Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology student Humberto Lopez ponders the question of Live Action and Fraternal Charity
It takes me a while but I think I’m able to articulate at least part of the confusion that inevitably arises when it comes to the strategy of lying to PP.
When defenders talk about lying to Planned Parenthood, the rather strong emotion is that child murdering bastards get whatever is coming to them. The focus, in other words, is on the grave and monstrous evil done by PP. Perfectly understandable. People who stick scissors in baby’s brains are behaving vilely and the desire to stop that evil is strong in any normal person who has not been perverted by lies. So grave is the sin opposed that it tends to dwarf all other sins and make them seem puny in comparison.
The problem is that a comparatively small sin is still a sin. This is, in fact, exactly *why* the Church makes the distinction between mortal and venial sin and does not adopt the Protestant folly of saying “all sin is the same”.
The good news about this, of course, is that we can make common sense distinctions jaywalkers and serial killers. The bad news is that Catholics often forget the distinction in one of two ways: they tend to either imagine that “venial” means “not really sinful” or that saying “a venial sin is still a sin” means “Any critic of Live Action’s lies is saying Live Action is as evil as Planned Parenthood.” I should know. I’ve seen Catholics say both nonsensical things multiple times.
No. A venial sin is not in the slightest as serious as a mortal sin. But it *is* a sin and though we can make a distinction, we cannot allow a big sin to transform venial sin into “not a sin” or, worse still, a virtue.
So, for instance, if I walk up to you, lie about my identity, and persuade you to give me a ten bucks by tricking you into thinking I am your Army buddy’s son, I am a thief. If it turns out that you are a bankster who is in the process of stealing one billion dollars from some hapless investors, the fact that I robbed you is dwarfed by your theft, but my theft remains a sin nonetheless. Moral: a burglar in Nazi Germany is not exonerated by the fact that much greater sins are happening all around him. Venial sins are not mortal sins, but they are sins nonetheless.
The problem with our tendency to let mortal sins drown out the signficance of venial sins and even turn them into imagine virtues is simply this: in the Church’s tradition venial sins are, if you will, gateway drugs to more serious sins. And the perfect way in which to allow a sin to take root and metastasize is to tell oneself that not only the sin not a sin, but it’s a positive virtue.
That’s why I keep banging away at lying for Jesus. It’s not because I equate, in the slightest, the sin of some young kids telling lies to Planned Parenthood in ill-considered youthful zeal. I’m skeptical they are very culpable at all due to ignorance and not thinking things through clearly. What concerns me *much* more is the consequences of Christians who *do* have time and leisure to think this stuff through consciously embracing an ethic of lying for Jesus and making the choices that must inevitably flow from adopting that, not as a rash strategy in haste, but as a core facet of their life ethic. That *will* end in catastrophe and will not remain a venial sin forever: it will lead, probably more quickly that apologists for lying realize, to mortal sin.
Indeed, it’s already well on the way there since LA strategy consists of enticing PP employees to commit mortal sin. Excuses about how “they’d do it anyway” are rationalization. An alcoholic would go get drunk anyway. That will not relieve you of the heavy millstone you are tying round your neck if you offer them a bottle and entice them to drink–even if you are videotaping it all to show the destructive effects of the whiskey industry. Their blood will be on your hands.
Live Action and its apologists have not, I would guess, really considered that fact. But they cannot avoid considering it much longer. And if they do and go on with this strategy of lying to entice people to commit mortal sin after that, their culpability will be much graver–and the corruption of those member of the Body of Christ who makes excuses for it will be much more serious.
Remedy: find other ways to fight the good fight that do not involve wilfully choosing to commit either venial or mortal sin.