aquinas.

    However, Dr Smith’s category of “protective falsehoods” is, at least, novel. Not only that, it is so obvious that it is hard to believe that the moral theologians who devoted so much labour to such questions, such as the Salamanca School, would not have hit upon it, if they considered it could possibly be justified.

    It is sometimes said that “a single grave doctor makes his/her opinion probable,” but this, too, is an opinion that has not found favour with Rome, having been condemned by both Alexander VII and our old friend Innocent XI.

  • Stepinac

    Bernard Nathanson gave an excellent reason why he would never lie.
    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/02/2806

  • JPZmirak

    Let’s say I have a married female co-worker, who I know cheats on her husband regularly (let’s say for the sake of argument that I’m single). I wish to “expose” this vile sin, but I have no proof and her husband refuses to belive me when I tell him his wife is sleeping around.

    Well, I’ll “say” that you have no business interfering with someone’s marriage or committing detraction against this woman. No law is being broken, no children are being sexually molested, no infants are being murdered, no public funds are being used, so mind your own business.

    NOW, if you had excellent reason to believe that a celebrity was molesting children with the complicity of the local police and the FBI–that’s just how powerful he is–and the only way you could reasonably think of to stop him without shooting him down like a dog in the street (an attractive option, but morally questionable) was to catch him on camera, would you be justified in doing a journalistic sting, with a reporter posing as an underage girl in a chatroom? Absolutely you would. You wouldn’t be TEMPTING him into sin, but providing an occasion of sin–placing him, if you will, in a “necessary occasion of sin,” one necessary to the pursuit of justice.

  • Zac

    The crux of Dr Smith’s piece is where she addresses “correspondence between mental truth and spoken word”, on page 11. This is the most important part, because it deals with the harm done to the speaker himself, when his words do not correspond to his mental truth, regardless of whether the listener deserves to know the truth or not.

    Dr Smith acknowledges that while one’s statement may be a falsehood eg. “there are no jews in my house”, it is nevertheless still ‘true’ in the sense that it “conveys the truth that one does not believe the innocent should be killed”.

    She strengthens this argument with the examples of a guest complimenting their host, or a coach encouraging a child. In both cases, the words spoken are falsehoods, ie. the coach doesn’t really believe the child can ‘do it’, and the guest doesn’t really think the host’s meal was wonderful; but Dr Smith believes that words are nonetheless ‘true’ since the correspond to morally good intentions – gratitude and encouragement respectively.

    There are a couple of problems with this line of argument. Firstly, just because many people accept falsehoods uttered in gratitude or encouragement, does not mean that these are good. Should a coach say “you can do it!” when he actually thinks “you can’t do it”? Perhaps if the coach thinks you can’t do it, he should have other priorities than giving false encouragement?

    A more important objection is that this line of argument seems to rely on equivocation on the word ‘truth’. The word means different things in the different contexts. The first context is the truth-value of the words themselves: are there really Jews in the house or are there not? In this sense there can be no such thing as a ‘true falsehood’.
    The second sense of ‘true’ means ‘in accordance with my intentions’ as in “to thine own self be true’. These are different meanings, and it confuses the issue to use both meanings in the one context.

    If a friend tells you “I am god”, you might reply “that’s not true”. If they in turn say “it’s true to my feelings”, they have not thereby countered your statement.

    If we remove the equivocation, then what is being said is: “though I am speaking a falsehood, this falsehood serves the purpose of my morally compelling intention.”
    But how does this differ from the current debate in which a number of people believe speaking falsehoods for a good cause should not constitute a lie and therefore an intrinsic evil?

    As tempting as it may be, I don’t see that this resolves the issue of the intrinsic moral harm in speaking falsehoods against one’s mind, or asserting untruths as true.

    If I’ve misinterpreted Dr Smith’s argument, I welcome correction.

  • Jess

    Yes. “We are permitted to mislead our enemies”

    And I pray to St. David Lewis…or, uh, should that be Charles Baker?

    You know, the name he made up. To mislead the enemy.

