Why I Believe Live Action’s Tactics Are Wrong

Why I Believe Live Action’s Tactics Are Wrong May 3, 2013

First things first, let’s get something clear: as Kermit Gosnell has done a bang up job of demonstrating, abortion is a filthy monstrous evil that should turn the stomach of any sane human being. Indeed, it is so repellent that prolifers, desperately seeking to land a very justifiable punch thrill when a good hard punch is landed. After the monstrous things done in Gosnell’s chamber of horrors, who wouldn’t?

So it’s only natural to cheer that Live Action has landed some good hard punches with videos obtained by sending people in undercover to lie about seeking an abortion and filming the conversations with clinic workers that result. Only a pettifogging jerk could possibly question this, right?

I am that pettifogging jerk. Permit me to explain why.

Last year I spent rather a lot of time pointing out that the teaching of the Church is that lying is always immoral. Not always gravely immoral, mind you, but always immoral nonethelss. No. Really. From the Catechism, which tells us, “By its very nature, lying is to be condemned” to St. Thomas, who answers in the affirmative the question of whether lying is always a sin, back to Augustine and everywhere in between, the Tradition condemns lying.

And so, conservative Catholics spent all sorts of energy trying to figure out ways to pretend that what Live Action was doing was either not lying or not immoral. With the latest round of videos, particularly in combination with the horrors of Kermit Gosnell, that struggle will be taken up again with greater vigor no doubt and I fully expect to be denounced as a devil in human form for my misgivings about Live Action’s tactics.

Still and all, hear me out. Permit me, for starters, to note that while lying certainly enters into this discussion, it is not really the central issue. Rather, it is the purpose of the lie that gravely concerns me. Because the purpose of the lie, and what Faithful Conservative Catholics are enthusiastically cheering, is to tempt somebody to commit a mortal sin.

No. Really. The essence of the transaction Live Action’s agent proposes is simple: “I want to murder someone. Will you help me?”

Some will undoubtedly say “These people would murder in any case so let’s nail the bastards any way we can.”

The answer to this is twofold: a) we don’t know they would murder in any case and b) even if true, it does not in the slightest remove the stain of mortal sin from our act when we tempt another to commit murder. Indeed, to tempt to mortal sin one who is likely to succumb to mortal sin is, if anything, more blameworthy.

What do I mean when I say, “We don’t know they would murder in any case”? Consider such figures as Carol Everett, Bernard Nathanson or Sue Thayer. All were, at one time, pro-aborts with blood on their hands–and deeply troubled consciences. The very last thing they needed when they were on the cusp of changing their minds was for somebody to come to them pleading for an abortion and tempting them to continue in their path with one more conscience-searing act of slaughter. Inveigling them to continue murdering for the sake of the hidden camera is like handing an alcoholic struggling to get sober a bottle of whiskey in the hope they will die of alcohol poisoning on camera so you can expose the distillery industry. “He would have gotten drunk anyway” is not going to fly when you stand at the Pearly Gates and have to answer for tempting that guy to destroy his life for the sake of your expose. And, of course, once the person you have lied to finds out that you lied to them–just as they were starting to think “Maybe these prolife people are right”–one perfectly predictable reaction to such betrayal is to harden the heart against the prolifer who lied and tempted them to commit what prolifers themselves claim to be murder all for the sake of some footage. It’s not too hard to see how somebody on the cusp of a change of heart would conclude “These prolifers don’t believe what they are saying, or they would never tempt somebody to do this simply to score points.” An argument is won, but a Carol Everett, Bernard Nathanson or Sue Thayer is lost, perhaps eternally.

The reality is that the *least* serious moral issue is that LA’s tactics involve the sin of lying. The really serious problem (and one that the Faithful Conservative Catholic anti-charism of discernment refuses to give any serious consideration) is that it is lying in order to tempt somebody to commit a mortal sin. God does not tempt to mortal sin. Those who do tempt people to commit mortal sin are themselves engaged in grave matter and are in peril of their souls.

Yes. I’m aware they are trying to achieve a good end. So is the documentarian who gives the alcoholic the bottle and urges him to drink so he can film the effects of alcohol poisoning and damn the distillery industry’s encouragement of irresponsible drinking. Yes. I’m aware that abortionists are butchers. But tempting even a butcher to commit grave evil is like stripping for a porn addict in order to film him getting aroused in order to bring down the porn industry. It is gravely evil to tempt another to commit grave evil even–in fact *especially*–when they are likely to succumb to the temptation.

Some will argue that since no abortion is actually performed on the LA agent this means that no temptation to commit mortal sin has occurred. This is like arguing that merely because the person offering to take money in exchange for sex does not come through with the sex, no temptation to sexual immorality has occurred. Jesus has these words for that line of moral reasoning:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28)

Believe me, I get it. The butchery of Gosnell and Co is hideous. But the Church says that merely because you are at war it does not mean that all bets are off and you can do whatever you like, no matter how immoral, in order to win. This tactic of tempting abortionists to agree to more murder seems to promise massive dividends to the prolife movement. But that is a snare and a delusion. A Christian prolife movement that enshrines temptation to mortal sin at its heart as its most sacred tactic is a Christian prolife movement that is dying of a fatal and swiftly metastasizing cancer. It profits a man nothing to gain the whole world and lose his soul. These are not the weapons of the Spirit.

I would dearly, dearly love to stop being such a pain in the butt about all this and just join the parade of cheers for Live Action for landing some punches on the abortion industry. I do not enjoy the intense hatred I get from prolifers whenever I feel obliged to say this stuff. And despite the brain-dead accusations that I “secretly support abortion” or am “jealous of Live Action’s success” (what in hell does that even mean?), I *do* join the parade when the punches are landed with the weapons of the Spirit. So, for instance, I laud 40 Days for Life for shutting down clinics all over the US, including in Seattle’s University District, which is like walking into Mordor and poking Sauron in the eye as if he were Moe Howard. I *want* the prolife movement to succeed. I think that Lila Rose and Live Action mean well. But we cannot, in the end, succeed with these tactics because they seriously violate the Church’s ancient teaching that you cannot do evil that good may come of it. If we embrace that ethos, all we will win is a Pyrrhic victory and as we make a Faustian Bargain. So I speak, awaiting the next round of hate mail and brickbats. Goody.

