Live not by Lies

I remember a time when you could publish words like this by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and people would just nod because, you know, duh. However, now that Catholics have (with their customary anti-charism of discernment) foolishly hitched their prolife wagon to Lying for Jesus and even more foolish decided that those who question this stupid move are Enemies of the Church who want babies to die, there is always a significant percentage of nervous lip lickers who wonder what my “agenda” is for saying “lying is bad” and if I’m “on the right side” in saying we shouldn’t lie. Why, I even have a deacon who is (I am not making this up) threatening to write my bishop and try to get him to adjudicate a combox dispute and condemn me for saying I think this is true:

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.

For my part, I would love to be a fly on the wall should that call for an Episcopal Internet Inquisition against me really wind up in my bishop’s hands. After all, what better things does he have to do than leap into a defense of lying against some layman in his diocese he probably couldn’t remember if his life depended on it?

For those in the reality-based community of the faith, let me recommend we all stop speculating on my role in the Great Conspiracy and focus on Solzhenitsyn’s words, recalling a dim time in the past when “faithful conservative Catholics” didn’t feel the need to concoct elaborate sophistries in favor of lying, just to prop up another folk hero’s Alinsky tactics.

"So much for hating the sin and loving the sinner. Boy was Augustine dumb."

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  • Zach Foreman

    I must have missed some of your past discussion, but what do you think of law enforcement pretending to be underage in order to sting sexual predators, or undercover cops stinging drug dealers or potential terrorists? What of Solomon’s decision to cut the child in half in order to discover the true mother of the child? Was this wisdom or deliberate intention to lead listeners into error?
    Note, that I don’t think that even if one makes an exception for government that that would justify it by private parties, since governments can do many things private citizens cannon, such as try and imprison people. It just seems that there are many situations in which we fool or trick people for their own good.

  • Mark Shea

    I must have missed some of your past discussion

    Correct. See my Register blog in February/March 2011.

  • Thomas R

    Are you indicating the contemporary US is equivalent to Brezhnev-era USSR? I don’t think you are, but it’s a bit unclear.

  • Ector de Maris

    Here’ my two cents’ worth on why these kinds of stings are wrong. It’s not necessarily the deception involved that is offensive. I think it was ok to lie to the Nazis to save the Jews hiding in your barn.

    Rather, it’s the deliberate tempting of the target to sin that is wrong. Why intentionally create a stumbling block for your fellow man especially if you are praying to the Father to lead you not into temptation? If you think some group is bad, confront them or expose them for what they do. Don’t trick them into compounding their sins.

    • It’s not necessarily the deception involved that is offensive.

      Read the CCC 2485 paragraph again, starting with the first sentence:
      By its very nature, lying is to be condemned.

  • OK, devil’s advocate here. I just thought of this as I read the quote above. Never really came to my mind before, though I’m sure others have said it. It says:

    “The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity.”

    But is lying to someone whose intention is to commit a grave and intrinsic evil (pick one: murder, rape, kiling Jews in the Holocaust) doing that? Couldn’t it be argued that you are, in fact, leading them away from error by saying things that are contrary to the truth? So is my telling them an untruth (say, lying about where the Jewish child is to a person seeking to kill the Jewish child), leading them ‘to’ error? Couldn’t it be argued it might actually, at least for the moment, lead them away (maybe long enough to reason with them, win them over to Christ, etc). As long, of course, as your lying doesn’t lead the killer, murderer, rapist into harm’s way.

    Just curious, playing devil’s advocate and all.

    • Mark Shea

      This lie was actually done in order to *tempt* somebody into doing a grave evil.

      • I know. I was just thinking out loud (or the internet equivalent). This doesn’t really relate to the one above, it just came to me as I read over that quote.

  • wondering

    Is the Catechisms teaching on lying infallible?

    • Mark Shea

      The Catechism reiterates the normative teaching of Church formulated and repeated again and again by Augustine, Aquinas, and fifty bazillion other teachers of the Church for century after century until the needs of “faithful conservatives Catholics” suddenly subjected it to the acid bath of postmodern deconstruction in the service of pitifully short term gain.

      • Mark, you nailed it with this answer to “wondering”.

        The defenders of Lying have deconstructed the Catechism and have made a disunion of Magisterial teaching – and they’ve done so with a kind of relish, with a kind of glee. The liberals have been doing this for years in order to rationalize lust without limit – a mean motive, but an understandable one. But to atomize the Catechism for the sake of Lying? Lying??? “For Wales,” as it were.