  • sd

    JPZMirak:

    Absolutely you would. You wouldn’t be TEMPTING him into sin, but providing an occasion of sin–placing him, if you will, in a “necessary occasion of sin,” one necessary to the pursuit of justice

    If its not tempting another person to sin to mis-represent yourself and ask them to sin on your behalf, in a circumstance in which you have reasonable expetcations that they will bite on the bait, then what under Heaven would constitute temptation? “I didn’t tempt my friend Bob to get drunk the night before his daughter’s wedding, I simply provided the occasion of sin by taking him to a bar, buying two pitchers of beers, and telling him the wedding was postponed a week.”

    And you twist the concept of “necessary occasion of sin” beyond comprehension. In the hypothetical you lay out there is no physical or moral impossibility of removing the “occasion of sin.” In fact the “occasion of sin” wouldn’t exist if you didn’t decide to create it. The concept of a “necessary occasion of sin” is meant to excuse someone from the moral responsibility of removing a proximate occasion of sin (for themselves, not others) in situations where doing so is either physically impossible or would cause them to have to do something else that is wrong. Its not an open licence to disregard the Church’s teachings on the evil and error of consequentialism.

  • Michael PS

    To be fair to Dr Smith, in her examples of “conventional falsehoods,” it is generally accepted that certain words or phrases have acquired a certain meaning that diverges from the literal sense. Obvious examples are “I’m obliged to your lordship,” or “As your lordship pleases” (by counsel to a judge) meaning very often something unprintable, or “My learned friend” meaning opposing counsel, without any implication of learning or friendship. Such expressions are simply the small change of social or professional intercourse. “Go on, you can do it,” may well fall into that category – a mere conventional expression of encouragement.

    Similarly, a denial of knowledge on the part of a lawyer, priest or doctor is understood to carry the qualification, “except what I have been told in confidence.” and the doctor’s favourite, “As well as can be expected” is intended to convey vague reassurance, rather than information.

    There are many other examples.

    Then, there are true equivocations – “I really could not say,” can mean “I do not know,” or it can mean “I am obliged not to tell you,” and “not at home” has acquired a meaning quite distinct from “not in the house,” but, rather, “not receiving visitors.”

    Even the most rigorous would not quarrel with such usages.

  • Brian English

    “In fact the “occasion of sin” wouldn’t exist if you didn’t decide to create it.”

    The whole point is it should not be a near occasion of sin. What about expecting the PP employee to say, “Could you wait here, I will be right back,” and walking into the next room and calling the cops?

    Live Action was just getting on tape what PP does every day.

    And I will ask again, do you consider undercover cops and spys to be engaged in sinful activity?

  • sd

    Brian English:

    Planned Parenthood is the flagship institution for the “progressive” approach to sexuality. Age of consent laws and anti-prostitution laws interfere with that agenda. The behavior caught on tape (on this as well as on other occasions) is part of the culture there

    What evidence do you have for this? Or is your reasoning “they do many bad things and so therefore they must, by definition, do every bad thing.” In any event it

  • sd

    Brian English

    One of the most troubling aspects of the argument that has been going on for the past few weeks has been the willingness of otherwise intelligent Catholics to basically assert that we are so incapable of moral reasoning that we need bright-line rules of behavior that have to be applied strictly to every situation in order to prevent us from getting out of control.

    Do you think we need “bright line” rules of behavior on whether or not abortion is OK? I do – because that’s what the Church teaches. Various “pro-choice” Catholics are always arguing that while they agree with the general direction of the Church’s teaching on abortion we simply cannot allow simplistic dogmas to outweigh all of the situation-specific factors, especially in hard cases where much human suffering will result from adhering to an “absolutist” prohibition on abortion.

