Lying for Jesus: A Faustian Bargain

Lying for Jesus: A Faustian Bargain June 5, 2012

When I criticize Live Action for lying to Planned Parenthood, I can typically be guaranteed that I will hear that I am a) secretly supportive of Planned Parenthood because I am criticizing Catholic Folk Heros who have saved more lives with a single video than I have in my whole worthless life and/or b) I am, as one reader told me, “about one step removed from the Pharisees who were angry at the disciples for plucking the grains of wheat on the Sabbath”. The notion, of course, is that I am majoring in minors, straining at gnats and swallowing camels, fretting about trivial fibs while children are being slaughtered, etc. The implicit accusation that immediately comes up is that to oppose Live Actions lies for Jesus is to be in the exact same moral category as the kind of moral idiot who would rat out the Jews in the cellar to the Gestapo in order to keep one’s precious morality pure. And besides, the complaint goes, it’s not *really* lying. As my reader said, “Calling every falsehood “lying” is like calling every killing “murder.”

Ahem. Last things first. Let’s stop with the euphemisms and with the attempt to pretend that show up at somebody’s door with a fake name and a fake purpose is anything but lying. Trying to euphemize it by some other name is exactly like trying to euphemize torture as “enhanced interrogation” or abortion as “tissue extraction”. When even the *defenders* of Live Action call it lying (as my friend Peter Kreeft did), it’s lying.

That said, let’s make another distinction: plucking grain and eating it on the Sabbath is not intrinsically evil. Lying is. I’m perfectly aware of what the intention is: stopping abortion. And I applaud the intention. But lying is still lying. Now, I am perfectly aware that lying, while intrinsically immoral, is not always a grave sin. All sorts of things enter in. There are lies that are fibs. There is the matter of freedom and understanding and culpability. I get all that. And I get that the goal is a noble: hasten the day when salt is sowed on the ground where the last Planned Parenthood clinic has been razed and abortion is a thing of the past. I fully support that goal and praise Live Action for desiring to achieve it.

But here’s the problem: All sin consists of the attempt to achieve some good end by disordered means: and attempting to establish truth by lying is profoundly disordered and will only end in mischief and damage to the faith to the prolife cause.

So I think that before the discussion get too abstract it’s important to ask what real good is even being accomplished by Live Action’s lies. People immediately rush to the Nazis at the Door Scenario and fall into the delusion that lives are being saved by Live Action lies to Planned Parenthood employees.

Understand this: not one. single. life has been saved by Live Action’s lies. Not a single abortion has been prevented. All that happened is that PP is temporarily embarrassed and prolifers get a thrill for a day or two.

After that, PP fights back and says “Those videos were edited and LA is lying.” And right there is the problem: because Live Action has openly acknowledged that they *were* lying about their identity and purpose. So Planned Parenthood then appeals to people on the fence about abortion and says, “Why should you trust self-confessed liars?” And their supporters, who might include some future Bernard Nathanson or other troubled conscience, look at the spectacle and join the herd in the comboxes denouncing Christians as liars–a hard point to argue when they are in fact lying. Indeed, while Christians desperately want to tell themselves that Live Action’s “stings” have been devastating to Planned Parenthood, the reality is that flagscows of the Left like the Nation are *exulting* in Live Action’s tactics and celebrating “the genius of Cecile Richards” for taking this gold-engraved opportunity to shout “Look! Christianist liars are persecuting Planned Parenthood!” and driving donations way up.

More than that, though, you have the *deeply* corrupting reality that defenders of Live Action–Christian defenders!–spend massive amounts of energy, not asking “How can we act with integrity?” but “How can we justify lying? How can we figure out some way to tempt a Planned Parenthood clerk to commit a mortal sin?”

Saying “They were going to do it anyway” is morally insane. Saying “We must do evil that good may come of it” is morally insane. Indeed, even arguing that good has come of it is morally insane. Because at the end of the day, all we really have is some video footage which is being argued about by two groups of people who are documentably liars–and in this particular case, only one of those group specifically confessed to lying in order to make the video. People who think this is going to persuade fence sitter or persuade anybody outside the zealously prolife camp have simply lost touch with reality. People who think that a Christian message about the gospel as the Truth can be founded on lies are insane.

And that’s the most insane part of this: in the end, this tactic leaves the Christian community burning itself up in the insane pursuit of justification for lying and tempting people to grave sin that produced not *one* good outcome (unless prolife schadenfreude over a minor PP embarrassment is now Priority One for the prolife movement), while Planned Parenthood is enjoying increased funding from donors by sending out fundraising letters saying, “Christianist Prolifers are Lying about Us”.

This is why I say consequentialism such as Lying for Jesus is a Faustian Bargain. You lose your soul and get *nothing* in return. Sorry, but Augustine, Aquinas and the Catechism are right. Lying is intrinsically immoral and fundamentally corrupting of human relationships. And before you try, yet again, to euphemize these lies as “acting” or “role playing” or “fiction”: no, this is not “acting” or “role playing” or “fiction”. Those speech acts involve the fundamental reality that the the audience is willingly and knowingly suspending disbelief and knows the actors are acting and the writer is telling a tale. This. was. *lying*. Christians are bloody fools to defend it.

And, by the way, they would be fools to defende it even *if* it had worked. But that they are wasting breath defending it when it is not just wrong but destructive of the prolife cause is double folly.

I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of acting in worldly fashion. For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:2-5

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  • Fhonda

    Live Action is exposing lies. I believe their video of pimps seeking abortion’s for under age sex workers and of counsling women on how to achieve sex selection abortion was very disturbing. Planned Parenthood states they follow the law…which they don’t. There isn’t any other way to expose PP lies. I also think babies have been saved through these efforts to expose PP to society at large. The more people learn about what goes on inside an abortion clinic the faster they will be closed down.

    • Live Actions is exposing lies… by lying. Thus the problem.

      My favorite LA campaign was the one where they exposed PP’s lie about performing mammograms — and the reason it’s my favorite was because they didn’t have to lie. They just called up the PP clinics and asked them if they were able to perform mammograms on site.

      I think LA would benefit from doing more along those lines.

    • Maiki

      No other way? How about having dialogue in charity either with people in the sex industry or survivors of abuse? Chatting with ex-PP volunteers? Interviews? Honest hypothetical inquiries?

      There are plenty of heinous things PP does without being covert and that they are *proud* to share in the name of “reproductive rights”. You don’t need to lie to get it out of them, most of the time.

  • Fhonda

    Live Action is exposing lies. I believe their video of pimps seeking abortion’s for under age sex workers and of counsling women on how to achieve sex selection abortion was very disturbing. Planned Parenthood states they follow the law…which they don’t. There isn’t any other way to expose PP lies. I also think babies have been saved through these efforts to expose PP to society at large. The more people learn about what goes on inside an abortion clinic the faster they will be closed down. The scales are tipping in our favor. For the first time ever more people refer to themselves as pro life then pro choice.

