…from Fr. Jacob Maurer, who lives just down the road in Tacoma! Nice to make your virtual acquaintance, Fr. Maurer!
“Telling the truth without breaking confidences? Please. Bring on the Nazis.”
He lost me with that one. All he has to say is what one of our priests says: sorry but can’t divulge what was said in confession. Counselors of any stripe deal with that situation all the time (hey Pastor, what’d Steve want the other night?), and usually politely explaining that it can’t be discussed is the way to go. That’s hell and gone from a shotgun to the face with innocent lives on the line and split seconds to react.
By the way, I wish someone would come up with a law that explains the tendency to invoke Godwin’s law as soon as the word Nazi appears in a discussion.
I think it might not have been clear about the variety of situations that can arise. It really is much more common that you might guess – though thankfully I can trust my memory (ie: lack thereof!) to protect me the vast majority of the time. But it’s just often enough….
So. Say you come and confess adultery. A friend of yours comes up some time later – maybe even completely unaware that you’ve gone to confession to me – and asks something like ‘Do you know anything about Dave’s relationship with X?’ If I were to make a reference to the seal of confession, I would indirectly by implication reveal that you had confessed the sin to me. So its on me to keep the seal and not lie. That’s where those prepared re-directs are so important.
What’s frustrating about the Nazi’s scenario is that its put out there like the only option is to willingly lie or willingly turn over the people you’re hiding. The ‘gotcha’ often hidden in the scenario is that if you say you won’t lie, you’re accused of collaborating with the Nazis. It’s an emotional one-two punch that isn’t really helpful to a discussion.
That said, I don’t know what I’d do. I know what I should do – not lie and not turn over the people I’m hiding – but I don’t know if I could be quick enough on my feet to dodge effectively without lying. The whole fear and anxiety factor makes things less certain. And perhaps that’s another reason we should stop using the scenario – hard cases make for bad law. We can’t judge folks in tough spots, but we can’t necessarily hold them up as the standard either.
Hello Fr. Maurer,
Thanks for the clarification. I think the Nazi reference comes up because it’s a famous example, made famous by Corrie ten Boom remembering the differences she had with her sister, who would not lie. Period. Her sister is the one who famously told the Nazis to come on in, sure, and when asked directly told the truth in ways that the Nazis didn’t believe, because she wouldn’t lie. Corrie, on the other hand, did, but often wondered if she should have been more like her sister.The Jews they were helping, apparently, had a mixed reaction to her sister’s refusal to lie to save them.
The best answer I heard was from a priest who was talking to one of our adult education groups. I asked about it during the Q&A. He said what LA was doing (then) was clearly wrong, since they don’t have to lie. They have time, they have the wherewithal to find other ways. What they are wanting to do is noble, and he pointed out the danger in focusing on their sins to the point that they throw up their hands and say screw it. But they should also be shown the better way, with much praise for their intentions.
With the ‘lie to a Nazi’ scenario, he joked that if the only thing you ever did wrong in your entire life was save an innocent Jewish person in a pinch by lying to a Nazi that wanted to kill her, then you’d never need to go to confession, would you? Of course he was being a little humorous. But he explained in that case, while all lying is wrong, not all lying is the same. And in that case, your first thought was not ‘how can I save my butt’, your first thought was ‘how can I save the innocent person from certain death.’ In a situation where you might have seconds to spare, having that be your first thought isn’t bad.
If your first thought in a life and death situation is ‘how can I save my neighbor’, you’ve already leaped over half of humanity, many who already would have joined the Nazis anyway, and many others who would sell out to save their skins. So that’s my take on it. I think it’s a problem when we fail to separate the situations. All lying is not the same. Lying to save an innocent person in a pinch is not planning elaborate lies in the safety of your living room, no matter how just the cause. Likewise, what LA is doing is not the same as ‘honest honey, I have to work late with my secretary again!’ It’s when the conversation comes back to the idea that despite what the Catechism says, all lying is all lying is all lying without qualifying it, that we end up with quandaries that don’t need to exist.
I think if your first thought is ‘I can save these people and I’m quick thinking enough to do it without lying’, hey, great. But not everyone is fast on their feet in those situations and for me, I just pray my first thought wouldn’t already have been ‘if everyone else is joining the Nazis, I guess I better, too.’
As for the counseling, that’s easy. Just tell them you can’t divulge what was said. It will work most of the time.
But Father (and Mark), the Live Action stings are not done in order to lead someone into error, but to lead everyone involved in the abortion industry OUT of the grave sin of abortion.
“Please help me kill my baby” is leading someone into massively grave error. Can you *imagine* Jesus coming up to the Samaritan woman, asking to commit fornication with her (while secretly recording their conversation) and then using that to “expose” her to her fellow villagers in order to “lead everyone involve in fornication out of fornication”?
Mark, you keep using that quote. I haven’t had the time to review the entire LA videos. Would you please direct me to where they say that? I would really appreciate it because my understanding is that they are engaged in “what would you do if” scenarios which in my opinion fall short of the criteria for mortal sin (i.e. grave matter – yes, sufficient reflection – not necessarily during a what-if conversation and full consent of the will – not necessarily).
I have this really large problem – telling a lie to lead to a desired outcome. Doesn’t seem to compute – how does committing a sinful act actually lead anyone to a non-sinful state. Maybe I am not terribly bright, but it seems not to be sensible.
All lies are deceptions. All deceptions (stings) are not lies.
Eileen D”A – The word deception comes form the word deceive which means to be false to – so being false to is not telling a lie – neat dictionary you have.
Something I’ve noticed very much in my own life, but also many times in others: Any time you start analyzing the Bible or the Catechism to figure out exactly how much you can get away with, cross referencing passages and analyzing text like a lawyer … yeah, you’re wrong. 99.999999% of the time. You’re trying to get away with something that you know in your heart is wrong.
Live Action’s intended ends are good. That doesn’t justify their means. It’s wrong. It’s not kinda/sorta wrong. It’s not just wrong on Tuesdays. It’s wrong. And it hurts the Church.
Fight with Love and Truth. Anything else, and you’re listening to Screwtape.