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  • said she

    Thank you, Mr. Shea, for so lucidly explaining this important Church teaching. It can be hard for us ordinary folks to see these things clearly in the fog of war and emotions, especially when we so very much want a little victory to celebrate. But you are right: we must not use the Enemy’s tactics. Ever. But showing what goes on in the clinics is essential to turning the culture against this evil. So, let’s think up some licit tactics, shall we? I’m not clever enough, so I’ll let others chime in with suggestions.

    • Marthe Lépine

      In my opinion, one licit tactic would be to keep bringing up the Gosnell situation as often as we can. This case is a clear indication of what can and does go on in any other clinic (except maybe for the lack of cleanliness and sanitation seen in Gosnell’s clinic) and to work at keeping it in the public mind is one good licit way to bring attention to the ugliness of abortion. It seems that one reason the secular media have been trying to cover up the Gosnell case is actually that it could reveal the flaws in the image they want the public to have about abortion.

      • Newp Ort

        Is there evidence this goes on in any other clinic? Most clinics don’t provide abortion late enough in the pregnancy for any chance of the fetus of surviving.

        Focusing too much on Gosnell could lead one to think / leave room for the argument: “as long as its neat, tidy, and painless abortion is ok.”

        • Clare Krishan

          Focusing exclusively on the future, glorious or inglorious, risks missing the gift of the present, as this recent tweet from LifeNews @StevenErtelt Kermit Gosnell Who? Video Shows Americans Don’t Know Shock Abortion Doc http://bit.ly/137eChQ shows, if a perfect storm of gruesome present reality isn’t getting through to hearts and changing minds, how are LilaRose’s sanitized hypotheticals going to?

          • Newp Ort

            I see your larger point, but those man on the street videos are useless. Video enough people and you will always get enough viewpoints to edit together anything you want it to say.

  • Paul Connors

    1) Did the prophet Nathan deceive David when he asked a hypothetical question in such a way as to convince David that it was a real question? (2Sam 12:1-7)

    2) Was Aquinas right when he pointed out that hiding information from an enemy did not necessarily amount to a morally wrong deception?

    3) If I ask someone a question about what they would do in particular circumstances, does it necessarily amount to tempting them to commit personal sin if I expect that their honest answer is objectively incorrect?

    • Imp the Vladaler

      On your third question, let me recast it this way:

      If you and I were at dinner, and I nodded in the direction of the waitress and whispered to you “if she took her clothes off, hopped into your lap, and said ‘give me your such-and-such, you big, sexy, so-and-so,’ what would you do?” I am encouraging you to think about that woman with lust. That’s sinful.

      The Lord’s Prayer says “lead us not into temptation.” It doesn’t say “give us the strength to resist temptation.” We ask that God not allow temptation to put in front of us. By asking a Christian a tempting sexual hypothetical question, you’re giving him the opportunity to commit adultery in his heart. That’s something he specifically asked God to lead him away from.

    • chezami

      1. No.
      2. Yes.
      3. Irrelevant.

    • Kevin O’Brien

      Paul, if you have the stomach for it, look over the history of this debate on this blog, on my blog, and elsewhere. You’ll discover that your questions are very elementary questions that have been addressed time and again. In short, fiction and hypothetical situations are not lies; withholding a truth is not the same thing as telling an untruth. This is Lying Debate 101 stuff.

      Mark, this is a great post and the best thing written on this subject to date.

    • wineinthewater

      1) No, and it would be fine if Live Action did that.

      2) Yes, so if Live Action wants to go hiding Jews, there’s nothing to stop them. But, as Aquinas notes, they still can’t lie about it.

      3) No, it might in the specifics of how its done, but not inherently so. So if LA wants to do it that way, go ahead.

      • John Flaherty

        “But, as Aquinas notes, they still can’t lie about it.”

        Um, well, actually, ..they can. If a person knocks on your door and demands to know if there’re Jewish persons on the premises, if you can readily assume by their uniform and other obvious indicators that the person intends death or capture for the Jewish person, we DO have the moral right to lie. Doing so will allow the Jewish person the chance to live.

        • wineinthewater

          This assertion is often made. But I’m afraid I won’t be convinced if you can’t show this from the teachings of the Church. I can see nowhere that Catholic teaching proclaims that you may lie if you have a really good reason or to achieve a good end. Everywhere, the prohibition is pretty absolute.

  • vox borealis

    I too laud Mark Shea’s approach to this. My one quibble, or maybe it’s simply a question for clarification. Having reviewed the CCC’s relevant passages on lying, it seems that the differences between lying, lying to deceive, and witholding information can be fairly narrow. So too with tempting someone else to sin. IS there any way that Live Action can modify its tactics to be in line with Church teaching and still do its thing?

    Let me clarify. Let’s say Live Action sends a 26-week pregnant woman into Clinic X and asks abortionist Y something like: “I’m 26 weeks pregnant, how is the procedure normally done here? What if Z situation happens? etc.”

    The premise is truthful, the questions are generic (what is the normal policy?), no one is being tempted, I don’t think, again because of the hypothetical nature of the questions. One could argue there is an implicit intent to deceive, though on the other hand, I’m not clear how this is different from withholding information, and so on.

    Really what I’m asking—and it’s an open question, I am not arguing one way or the other, just trying to work through the problem—is it possible to Live Action to tweak their tactics to conform to Church teaching, or is the entire approach inherently flawed?

    • Leslie Fain

      Vox Borealis,
      This is exactly what I was wondering. There has got to be a way you can go in there and ask hypothetical questions about the clinic’s policy without going against what the Church teaches. Surely these clinics have policies and procedures with regard to infants being born alive. I am asking this seriously here, but would it have been wrong for a pregnant woman to go to Gosnell’s clinic, film it undercover, and ask what the clinic’s policy is regarding infants being born alive? Would that be leading someone into mortal sin? Again, I am not arguing against what the Church teaches. I am just trying to figure out how LA can shine line on this injustice without going against Church teaching.