    It

  • JP Zmirak

    So, if a journalist has heard that a gynecologist sexually molests his patients, she may NOT become a patient and present herself for treatment, to see how he acts with patients? If someone is suspected of acting immorally as a matter of habit, we may not present him with the opportunity to do the RIGHT thing–in PP’s case, call the police or refuse to cooperate–because they MIGHT do the wrong thing? So if I think my cleaning lady is stealing from me, but I’m not sure, I may NOT casually leave money on my table, then count it later, because I’d be tempting her into sin? Police may NOT use young-looking officers to catch pedophiles, because they’d be tempting them? If I suspect a cashier at my store is robbing the till, I may not let him continue running the till, while I make sure to count the money? What must I do–fire him on the mere suspicion (to prevent him from sinning!!!)? Let him keep stealing without checking his work? Ask him and hope he’s telling the truth? If someone has a duty, and you offer him the chance to fulfill that duty, but observe carefully to see if he is violating it, is that an example of sinfully tempting him into evil? The PP employees were not being coaxed into sin or seduced. They were being presented with a situation where they had a clear legal duty to act in mode A) (call the cops). If they had done so, there would have been no sin. Live Action didn’t try to overturn their objections, bribe them, or otherwise entrap them. They simply showed up, to see what people would do. If this is beyond the pale of Catholic moral theology, then we should just give up and go home–go live in little Amish communities and wait for the persecution. If it comes, we will deserve it.

  • sd

    JP Zmirak:

    In any conceivable situation where a person tempts another person into sin the person being tempted has a clear duty (moral, if not in every case legal) to resist the temptation. If you define “tempting” to exclude cases where the temptee “shoulda” said no then there is no temptation anywhere, anytime.

    And the PP employees here are clearly being coaxed into sin. They are being told lies about the identity of the LiveAction actors (who are not simply playing coy – they are actively speaking falsehoods) and are being asked to do something wrong. Those lies have the (completely foreseable and intended) consequence of causing the PP workers to let their guard down. Further, as this is a place of business (grisly and evil though the business may be) the PP workers have every reason to expect that they will be paid for doing the thing that is wrong. An lie. A request to do something wrong. The clear implicit promise of financial payment if they comply with the request to do the wrong thing. If that’s not coaxing, what on earth is coaxing? Only situations where you say “pwease pwease pwease?”

    P.S. Your many hypotheticals you lay out need to be treated separately. The cases involving investigative journalists or policemen should be judged based on 1) whether the actors in these cases used deception and evasion that falls short of the criteria to classify their statements as lies or actually crossed the line and told lies. And 2) whether their deception had the inetdned or reasonably foreseable end of inducing additional bad behavior (which in the case of the police, would likely constitute entrapment under the law). Your hypotheticals don’t provide enough detail to judge these cases. We have a lot of detail about the LiveAction case on the other hand, because it actually happened. Thus we can conclude that 1) they lied and 2) they induced additional sins from the PP workers.

    The other cases you lay out clearly don’t involve deception or requests to the other party to do something wrong. So there isn’t anything wrong with them at all. Indeed, if LiveAction had simply hidden cameras in PP offices and released videos of any bad behavior they happened to catch on tape, I’d have no problem with their methods whatsoever. But that’s not what they did – they walked in the door, told lies, and asked other people to sin. No way that’s OK.

  • Brian English

    “So the question is “have the people in these videos done these specific evil things in the past – yes or no?” And on that question, neither you, I nor Lila Rose has any data whatsoever.”

    Right, the normal initial response to a pimp for underage prostitutes is to try and assist him. Happens to everybody.

    “Do you think we need “bright line” rules of behavior on whether or not abortion is OK? I do – because that’s what the Church teaches.”

    The act itself is a bright line. In every abortion you end up with a dead baby. Doesn’t seem to be much room for manuever on that one.

    “The deception in these cases leads directly to a sin and doesn’t even come close to warding off any imminent danger. Yes, it might theoretically be a small part of a larger movement of events that lead to the defunding of PP, an end which is a good.”

    And I ask again, what about undercover police and spies?

    “Believe me – I know. When these videos first came out my reaction was “right on!” And when the controversy about them first came up my first reaction was “you’ve got to be kidding me!”

    You should have gone with your first reaction.

    “Even if the actions were not lies or if lies weren’t by their very nature wrong then LiveAction is still using deception to tempt human beings into grave sins that they otherwise would not have committed and that this is wrong wrong wrong by any possible reading of Catholic moral theology.”

    So the undercover cop who poses as a child on-line to trap a child predator is wrong, wrong, wrong? I think you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

    “if LiveAction had simply hidden cameras in PP offices and released videos of any bad behavior they happened to catch on tape, I’d have no problem with their methods whatsoever.”

