I Take It Back. I Was Wrong. Live Action’s Tactics Here are Still Wrong

Update:  A reader points out concerning the LA woman in the video:

She says (more than once) that the child’s father (1) told her to go get an abortion and (2) is paying for her to do so. Her being there is exploratory inasmuch as she’s “not 100% sure”. This latter one *could* be regarded as broad mental reservation, although I think circumstances are challenging for that. But the former is an out-and-out lie.

Fair enough.  I take it back.  I wish LA would stop the lying for Jesus tactics.  All it does is make me wonder how much of the video has been edited selectively.  And if I’m wondering, you can bet that those on the fence are far more dubious.  It’s no way to fight this battle.  Moreover there is this troubling point.  My reader says:

Consider this exchange (on page 13 of the transcript):

“Woman: ‘Cause I’m, like, just so scared of, like–

Dr. Santangelo: Sure, sure. Obviously, you know?

Woman: –having to be stuck with the responsibility. So would you make–but would you make sure that it, like– Dr. Santangelo: Yeah.

Woman: –it doesn’t survive?”

This isn’t a leading question. This is a lie. The “hypothetical” “it” here is not merely a “what if” abortion but an abortion that has been indicated to be sought and expected. (The boyfriend gave her money for it).

She’s saying, “This abortion that I want to have… will you make sure the baby is dead and not alive?”

Not a generic cover-all kind of scenario.

In fact, it’s the specificity that matters so much here from the moral point of view too. When speaking generically, an “ill intent” to sin wouldn’t necessarily be imputed to the abortionist – not just yet, anyway. But because of the proximity of the “would-be” act to the consideration, if I were spiritually counseling this guy, I’d say he’s guilty of choosing that object. To kill *this* baby.
 Why does that matter?  Because tempting somebody to commit a mortal sin is, itself, a mortal sin.  And it does not matter one whit that “he would have done it anyway.”  If you tempt an alcoholic to down a bottle of whiskey so that you can film him dying of alcohol poisoning and expose the distillery industry, you have sinned mortally “so that good may come of it”.  Tempting a murderer to murder is tempting to mortal sin.  Jesus does not call us to tempt people to mortal sin.
I heartily regret having endorsed this video.

“Connecting the Dots” on Real Life Radio at 5 PM Eastern
Prayer Requests and Works of Mercy
Steve Greydanus noodles the DC/Marvel movie universes
  • Leslie Fain

    I don’t remember a whole lot about the situation last time, so I am just asking this to understand better. How was last time different from this time? Is the difference that they sent actual pregnant women to the clinics this time to ask questions, as opposed to Lila Rose pretending to be an underage pregnant girl? I think that is what happened last time, but my memory is a little fuzzy. (I am an old lady with small children…can’t remember anything :)) Again, just trying to understand the whole situation.

    • Maiki

      Sure, I think that is the difference. If an actual pregnant woman comes in, and asks what her options are and the consequences of those options, she is entitled to that information, even if she doesn’t intend to go through with it. In most places, you are also entitled to record your interactions with your doctor. Pro-abortion rights proponents can’t go to this and say: “well this is a made up situation, and you are a liar, so why should we believe you?”

      By pretending to be a pimp or a teenage girl, the lying part makes that testimony of pro-lifers suspicious. It might even make such organizations treat those in risky situations (like being underage, being abused, being a prostitute, etc) in more suspect and maybe more harmful ways. It is also lying, which is inherently bad. But if it is not lying, if an actual pregnant person asks for a consultation, and they are treated just as another patient would, it can clearly reveal the truth.

      • Leslie Fain

        Thanks for the explanation. That makes sense.

  • http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/ Fr Phil Bloom

    Thanks for posting this, Mark. We need to take time to think, pray and realize what is happening – and how we are complicit. We cannot say, “I never knew.”

  • http://www.bigbluewave.ca SUZANNE

    I have a lot of mixed feelings about Live Action. They do a lot of good work on their blog, but given that they have lied in the past and they haven’t renounced that tactic, in all likelihood, they will continue to do so, and there’s a probable chance they did for this investigation.

    The problem is that if we uphold them as leaders in the pr0-life movement, it’s more difficult to denounce lying in the pro-abortion if we count Live Action among our (leading) fellow travellers.

    And no I don’t think pro-abortion.

    • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

      The best thing to do is to go to Live Action, or have actual individuals go to Live Action, sit them down, and say there needs to be a different approach. Talking to each other about them probably not so much. As for those who make hay out of this to cover up the pro-abortion side, just concede lying is wrong, they’re wrong in their zeal to do right by lying, and now let’s get back to the meat of the abortion issue to begin with.

  • Marsha

    Your original post also mentioned that people attack you for having issues with LA’s actions and that attacking the method somehow equates to you being pro-abortion or something. I’ve had a similar experience with many pro-lifers that use graphic materials… if you disagree with the frequent use of graphic pictures and do not want to be exposed to them somehow you become the enemy. I think certain arms of the pro-life movement are losing a level of moral balance themselves and have reached the point where unethical behavior on their part is excused. I think when people reach this point there is probably a need to take a break from active pro-life work and it is time for prayer, reflection, and working from behind the scenes.

  • Dale Price

    In the wake of the absolutely inert, politically-motivated decisionmaking by the State of Pennsylvania and the willingness of the abortion industry to cover for Gosnell, I can’t get upset at LA for this.

    When the government and business foment atrocities, someone has to act to expose them. I haven’t seen any evidence (but correct me if I’m wrong, please) that it is immoral for Catholic police officers to engage in sting operations, or undercover work. This is an undercover operation done when the police have been told to look the other way.

    I can’t condone lying. I also can’t condone the horrors that the lying exposes, nor wish that it hadn’t been exposed.

  • http://www.parafool.com victor

    I disagree that LA was tempting anyone to commit a mortal sin here. In the first place, the undercover journalist was never actually going to abort her baby, so no sin was in danger of being committed. Secondly, a service provider who is in business to provide that service has prettty much already accepted full responsibility for any moral consequences simply by intending to provide that service.

  • vox borealis

    Dale Prince asks an interesting question. Is it a sin for Catholic police offices to, say, work vice or go undercover, where they must lie a lot and facilitate if not encourage bad guys to do bad things so they can be caught? By asking this question, I am not taking a stand one way or the other on the morality of what LA is doing in this particular case, though naturally the answer bears on what tactics are morally acceptable (effective is another question).

    • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

      If I remember correctly, in the great debate from a year or so ago, the answer would be yes. All undercover work that involved deception, espionage, vice or anything involving lying is wrong. That was the conclusion then.

      • http://www.parafool.com victor

        To which I say: “Flush it.”

      • Dante Aligheri

        I seem to recall that St. Thomas Aquinas once said that not everyone has a right to the truth – or so I have heard from people. Can anyone corroborate that claim?

        Thank you.

        • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

          There is a difference, though, between withholding the truth and affirmatively lying.

        • vox borealis

          Dante, with respect to the “right to the truth”, the Catechism:

          2488 The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the Gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it.

          2489 Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. the good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. the duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it. (citing scriptural evidence).

        • Mark Shea

          True. And if it were a matter of withholding truth, I would have no issue. But this is a matter of positively lying. And Thomas is unequivocal: lying is always a sin.

      • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

        I believe someone with knowledge also explained in that discussion that long-term undercover work has serious consequences on the psyches of those doing it. I’ve often wondered whether the cost of undercover work is really worth it, in the long run.

      • vox borealis

        Dave G., thanks! That’s interesting. I also reviewed the Catachism this afternoon, and it is far more strict (for lack of a better word) than I recalled about telling the truth. I’ll need to process this more.

  • http://levitersalsalis70.blogspot.com.au/ Peter

    I really don’t understand the end goal LA is shooting for here. Let’s say they are unexpectedly successful and reveal all the corrupt abortion providers. Will the entire nation suddebny change their mind about abortions in theory and practice? No. Best case scenario is that they ‘clean up’ the abortion providers and turn to face us with a smirk saying “look at how law abiding and clean our baby killing clinics are now!” And good people will have wasted years of effort and millions in resources just to help them be better abortionists. Unless we are more offended by their lawbreaking than their killing babies, our fight is against the killing. Isn’t it?

    • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

      Then there’s no reason to care if the media is covering the Gosnell case or not, since the best case scenario is that they will ‘clean up’ the abortion providers and turn to face us with a smirk saying “look at how law abiding and clean our baby killing clinics are now!”

  • Stephen J.

