Why I’m a Pain in the Butt About Live Action’s Tactics

Why I’m a Pain in the Butt About Live Action’s Tactics May 4, 2013

Why do I worry about the distortions and contortions Live Action supporters pretzel themselves into in order to justify tempting somebody to commit murder for the camera? Here’s why:

“Mark, wasn’t Jesus kind of tempting the Romans to mortal sin to kill Him? I mean, if He had just given Pilate a reason to let Him go, I’m sure Pilate would have done so. Too bad you weren’t around back then to advise Him.”

So it’s come to this: prolifers arguing that Jesus tempts people to commit murder–all to protect Live Action. Folly.

For those not familiar with Scripture, here is what James has to say about this theory:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:13-14).

No small part of the perniciousness of this Live Action stuff is that discernment-free Faithful Conservative Christians soon start looking for divine sanction for sins committed by the latest Conservative Catholic Folk Hero. Last time around, defenses of lying soon took the form of attempt to say that Jesus lied sometimes. Now its the attempt to claim that our sinless Savior tempts to mortal sin. Talk about losing your soul to gain the world. When you have to blaspheme God as a liar and as the Tempter in order to prop up your Folk Hero it time to recall the old saying, “When you hit bottom, don’t keep digging.”

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  • Ruth Vella

    wow again?! Don’t you think there are better things to criticise and attack rather than Live Action? These people are NOT tempting people to murder: one woman went in there: undercover, filming what she was told and exposing the truth. It’s so sad and disturbing that a Catholic – PRO LIFE – such as yourself – would attack Live Action for doing this instead of being content about their courage or just saying nothing about it.

    • capaxdei

      Your advice is that Christians should just say nothing about it when evil is being praised, as long as the evil is done with good intentions?

    • Scott W.

      He could have EASILY proved he was innocent but He didn’t! Is Jesus guilty of “tempting” Pilate
      into killing Him since He could have easily stopped it?

      Actually, this is incorrect. If you read the account Pilate declared he found no guilt in Him. Pilate’s chosen act was to crucify Him, not because Our
      Lord declined to prove His innocence, but to placate a crowed even
      though he already knew He was innocent. He washes his hands of Him. Our Lord’s innocence is well established and known to the powers that be in the accounts and of course are essential to the Gospel message of the sacrifice.

      Lying as a chosen act is always wrong.

      • Scott W.

        My apolgies. This reply was meant for your second comment.

  • Steven Schloeder

    Oh dear… you *do* realize that you just basically made one big ad-hominem fallacy? Had the writer simply used “challenged” or “dared” or “provoked” (which is much closer to the sense of what the writer was getting at), you would not have had recourse to some misapplication of James so as to attack them as blaspheming heretics.

    (And FWIW, I share your concern about their ethics).


  • Joey Odendahl

    Yeah. Jesus could’ve used a good PR guy. Then fewer people would imply that his death was technically assisted suicide. But to be fair, he couldn’t have known it would be used as an excuse to lie for him.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    Huh, these responses are very eye opening.

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    Mark, I don’t know if this is any help to you, but a German Catholic blogger posted about the effects of a similar type sting operation regarding the morning-after pill, rape victims, and Catholic hospitals here

    His conclusion:
    “The fairly obvious part of the moral is that consequentialism backfires even on consequentialist grounds. The false rape victims triggering this entire chain of events thought fighting for a policy that might save lives was well worth breaking the 8th commandment, so they did evil that good may come from it. Not only did they fail, they also caused great harm to the Church while doing so.”

  • Elaine S.

    I don’t quite agree with your take on this, and here’s why. If Lila Rose had walked up to a FORMER clinic employee and asked her to take her old job back — knowing that her job, every single day, would involve helping women to kill their unborn children — so they could work together on exposing the clinic, then I would say it was a clear-cut case of tempting a repentant, or potentially repentant, person to sin again.

    Or, let’s say the doctor and/or the clinic worker in this video happened to tell Lila that she was quitting soon, and Lila told her “Oh that’s too bad, you really should stay on” in hopes of persuading her NOT to quit, so she (Lila) could come back and get more damning video. That, I agree, would be wrong.

    But, since the people Lila (or her companion) were addressing was were CURRENT clinic employees holding themselves out to the world — every single day on the job — as facilitators of abortion, I don’t get how Lila’s actions make their sin any worse.