    Really!! So planting hidden cameras and bugs is okay? The mind boggles.

  • Michael PS

    I agree with sd’s analysis. There is a difference between providing an unexceptionable opportunity for wrongdoing, as in the examples of the patient, the charwoman and the cashier and an allurment or inducement to wrongdoing and, of course, each case turns on its own facts. So, for an undercover policewoman to loiter in a red-light district, to see if she is approached is permissible; for her actively to solicit is not.

  • Ellen Nesdoly

    Anybody ever hear Jesus’ comment of pharisees ‘straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel’? That’s what all those long, painful comments bring to my mind.

  • Other Joe

    It should be obvious that we live in a fallen world – in fact it is obvious to any but the deluded. There is no perfect language, no perfect intention, and no perfect anything in our experience. There are moral absolutes, but we don’t make them, nor can we live up to them. When Christ was asked what the greatest law was, his answer included the idea that the purpose of law is love – maybe foundation is a more apt term. The final test of law – according to Christ – would be; does the action come from love or the other place? Moral choices require judgment and only God holds the balance and reads the scale. We do our best. Our true motives remain hidden from each other. But the fruits of our actions are a good indication of their origin. Lie to the Nazis to save a life out of love. And no that dress doesn’t make you look fat.

  • Brian English

    “So, for an undercover policewoman to loiter in a red-light district, to see if she is approached is permissible; for her actively to solicit is not.”

    What about the 45 year-old male cop posing as a 12-year old girl on-line to catch a child predator?

  • SUZANNE

    When the Catechism says “lying by its nature must be condemned” it means that it is an intrinsic evil.

    That is what she means.

    We know that if an act is intrinsically evil, it is NEVER morally permissible.

    Why is this even up for debate?

    There is no justification for lying. There’s no point in trying to find one. This is not literalism, it’s simply taking the natural law to its proper end.

  • Lauretta

    I still think that we need to look at the definition of intrinsically evil lying. There is a condition in the Catechism. It states that one must be intending to lead someone into error. To me it looks like the Live Action people are attempting to lead PP and everyone into truth–the truth that sex trafficking is wrong.

    The false statements they make are, it would seem to me, to be similar to shooting an attacker. The intent is to stop the aggressor and the wounding or killing of the aggressor is an unintended consequence. The intent of LA is to determine whether or not PP personnel are willing to participate in something that is immoral and illegal.

    They did not, in the video I saw, coerce the employee in any way to do what was wrong. They just asked questions for hypothetical situations and she replied. If they had cajoled her, bribed her, threatened her then they could be said to be causing her to commit a sin.

    Of course she would not have culpability for it because she doesn’t believe it to be a sin. One cannot be working in PP if they think any of these things are wrong. And before one is culpable for a sin, if my memory of the Catechism is correct, one has to know it is a sin and freely choose to do it.

  • Michael PS

    What about the 45 year-old male cop posing as a 12-year old girl on-line to catch a child predator?

    Every case turns on its own facts, lathough the principles are clear enough. All moral theologians agree, for example that the use of a pseudonym to conceal one’s identity is permissible – a nom de plume or the name adopted by someone travelling incognito are mere labels. On the other hand, all agree that the impersonation of another (real) person by the use of a direct lie is always wrong – but merely to pass oneself off as the other person without a direct assertion of identity is not, for example, dressing to look like them &c. The use of “doubles” by generals or statesmen has a long history, as does the use of “ghost writers” – Pseudepigraphy was common, even in classical times.

    The construction of a fictitious identity, where this is conventional, as in certain forms of writing (essayists, for example) or in some on-line communities might well be permissible, for, in that case no actual deception is involved. No reasonable person would expect to rely on the truth of such assertions.

    Certainly, it would not be wrong to allow a paedophile to assume he was a 12 year old girl, just as there would be nothing wrong, in my example, of allowing a potential customer to assume the policewoman was a prostitute. But everything would turn on exactly what was said.

  • Brian English

    On-line conversation —

    38-year old pervert: What’s your name?