    William Briggs (Statistician to the Stars) had an interesting way of describing this particular dilemma, in this post: http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=7861 The relevant bit, to me, seems to be: “What is a lie? ‘[T]he deliberate contradiction between what one knows or believes and what one says to one who has a right to know the truth.’ Note carefully the last condition.” Briggs uses this to point out that lying to an SS officer about Jews hidden in your attic would not be reprehensible, because the Nazis have no right to information that will only enable them to commit evil.

    My question would be: What “right to know the truth” do the abortion clinic staff have here? It seems to me that they would only have such a right if they claimed that they would have given different answers about how willing they would be to break state laws depending on what they believed about the circumstances of their patient’s pregnancy — and the fact that they have no legal right to give the answers they did anyway is precisely the point at issue. You do not have the right to know the truth about how much money is in a bank if you are trying to decide whether it’s worth robbing, and you do not have the right to rip someone’s shirt off to see if they’re wearing a wire before you offer to sell them drugs or not; it would seem to me that the same principle applies here.

    • Stephen J.

      (I realize on rereading that as a matter of public record, most people *can* in fact get access to approximate data about a bank’s total assets, even if they are not told how much actual cash is on hand at any one time in any one bank building. So let me say instead “how much money is in a private safe”, or “in a store”, or some other private reserve.)

      • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

        The old Catholic Encyclopedia has an interesting perspective on that “who has the right to the truth”:

        ‘A recent writer in Paris series, Science et Religion, wishes to add to the common definition some such words as “made to one who has the right to truth.” So that a false statement knowingly made to one who has not a right to the truth will not be a lie. This, however, seems to ignore the malice which a lie has in itself, like hypocrisy, and to derive it solely from the social consequence of lying. Most of these writers who attack the common opinion show that they have very imperfectly grasped its true meaning. At any rate they have made little or no impression on the common teaching of the Catholic schools.’

        So, at least, matters stood in 1917.

    • Jason Cebalo

      Mr. J,

      If we accept William Brigg’s definiton then, I agree, no lie was told. The key question, however, is why we should accept Mr. Brigg’s deffinition. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a lie as “speaking a falsehood with the intention of decieiving.” (para. 2482) There is, in the Catechism’s definition, no mention of any right to know. The question then seems to me as one of who has greater authority, a statician or the Church.

    • Mark Shea

      There is a distinction between withholding information to which others have no right and lying. LA *lied*. The Church is clear: lying is always a sin. Withholding information is not.

  • Mike

    Brave of you…and I think you’re right in that tempting someone or goading them is not right.

  • quasimodo

    This conversation always reminds me of an effort to fence the law. The law was made to protect people not to assure their destruction by maintaining my personal purity. Possibly, it is a sin not to lie under some circumstances. Midwives, Rahab, and the venerable Nazi at the door come to mind. I’ve read all the dancing around those examples and they just don’t fly. Don’t fence the law … it was made for man not man for the law.

  • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

    With these conditions, it is a wonder that Catholics could put on a play, do improv, or engage in street theater. Is method acting against Catholic doctrine? I do wonder.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      Why are you pretending you don’t know the difference between lying and acting?

    • TheRealAaron

      The last part of the Catechism’s definition is important: “with the intention of deceiving.” When you read a fictional book or go to a movie, it’s understood that what’s portrayed is not “real.” If the author presents untrue things as truth (like The Da Vinci Code or The Deputy), that’s lying. But the simple act of writing fiction is not an attempt deceiving.

    • Mark Shea

      Don’t be silly.

  • Leslie Fain

    Hey Quasidmodo,

    It seems to me from reading this section in the Catholic Encyclopedia, that there are three types of lies, and two of them are venial. The examples you mention: Midwives, Rahab, and the Nazi at the door all seem to fall into the officious category, which is a type of lie where are you not trying to harm, but benefit someone, and is considered a venial sin. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09469a.htm

  • Katheryn

    The woman also exploited her own pre born child in this, even more aggregiously if she allowed any testing or ultrasound to be performed. No amount of money, video, whatever could entice me to willingly expose any of my children to such diabolical environments or dialogues. I try not to drive down the street that PP is on… and when i have to, we pray a Memorare and a St. Michael as we pass. Was the doctor paid by cash or insurance? Lab fees? Office fees? Or does LA not pay their bills because of the activities at the facility?
    Secondly, why does LA describe these videos as “shocking?” I am not shocked that abortionists kill babies and dispose of them in undignified ways. I’m not shocked that they advise women seeking abortions how to make it as easy as possible. I’m also not shocked that they allow post abortive babies to die… They are in the business of killing babies.
    I hope that these abortion workers have someone to show them the light and love of Christ, like Abby Johnson did, and does for others. The deception will only drive them further into darkness.
    God have Mercy on us all.