    Lila did not walk up to an innocent person on the street and offer them $500 or $1,000 to kill someone; she went to the equivalent of a KNOWN Mafia hit man and his/her messenger or assistant, asking them how they would carry out a “hit” on Mr. X, but with no intention of actually having them carry out said “hit”.

    Now supposing the doctor or clinic worker were, as you suggest, having second thoughts about their employment and were on the verge of quitting in disgust at what was taking place in the clinic. If that were the case, then I’d think they would WANT to see the place exposed, and would be pleased, not scandalized, to find out that she had played a part in exposing it.

    If the doctor or clinic worker were truly beginning to realize that real, live human beings are being murdered at her workplace daily, why would they suddenly change their minds just because one person lied to them about wanting an abortion? All Lila did was ask them to do the job they were being paid to do, every day, at that time.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      If I come into a bar and see my uncle, who is a well known alcoholic, sitting at the bar, is it wrong for me to buy him a drink? After all, he’s CURRENTLY an alcoholic on a bender; if I didn’t buy him a drink, he’d probably buy another one himself.

      • Elaine S.

        That would be wrong. But, what if your uncle is the bartender, on duty during regular business hours, and you go up to him and ask how he would make a martini or a Long Island Iced Tea or some other mixed drink? And suppose you NEVER actually order the drink, or if you do, you cancel the order before he has a chance to make the drink.

        I get all the concerns about lying and deception and trust, but what I don’t get is the idea that Lila somehow led or entrapped these people into committing a “new” or compounded sin. You can’t compare it to buying a recovering alcoholic a drink because she never actually “bought the drink”, i.e., went through with the abortion.

        • Evan

          It’s not a sin to mix a drink, discuss how to mix a drink, or under normal circumstances drink a drink. Even an alcoholic working as a bartender (which is highly unlikely) can mix a drink for someone else and not drink it or be tempted to drink it. Lila Rose is asking people how to commit murder and getting them to commit to a murder. It would be like asking a bartender how to secretly slip alcohol to an alcoholic to get him drunk to expose the evil of alcoholism.

          • Elaine S.

            Lila is not asking people “how to commit murder” herself; she is asking people who are professional hired killers (of the unborn) to describe to her how THEY do their job.

            If Lila had listened to their spiel describing how they “induce a demise” and then said “Well, I really need some time to think about this… let me talk this over with someone and get back to you” and then left without signing any papers (I presume the document she signs in the video is some kind of consent form), would that have been morally acceptable?

            • Evan

              Okay, that was poor phraseology on my part. Live Action is not *only* asking murderers of the unborn how they do their job. They are also getting the abortionists to agree to commit a hypothetical murder. The fact that the murder does not actually take place does not prevent a mortal sin from being committed. According to Catholic teaching, the moment one agrees in their will to commit a mortal sin, they are guilty of that mortal sin. If someone resolved to rob a bank, got a gun and bullets, drove to the bank, and then changed their mind before right before going into the bank, they did repent of the sin but still are guilty of a mortal violation of the 7th Commandment.

              Lila Rose is tempting others to mortal sin, which is blatantly against Catholic teaching. If she was just asking abortionists to describe how they do their job, that would be fine. But she gives a hypothetical murder scenario, asking them to (supposedly) agree to carry out that murder, thus making them guilty of another sin of murder.

              If any abortionist was starting to have doubts or moral qualms about their job, her approach of leading them into more mortal sin does more harm than good.

              • It would be quite helpful to work through alternate scripts where this wasn’t done wrongly.

                The clinic has a service offering. It’s probably called something like pregnancy counseling. You go in. You request counseling. Is that a sin? Probably not.
                You ask what happens during one of their other service offerings, abortion. Is that a sin? I don’t think so. You probe for details and explore what-ifs. Is that a sin? You tell me.

                I don’t see why a sting operating during pre-abortion counseling where a woman is exercising her “right to choose” necessarily falls into sin. I’m not saying that the Live Action people did not fall into sin. They may very well have. By description, it sounds as if they did.

                But if the aim can be accomplished without sin, it is certainly an effective pathway that should be traveled, without engaging in sin.

          • Don’t just assume that there aren’t alcoholic bartenders. They’re out there.