    Bill, the 45-year old cop: Emma.

    Pervert: How old are you?

    Bill: Almost 13.

    Pervert: Almost the same age as me. Can we meet down at the food court at the Mall?

    Bill: Sure, I’ll be wearing the Justin Bieber tee-shirt.

    You are telling me that Bill the cop has sinned? That is not, nor could it be, the Church’s position.

  • Jess

    What about the girl who concealed her sex while she lived with a congregation of Cistercian monks for her entire life? She called herself “Brother Joseph”, making the monks believe she was, in fact, a male, until the day she died. Better known as Blessed Hildegun of Sch

  • JPZmirak

    Prof. Smith informs me that my account of Innocent XI’s statement is mistaken in one detail: The pope condemns “narrow” mental reservation, but does not mention “broad” mental reservation. So insofar as his statement sums up the literalist tradition, it does not explicitly allow for verbal deception of any kind. This could cut both ways–for some, it reaffirms the solidity of the literalist position. For others, it will suggest a tradition so unworkable it urgently needs development–as the theology of usury and religious liberty did.

    And with this, I retire from this conflict, leaving the debate to real theologians such as Prof. Smith.

  • Michael PS

    Just so we can all be clear on exactly what Innocent XI condemned, in the Decree of the Holy Office dated 4 March 1679 here are the relevant propositions, taken or summarised from the works of various moral theologians and all condemned as “at least scandalous and in practice pernicious”

    24. To call upon God as a witness to a slight lie is not a great irreverence, because of which God wishes or can condemn man.

    25. With cause it is licit to swear without the intention of swearing, whether the matter be light or serious.

    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.

    Note that another proposition condemned in the same document was

    34. It is permitted to bring about an abortion before the animation of the foetus, lest the girl found pregnant be killed or defamed.

    35. It seems probable that every foetus (as long as it is in the womb) lacks a rational soul and begins to have the same at the time that it is born; and consequently it will have to be said that no homicide is committed in any abortion.

    In other words, these same theologians would have defended both Live Action and Planned Parenthood!

  • Lauretta

    I believe that those theologians may have gotten their opinion about abortion from Thomas Aquinas. I know that our local abortion provider at one time used something from Aquinas to support his abortion practice. As wise as Aquinas was, he did at times make errors and I think that too few people want to acknowledge that.

  • Brian English

    “As wise as Aquinas was, he did at times make errors and I think that too few people want to acknowledge that.”

    Embryology has come a long way since the 13th Century.

  • Lauretta

    Yes, Brian, and many other things have changed since then as well. We need always to look at things in light of what we know today and not stop at what someone may have said many centuries ago. That is why our doctrines can develop and deepen over time.

  • AT

    Hi Lauretta. Could it be that the idea that St Thomas was

  • JPZmirak

    St. Thomas was misinformed, as were all the men of his day, about the moment of ensoulment, but he never argued that abortion, even before ensoulment, was morally permissible. Canon law clearly forbade it, and he would have seen it, at the very least, as a sinful act of contraception. The Church’s teaching on the nature of the act followed science, as embryology developed. Likewise, his teaching on usury was not a piece of superstition on St. Thomas’ part, or rigorism, but followed from the relatively primitive understanding of economics at the time. The concept of “opportunity cost” was still largely unfamiliar–i.e., that when you pay interest, you are compensating the lender for the profit he COULD have made by putting that money to other use. In raising certain criticisms of one position of St. Thomas, I certainly don’t want to encourage us to make anachronistic attacks on doctors of the Church. That is the favorite tactic of Modernists….

  • Christine

    sd wrote:

    What evidence do you have for this?

    I find it strange how willing you are to give Planned Parenthood the benefit of the doubt and yet extend none to Lila Rose. PP is known by anyone familiar with the abortion industry to bend the rules for minors and resist calling the police when the law requires it. Abbey Johnson, former director of a PP clinic, has revealed that this is regular practice among PP employees:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZrXIttkdoQ

    Lila Rose–unlike some commenters here–was not na

  • Jerry

    The use of deception needs development, starting with an explanation of St. James’ approval of Rahab, building to its use in a just war, and extending to its use in fighting serious crime. It must then be extended to use by an individual. Thanks to commenter “sd” for setting Lila’s work in the category of crime fighting, specifically looking at whether even police would be accused of entrapment (causing sin). Even if the PP sting merited approval for police, there remains the question of whether and when an individual may undertake such action on his own. Let me be clear, this is not intended to condemn Lila.