    • chezami

      My hope is that it’s possible to tweak it. Finding some way to avoid “I want to commit murder. Will you please help me” is the main thing since it’s the temptation to mortal sin that is the huge problem here. Beyond that, just stop telling lies. There has to be a way, I think.

    • wineinthewater

      I think it is entirely possible. Live Action could have gotten all the same answers without ever lying or tempting to sin. “I’m x weeks pregnant and have some questions” is completely honest.

      And it comes with the side benefit of not giving PP the ammunition. PP already tries to discredit us as liars when it comes to human development, the risks of abortion and the realities of abortion. Embracing lying in our cause only makes this easier.

    • Newp Ort

      You could almost certainly do it by subbing hypotheticals for the lies. That little twist might be the opposite from temptation by forcing the doc to look at themselves. “She wants that so I’ll do it” becomes “Is that what I really want to be doing?” Optimistic I know, but conversions can come from that instant that hearing your own words lays bare the truth.

  • Keith Strohm

    Thank you, Mark! This is a wonderful and thoughtful post! I agree, and you’ve really helped shape my thinking about Live Action.

  • Tom F.

    Mark Shea is right on this.

    • Clare Krishan

      ditto this. If the truth is so important that a Catholic School may hold a gay PhysEd teacher to account (see earlier thread) and find wanting not out of malice but love, then its important enough for a Catholic blogger to hold a ProLife advocate to account and find wanting not out of malice but love.

  • ivan_the_mad

    There you go again with the common sense and the frank moral analysis. The enemy is always the devil and sin. When you stoop to his level and use his weapons, the ultimate result can only ever be more sin. Although as with any sin, it might seem a promising result … at first. But that’s the hook of the devil’s claw, isn’t it?

    Sin begets sin.

  • Sean P. Dailey

    Well said, Mark. We are supposed to be Christ to our neighbor. Not help send them to hell

    • Insignificant One

      It is doubtful Live Action is guilty of helping send these murder-for-hire vendors to hell. After all, these murderers are asking people to join them in Molech worship but saying their service is something else. Rather, Live Action is snatching souls from the hell destined bullet train which takes FORTITUDE (a Weapon of the Spirit). These are soldiers in battle exposing the hideous merchants that sell murder-for-hire! The tone of Mark’s analysis is sissyfying. It’s effiminate. Live Action would be muzzled as they plough through this killing field by St Thomas Aquinas of all people according to this article. What politically correct trash! If the article came off as giving tips on how to better battle-axe this formidable beast’s head it would get respect. Suggesting Live Action stop sending people to hell is confused soldiery.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Ugh. You have to be a tough guy to sin so hard. Didn’t we get enough of this nonsense in the torture debate?

        • Insignificant One

          What are you talking about?

          • Andy, Bad Person

            You’re playing that “you don’t have the stomach to do the hard things Live Action does” card. It’s the same canard that was used to excuse torture just a few short years ago. It was consequentialism then and it’s consequentialism now.

            • Insignificant One

              You do not have the stomach to compliment Live Action. I’m not suggesting Live Action shut up because they lie so much.

              • Andy, Bad Person

                I do not have the stomach to compliment an organization engaging in sin. Correct. If that makes me a wuss, then I stand in good company.

                • Insignificant One

                  I compliment the midwives St Thomas Aquinas mentions, God even blessed them. Ditto Live Action.

                  • chezami

                    You have a talent for refusing to educate yourself.

                    • Insignificant One

                      God rewarded lying midwives for their good will and fear of Him. St Thomas Aquinas. Maybe God can build a house for Lila Rose too. I accept your insult. See what great love He has–He died for me.

                    • chezami

                      This has nothing to do with Lila Rose’s eternal destiny.

  • kirthigdon

    Excellent analysis, Mark. There is also the lesser but still important point that these tactics cost the pro-life movement overall credibility. The pro-aborts can always point to the tactics of LA and their “justification” by other people in the movement to claim that pro-lifers simply believe that it is OK to lie for the cause and nothing they say can be trusted. As to whether LA’s tactics can be tweaked to get around the prohibition of lying and temptation of others to sin, I guess that might be possible. But do we really think that this great evil will be defeated by tricky language?
    Kirt Higdon

  • ForsythiaTheMariner

    Thanks for writing this post. I hadn’t actually thought about that, being a journalist myself and taught that for undercover work one sometimes does lie, but logically and according to Church teaching, what you say makes sense.

  • Hannah

    Two things:

    1. Lying isn’t always wrong. It can be justified by its end – for example, people during the Holocaust lying about whether they were hiding Jews. How can you take offence to Live Action’s white lies in the face of the massacre of babies? If this little ruse opens the eyes of the public, or even of just one person who becomes aware of the awful truth of abortion, and if even one young life is saved as a result, the deception that went into the making of this video is more than justified.

    2. Live Action isn’t trying to prove that abortion clinics perform abortions. The point is to show the public that clinic workers have been caught telling their phoney client that if her baby was born alive, they would make sure it did not remain that way. The video also revealed how casually clinic workers can talk about dismembering a baby.

    • chezami

      1. Yes. Lying is always wrong. This is the immemorial teaching of the Church from Augustine to Thomas to the Catechism. And the lies of Live Action are not “white lies”. They lies told in order to tempt someone to mortal sin. “The ends justifies the means” is moral theory condemned by the Church ever since Paul wrote Romans 3:8.

      2. Irrelevant. The point is that, to obtain this footage, the LA agent tempts somebody to commit mortal sin. There are ways to get the exact same information without lying or tempting anybody to mortal sin.

      • Hannah

        So the people who were hiding Jews from the Nazis and lied about it, they were committing a sin?

        These videos have nothing to do with temptation. This is an abortion clinic. They’ve already made their choice about what to do with unborn babies. Besides, the young woman had no intention of having an abortion.

        • chezami

          Hannah: All this has been discussed a million times, including by St. Thomas. I know you think you are coming up with an absolutely original refutation, but please try to familiarize yourself with the history of this question. And yes, LA’s tactics have everything to do with temptation. “I want to kill my child. Will you help me?” is temptation to mortal sin.

          • Hannah

            You didn’t answer my question.