    • ivan_the_mad

      “There isn’t any other way to expose PP lies.” Prove your assertion (and have fun trying to prove a negative 😉 ).

    • Ted Seeber

      It was only disturbing to pro-lifers. To the Left who supports prostitution as a *diverse career choice* and who doesn’t believe *unborn babies are human* it is clearly in the best interests of society to help underage prostitutes get abortions.

      I didn’t say it wasn’t disturbing to ME however.

    • jerry lynch

      What I read of the piece is Live Action getting a much needed rebuke. The sins of PP is another topic entirely.

  • To me, as with so many things in our age, it’s not the point of the argument, but the points made in the argument, that bother me. I have never seen how what Live Action did couldn’t be called lying. They were lying. They admit it. They are also young, and have a zeal to stop abortion any way they can. What should have happened was us older Catholics getting them by the arm, and letting them know they should find better ways of doing this noble thing that we are proud of them for undertaking. That would have been nice.

    What happened, unfortunately, was a complete train wreck of a debate, where we did find out from some critics of Live Action that it’s a better thing that babies die, than tarnish your soul with a white lie. And of course the things said about the liar Lila Rose and the rest became a mockery of internet dialogue. Heck, I remember one thoughtful individual saying that the only reason Jews died in Holland was because liars like Corrie Ten Boom lied and broke that delicate balance that existed with the more noble members of the underground and the Gestapo (this followed by assuring me that Corrie was just a media whore exploiting her dead family for her own selfish benefit).

    Yeah, it was that bad. From the moment the first post on the internet jumped forth and said ‘wait, let’s focus on Live Action’s lies’, it went downhill. The other side, as Mark focuses on here, could be just as bad, but Live Action has typically been the focus. This post is a far better approach, and the type I wish more would have paid attention to back then (because there were folks trying to strike that balance).

    • Mark Shea

      What happened, unfortunately, was a complete train wreck of a debate, where we did find out from some critics of Live Action that it’s a better thing that babies die, than tarnish your soul with a white lie.

      Documentation please?

      • Albert

        how is any lie, in the moral sense, “white?” sin is evil, period. Good on you Mark, for calling a spade a spade.

        • Venial, if you prefer.

          • ivan_the_mad

            Venial or mortal, I prefer to avoid sin entirely lol!

      • Michelle

        Look at your own commentary on the subject, Mark. I’m still on the fence regarding the morality of this whole thing; I think enough smoke has been blown about that it will be awhile before clear judgment on the matter can be found. But your own commentary on the subject has become increasingly frenetic, and really become nothing so much as throwing stones at kids who may need moral guidance but very likely are doing what they believe to be morally right. AND, if they sincerely do not understand that they are committing a sin, then the requisite knowledge isn’t there for them to be morally culpable. In that case, it would be an act of Christian charity for you to tone down your rhetoric and stop insinuating that the kids involved in LA are selling their souls to the devil. Physician, heal thyself.

        • Mark Shea

          My commentary has been directed, almost exclusively, to the people who look to these kids as moral guides who trump the Catechism, and to the people who are laboring with might and main to justify, rather than clearly consider, their actions. The kids themselves are, well, kids. And if people didn’t lionize them out of a pathetic need to feel good about landing a Hulk Smash punch on PP, I wouldn’t have to discuss this. But since disturbingly large numbers of Christians are embracing these counter-productive pranks as The Way to Go, I am forced to point out that they are embracing folly. It’s the grownups, not the kids, that worry me.

          • Precisely! The live Action Kids don’t bother me nearly so much as the adults defferring to their judgement. Heck, if my son started a group like that when he turns 14, I would be INSANELY PROUD of him, but I would still counsel him on how to go about his mission in the “best” way. What gets under my skin are the adults who can’t bother to think for themselves and just keep parroting something when they *ought* to know better. It comes down to laziness. I’ll admit, it’s a heck of a lot easier to earn your pro-life brownie points by reposting a Live Action video on your facebook page than it is to spend your weekend sidewalk counciling outside of an abortion clinic. Both make you feel good, but only one saves lives. So the real question is what most of us are in it for — saving lives or feeling superior to others?

            And I may have mentioned it before, but since I’m sure you’ll get a lot of pro-life readers here… I have to plug These guys save lives AND tell the truth, and for that they have a super special place in my heart. (Donating to their mission is *almost* as easy as linking to a YouTube video)

      • I would suggest reading comments on this blog in any of the liars for Jesus posts. The ones back when the whole Live Action story broke are where it got nasty.

        • Mark Shea

          Not my job to verify your claims.

          • Then first, how about you provide a quote where someone who supports Live Action or its tactics has said: “People who look to these kids as moral guides who trump the Catechism” Doesn’t have to be word for word, but it does have to be someone stating in no uncertain terms that they officially consider these kids as moral guides who trump the Catechism. Oh, and just because they disagree is not proof enough. It has to be a quote. Do that, then I’ll do the leg work on your blog and get a few comments pasted here.

            • Mark Shea

              When the Catechism says “Lying, by its nature, is to be condemned” and Live Action supporters both acknowledge that Live Action lied and declare that objecting to their lies is “morally stupid”, they are claiming that these kids are moral guides who trump the Catechism.

              It’s not like I haven’t discussed this in exhausting detail:

              • But that’s different than saying Live Action is their moral compass over the Catechism. It appears that they believe that while lying isn’t good, there are sometimes cases when it is OK to do. Just like stealing and killing. The Catechism says otherwise. But I don’t think this means they are simply making these kids their moral guides over the Catechism. They seem to be saying they disagree with the idea that all lying should always be wrong no matter what. You can say they are not listening to the Catechism. That certainly appears to be true. But to suggest that they are placing these kids above the Catechism would appear to demand a quote from them saying that they are doing that, and not simply agreeing with the actions of Live Action because of what they already believed.

                • Mark Shea

                  Sigh. The kids are being placed over the Catechism *in the specific area where they contradict the Catechism”; namely, “lying vs. truthfulness”. Obviously I don’t mean their defenders are saying “never listen to the Catechism”. But in this matter, they prefer the kids over the Catechism, often with quite tortured rationales for doing so (of which more tomorrow). Had the kids not told these lies, these people would not be marshalling all their energies — repeatedly — to find excuses for the lying. It’s ridiculous to see Christians trying *so* hard to figure out a way to justify lying, but particularly this counterproductive and foolish lying.