    • Newp Ort

      It’s not about anyone changing their mind. A cold blooded killer for hire, likes killing feels, no regret, never changes til they die, its still sinful and not ok to walk up to them and say hey will you kill someone for me, even if you never intend for said killing to happen. IT IS STILL A TEMPTATION TO SIN. It’s not our place to weigh it and think they’re gonna keep killing anyway. We are not supposed to tempt people to sin whether they are lily white goodie good or the most hardcore habitual sinner. It’s tempting another soul to evil. its wrong in that instant, period, no matter how it will/will not change the habitual sinner or what good you imagine will come.

  • vox borealis

    Wait, so the *reason* why your bothered by Live Action’s tactics is because of the poor arguments made, after the fact in response to your correct critique, by their defenders? Does that really make any sense? Does that mean that if no one came to their defence, you would not be a “pain in the butt” about Live Action’s tactics? Possibly even accept them?

    It seems to me that you are a “pain in the butt” about Live Action’s tactics because you are, rightly, a pain in the butt about their tactics. You raise forceful, valid, and counterintuitive concerns about a group that has strong support from such places as Creative Minority Report (a pretty orthodox site). I suspect you make these critiques on their own merits, and not because of the reaction you get to them.

    • chezami

      No. I think the actions themselves are wrong. I *also* think the arguments taken up by defenders are wrong and dangerous. Sorry I was not clear.

      • vox borealis

        I was talking to Mark Shea, not replying to your comment…my fault for not being clear.

        • AnsonEddy

          Pretty sure “chezami” is Mark Shea. It’s his twitter handle and e-mail.

          • vox borealis

            Haha…I’m slow on the uptake. My apologies to all.

      • vox borealis

        Right, OK mon ami ; ) , I understand what you’re saying.

  • paulpriest

    Look – let’s make this clear:

    If you’re going to argue it would help if you argued against cases made rather than arguing across in order to obfuscate what’s actually being said by your opponents.

    Strawmen and reductio ad absurdams and appealing to the last man standing fallacy of ‘The Church says…’ [when it doesn’t] or the martyr fallacy of ‘we’re forbidden from doing anything to stop this evil’ [when we aren’t – we have every available weapon to us [bar sin] to assist our being ‘cunning as serpents’]

    Instead of arguing with commenters in your combox – why not argue against those who make some credible defences – like Peter Kreeft and Christopher Kaczor?

    You still don’t get that you’re reframing the actions of Live Action as the forbidden ‘doing wrong so that good may result’ from the permissible ‘doing a wrong mitigated within the double effect in order to prevent grave evil’

    You’re not helping when you don’t state what’s wrong or what’s right with the arguments…

    • capaxdei

      Double effect reasoning doesn’t help in this case, since double effect reasoning only applies when the act itself is good in its object.

      And of course, “doing a wrong” is always wrong.

      • paulpriest

        I’ve already said although we use the shorthand of ‘good’ it’s actually a misnomer for that which is only morally ordering – for reasons too lengthy to get into here but its to do with perfectibility, incorruptibility, universality and diachronicity

        Someone hasn’t quite understood Cajetan or Anscombe; but nevertheless in what way is either the deontological or the teleological aspects veer from morally ordering in LA’s actions?…

        …and I never said ‘doing a wrong’…but one which would be normatively wrong if performed to its own ends [or if the subjective intent or the conditions were altered] but which may be mitigated within the remits of the double-effect.

        • capaxdei

          I wouldn’t put anything past Cajetan, but I’d be very disappointed to learn that Anscombe holds that lying is perfectible.

          • paulpriest

            Sorry but I’d be more disappointed that your sentence doesn’t make any sense in regard to my previous comments..

            • capaxdei

              Cheer up! It means that lying deontologically veers from moral ordering.

              Does Kreeft or Kaczor now have a better argument than they did when Live Action first hit the news that telling someone an untruth in order to deceive them is not a lie?

              • paulpriest

                you either haven’t read or haven’t understood either of them

                • capaxdei

                  I infer that the answer is no, they don’t now have a better argument. So why would Mark need to readdress their old arguments? Go back to when Live Action first hit the news to find the responses to the arguments they made back then. In the meantime, Mark is addressing the arguments, such as they are, that are being made now, in response to his own arguments.

                  • paulpriest

                    …well it might help if you actually tried to either find out what their arguments are; because they certainly are not as you suggested.
                    If you’re being sincere that you have read them then I suggest you’re either unable to understand them or are deliberately misrepresenting them – which would be bitterly ironic either way.