            • chezami

              I’ve answered your quesion dozens of times. Google my name + lying. Better still, look at what the Catechism saying about lying, which is that “by its very nature” lying is to be condemned. Read St. Thomas’ on it. Or Augustine’s “On Lying”. Not my job to do your homework for you.

              • Hannah

                I’m not asking you to do homework. I’m asking for one word. Was it wrong for people to lie to the Nazis about the Jews they were hiding? Yes or no?

                • chezami

                  Since, as the Church teaches, lying is always a sin, the answer is yes. However, the odds are very high that culpability for such a sin is low to non-existent. And the sin is, at most, venial. When Thomas treats of the question, he doesn’t try to sit in judgment of the Hebrew midwives (who likewise lied to save lives). He simply says that their lie was “not meritorious” while acknowledging that they were rewarded for their faithfulness, not their lies. I think that’s the smart approach here too. That said, the problem here is different since LA is not actually saving any lives. It is, instead, giving prolifers the *feeling* of saving lives while it is in fact tempting abortionists to commit mortal sin and tempting proliers like you to justifying commission of mortal sin “for a good end.”

                  • Insignificant One

                    Are not the money grubbing abortionists the ones offering their services of murder for hire? Abortion advertisement–Hey! We kill for money and it is legal come on in and find out more! Sounds like the temptation to murder is on the abortionist end not Live Action.

                  • Hannah

                    1. I’d like you to say those words to a Holocaust survivor.

                    2. You can’t possibly know whether LA is saving lives or not. Who knows how many minds they might have changed regarding abortion?

                    • Insignificant One

                      It’s sounds like authors of this tripe, namely arguing for the silence of Live Action using the Catechism; are saying Live Action is doing worse than the murder for hire hitmen. These abortionist organizations advertise to the general public. Why all the cry baby antics when a secret shopper of sorts comes in to expose the quality of goods and services being sold?

                    • wineinthewater

                      This is such a tremendous strawman.

                      No one is arguing for LA to be silent, only for them not to lie. Considering they can do almost exactly what they do without lying, without committing what the Catholic Church considers an intrinsic evil, it is not unreasonable to say that they should not lie.

                      And no one is saying LA is worse than PP. In fact, pretty much everyone saying that LA shouldn’t lie has expressly said that what PP does is worse.

                    • Insignificant One

                      Is a secret shopper committing intrinsically evil acts by playing the role of customer? How about undercover Catholic cops, DEA, FBI, CIA agents? I think this topic is more complex than you or Mark make it out to be. It is not a straw man nor a tremendous one–if Live Action took lessons from Mark what would they learn? To be more covert by telling these assassins, “Hey! I’m here to put you on blast! Please have a seat lets talk.”

                      Mark stated, “This tactic of tempting abortionists to agree to more murder seems to promise massive dividends to the prolife movement. But that is a snare and a delusion.” Is that what Live Action is doing and needs to stop? What equivocal nonsense! The abortionist is soliciting questions about its product and service–Live Action exposes the fraud for what it is. I doubt LA can tempt a vendor to sell more of what it already intends to sell indefinitely. The phrase “more murder” is not added to by Live Action.

                    • wineinthewater

                      Application of the concept may be complicated, but the concept is not:

                      Lying is an intrinsic evil, it is always evil regardless of circumstances. This is immemorial Catholic teaching.

                      You may not do evil that good may come of it. This is also immemorial Catholic teaching.

                      You can come up with whatever tortured hypothetical gymnastics you want, but they won’t change Catholic teaching.

                      The thing that I find the most distressing about these conversations is how much they remind me of pro-choicers who try to justify abortion (another intrinsic evil) based on the “good” they benefit. The gravity of the evils and the gravity of the goods may not be the same, but the rhetoric is.

                    • Insignificant One

                      Lying is intrinsically evil. Agreed. The Catholic Church should never change its teaching since it teaches what is True.

                    • chezami

                      Good! Then we agree. And as I have noted, St. Thomas makes clear that lying is not always a mortal sin. I would add that I suspect it is not *usually* a mortal sin. However, when the lie is told specifically to tempt another to mortal sin, that is something else again. That’s the main issue here.

                    • Insignificant One

                      Who is suggesting Live Action is guilty of tempting someone to sin mortally?

                    • chezami

                      I am. Did you not read my post at all?

                    • Insignificant One

                      So is Mark. I think both of you are wrong for suggesting Live Action is tempting toward mortal sin. Abortionist are selling their services and were secret shopped by a pro-life organization that is broadcasting the truth about the service sold.

                    • Scott W.

                      You know, I might be able to buy the “secret shopping” argument if they brought in a hidden camera and asked hypothetical questions like, “If I was pregnent…” etc. But the second they said “I’m pregnant” when they are not, they’re out.

                    • chezami

                      To be fair, the lie was not “I’m pregnant” but “I want an abortion.” The temptation to mortal sin was “Will you help me get it?”

                    • Newp Ort

                      Lying is sinful, but one may lie for a worthy cause if one does it MIGHTILY, with tough talk of battle ax besplittened skulls of murderous murderers for hire! Left to you sithified sithies the task becomes sysiphian!!

                    • Clare Krishan

                      A hypothetical poses change as valency – it can be either positive or it can be negative and it can be both at the same time. Posing itself has valency: it may or may not play out in the future as planned.

                      The present moment is where love lives, not in betting on a shady outcome (I commit a sin so I can film you committing a sin?) to promote an illusion of a shiny future (my sinful film of your sinning has the power to stop others sinning if I can tempt enough of our peers to condone my sinful pretense at moral rectitude, ie to sin themselves also).

                      The simulacrum of redemption is not redemption.

                      Its convoluted ain’t it? That’s why Michelangelo painted the serpent coiled around that tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil – wisdom is iterative, we have to risk being wrong to learn by our mistakes, and come out right by discerning the difference like Solomon. Satan convicts the guilty by making them skip the discernment phase through pride: they’re so busy fixing their eyes on the prize they fail to forget the One who named all “gift” – the prize isn’t “out there” to be grasped. His home is our hearts. He’s waiting to be shared with the barren, bereft and the lost. Anyone who argues that a future just outcome is worth more than a present injustice is refuting Solomon’s wisdom of the present moment. The simulacrum-mother who prefered a future justice of half a dead child lost the moral contest to the true-mother who prefered a future injustice without her live child.