                  • I understand. I think a little more careful wording could do better. Yeah, it’s obvious they are saying they agree with what the kids are doing, but because they already disagree with the Church’s stance. And, to me, that’s fair. I can see the dilemma. I agree that lying isn’t right, though obviously some lies are understandable and hardly equal. To some, however, the Church’s stance is nothing other than answering Jesus ‘yes, as a matter of fact Jesus, if my sheep fell into a hole on the Sabbath I *would* let him die.’ It smacks of a certain legalism. Of course we wouldn’t say that about the Sabbath, but we do say it about lying. Not stealing. Not, as of now, about killing. But with lying, there appears to be no give, no matter what the consequences. And I can see the difficulty people have. Saying that, or that they are wrong, is fair enough. But it’s how the wording is that can be the trouble.

                    Oh, and I’m surprised you couldn’t detect who said the above from the big debates from last year. I thought it would have been obvious. That is was said didn’t surprise me. But that nobody called him on it, that’s what floored me. FWIW, I did try to keep my side of the bargain and find some of the worst of the quotes from back when the whole thing hit, but all the posts just had ‘leave a comment’, and I couldn’t find any comments when I clicked.

    • sd

      Well said, and my concern exactly. I’m an admirer of Austin Ruse, but when The Catholic Thing posted his olive wreath for Lila Rose last week, I was alarmed at Faustian bargain we older Catholics are willing to make at the peril of our own and younger souls.

  • Loud

    I’m not fond of Live Action’s methods and don’t patronize their site because I feel that when I am on the fence on an issue, I need to side with caution(typically, its mercy, right? Yeah, not with me). But Mark, honestly, what do you think of detectives or CIA agents? They have to lie. And, although I don’t see a parallel in gestapo/jew senario, what do you think of that?

    • Mark Shea

      I think pointing to the CIA as the model of moral health is ill-advised. I’d also suggest watching Donnie Brasco. The principal evil of lying is what it does to the liar. Nobody *has* to lie.

      • Maiki

        “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
        -Kurt Vonnegut, “Mother Night”

      • Dawn

        I guess I don’t see how this moral absolute applies to situations where a person may be in danger. If the Church says we can steal a loaf of bread to feed our family, why is it morally reprehensible to lie if it will save a life? Such as what people did who hid Jews, Catholic priests, etc. when questioned by the authorities?

        I understand that in this case specifically, the lying may not be justifiable. But what about in those cases? A complete moratorium on lying would have resulted in the deaths of so many more people whose lives were in mortal danger due to bad laws.

        • Dawn

          Should clarify: the Church doesn’t tell us to steal, but says that taking a loaf of bread would not come with the same moral consequences as stealing under other circumstances.

        • Mark Shea

          Actually, the Church says that a starving man taking a loaf of bread from him who has more than he needs is not stealing, not that stealing is okay. Indeed, the Church says that the one who has too much when his neighbor is in need is the real thief–and that theft is wrong.

          As to the rest, I have dealt, dozens of times, with the notion of the Noble Lie. please google lying+Shea+Register+Patheos and read what I’ve already written.

    • Even in civil law… which lets a lot more questionable behavior through the cracks than moral law… there are still rules against entrapment. In drug sale stings, an officer cannot initiate the transaction or agressively pursue it’s completion. The majority of live action’s stings would not even be admissible evidence if they were in law enforcement (and if Planned Parenthood were breaking a specific law).

  • Kirt Higdon

    I don’t know Mark’s opinion about detectives and CIA agents, but the courts have taken a big step in undermining justice and the rule of law when they have given detectives permission to lie to other people to obtain information or confessions. It gives me as a civilian little choice but to assume that anything coming out of the mouth of a cop is a lie unless I have independent verification. And while lying on the witness stand by cops is still officially illegal, the culture of lying bleeds over into sworn testimony. In the LAPD, lying on the witness stand by cops is considered routine and referred to as “testilying”. As for the CIA, its whole mission apart from surveillance and open source data collecting, is lying, suborning treason, and frequently murder. This applies to virtually all intelligence organizations, which in this age have become states within states, often pursuing agendas different from and even against the governments which nominally authorize them. How can this be considered anything other than gravely sinful?

  • Albert


    Mark: “Live action’s tactics are immoral. even if it works, which is debatable, we shouldn’t do evil to achieve good.”
    Fhonda (the first commenter): “Live action is achieveing good!”

    you don’t need a fan in your house when the point of an argument whizzes by so fast.

    • Mark Shea

      Yup. What most people seem to mean by “achieving good” is “making prolifers feel like they landed a punch”. In fact, all that’s really happening is prolifers are feeling vindicated and validated, while fencesitters are trying to decide if one or both of PP and LA are liars (since PP simply charges that the videos are heavily edited frauds). Meanwhile, PP’s base is energized and LA’s tactics make excellent grist for keeping them that way in PP fundraising letters. And while PP waxes stronger, Christians devote themselves to elaborate attempts to rationalize lying while getting taken to the cleaners by PP. Brilliant.

      But because LA means well and has a good end in view, any questioning of their tactics is fussy, pharisaical, and secretly pro-abortion. We must all fall in line behind the conservative folk hero and cheer.


      • Observer

        PP becomes smarter and stronger. Their intel can easily see what’s going on and jeopardize the whole p-life movement. Once obscurity sets in, anyone can create a situation compiled upon one deception after another. Lying, deception, obscurity, and anyway causing truth to be compromised by a lie only brings about the sweeping tail of the devil who took a third of the stars down with him, so-to-speak. What people do not see or get in opposing the view lying for Jesus is the real and dire consequences composed of by reality (the authorship of God) sets in. Thereby lying or any form of deception becomes a strategy on both sides. The end result is a catastrophy. Worse, PP may find more engagements in the underword which LA will never be able to penetrate. Afterall, once deception is used, the darwinist creature of PP only has to adapt to its’ environment and evolve at doing better at what it does: lying. You cannot fight a lie with a lie.

      • Observer

        Correction to “What people do not see or get in opposing the view lying for Jesus”. What I meant was, “What people do not see or get by those who oppose lying for Jesus.”

  • So Mark, here’s a better question. Is it a lie if you don’t say something in so many words, but intentionally mislead someone into a falsehood?

    • Mark Shea

      No. Not necessarily.

      • Not necessarily no, or not necessarily not always? For instance, if it’s an image that misleads them instead of speech, is that OK? In what ways can I mislead somebody and it’s not a lie? And can you point me to that in the catechism or some other authoritative source?

        • Mark Shea

          Here’s 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.

          So if the Nazis show up at the door enquiring about Jews within, it is legitimate to evade and deceive, but not to lie. It is also, by the way, the smart thing to do, since a direct lie will achieve nothing. They will still look and the real trick is to hide your Jews well, not to lie. Then you give a smart “Heil Hitler”, offer them coffee, say “feel free to look for yourself”, and engage in pleasantries while never lying, but still deceiving. The deceit consists in not supplying them information to which they have no right and letting them draw their own conclusions.