    John, you wrote two things that took me aback:
    - The Church’s current teaching on each of these issues would have shocked most medieval theologians
    - we are not bound to mindlessly repeat the exact same understanding of every single teaching as it was codified in past centuries

    The first should give pause to any Catholic who claims to believe as all Catholics have believed. It captures my motivation for rejecting the novelty since Vatican II (without rejecting the pope, of course). The second is either unclear or untrue. Vatican I bound us to hold the exact same understanding of every doctrine as it has been handed down. We may receive a more illuminating explanation of a doctrine, but it must always conserve what came before. To turn your phrase, we are indeed bound to obediently repeat the exact same understanding of every single teaching as it was codified, while admitting newer expressions but never a different understanding.

  • JPZmirak

    No, Jerry, it is DOGMA (as opposed to DOCTRINE) that must always be understood in exactly the same sense. How, otherwise, could doctrine “develop”? Why would we be canonizing the man, John Henry Newman, whose most famous book is “An Essay Concerning the Development of Doctrine”? I won’t address here the Ultra-Traditionalist rejection of Vatican II, except to say that the maximalist understanding of papal authority trads inherited is incompatible with rejecting the councils, statements, and actions of five consecutive popes. Ultra-Trads would be more honest if they just joined the Orthodox church.

  • Jerry

    John, I’m OK with the distinction, unless you mean to say that only de fide (ex cathedra) definitions are to be held in the same understanding, but that teachings of the ordinary magisterium regarding matters of Faith and morals are not. This brings us to the Catholic definition of development and to Cardinal Newman. I’m with Brownson and others who regard Newman as allowing evolution of doctrine, namely, that what we believe today cannot in every case be seen as received from the Apostles. I won’t belabor that, but for a good reference on how Newman opposed papal authority, especially on the Syllabus of Errors, and how his epistemology is decidedly different than Aquinas’, see http://www.waragainstbeing.com/

  • Michael PS

    Embryology has come a long way since the 13th Century.

    Yes, having declined a long way since the 1st Century BC. Varro’s description of the embryonic head and spine in the fourth week was a remarkable piece of observation in an age without microscopes or magnifying lenses and he also clearly distinguishes the embryo from the foetus at the seventh week. I rather fancy no-one in the 13th Century actually looked any more.

    Tertullian came remarkably close to the truth, when he said in the Apologeticum (9:smilies/cool.gif

    That is a human being which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed. [Homo est et qui est futurus; etiam fructus omnis iam in semine est.]

    Modern genetics bear him out.

    The theologians condemned by Innocent XI more likely got their idea from the dualism of Descartes than from Aquinas – The “ghost in a machine” theory, where the soul was simply mind, rather than a vital principle of the body

  • Lauretta

    In raising certain criticisms of one position of St. Thomas, I certainly don’t want to encourage us to make anachronistic attacks on doctors of the Church. That is the favorite tactic of Modernists..

    I agree very much with this statement of yours. My concern, and sometimes frustration, with some is that they take something that a person in authority in the Church today says and, if it doesn’t agree with what they think St. Thomas said, will reject it. A Pope today, when speaking in his official capacity has more authority that St. Thomas ever did, as good as he was. He had no charism of infallibility and Popes are free to add to, reject or whatever Thomas’s teaching.

  • AT

    Hi Lauratta. Forgive me if I interject. The Suma Theologica is monumental work, like a magnificent cathedral. It is not the mere

  • Christine

    On something of a tangent–Lila Rose answers her detractors (i.e., PP):

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/lila-rose-the-top-six-planned-parenthood-deceptions-in-response-to-our-expo/

    “The growing body of evidence reveals that Planned Parenthood unequivocally covers up the sex abuse of young victims and is willing to work with the abusers. Our undercover actors could not have said who they were and what they represented more clearly. Planned Parenthood repeatedly looked the other way. It is a federal crime to aid and abet in the trafficking of underage persons. What is a better way to aid and abet a pimp of young girls, than give him all the secret abortions, birth control and the services that a pimp would need to keep his sex slaves on the street?”