                      “One truth: that the mind is below truth, not above it, and is bound, not to descant upon it, but to venerate it; that Truth and falsehood are set before us for the trial of our hearts.” ~ Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman

                      Humility is the first virtue for a good reason, we need it to rest assured that we may be permitted the time to consult with the Truth (already there in any person made-in-His-image we encounter) before rushing off to Judgement. St Benedict’s 12 steps (Deacon Nick Mazzei http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA6cb1V2Y34) guard against Satan’s 1 “just do it” — God’s not looking, he’s not here in this present moment. The penultimate and ultimate steps 11 and 12? Prayerful taciturn silence and surrender to the will of God, ie conventional pro-life witness of personal holiness absent any agita from the opposing vice as per St. Bernard’s 11th and 12th steps of Pride: license to sin; and a habit of sin. “The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the slavery of sin. (Catechism 1733)” (http://blog.adw.org/2013/03/the-twelve-steps-up-the-mountain-of-pride-according-to-st-bernard-of-clairvaux/)

                    • Scott W.

                      1. I’d like you to say those words to a Holocaust survivor.

                      I’d have no problem saying I wouldn’t lie to a Holocaust survivor, because if I was in that situation, I would hide make sure to hide my Jews so well that I wouldn’t have to lie (as if saying “No, there are no Jews here” would fool anyone anyway) to protect them.

            • Yes, Hannah, lying to the Nazis is a sin. It may not be a mortal sin, however, depending on the circumstances and intent and understanding of one’s act, not to mention whether the lie was deliberately planned or an off-the-cuff panicked response.

              The ends do not justify the means. This is a basic, basic teaching of the Church — that one cannot do evil so that good may come of it — and yet it has to be pointed out over and over and over.

              • Hannah

                Lying to murderers to protect innocent people is not an evil act. You’re honestly telling me you would watch entire Jewish families herded off to concentration camps rather than tell a lie to save their lives? Do you think God condemned all the heroes who risked their own lives by lying to the Nazis?

                • No no no, of course I don’t think God condemned them, what part of “it may not be a mortal sin” did you miss?

                  If I am ever faced with such a situation (Live Action is not, and I would argue almost no one ever is), I hope that I would have the presence of mind to say something that deters the murderers without actually lying (my skills as a former lawyer should help there, heh). If I panic or otherwise respond like a flawed human and lie, I would later go to confession. But here’s point, Hannah — I will not plan ahead of time to lie, just like I will not plan to commit any other sin.

                  • Hannah

                    Then the Holocaust survivors should thank God they weren’t hiding in your attic.

              • $362439

                Lying to Nazis on your doorstep while you’re hiding Jews in your basement is a lesser evil than procuring their deaths by telling the truth. When you have no third alternative, lying is not a sin.

          • Insignificant One

            Can a good Catholic be an undercover cop, DEA, FBI or CIA agent? With your familiarity of this question, mind you.

            • chezami

              Yes. However, he cannot be a good Catholic while trying to justify lying or tempting to mortal sin.

              • Insignificant One

                If an agent that is Catholic poses as one needing an assassination completed by acting the role without revealing its just a role being played a bad Catholic?

                • chezami


                  • Insignificant One

                    Is an undercover Catholic FBI agent posing as a buyer of a contract killer’s service a bad Catholic?

                    • chezami

                      Notice how much energy you are spending coming up with hypothetical scenarios about fictional people and then asking me to sit in judgment of their souls. A better use of your time would be in trying to actually learn what the Church from Augustine to Aquinas to the Catechism says about a) lying and b) tempting people to commit mortal sin.

                    • Insignificant One

                      Poor dodge. There’s gotta be at least some Catholics in the ranks of the FBI. Lying is morally wrong. My familiarity with such great saints like St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas as well as the Catechism has to be desired–amateur here.

                      A) Is lying what an undercover agent does?
                      B) Or is it something else the undercover agent does?
                      C) If its something other than lying what is it?

                      Is an undercover agent that happens to be a Catholic a bad Catholic?

                    • wineinthewater

                      If an undercover agent happens to lie as part of his job, then he is sinning. It doesn’t matter what good comes from it. Remember, intrinsic evil, unambiguous Catholic teaching. That means there are no circumstances that make lying not a sin. There are plenty of circumstances that affect the liar’s culpability (I would think that those with Nazis on their doorsteps and Jews in their basements had next to no culpability for any lies that they told), but that has no impact on whether or not the lie was a sin.

                      This is one of the great problems with our relativistic culture, it cannot differentiate between culpability and sin. Decreased culpability does not make a sin not a sin.

                      This should give any Catholic pause as to whether undercover work is a profession they want to enter.

                    • Insignificant One

                      Very good warning in that last statement. This is a complex topic in reality. I wonder if there is a valid way for a Catholic to do such work.

                    • chezami

                      Sure. Don’t lie while you do it. And don’t tempt anybody to mortal sin.

                    • ChubbyBubba

                      That’s a remarkably naive approach to police work. Deception is a core tool, and the courts have ruled over and over that it is permissible. How many times have you seen the tv scene where crook one is being interrogated and told, well your buddy is telling us everything, you know he’s going to get a walk and put you in for a long time. You’ve got a last chance to get us to go easy if you talk now?

                      It’s based on real life. Interrogation is all about deception, the core of which is “we’re on your side, really.”

                      Police get wind quite frequently of people looking for “contract killers,” so they go hang out in certain bars and pose as if offering those services, then bust those who try to buy them. Happens all the time. It’s called a sting operation and it’s an important tool of police operation. You’re not convincing them to commit murder, you’re catching people who already want to murder. Such is the case with Live Action.

                    • chezami

                      I know that appeals to authority figures in uniform on TV shows is a much-beloved tactic of Faithful Conservative Catholic bent on ignoring the Church’s teaching, but nonetheless lying is not baptized as morally acceptable merely because TV cop told you it is okay. The Church, it turns out, does not get its moral teaching from TV cops, but from Jesus and the apostles. My suggestion is to start there and then compare TV cops to the Church’s teaching, not to start with TV cops and trim the Church’s teaching to fit fictional uniformed Authority Figure’s often dodgy morals.