          LA did not deceive. LA lied.

          • Thales

            So LA would be alright if it happened to be more circumspect with its words and merely “deceived” instead of lied? Suppose a LA associate wandered into PP acting scared, shy, sheepish, and looking like a minor, said “do you have services to help a 13-year old girl who is in a lot of trouble, involved in a relationship with a 27-year old, is afraid of her parents, and has an unexpected pregnancy, and can she expect complete privacy?” Or suppose the LA associate wandered in to PP and said “Suppose I was pregnant, [wink, wink] and let’s say that I wouldn’t really be able to handle it if it was a girl, and suppose that I would want to keep the pregnancy if I only knew it was a boy, would PP be able to help me?” Neither of those are direct lies, PP is just being let to draw their own conclusions.

            I ask not because I’m trying to play gotcha. I just find this debate on lying very difficult and I’ve never really seen a satisfactory answer. I understand the position that lying is always immoral, but I don’t understand when some, like Mark here, make a distinction with deception, (usually in order to morally permit the deceiving that happens with the Nazis, or the undercover police work, or the military feint).

            • Mark Shea

              I think it’s just common sense. Unless you are going to assert the insane proposition that everybody is always bound to reveal all the truth in their possession to absolutely everybody, it necessarily follows that there are times it is appropriate to not reveal what one knows to somebody.

              • Thales

                I guess I’m getting at the fact that deception is more than merely “not revealing the truth”. Deception is acting or speaking in ways where one knows with a fair certainty that the other will be misled by one’s words and deeds, and not correcting the mistaken impression but allowing it to persist. If deception of that sort is morally permissible in the context of Nazis at the door, military feints, and undercover journalism/police work, it’s hard for me to see how it’s morally distinguishable from lying.

                It seems to me that the more consistent position would be to say that deception of that sort is also morally illicit in a similar way as lying, (though it may not always be a grave sin, etc. just like lying).

                • Chris

                  Words are used to point to realities. Lying intentionally distorts this connection. However, there may be ways in which the connection is not binary, such that the words can refer to multiple realities. In this instance, you could decieve by issuing a true connection between speech and realities, though it may not be what others conclude.
                  Famous instance…athanasius was being sought to be sent for exile, when on the nile the authorities saw him, and asked if he knew where athanasius was. He replied, right in front of you, keep rowing.
                  He did not lie, but the authorities drew one conclusion possible from his words that differed from how he truthfully articulated them.

                  • Mark Shea

                    I’d forgotten the Athanasius example. Good one.

                  • B.E. Ward

                    Like in The Fugitive!

            • Maiki

              I think asking a hypothetical to PP is not the same as lying, no. It need not even be deception, since you are legitimately trying to find out what PP would do in hypothetical situations.

              • Thales

                So then is there no problem with Live Action hidden-camera, undercover-style PP investigations, as long as Live Action phrased their language so as to merely ask about a hypothetical and avoided lying? Or better yet, suppose Live Action sent in a pro-life pregnant woman who asked, truthfully, “I’m pregnant and can’t tell the sex of the baby. I’d really like to have a boy. When I find out the sex of the baby in X months, and if I find out it’s a girl, could I come back here for an abortion?” It’s a completely truthful question, though, of course, the woman doesn’t tell the PP that she wouldn’t actually go through with the abortion. Is that no problem?

                Again, I guess I don’t understand the distinction between lying and non-lying undercover work.

                • Thales

                  Phrased another way, I wonder if Mark’s criticisms about Live Action would fall away entirely as long as Live Action was sending in actual pregnant woman–who weren’t lying about being pregnant—to ask whether they could get sex-selected abortions.

                  • Mark Shea

                    My objection to lying would indeed disappear if the people stopped lying.

                    • Nice evasion. So is displaying a misleading image lying? You haven’t answered yet. Is lying only a speech thing, or is lying simply depriving someone of the truth, regardless of how you do it?

                      How does “deception” differ from “lying”? Yes, I understand the words are different, but morally why is one OK and the other not? It seems awfully Pharisaic.

                      I also find this whole “Have coffee with the Nazis” argument to be insulting. At some point they will ask you point blank, yes or no. According to you at that point you say “why yes” or “ha ha let’s have more coffee” and the Jews (and maybe you) are hauled away to the death camp, but you are happy in the knowledge that you did the right thing – it was better for the Jews to die than for you to lie.

                    • Mark Shea

                      I’m not trying to evade. I’m trying to answer your question. I don’t know what you mean by a ‘misleading image”. Like a propaganda film?

                      It’s not pharasaic. It’s an attempt to deal with two basic realities of the Church’s teaching: “lying is, by its nature, to be condemned” and “Nobody owes everybody the truth about everything”. Abandon either of those common sense principles and you have a formula for chaos.

                      You are assuming a lot in the Nazi scenario–including that, in the end, you *must* lie or somebody dies. I submit that this is, in the end, like assuming some other form of sin is necessary. You *must* sleep with the German soldier or your kid gets it. You *must* commit this or that sin or something awful happens. This sort of emotional blackmail is not dealing with reality, but with fear of some hypothetical. To say that God will *force* you to sin and then blame you for doing so is something more like Calvinism than Catholic faith. Have trust in God.

                      And I have no idea why you should think what I said “insulting”.

                    • Thales

                      Mark says “It’s an attempt to deal with two basic realities of the Church’s teaching: “lying is, by its nature, to be condemned” and “Nobody owes everybody the truth about everything”.”

                      I see that, but it seems to me that there is a third middle ground between the two and I don’t know how to classify it. This middle scenario is deception, or acting or speaking in a way where one knows with a fair certainty that the other will be misled by one’s words and deeds, and not correcting the mistaken impression but allowing it to persist.

                      Take the Athanasius example. Athanasius didn’t simply not reveal the truth; he said something which implied to the reasonable listener that Athanasius was not immediately but was further on ahead, and Athanasius knew his listener would be deceived. In the Nazi example, the citizen doesn’t simply remain silent and not reveal the truth; he says something to the Nazi (“Come in and search if you want, I’m hiding nothing in the house” when the Jews are actually hiding in the back shed), something which is true but which conveys to the reasonable listener an incorrect fact, and the speaker knows and intends this deception.

                    • Mark Shea

                      “Come on in and search” is not a lie. “I’m hiding nothing in this house” might be a lie (if somebody is hiding in the house). I don’t maintain, nor does the Church, as far as I can see, that deception is always immoral. If you speak the truth and somebody not entitled to the full story misunderstands it, it’s not lying. Otherwise, Jesus is lying when he says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” instead of, “Soon, you will try to murder me because I am the Son of God and by doing so you will bring about my resurrection and the defeat of sin, hell and death”. Many of Jesus’ words and actions are, in fact, misinterpreted and he allows them to be, yet we have it on rather good authority that God does not lie. But he does allow his enemies to go their way due to the blindness of their hearts, including Judas.