    • Katheryn

      There’s just a ton of questionable action involved in creating a “sting” like this.

  • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

    “I disagree that LA was tempting anyone to commit a mortal sin here.”

    You are mistaken. Remove the temptation to commit a mortal sin, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, left of Live Action’s action. That is the object of their act, the whole point, and it would be gravely evil if it were done without lying.

    Formal cooperation in grave evil is itself gravely evil, and from the reports Live Action has video evidence of formal cooperation in grave evil, cooperation which Live Action requested.

    If you think an abortion has to occur for a grave sin to be committed, ask yourself whether sexual intercourse has to occur for adultery to be committed.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      That is to say, tempting someone to commit a mortal sin, as Live Action does, would *still* be gravely evil *even* if it were done without lying.

  • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

    I remain convinced that these discussions always start at the wrong end.

    Without a full, robust understanding of the virtue of truthfulness, debates about lying simply devolve into sequences of special pleading that this or that speech act isn’t *really* lying, or at least isn’t really wrong.

    Kingsley’s famous charge was that, “Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy.” There’s reason to wonder how broadly truth, for its own sake, is a virtue with the Roman laity.

  • http://spikeisbest.blogspot.com Paul Stilwell

    There are many who will say to me, when that day comes, Master, Master, was it not in thy name we prophesied? Was it not in thy name that we performed many miracles? Whereupon I will tell them openly, You were never friends of mine; depart from me, you that traffic in wrong-doing. –Matthew 7:22-23

  • http://twitter.com/simplegarak Nate Winchester

    Why does that matter? Because tempting somebody to commit a
    mortal sin is, itself, a mortal sin. And it does not matter one whit
    that “he would have done it anyway.” If you tempt an alcoholic to down a
    bottle of whiskey so that you can film him dying of alcohol poisoning
    and expose the distillery industry, you have sinned mortally “so that
    good may come of it”. Tempting a murderer to murder is tempting to
    mortal sin. Jesus does not call us to tempt people to mortal sin.

    So… are you saying that God committed a mortal sin when He told Abraham to sacrifice Issac?

    What separates “lying” from “testing”?

    • chezami

      And while we’re at it, since God can ordain the death of creatures, why can’t we commit murder? Hey! The abortion problem just got solved!
      There’s nothing more depressing than watching Christians struggling to invent absurd sophistries to justify sin.

      • http://twitter.com/simplegarak Nate Winchester

        Except I didn’t say anything about what we could do. I just asked if Mark accused God of committing a mortal sin. At which point, we are left with 4 possible conclusions:

        1) Mark committed blasphemy (even unintentionally).
        2) The definition of “mortal sin” is flawed.
        3) The definition of “lying” is flawed.
        4) Hypocrisy and inconsistent standards.

        Be as cunning as serpents we were told and prudence means dealing with the world as is. Part of the world as is is that people aren’t upfront about their dishonesty.

        • chezami

          Tempting people to be an accessory to murder is mortal sin. Period. Lying is also a sin. Period (though not necessarily–and in fact, no usually, mortal sin). Your choice to charge me with blasphemy for pointing these two facts out is sophistry done in defense, not of God, but of tempting to murder and of lying. It’s also embarrassing and shameful to watch.

          • JeanneMarie

            But since there really was no baby, there, in the end, could be no murder. And even if she were actually pregnant, I don’t know that asking the abortionist how he would do an abortion is “tempting” him. Is every person who asks how abortions are done committing mortal sin?

            • chezami

              And since there is no act of actual fornication, therefore it is impossible to commit adultery in your heart by looking lustfully at another. This is your logic.

  • bauerfam

    Mr Shea. Your articles are almost always distasteful. I even skip them in the print version of the newspaper. There is a way to speak the truth with a civil tongue. Please consider it.
    Incidentally, Live Action is doing messy undercover work that YOU should consider doing yourself. How else can the public get the real picture about abortion.

    • chezami

      Tempting people to commit mortal sin is not “messy undercover work”. It is mortal sin. That it happens to be mortal sin done in pursuit of a good end is only one more proof that many Catholics have either no idea about or not interest in one of the most fundamental and elementary aspects of Catholic teaching: “You shall not do evil that good may come of it.” It would behoove you to concern yourself less with observing the conventions of taste and more with observing the Commandments of God.