                    • ChubbyBubba

                      I wasn’t saying lying was ok because a tv show told me so. Your willingness to deliberately misconstrue is telling. Part of this is from another comment: Why have generations of Boston Catholics been ok with serving in the police?

                      And let’s broaden the debate. Compare and contrast: You think it is impermissible to use a tiny deception to combat the horror of infanticide, and state that your basis is Church teaching on sin. Yet the Church has for some time blessed the idea of soldiers serving in armies and using deadly force to combat larger evils.

                      If you want to say you’ve been pitching this entire fit simply to make the point that any deception is a lie even if there is no culpability attached, fine, conceded, though I continue to question what drives you in this matter.

                      If you want to say that because LA’s deception was a sin and therefore their tactic should not be used against child murderers, I think you will have a much harder time succeeding with that argument.

                    • chezami

                      Deception and lying are not the same thing. Learn about the Church’s moral tradition before sounding off again.

                    • ChubbyBubba

                      Oooooh! Put in my place! “Shut up” is such a convincing argument.

                      I asked below and haven’t seen you yet address: How do you compare the culpability of LA’s “lying” and that of the late term abortionists they’re trying to expose?

                    • chezami

                      I didn’t say shut up. I said learn what you are talking about.

                    • “Why have generations of Boston Catholics been ok with serving in the police?”

                      This is not a good argument at all — sin does not stop being sin because lots of people do it in ignorance or willfully. After all, generations of Catholics have been ok with artificial birth control, too.

                    • ChubbyBubba

                      In all your days in the Church, reading information, listening to homilies, news, etc, all the many sources of news and education and teaching that you’ve been exposed to, have you ever heard a warning that one shouldn’t pursue police work? Maybe the generations of Boston police families might have thought twice by now.

                    • ChubbyBubba

                      There is something significantly wrong with your interpretation of the Church’s ethics if you think that they lead to the conclusion that the apprehension of criminals is a sin to be avoided. A consult with someone more educated may be in order (not me). When your own thought leads to a conclusion so perverse, it has clearly overstepped the bounds of real ethics.

                    • chezami

                      You’d really have a point if I said that apprehension of criminals is a sin to be avoided.

                    • chezami

                      And again, you’d really have something there if I had said anything like this. But I didn’t.

                    • chezami

                      No. What you are doing is dodging–in order to avoid facing what the Church teaches.
                      a) How should I know?
                      b) Huh?
                      c) How should I know?
                      Again, you ask me to sit in judgment of an entirely hypothetical person. Why not learn what the Church teaches instead of engage in time-wasting exercises in the hope of entrapping me in a logic problem, as you obviously aim to do.

                    • Insignificant One

                      Umm, I accept Church Teaching. Lying is immoral. That is true and the Church teaches the truth. I am familiar with St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas too, though I am still learning and doubt I’d measure up to their understanding.

                      An undercover agent has to appear a certain way to carry out the work entailed. With your expertise explain how a Catholic can do such a job without violating the Church’s teaching on lying.

                    • chezami

                      I have no expertise in being an undercover agent. I can tell you what the Church says: “Don’t lie”. I can also tell you that the Church says that withholding information or equivocating is not lying. So “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” is not a lie. But “I am pregnant and want an abortion” is if you are a) not pregnant and/or b) don’t want an abortion. If you add “Please help me get an abortion” you are now seeking to make somebody an accomplice to mortal sin. Even if you fail, you have still sought that goal and it is gravely immoral. *Why* you sought that goal is irrelevant.

  • J D

    Mark’s post is a little late to the discussion on the morality of Live Action’s methods, but it’s helpful and necessary to remind us of the issue of using wrong means for right ends, and as a bridge to learning about the moral discussion on lying and deception.

    Tollefsen agreed with Mark’s premise in this article from 2011:

    Kaczor took issue with Mark’s assessment shared by Tollefsen, claiming that lying cannot be conflated with deception, broad mental reservations, evasions, etc. in a reply:

    Ed Feser agreed in part with Kaczor, and concluded that:
    “First, to the extent that Live Action’s methods involve broad mental reservation, evasion, and the like, those methods may be morally defensible. Second, to the extent that these methods involve actual lying, they are wrong and should not be used. Third, it seems to me that Live Action’s resort to lies was probably only venially sinful rather than gravely so.”

    I believe that, though there is a thin line between some forms of deception, mental evasion and lying, it is very possible that some of Live Action’s methods in their “sting operations” are morally acceptable and do not constitute lying and explicitly offer and conduce temptation. As to the extent that they do, we should condemn and distance ourselves from tactics and offering temptations, and strive to encourage tactics such as vox borealis suggested.

    • Insignificant One

      Many readers of Mark Shea’s blog would do well to read guys like Ed Feser. Disclaimer–Ed Feser says, ” I also write on politics, from a conservative point of view; and on religion, from a traditional Roman Catholic perspective.” Note the “traditional” qualifier. Also, Feser is a Thomist. All great characteristics. However, traditionalist Catholics are lumped together in the bucket of radtrad lunatics and are rhetorically derided here.

  • Infinite Grace

    I’m not even jumping into the argument here because I don’t have the stomach or the chops for it. But, given my own background, etc., I would ask – what would be the better thing for Live Action to do and get the same result? I think it would be good if they put out there how they presented themselves at the clinics. As others have said, if they just went in with questions and not asking for the actual procedure – then maybe no discussion is necessary about their lying at all. If I call an abortion clinic right now and ask those questions, I’m pretty sure I’d get the same answers. But back to my original questions – what would you suggest they do to get the same result?

    • wineinthewater

      It’s been covered a couple of times in the thread, but pretty much just what you laid out. They could go in and simply ask questions, “If I come in for an abortion and the baby is still twitching afterward, what do you do?” contains no lies (absolutely a sin) and no risk of tempting someone to commit a grave sin (even though I don’t think Mark has quite made his case on that argument).