        And “wondering”, the Catechism presents the teaching of both the Extraordinary and the Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals. You take it from there.

        • “The liberals have been doing this for years in order to rationalize lust without limit – a mean motive, but an understandable one. But to atomize the Catechism for the sake of Lying? Lying??? “For Wales,” as it were.”

          I have to admit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a statement that conforms more to non-Catholic stereotypes of Catholicism than this one. Made me laugh.

  • Observer

    Lying, can, in the most subtle form lead to the direction to lying for any cause with the appearance of doing good in the end; and, it will bring about the loss of immunity to being lied to or preventing one’s self from lying for their own benefit and self-preservation. More so, lying is very much toying with compromising the truth. If you lie, then how will you then what the truth is? Lying would work in the analogy of an alcoholic who lies to himself and says to himself, “Well, it won’t hurt if I had a little brandy when I’ve got a terrible cold.” The alcoholic in the analogy fails to see he is lying to himself to bring about a desired good (drinking brandy to make him cope with a terrible cold much better and help him get some sleep.) In a parallel sense, LA could say, “Well, this lie is only going to bring about a greater good. And as I long as I’m lying for a greater good, there’s no sense in stop lying as long as there’s a good in the end for any condition or reason.”

    Again , what is missed, is the fact that lying is a deception in order to lead into error (and such an error refers to an error of grave sin.) When questions are posed for reasons of law or for security, people are trying to equivocate: law = security = WWII oppressed = Defending life at all costs. Even the questions are posed to raise suspicion about anyone who questions what Alinsky type of philosophy is used to for the betterment of P-Life. Without further ado, I will address the very fallacy of the use of a lie.

    When the PP worker was drawn into a dialogue to expose the assistance PP gives to the criminal, one thing seems to have been completely ignored and no extensive consideration to the real issue at hand. That is, why would a girl, especially not an adult, would be accompanying a head of promiscuous criminal activity? Was she rejected by her parents? Did she get caught up in drug addiction? Divorce? Broken home? The lie abandons and even neglects a necessary holistic view of the P-Life movement.

    Mother Theresa, for example, even referred to the services of PP as “poverty.” But the impovershment, which Mother Theresa refers to, is lack of or abandonment of charity. Charity must be returned to the home and family (Mother Theresa’s words and her understanding of what ills befell families in America.) Do you think Mother Theresa would ignore the lie used in the P-Life movement and let it slide away? I would think not.

    More so, her very words and action are the very direction, foundation, and necessary view of being P-Life. Her own order, which actually does something with respect to the need of charity and working against the breaking down of the family, is called the Sisters of Charity. Here’s a simple discernment, do you think Mother Theresa would suggest lying or actually encourage going out and doing something to deal with the problem which is the onset leading upto PP? Would she say use the minimalistic tactic of lying or actually establish necessary means of charity (the corporeal and incorporeal works of mercy) both sustaining and mending the broken family institution? I think Mother Theresa would actually offer the means for someone to get out of a crime than merely exposing them for commiting or assisting one. More so, she would actually get the girl out of the hands of the crook and see to it the girl would never have to be caught up into a situation leading to the services rendered by PP. Mother Theresa would actually be trying to do something about the problem than merely avoiding it.

  • wondering

    Ok, so then its infallible…

    • A better question is, “Is this teaching true?” Asking if it’s infallible belies a desire to ignore it. Infallible or not, the teaching is undoubtedly true, as any reflection upon Our Lord’s life, the whole of Scripture, and these passages make clear.

      • Observer

        I think anyone who wants to lessen the expectation or diminish the importance of Catechetical authority are rationalizing and excusing themselves form responsibly loving their neighbor. Most of the arguments pertaining to lying to save someone’s life don’t really illustrate “rendering to the Father what belongs to the Father…” Rather, I see lying for rendering what is the Father’s to caesar and vice versa. Why don’t people simply accept the most and important of all virtues (charity – “He loved world that He gave His only begotten Son”)? When Mary Magdalene and the woman from Canaan saught Salvation, Christ didn’t lure them to the hands of the Pharisee’s. Rather, He drew them to the Father (like the prodigal son was drawn to his) seeking mercy with penenance. St. Paul, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, St. Augustine, and every saint has exhibited charity. St. Augustine once said, “The essential: unity; the non-essential: liberty; and in all things: charity.” Most interestingly enough, Mother Theresa, who was an Augustinian Nun, founded her order: the Sisters of Charity.

  • wondering

    Well if its ordinary and universal magisterium then its infallible..