                    • Thales

                      You’re misunderstanding me. I know “Come on in and search” is not a lie. That’s my exactly point. I’m giving you two instances (Athanasius and the Nazi) where there is no technical lying — and I’m saying that these instances *also* cannot be classified as mere “not telling the truth.” Instead, these are in the middle ground of active deception: knowingly and intentionally conning someone to think that you’re saying what you know to be untrue, by implied words, or omission, or actions, etc. I don’t see the moral distinction between this conning/deception, and lying.

                • Rory Larson

                  I think the problem is with the “undercover work”. You raise some very interesting hairs to split in the distinctions between lying and clever deception, but the real issue is in your relationship with other party. Turn this story around. You have an enemy, say PP, who wants to obtain private information about you or your group for the purpose of hurting you. Scenario A: They send a spy who lies to you to make you trust her and give her your compromising information. Scenario B: They send a spy who doesn’t technically lie, but behaves deceitfully to make you trust her and give her your compromising information. Scenario C: Your enemy asks you for your compromising information openly, and you wisely refuse to give it. All of these scenarios are hostile actions, but how would you compare them in terms of your sense of outrage and betrayal? Is there really much difference between A and B here?

                  Next, consider who is trespassing against whom. Suppose you and I are enemies. You belong to an organization that opposes PP, while I support it. My honor says this: I will never go over to you with lies or other deceit for the purpose of hurting you or your group through treachery. But if you come to me with force to demand information from me that will let you hurt me or those I care about, then I will cleverly deceive you if I can, or outright lie if you leave me no other outlet. For the value of my honor to me is its reflection in the esteem you show me in return, and if you treat me with aggression then you show me no honor, and I gain nothing through honesty toward you.

                  I speak as a non-supernaturalist to whom “sin” and justification with respect to God and His law are completely meaningless. But the interpersonal ethics of dealing with others and their interests is something we all have to engage in, regardless of how we frame it. It’s worth considering that our enemies are as human as we are, and can treat us and our interests better or worse depending on the honor we display to them. An opponent that views morality as a cord that binds himself from committing base actions is one that wins my respect and admiration. One that sees morality only as a condemnation of his enemies, and who seeks loopholes in his own law to justify the aggressions he would like to commit against them, earns my contempt and loathing as the worst kind of pharisee. The same is true for other people. In deciding our own ethical choices, we should consider how they make us look through the eyes of our enemies, and the neutrals who could become our enemies.


  • King Solomon I say

    Its amazing how everyone looks to Mark Shea to be the arbiter of what constitutes a lie and what doesn’t and who is sinning (Live Action and Lia Rose). It must be a powerful feeling to be such sought after arbiter and to have so many people commenting on your posts! How in the world do you know if she does not in fact have a spiritual director and a good priest advising her? You are a bomb thrower in this whole conversation and you just won’t let it go.

    • Mark Shea

      Don’t be silly. I’m in the distinct minority. And, by the way, I don’t judge the people telling the lies (that’s God’s job) nor even the people laboring to justify they lies. I simply point out that it’s lying and it’s folly to defend it. I take it you also feel it is a claim to be an arbiter and judge LA when it says that PP is lying?

    • Chris M

      Shut up, Mark, he argued.

    • Ted Seeber

      Wouldn’t a good priest direct her imagination to better uses?

  • Someone in another COM box suggested a better way for Live Action to use their energies. They could thoroughly investigate how it is that Planned Parenthood runs its evil business by interviewing post-abortive women who are not happy with their experience and willing to talk. I encountered a couple who were terribly angry at how the woman had been treated by PP. They were headed in to a hospital ER a week after a medical abortion because they were worried about continued bleeding. I missed the one phone call they made to me afterwards, willing to tell their story, and they never returned my subsequent calls. My group of regular pray-ers outside of PP hear all sorts of stories. What we are there to do is pray and offer help where needed. We are not investigative reporters. I have tried to interest real investigative reporters to follow up on some of the funny stuff (not haha funny) we have seen. So far, no luck. But Live Action would be a great investigative resource if they changed their tactics from entrapment to investigation. Find the real stories. Follow up on real leads. You can’t kill thousands of people a week without leaving some evidence behind that would move even hardened hearts. I am sure there are unhappy clients. We found one on a business review site. Put somebody on that trail to find more. LA is wasting its energies and money as well as diminishing its credibilities. I am with Mark 100% on this. Lila, I love your passion but you are wasting your precious resources. The TRUTH of running a slaughterhouse business is out there to discover without deception. Take the high road!

    And yeah, watch Donnie Brasco and The Departed. See how deception ruins the potentiality to love and be loved.

    • Ted Seeber

      A good place to start would be for Lila Rose to attend a Project Rachel weekend without her camera- then hold private interview sessions afterwards.

      • Aside from violating the privacy of women who are in the process of grieving, who is going to believe a disgruntled unhappy customer, vs. actually audio and video footage of employees? I wouldn’t. Sorry, but these suggestions are not helpful.

        • Ted Seeber

          Most Project Rachel women are grieving yes- but they weren’t unhappy customers for many years, sometimes DECADES. It’s only later in life that the regret seems to hit.

  • Observer

    Here’s a hypothetical: Suppose PP will create an organization in an organization? Couldn’t they understand the situation and create an under-the-radar industry to continuely help so-called pimpz and illeg. prost’s?

    Think, once they’ve been hit, they’re simply going to repel or repair from the damage done (as going into the underground.) As long as they’re out of site and out of mind, the business exposed by LA could still continue without anyone knowing it (except the people running it.) Think of, also, what will follow from their exposition, p-life groups may no longer be able to reach out to troubled souls (particularly those who aren’t adults) going for terming a baby’s life, should PP and the like find cloaked and concealed operations to do so (especially for a crime ring.) A bad strategy all-together and one which will become a consequence to saving a baby’s life.

  • At the end of the day I don’t see the harm you see. I see more information being more clearly in the public domain. There are some Pro-lifers who are young and energetic and maybe go over the line. Sure the other side will try and point them out. I can live with that. There are some Pro-aborts who are over the line as well. I think they look way worse.

    The reality is that until you distinguish between the lie in the Gestapo scenario and this kind of lie you will get that comparison over and over. Killing can be justified and not called murder. Falsehoods can never be justified and not called lies. I love St Thomas Aquinas but I can’t claim to understand that one. I am willing to accept he might be right. I just don’t understand it.

    • Mark Shea

      Information PP declares to be fraudulent, to the confusion of fencesitters and the anger of its supporters. The only people who unquestioningly belief LA’s version of events are the choir. If the goal of LA is to make prolifers feel good, mission accomplished. If the goal is to defeat PP, all they are doing is providing them with ammo.