  • Jacob Suggs

    I tend to disagree with you on the lying part (that approach to me has always sounded like saying “men are made in the image of God, and part of this image is to live, therefore killing a man is violating part of man’s God given nature and hence is always a direct offense against the God who gave the nature,” which we both know is almost but not quiet completely true.

    But as far as the temptation goes: would you then say it is immoral for a police officer to offer to purchase illegal goods so as to convict someone highly suspected of selling goods to all who ask? In a neighborhood where there has been a lot of crime recently, and where it is suspected to be the same people doing it, for the cops to set up an “easy target” and lie in wait so as to stop the crime?

    In the abortion case, and in the buying illegal goods case, you aren’t tempting someone to sin who would otherwise, or even who might otherwise, not be sinning. You have found someone who is in fact constantly sinning (selling dangerous drugs, murdering children) and stepping in in a way no different then they would expect their customers to (otherwise it wouldn’t work) and then seeing what they do. You are taking a sin that is happening anyway and taking advantage of the effects to put a stop to the process. The temptation to sin is already there, and already given in to, otherwise these people wouldn’t be seeking business in the first place.

    The “easy target” is less direct, but a similar idea: there are thieves in the process of thieving, and who everyone has about as certain an idea as we can have about anything will continue to thieve. All you’re doing is modifying the environment (yes modifying the temptation, perhaps even causing the next particular instance of that temptation to show up slightly earlier than it might otherwise) so that when they act it can be exposed.

    Now, if you went up to a family practice doctor, and tried to wheedle and give sob stories until he broke down and offered an abortion, that would be tempting him to sin. If you found some hungry man who was trying to be honest, and told him about all the good he could do for his family if only he got into the drug business, that would be tempting him to sin.

    But I don’t think putting the fact that people are known to constantly be in such a state where they will sin with no provocation beyond a request or the site of an easy mark, and simply verifying that they are in that state by checking if they’ll commit the sin on request, can be called tempting. Abortionists are open for business: they have signs above their doors saying: come here we’ll commit mortal sin with you. Walking in and checking that they will is hardly a temptation – to tempt is to try to convince someone to do something they otherwise might not. In this case, there is no “otherwise might not.”

    • Insignificant One

      Thanks for elaborating. Scolding Live Action for the job they did is like scolding undercover agents exposing human trafficking organizations. Deception is a tool to cover. Looks can be deceiving. Something appearing a certain way does not necessarily reveal the nature of that thing.

      • chezami

        In other words, “Let us do evil that good may come of it, because cops, not Jesus, are the final moral authority.”

        • Insignificant One

          Is deception always wrong? Is a deceived person the victim of a moral evil?

          • chezami

            Again, the questions you are asking have been dealt with in detail again and again. There is a distinction between lying (which we may never do) and equivocation or withholding info (so that we allow somebody to draw wrong conclusions). So deception is permissible in some circumstances, but not lying.

            Usually, when this is pointed out, the next strategy for the defender of lying is to claim that the lie they wish to defend is not a lie but merely deception. In this case, we are looking at lying. “My boyfriend wants me to have an abortion and I’m not 100% sure” is a lie. “Will you make sure it’s dead” is a temptation to commit murder. This is not complicated.

            • Insignificant One

              So someone’s deception is another’s lie.

              • chezami

                No. You should really try to learn what you are talking about. Deception *can* be legit. Lying can never be legit. Some people, eager to rationalize lying, will try to call it something else in order to pretend it is legit.

                • Insignificant One

                  Accusing Live Action of tempting an abortion vendor to sin mortally sounds like you really know what you’re talking about. According to your argument Live Action cannot even use deception to expose what these murderers sell–because it would be tempting that vendor to sell more of what they plan to sell indefinitely. Could Live Action use deception to do what they do without being accused by you of scandal?

            • Jacob Suggs

              “Will you make sure it’s dead” is a request. It becomes a temptation when it is an attempt to convince people to do what they otherwise would not do. But that is not what it is. It is a verification of the very nearly known fact that they will freely and without any hesitation whatsoever offer to kill the child.

              It is not temptation to ask an abortionist to preform an abortion. It is not temptation to begin the process of buying contraceptives from a pharmacist who has them obviously for sale. It is not a temptation to ask a drug dealer who has drugs that he is actively trying to sell to sell some of them to you. These people are already sinning (at least objectively) by offering their services. You are simply confirming the fact.

              It is a sin to try to convince someone to enter the drug trade. It is a sin to pressure a pharmacist into selling contraceptives who otherwise would not. And it would be a sin to try to convince a doctor to perform abortions if he otherwise would not. But walking into a building that says “we sin for you” over the door and engaging them is a different thing entirely.

              And even for a person where you are not sure if they are offering the services or not, and where they happen not to be – the temptation you offering for them to start is a side effect of your actions and not what your actions are themselves. Such a side effect is unfortunate, but unplanned and can be justified, if you have enough reason to suspect – just as the death of someone attacking you can be justified by your self defense.

              • chezami

                Correct. It’s a request that the person help commit murder. That is an act of temptation to grave evil. Christians are forbidden to tempt people to grave evil. Stop making excuses for it.

                • Jacob Suggs

                  Home slice, let me help you out here: a discussion is where two or more people make points and/or counter points, usually addressing what the other person has just said.

                  What you’re doing is repeating yourself. Now: I have stated the position that such a person is not tempting evil, but rather ACCEPTING the offer the other has done to do evil, eg documenting the fact that the abortionist has given into the temptation ALREADY. Your part of the discussion is now to explain how this is not what is happening, or is morally no different, not plug your ears and shout “it’s-evil-it’s-evil-it’s-evil-it’s-evil-” over and over again.

                  Discussion. Address points. Not make declarations and expect everyone to swallow them on the strength of the fact that you said so.

                  • chezami

                    Correct. I am repeating myself. Because every attempted sophistry being offered here is an attempt to ignore two basic facts: You cannot lie and you *especially* cannot lie in order to tempt somebody to do grave evil, not matter how good the good you seek nor how terrible the fear you hope to avoid. Everything you say is an attempt to ignore those twin facts, so I keep repeating them.