                    • capaxdei

                      Good grief. If you can’t recognize a tendentious paraphrase signifying dissatisfaction with the argument offered, you really ought to ease up on the reading comprehension lectures.

                    • paulpriest

                      Oh it’s one of those irregular verbs…
                      They committed a grave mortal sin by lying
                      You were misguided by duplicitously deceiving
                      I am perfectly innocent because I tendentiously paraphrased…


  • Michael Matthew

    I am personally on the fence with their tactics. I ask the following question, not as a retort or argument, but one who is seriously trying to discern this issue. Here is the question: If the tactics of Live Action are immoral, what about a Catholic/Christian (or anybody for that matter) that works as an undercover police officer doing “sting” like operations? Are they tempting another person to sin? I am eager to hear other’s opinions on this.

    Also, one problem with analyzing an action as immoral or sinful is that often the action does NOT have a well defined reference of time. For example, if a couple is shacking up outside of marriage, at what point do they actually commit a sin? Was it at the moment they decided to move in together? or was it when they had premarital sex? or was it when they bought community property together? All one can say is that they are in a state of sin. Although this couple may commit a sin at a discreet moment in time, this sinful action is the consequence of the greater sin namely, their sinful attitude about the nature of marriage that leads to an array of sinful acts.

    One could argue that an employee willfully working at a known organization that supports and condones abortion is already in a “state” of sin. I guess the question then is this: Is Live Action tempting them into sin, or only revealing their present state of sin? And if one concludes that they are not actually tempting, then are their tactics sinful themselves?

  • Scott W.

    Tolkien vs. lying for a good cause:

    Faramir smiled grimly. ‘Then you would grieve to learn that Boromir is dead?’

    ‘I would grieve indeed,’ said Frodo. Then catching the look in
    Faramir’s eyes, he faltered. ‘Dead?’ he said. ‘Do you mean that he is
    dead, and that you knew it? You have been trying to trap me in words,
    playing with me? Or are you now trying to snare me with a falsehood?’

    ‘I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood,’ said Faramir.

    • paulpriest

      Tolkien vs. Walking away from Evil

      “Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!”

      A cold voice answered: ‘Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he
      will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of
      lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and
      thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.”

      A sword rang as it was drawn. “Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.”

      “Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”

      Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that
      Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But
      no living man am I!”

      • Scott W.

        Great quote, but applying it here seems to be setting up a false dichotomy. It doesn’t follow that Live Aid refusing to lie is the same as walking away or ignoring evil. Rather our whole point is that we can counter evil with many tools, but lying isn’t one of them.

        • chezami

          And, I repeat, the *main* issue is that the lying is done in order to get somebody to agree to an act of murder for the cameras. Catholics should not be lying to people in order to get them to agree to murder somebody. It’s kinda, you know, morally problematic, no matter how many absolutely discernment-free Conservative Catholics fling themselves at this latest folly as they flung themselves at torture and unjust war, and circled the wagons for Maciel and Corapi, and cheered for one amazingly wrong-headed thing after another while reading “CiNO”s out of the Church in the confidence that they are the True Catholics. So this whole “agree to lying and temptation or you are a coward who is walking away from evil” is of a piece with the incredible combination of moral cluelessless and cocksureness that seems to so often be the stock in trade of the Faithful Conservative Catholic subculture. What cracks me up is that I am constantly told I am telling people they aren’t really Catholic because they embrace some dumb moral error like this. No. I don’t read people out of the Church. I’m not a bishop. I tell people when I disagree with them, but I don’t take it upon myself to kick them out of the Church or declare them a CINO. That’s a Faithful Conservative Catholic[TM] habit. I chalk up their assumption that I’m kicking them out to projection.

  • Dane Snyder

    The grammar in this blog post is so bad that I’m not really sure I understand what the author is saying. The best I get is that he thinks Lila Rose is is tempting people to kill babies.

  • LibbyBarnes

    I think the example of Jesus and the Romans can be used, but in a very different way. We start with the premise that God “himself tempts no one,” so we know Jesus is NOT tempting. He is, of course, perfectly innocent, and working all things to our good. Does this then tell us that we can follow Christ’s example, putting ourselves in situations where we are not tempting but also not stopping someone from sinning, all for the good? Is this one of the many distinctions between “deception,” which is not intrinsically good or evil, and “lying,” which is intrinsically evil?