      • King Solomon I say

        How can it be ‘fraudulent’? These are the same answers any person coming into PP would have gotten. I don’t understand how you say it provides them with ammo. Your arguments about ‘sinning’ seems to be providing them with plenty of ammo.

        • Mark Shea

          Please learn to think. When LA lies and PP then writes a fundraising letter claiming they edited the video to make them look bad, it doesn’t matter a whit whether PP is lying or not: the point is LA lied and now PP can claim that they not only lied to PP, but lied about them as well–and increase their donations thereby. It doesn’t matter if LA in fact committed fraud (I doubt they did personally). It just matters that they are on record as lying because PP’s donors will believe it when PP says they are frauds.

          If you want to defend tempting somebody to sin mortally, knock yourself out. You simply demonstrate my point about the poisonous stupidity of conservative Christian enthusiasm for this folly.

  • Kim

    I think Mark makes a valid point, and I’m trying to weigh it. My question is: if someone was hired by the state to investigate if PP were performing an illegal act, i.e. not reporting sexual abuse of minors, and the investigating policewoman posed as a minor, is this immoral?

    Can Catholics, in good conscience, go undercover? I know that to combat drugs, police officers adopt whole new identities. That is certainly a lie. So is this inherently immoral or does the difference lie in being invested with the authority of the state?

    Which leads me to wonder, if the state is inherently corrupt and acting unjustly, i.e. killing citizens instead of protecting them (or giving a bunch of money to organizations to do it for them), does that undermine the authority of the state who invested you with the authority to investigate? Can that authority be reclaimed by the citizen if the state fails to act or acts unjustly?

    I am not trying to make an arguement, I am trying to understand. or maybe just putting my ignorance out their for the whole internet…

  • Kim

    well, my spelling in the last paragraph was certainly ignorant.

  • Kirt Higdon

    The state cannot authorize you to commit a sin. Serious criminal organizations such as drug cartels or drug-dealing motorcycle gangs will nearly always screen for infiltrators by demanding new guys commit some overt crime ranging from actual drug use to murder. If the state can authorize lying to deceive targeted criminal groups, can it also authorize murder to protect the lie and the state-authorized liar? Who is the author of the moral law – God or the state?

  • Fact finding is what I believe this is all about. You call them “liars” and I call them “pretenders.” Their purpose is noble and courageous. They are young and innocent and I applaud them for exposing this greater lie. I agree that your first paragraph is correct. You are majoring in the minors. And life is messy – nothing is perfect or will be until we, God willing, get to heaven.

    • Mark Shea

      If I come to your house, present myself as an IRS agent and then, while you are getting coffee, go through your drawers or steal your diary, that is also “fact-finding”. But it remains lying. And that would be true even if you were, in fact, cheating on your taxes.

      In short, rather than correct them and help them fulfill their noble and courageous purpose according to the teaching of the Church and not the wisdom of the world, you choose to applaud them for lying instead of suggest some more fitting way of working to save the unborn. In the process, you join the crowd of Christians laboring to find way to justify lying instead of laboring to ask “How can we act with integrity?” and you assist in the process of helping LA help PP increase their donor base. No “greater lie” is “exposed” because the only people who credit LA are people who already know PP is evil. Those who are unsure and whose minds need to be changed remain unsure because PP says, “LA is lying” and, by their own admission, they are. You can pretend they are “pretenders” all you like. But that ridiculous euphemism is only believed by Kool Aid drinker supporters of LA, not by ordinary people in the mushy middle. It just comes off sounding like euphemistic doubletalk. It’s not even believed by defenders of LA who frankly admit it is lying. And since you refer to the “greater lie” (as distinct from the lesser lie of LA) it is not, in truth, believed even by you. Nobody is saying the lies LA tells are as grave as the murders PP supports. But so what? Are you seriously suggesting that any sin you commit is legitimate just so long as it’s not as serious as your neighbor’s? In this case, the sin is not merely wrong, it’s stupid too since it helps, not harms PP and saves not one baby.. And it’s corrosive, as the grotesque spectacle of Christians laboring to find some way to justify lying demonstrates more and more.

  • King Solomon I say

    You go on and on, Mark. You know all. You are Supreme. I’m moving on now. Bye.

  • You belong in a fundamentalist sect where everything is black and white. Nearly everything we do in life involves some degree of sinning. Your lack of charity and your attitude of self-righteousness comes off very badly. In First Peter 4:8, love comes first, saying that “love covers a multitude of sins.” Where is your love for these young folks trying to accomplish good things that we as older folks haven’t been able to do? All you can do is call them “Liars for Jesus.” I will not demean them with such. While LA is not perfect, it’s not grotesque and corrosive, like you just stated. I will not call them sinners before I examine my own plank and I certainly have no right to level such insults, nor do you.

    • Mark Shea

      I didn’t say LA was grotesque or corrosive. I say the rationalizations for their tactics are. I am actually very far from black and white on life and recognize the grey. I simply also recognized dreadful and dangerouns logic when I see it.

    • Kristen inDallas

      “Love covers a multitude of sins” because love, REAL Love, cares for another enough to point out and gently correct the sin, and then forgive. You can’t forgive someone if you’re too busy pretending they are faultless, and I don’t suppose you can love them all that much either.

      There is a pretty interesting book called “people of the Lie” which takes a psychological look at families and other groups that cover up horrible actions for each other. It expresses pretty clearly that generally when we do so, it is motivated by a distorted self-interest (or sel-hatered) rather than out of genuine love for the person doing wrong.

  • And what about Joan of Arc who made her way through France in male disguise? Is she also a “Liar for Jesus?”

    • Mark Shea

      No. Her dress was not even a disguise. It was for chastity and because she was fighting in battle.

      Note how much energy you are spending trying to defend lying instead of trying to ask, “How can we be truthful?” Why are you doing that? Especially when LA’s tactics actually help PP?

  • kim

    I’m still unclear about the answer I’m seeking, although I see that it was delved into before I asked my question (I get weary of slogging though all comments.)

    I, too, believe that intrinsic evils such as lying reap worse fruit, long-term, than we can sometimes see in the short-term when we grasp at rationalizations for our actions.

    Nonetheless… while the commandment, Thou shalt not kill, is clear, the Church does not say that when a robber enters your house and threatens you, “you shalt not kill,” rather, you shall not kill to kill, but may, in genuine self-defense, commit an act that kills to defend yourself/your children. So, unfortunately, while I prefer and find solace in clear black/white, the Church Herself allows that “Thou Shall not Kill” does not cut clear black/white in every case. (and, unfortunately, neither does things like Jesus’ clear command against divorce when taking into account annulments…even aside from the over-done number of them)…

    So, while I’m on the verge of accepting Mark’s arguement about Live Action, I suddenly run up against a new thought: How is this different from my prior acceptance of undercover work by Law Enforcement? This is so far not answered adequately, and I therefore have to remain on the fence. I’m just asking why I should accept the arguement about Lila Rose, with its legitimate points and NOT question my former acceptance of undercover work.

