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.
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  • 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.

      • 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.

  • http://www.netministries.org/see/curches/ch05791 William E. Bauer

    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

  • Jessica

    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”

  • Satan Wins

    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

    Mark,

    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

      “Error”
      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”.

  • Sparrow

    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.


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