    God bless this courageous young woman for doing more to cripple the abortion industry than all these online commentators combined!

  • AT

    …agree

  • Michael PS

    On the vexed question of

  • AT

    Ioannes Paulus PP. II
    Evangelium vitae

  • Lauretta

    Thanks for the explanation. I understand what you are saying and agree with much of it. I do know however, that the way in which things were explained in the past sometimes now sounds unsettling to us today and that is not the fault of either the past teaching or of the people of today, that’s just a change in the way people express themselves. We have the same issues between different cultures living at the same times. Such as the Europeans thinking that we Americans are quite rude because of the way we express ourselves.

    I have had some difficulty with the way certain things were expressed in the past concerning marriage. I don’t care for the method of explanation at all and relate much better to the way in which things are explained by the Church today concerning issues of marital life. There hasn’t been a drastic change in thinking but just a certain amount of development and a more charitable way of expressing the truths. I wonder at times if this isn’t somewhat the issue we’re dealing with on the issue of lying as well.

  • Bender

    To say that something has not been formally rejected is not to say that it is still considered valid. It is not necessary to make formal decrees on every little matter when reason applied to other dogma necessarily dictates the answer — people can connect the dots for themselves. For example:

    When did the “ensoulment” of Jesus occur? At birth? Sometime in the second trimester? Upon the Incarnation at the Annunciation, i.e. conception?

    And how about Mary, and her immaculate conception? Just exactly what was it that was “immaculate” at the moment of her conception, what existed at that point?

    And are these two exceptions? Or do they indicate the rule for everyone regarding the timing of “ensoulment”? Given that we are not purely bodies nor purely spirits, but both body and spirit make up the entirety of the person, is there ever a point in a person’s existence where he can be body, but not spirit?

  • AT

    Thanks for the reply Lauretta. I am also struggling with all this. I am just trying to reconcile what LA did (a group that I admire), with what I read from the Doctors of the Church (that I also admire). I don

  • Lauretta

    Great questions, Bender! I have in my mind the great thinkers pondering this question at the level of whether the spirit resides in the body the moment the sperm enters the egg or maybe once it reaches the nucleus or is it when the first cell divides? Probably something more minutely technical than what we may be thinking.

  • Lauretta

    I agree with you particularly about my own lies. To me a Christian is lying every time they do not perfectly manifest the total self-giving love in whose image we are created. We are lying about who they really are, a child of God, and we are lying to the world about who God is. We are supposed to be revealing God to the world as Christians. These types of lies to me are the ones that are the most damaging and the ones we should be focusing on

  • Michael PS

    And if zygote A divides to form identical twins, do we have A & B (and when does B acquire his or her soul?)or do we have two new individuals (B & C), neither of whom is identical with A (otherwise they would be identical with each other, which manifestly they are not; they are two distinct individuals)and on that view, what becomes of A’s soul?

    No one is denying that an individual, whole human life begins at conception. Those who debate this wholly academic question are talking about “the rational soul,” that the Ecumenical Council of Vienne defined as “really and essentially the form of the body”

    Personally, I prefer the preformism of Tertullian to the epigenesis of Aristotle, but that is an opinion, not doctrine.

  • Julie

    Live Action did the same thing the midwives did in Exodus Chapter 1:15-21. They lied to save the innocent. We are told “God was good to the midwives..” Read it for yourself…
    15Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah;

    16and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”

    17But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.

    18So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?”

    19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.”

    20So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty.

    21Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.

  • Michael PS

    St Augustine in ad Constantium having pointed out that God did good to the Hebrew midwives, and to Rahab the harlot of Jericho, this was not because they lied, but because they were merciful to God’s people, says

    What or how great is the good they got of their temporal reward in that they made them houses, unless by making proficiency they attained unto that house of which is sung unto God,

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