    Can anyone tell me where it differs?

  • kim

    BTW, I’m not trying to justify my inherent instinct to defend Live Action, which I acknowledge. I’m honestly confused as to how, if I do disassociate myself from such thinking, I ought not to re-think my previous acceptance of undercover work.
    Perhaps our posts should expand to re=consider the integrity of all undercover work with Lila Rose as a case in particular? Perhaps we have to step out of this line of work, as Catholics, unless, like pharmacists, we can have full integrity and clear conscience….

    • Mark Shea

      My suspicion is that you are right, Kim and that a serious re-think of “lying for law” is likewise in order. As one reader has pointed out, one of the problems with training people to be good liars is that the skill metastasizes and leads to lying on the stand, faking evidence, and other mischief. See Donnie Brasco to get a sense of what lying does to a human soul.

      See you on Labor Day!

  • Mr. Shea:
    With due respect for your credentials and sincerity, I believe your personal desire for a clean black and white line here, i.e., all “lying” is a sin, has led you over a cliff. In past blogs, showing your personal views, you have played down the scandal and objective sinfulness of public homosexual behavior, including homosexual unions or relationships of avowed ‘Catholics,”, even though the Magisterial teaching of the Church is clear on the subject. I recall you suggested that you would not judge such behavior because of your own “gluttonous” behavior. Yet you are quick to judge LA as lying sinners, because you personally oppose their methods and lack of results, at least as you measure them. I understand that the Catechism, St.Augustine, etc., provide a basis for arguing that all “lying” to be argued sinful, but I would like to see a Magisterial teaching that asserts all undercover law enforcement work, all undercover work in terrorist organizations, all clandestine interrogation techniques by law enforcement, all spying in war and national defense, all use of ruses and sting operations to apprehend those who have already decided to commit crimes, etc., etc., is sinful. Although you have a reasonable argument, your uncharitable and rash judgment of LA’s behavior and those who argue on their behalf goes to far. I would like to hear from some objective, moral theologians on the bigger issue.

    • Thank you, Deacon Tom. Mark Shea is no theologian nor is he part of the magisterium of the church, and for that I’m grateful. He goes too far.

    • Mark Shea

      Deacon Tom:

      Your approach is a positivistic one. It’s kin to the sort of argument that says, “Oh sure, torture is wrong. But I’m so confused about what, exactly, “torture” is. I notice the Church has never defined cold cells (throwing a man into an unheated cement cell naked on a winter night in Afghanistan and splashing him with freezing water) to be torture. To me, that’s just ‘enhanced interrogation’. So until the Church writes an encyclical specifically defining that as torture, I refuse to admit that it is.” It’s like saying, “Sure abortion is wrong. But what *is* abortion? The Church has never defined suction aspiration to be abortion. So Christians can disagree in good faith about whether it is abortion.”

      I’m not sure how you get that I play down the scandal of public homosexual behavior since I say that homosex is a sin. i did commend a man who was a chaste homosexual and I did say that if he lapsed (something for which I have zero evidence) it was not my business. But that was, of course, because I think he was obviously living a Godward life and that it is not my business to sit in judgment of him. If he had urged that homosex was licit I would certainly have criticized him, just as I criticize LA for saying that lying is licit–and just as you are criticizing me for saying something you consider erroneous.

      I have not attempted the claim that all undercover law enforcement work, all undercover work in terrorist organizations, all clandestine interrogation techniques by law enforcement, all spying in war and national defense, all use of ruses and sting operations to apprehend those who have already decided to commit crimes, etc., etc., is sinful. I *suspect* the attempt to make the case for state lying is much harder than it may seem. But I have not tried to make that case. What I have confined myself to is LA’s tactics. And, once again, you demonstrate that Catholics are madly eager to work as hard as possible to justify lying for Jesus instead of asking, “How can we bear witness to the truth with integrity?” Sad.

      • Mr. Shea:
        Just a brief response. My recollection (your article/comments speaks for themselves) is that the gay Catholic gentleman lived in a scandalous, public relationship that you would not “judge” because he had attained other good works during his life-but that really is not the issue here. I did not suggest we need an encyclical to decide this issue. What I suggested is that your absolute premise, i.e., all “lying” is “sin,” is very simplistic in our complicated world and I would like to see some moral theologians weigh in on an issue that I, and many others, genuinely see as difficult in some circumstances. Comparing this “lying” issue to the abortion question is silly; no reasonable argument can be made that intentional abortion ever can be justified. I also don’t think the torture issue is always so easy as you suggest–some techniques are clearly torture, wrong, etc., but othersare not so clear. I wish the world were as black and white in all respects as you desire. Although you did not make the broad-based case in your opening comment( LA was your main point), you certainly suggested that lying is lying is lying in all circumstances, even when law enforcement, national defense, etc., etc., is involved. I don’t believe you strengthen your argument by comparing abortion, torture, etc., issues that involve many other concerns not involved here.

        • Mark Shea

          No. The gentleman lived in a chaste private relationship and was a sterling witness to the beauty and truth of the faith.

          And people make passionate arguments that the Church’s obvious teaching, whether about abortion or lying, is wrong every day, for extremely similar reason. All they have to do is whip themselves intoa frenzy about why *this* dreadful outcome justifies abortion or lying and then they declare that upholding the Church’s obvious teaching about the intrinsic immorality of abortion or lying is wrong. Or failing that, they call abortion or lying something else, like “tissue extraction” or “role playing”. And you stand in that grand tradition of rationalization, Deacon. Why are you doing that?

  • Suzi Brooks

    Your entire premise misses the point. The lying about your identity is simply to protect your anonymity. If I give me real name and really want to get an abortion simply because it is the girl and I don’t want one of those, does that make it OK because it wasn’t a lie?

    Peter lied about who he was to save himself. He suffered for this sin, but do you disavow everything he says and did because of this?

  • Loud

    You know, a Catholic youth leader I know told me that there are times when you can lie by ommision. You can act happy when your not, everyone knows that. But in a more extreme example, if someones life in in danger and revealing where they are could harm them you can be silent. He said, for example, if the Gestapo are at your door and your hiding Jews, you can invite them in, offer em a drink, say you’ll help ’em look then “help ’em look” in all the wrong places. That while you must always be truthful, not everyone has a right to ALL information. You don’t tell a stranger your name, number, place of buisness without a reason, you don’t tell random people your freinds secrets, and an illigitamate government is no government, and therefore has no more right to make you talk than some dude down the street.
    If this is true, a more appropreate tenique would be for Live Action’s actors to say “Hi, I’m pregnat(since most are), and I’d like to learn a little more about your abortion services.” and see what they can get from that.