      • squishee

        It seems to me the woman convinced a murderer to admit he would commit another murder if he had the chance. No harm, no foul on her part. Pretty simple.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          It seems to me the woman convinced a murderer to admit he would commit another murder if he had the chance.

          By offering him that chance. This is also known as “leading someone else into sin.”

  • Ronald King

    I totally agree with you Mark

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessica.skelton.543 Jessica Skelton

    I don’t know how I feel about live action’s tactics yet, but it seems to me that she was just trying to get him to answer a question. I would not be surprised if he was lying so she would give him her “business”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Rilott/100002483923935 Kevin Rilott

    Yes, Mark your right, these pro-lifers lie all the time and these poor “choice” supporters are really pillars of virtue who are just misunderstood – led into sin by evil pro-lifers.
    I look forward to your next article exposing all the babies in the womb who are sinners for tempting their mothers to have abortions.

    • chezami

      Please stop saying stupid things. Thank you.

  • maku shuruu


    The CCC says this about lying:

    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.

    So, LA would have to intend to lead people into error in order for it to meet this standard to be called a lie. I don’t see sufficient evidence to show that LA desired to lead another into error. Do you see that?

    • chezami

      You mean besides lying about intending to get an abortion in order to tempt somebody to commit a mortal sin?

      Would you also say that somebody who hands an alcoholic a bottle of whiskey and then films them drinking themselves to death so they can expose the truth about the distillery industry is acting with Christian truth and charity?

      • maku shuruu

        Was Pope Pius XII lying when he issued false baptismal certificates to Jews to help them get to the Dominican Republic? These people were not baptized. If these are not lies, what factors make them not lies?

        • chezami
          • maku shuruu
            • chezami

              You’ll need to take it up with Doino. At most, it means that Pius acted in contradiction to immemorial Catholic teaching on the morality of lying. “The Pope did it” is not an argument for the compatibility of a moral error with Catholic teaching. After all, the Pope denied Christ and chickened out on justification by grace too. But at present, I’m still skeptical that Pius lied at all. Meanwhile, the Catechism is clear: lying is always a sin. And not small part of the fruit of LA tactics is that Christians waste immense amounts of energy trying to figure out ways to justify lying and tempting people to commit mortal sins instead of figuring out ways to use the weapons of the Spirit to fight the culture of death.

              • maku shuruu

                I think you may have missed my point about Pius XII. I’m NOT saying that is Pius XII did it, then it’s okay. I’m wondering if anyone issuing a false birth certificate is committing a mortal sin? Always? If this is a mortal sin, then why would people be using this to defend Pius XII’s character? If so, then this is damning evidence, not exonerating. If issuing false birth certificates is a mortal sin then it’s scandalous. Right?

                • chezami

                  Who said anything about mortal sin?

      • JeanneMarie

        In the alchoholic analogy, she may have shown the bottle, but she didn’t hand it to him, not did she film him while drinking himself to death… she only filmed him talking about how he would drink it… important distinction…

        • chezami

          No distinction whatsoever. The essence of the transaction was as follows: “I want to commit the mortal sin of murder. Will you please help me?” This is tempting somebody to commit mortal sin, which is itself mortal sin. It matter not one damn bit that he “would have done it anyway”. What matters is that LA does evil that good may come of it.

          • JeanneMarie

            I’m not at all putting for that he would have done it anyway. I was pointing out the flaws in the alcoholic analogy. She didn’t hand him a bottle and didn’t film him while he was committing mortal sin. She only showed him a bottle and filmed him talking about what he may do with it. And there IS a distinction between talking to someone about their temptations and actually being a part of the action of the mortal sin.

    • capaxdei

      here just means thinking something is true when it is false. The false
      thing Live Action intended the abortionist to think true was that the
      woman he was speaking to wanted an abortion.

      That much is
      self-evident, so I assume you’re proposing that “error” in CCC 2483 has
      some narrow, technical meaning. It doesn’t, as any familiarity with
      Church teaching on the sin of lying should show. (Do you see sufficient
      evidence to show that the child who broke the lamp and said he didn’t
      desired to lead his mother into error?)