  • jerry lynch

    All this piece is about is a needed rebuke of Live Action. The sins of PP are entirely different matter.

  • This is nonsense. First of all the commandment is to not to bear false witness against another, what Live Action is doing is REVEALING the lies of planned parenthood, forcing them to bear true witness against themselves.

    One group is baby killers, the other a bunch of actors/spies.

    This isn’t a hard choice to make at all.

    This piece really diminishes my opinion of this website.

    For decades we’ve known the truth about PP, but with the help of the MSM they’ve been able to keep their dirty truths secret. Now some brave young people are exposing them to public scrutiny and all folks here can do is yammer about the Catechism. I don’t even know if these live action people are Christians or Catholics and I couldn’t care less if they were.

    I don’t care who they are, if they are religious or atheists. They’re pulling the mask off these mendacious baby killers, GODSPEED TO THEM!

    • Mark Shea

      “all folks can do here is yammer about the Catechism”. And the actual results of lying. And the benefits to PP. And the sin of tempting somebody to be an accomplice to murder “for the greater good”. And the folly of Christians embracing all this and abandoning truth and the weapons of the spirit.

      Welcome to the Cafeteria.

  • Mike Blackadder

    Dawn raises a good point here. Mark, I don’t know what your answer is to this question. Do you follow the school of thought that it is always a sin to lie?

    Do good Catholics offer up our own lives or the lives of others so as not to commit sin by deceiving an enemy?

    • Mark Shea

      I follow the teaching of the Church which says lying is, by its very nature, to be condemned.

      I also follow the school of thought which says that when the Church calls something intrinisically immoral, the first thought of a Catholic should be to consider how to order his life to obey that, not to go into overdrive concocting hypothetical scenarios calculated to whip up fear and labor to justify disobedience to an obvious moral precept of the Church. So when the Church says abortion and euthanasia are intrinsically immoral, the first words out of my mouth are not, “Yes, but….” follow by a string of rationalization for abortion and euthanasia. In the same way, I don’t respond to the prohibition against lying (which is the teaching of the Church, not a “school”) with “Yes, but…” Instead I pay attention to the Church’s full teaching which includes not only the prohibition against lying, but the common sense recognition that some secrets must be kept. The trick is therefore to think of ways to do that which do not involve lying or justifications for lying. Exactly what disturbs me about LA tactics is that they have triggered a mania among Catholics searching for ways to justify lying and declare the Church wrong here. They have also made Christians drunk on the idea that tempting somebody to commit mortal sin is really cool if that person happens to be deemed unworthy of eternal life by the Christian. Bad fruits.

      • Mike Blackadder

        Mark, thanks for your explanation. I meant to leave this in reply to Dawn’s comment. She asked, “I guess I don’t see how this moral absolute applies to situations where a person may be in danger. If the Church says we can steal a loaf of bread to feed our family, why is it morally reprehensible to lie if it will save a life? Such as what people did who hid Jews, Catholic priests, etc. when questioned by the authorities?”

        I too was bothered to a degree with the dishonest tactics used in their videos. In particular, there was the man who originally said the clinic could not perform the abortion based on gender preference, and in the end he conceded to pretend they hadn’t had the conversation, though it was clear he was uncomfortable. This is really just preying on human weakness (such as a desire to not cause controversy and possibly be reprimanded for making up a story about a woman who wanted an abortion) and actually encourages this man to sin which is a whole other dimension to this particular act of deceit.

        However, I question your assertion that the church opinion is unanimous in condemnation of dishonesty regardless of circumstance. In particular, in the example given by Dawn there is more than one school of thought within Catholicism and this has some relevance to the case of LA and the PP clinics.

        Perhaps your stance is similar to that of St. Augustine on this matter (though correct me if this is not the case) who argues that it is better for one man to die due to the truth than for the liar to lose his soul to sin. As far as I know not all Catholic teachings follow this most extreme condemnation of dishonesty regardless of circumstance. Consider the writings of St. Raymund of Pennafort who addressed this particular question. I don’t want to lead anyone else astray here. I think that it is largely the case that you accurately describe the position of the church with regard to lies. However, there is perhaps a deeper standard behind the question of honesty which is rooted in charity. In the case of protecting another from grave harm and injustice which is perpetrated at the hands of an evil-doer I would repeat the argument from others that it is not a sin to answer what we believe to be a lie in good conscience. One whose conscience is not tainted by a habitual sin to lie should not act against such conscience in extreme circumstances. Is it right to act uncharitably for the sake of telling the truth?

      • David

        If this has already been discussed, then I apologize. Would you say then that those who infiltrate terrorist organizations and present themselves as co-conspiritators in order to disrupt terrorist networks are sinning? When the police pose as buyers of drugs in order to arrest drug dealers (and assure them that they aren’t the police) are they sinning? When a police officer poses online as an underage child in order to arrest someone who is preying on children, is he sinning? I am not posing these as objections to your point. I am just raising other issues where deception and lying is used to achieve some good. Thanks for your consideration.

  • kim

    thanks. This is an issue that strikes a chord. I thank you for being willing to wrestle with it. I expect I’m not the only one watching and learning and trying to understand. Now that I’m back from vacation (not Lopez… alas), I’ve a lot to consider from these posts. I otherwise would have not thought twice about Live Action. And I think it worth consideration. It isn’t easy to be challenged about something I want to support (but neither was Calvary an easy path; I expect to be uncomfortable on earth).

    I am working through the logic of the arguments (wouldn’t it be nice if certain dectractors of the Church were right, and I was Catholic so the Church could “tell me how to think”), but I note that, intuitively, I respond to this argument because I think the supporters of contraception were logical and reasonable to hope that contraception was going to improve everything, and yet, the Church said that it was intrinsically wrong. The fruit was barren in the end. I get that lying is intrinsically barren as well.

    What disturbs me is the speed with which people throw others into the well. For goodness’ sake, even if Mark’s mistaken, we’re dialoging about important matters. Lying matters. Don’t be too quick to shake the dust off. I know that I need some helpful dialogue, and I suspect I’m not the only one appreciative of the time Mark and other thoughtful people spend wrestling it through here. (Including thos those who respectfully disagree…)

  • You never answer the Nazi question, it certainly doesn’t discredit the Church that Pius XII made fake baptismal certificates for Jews. If lying is always wrong, then so would those, don’t dimiss them as extremes when you hold such an absolutist view of lying yourself.

    • chezami

      There is no evidence that Pius made fake baptismal certificates and, even if he had, that would only show that a pope did not abide by the teaching of the Church.

  • Gab

    I guess I know in whose house not to hide if I’m ever being hunted by murderers or persecuted by some evil army.