      The function of “in order
      to lead someone into error” in CCC 2483 is not to make “to lie” an
      obscure technical moral term, but to distinguish lies from other acts
      such as discoverable equivocations.

      • maku shuruu

        I believe St. Thomas would insist that a mitigating factor is that the party has a right in strict justice to the information. When my 5 year old asks about what happened to St. Maria Goretti, am I lying if I don’t say she was sexually assaulted and almost raped?

        Are people sinning when they tell their little kids about Santa Claus? Does a 4 year old have a right to the 411 on the Easter Bunny? I think you see my point. Then again, I’ll wait for your reply.

        • chezami

          That’s true. And that is why the Tradition has always distinguished between withholding information and lying. “I want an abortion” is a lie. St. Thomas answers in the affirmative the question of whether it is always a sin to lie. That said, the much weightier moral question here is that the purpose of the lie is to tempt somebody to commit a mortal sin for the cameras. To tempt to mortal sin is to *commit* mortal sin oneself. And the discernment-free Conservative Catholic community cheers–because they win a debating while losing their own souls.

          • maku shuruu

            Where in the video does she say “I want an abortion”? Do you have a (mm:ss) mark for this request? Is this sentence explicitly said? Or, is someone simply inquiring what would happen If that question were asked. Let’s be doubly-sure we don’t put words in someone’s mouth.

            If people erroneously infer it, that would be different. If the abortionist mistakenly thinks she wants an abortion, is she obligated to correct him by saying, “No, I don’t. I just wanted to hear what your answer would be.” If so, what document can you refer to to show that this obligation is there.

            Also, I’m curious how you can know when people are discernment-free? And how would making these statements be “acting with Christian truth and charity?

            • chezami

              This is all discussed in the blog entry.

              • maku shuruu

                Your critics being “discernment-free” is not in the blog entry. How are you able to conclude that they have zero discernment? And this charge being an example of “Christian truth and charity” is hard to find in the blog post.

                • chezami

                  Has nothing to do with “my critics”. It has to do with the fact that defenders of LA twist themselves into pretzel to defend two things: 1) lying (which the Church says is intrinsically–though not always gravely–immoral and 2) in this case, lying in order to tempt somebody to commit mortal sin so you can trap them in it.

                  Then, for a capper, they strain at the gnat of “You’re being mean to point that out” while swallowing the camel of “temptation to commit mortal sin”. Yes, I would call that “discernment-free”.

  • David Finkelstein

    I’m mixed on this one – still thinking about it. I agree with you that to be in fact good an action must be performed in virtuous manner. How matters as much as why. So the lying is clearly wrong, likely venial but still sinful. I’m sympathetic to the attempt because it’s hard to see how this evil would be exposed otherwise, but that’s not an excuse for venial sin just an observation. I’m not convinced however about the temptation to mortal sin charge is valid. That’s a leap. The man has a sign out front that basically says “will commit mortal sin for $”. All the undercover person has done has discussed the possibility with him in an effort to expose the inhumanity of the act, the extremity of the sin. These abortionist in this case is way beyond mere temptation; he is actively shilling for takers to help him sin further. It is the abortionist who tempts the reluctant potential client. Yes it would have been better to have captured this info in some pure manner, but I’ll not condemn them for it.

  • Jordan

    This all comes back to the end-justifies-means question, which the Church teaches is never a legitimate moral calculus. And yet, here I’m confused, I’d be grateful if anyone could clarify. Aquinas says in the Summa that God permits evil in order to bring forth a greater good. Now that seems like end-justifies-means logic to me, precisely. The only difference is that God “permits” rather than “performs” evil, but I don’t see that this distinction helps matters. And moreover, it seems like Redemption itself is an end-justifies-means matrix: Christ must not only conceal his divinity in order to be crucified, as Saint Paul tells us, but the act of redemption is set up in such a way that it hinges on mortal sin: someone had to be willing to crucify Christ in order for redemption to come about. So if the end does not justify the means, how to understand the crucifixion or Aquinas’ theodicy?

    • iamlucky13

      I don’t think I can answer that fully, but I will observe St. Thomas notes that God only “permits” evil. He does not suggest that God commits evil, or tempts us to it, but rather allows us our free will to commit good or evil.

      And when confronted with the greatest Good bestowed on us every since Creation, God’s presence here among us, we unfortunately chose an evil act. Not because God led us to it, but because we are, in varying degrees, unwilling to reject the sin.