                    • Jacob Suggs

                      Gotta address one of those points at a time. The blog post seemed to be focusing on the temptation issue, so lets focus there. Assume you can do it without lying (walk in and say “would you be willing to” and that sort of thing).

                      Now. I think you’re wrong. Your constant descent to level of accusing those who disagree with you of sophistry appears to me to be little more than an adolescent foot stomping, and does not have the hallmarks of a discussion. If you say you are right and I am wrong, it’s going to take more than you calling me a duplicitous moron.

                      Now, I may be a duplicitous moron. But you’ll understand if I don’t take your word for it. ARGUMENT. You must PROVE I’m a duplicitous moron.

                    • chezami

                      I don’t accuse “those who disagree with me” with sophistry. I say those who claim that confession of sins is tantamount to temptation are committing ridiculous sophistry. As to the rest, as I have said, it LA did not a) lie and b) lie for the purpose of tempting somebody to agree to commit murder I would have no quarrel with their tactics. They do not need to do this. Yet people waste all their time defending this indefensible tactic instead of just saying, “Here are some ways they could achieve the same goals without committing grave sins to get therre.”

                    • Jacob Suggs

                      That’s because we don’t think they are indefensible, and have in fact already adequately defended them. You’ve just ignored the defense while you were repeating yourself.

                      So I say again: I posit that there is a clear difference between tempting someone to sin and finding someone who already has decided to sin in general terms (ie “if anyone comes in and asks me to kill their child I will) and asking them to do the sin they have already decided to do so that you can document what it is. I claim that this is not temptation at all.

                      Lying is a separate issue. This could be done with or without saying anything that is not actually true (I don’t think it’d work in the second case, but you could try). For the purpose of having one argument at a time, let’s stick to the temptation issue. If you disagree with me show me that I am wrong.

                      And let me reiterate: I know that you think I am wrong. That fact by itself holds no interest for me. The simple statement that I am wrong will not further the discussion any, and will probably result in yet another one of these posts by me where I essentially ask you to, if I am wrong, show me why I am wrong instead of just telling me that it is so.

                    • chezami

                      I know you think that. And you are wrong. We cannot ask somebody to commit a grave evil. “Please help me kill my baby” is tempting somebody to commit grave evil. Asking “What does Planned Parenthood offer to do for me”?” is not. It is utterly morally deranged to claim that asking a a murderer to commit another murder is *not* tempting them to sin.

                    • ChubbyBubba

                      You’re mistaking a murderer who may have committed a single deed through passion or some horrific circumstance and may never again do such a thing if left to his own devices, with someone who has set himself up with a storefront and a sign that says, “come on in, I’ll murder your child for $200.”

                      The later needs no temptation whatsoever, while the former may well be horrified by his deed.

                      Still waiting to hear you address the difference in culpability between LA’s purported lie and the actions of an abortionist.

                    • chezami

                      No. I’m not. I’m saying it does not matter how often a butcher has killed. We *still* bear responsibility if we tempt him to kill again. This is only complicated for sophists.

                    • ChubbyBubba

                      Still waiting to hear you address the difference in culpability between LA’s purported lie and the actions of an abortionist.

                      Your ongoing unwillingness to address this makes it seem more and more likely to me that your shock and concern over the tactics employed by Live Action have much more to do with making abortionists look bad than with them having deceived or lied.

                    • chezami

                      Right. My obvious goal here is to defend abortion, not to say that we should fight abortion with the weapons of the Spirit and not the weapons of this world. Clearly, you have divined my true intent. Once again, the discernment free conservative Catholic mind has ferreted out the sinister conspiracy and managed to miss the bleeding obvious. Never mind. I’m done trying to talk sense here. Good bye.

                    • Jacob Suggs

                      It is not the frequency or the number that we’re referencing. It’s the FACT that the butcher is KNOWN to be in a state of looking for people to murder.

                    • wineinthewater

                      I think the argument that you are making is actually worth considering. Is it really tempting someone to sin when that person is actively offering to commit that sin.

                      But even if that argument proves to be true, there is a problem applying it here. PP is not a person. PP is not being tempted to sin. A person is. And while we may know about the intents and disposition of PP, we do not know about the intents and disposition of every employee at PP. We have already heard the conversion stories of former employees who wanted to leave but felt trapped because of the need for a job or insurance, or the employees who really had not internalized and confronted just what it was they were doing.

                      Every employee is still participating in a grave evil, but with all kinds of levels of knowledge, intent, consent and culpability. And we cannot know the disposition of each and every person. What of those on the cusp of repentance? or a hairsbreadth from the truth? do we really want to be so blithe with their souls and tempt them to commit another grave sin that might be the one to tip the scale away from repentance?

                    • Jacob Suggs

                      First, you do realize that temptation is an internal thing right? That is, the words that are used to cause the idea of murder to enter my head make no difference as to whether or not the idea of murder enters my head.

                      So if I say “would you be willing to murder my child” and “will you murder my child,” in the context of an abortion clinic where it is clear that they are in fact willing to murder your child, there is no difference whatsoever in the level of temptation. Likewise with “what can you do for me”. It’s an abortion clinic. You know. They know. They know you know. You know they know you know. And etc.

                      Whether you ask outright or not might make a difference for the lying question, but not from the temptation perspective at all. If either counts as temptation, both do. Because in both cases, you are doing something that you know will have the effect of causing them to contemplate murder.

                      And second, there is a large difference between asking someone who once murdered to do it again and asking someone who is advertising their services for murder, makes their living by murder, is open for business for murder, has a building with a sign out front saying “we murder people, ask us who we can murder for you” and is known to commit many murders a day if they will murder for you. These are not the same. At all. The first is bad, the second is not because there is no new temptation, you are not causing any interior thing that isn’t there.

                    • chezami

                      Are you seriously suggesting that it is impossible for one person to tempt another? Seriously? Are you that desperate to make excuses that you would seriously say something that stupid? Seriously? No movie was ever made with scantily clad girls to tempt men? Knowingly handing an alcoholic a bottle is not an act of temptation? Offering an addict some crystal meth is not sinfully tempting them? Jesus had no idea what he was talking about when he warned of the millstone to those who tempt little ones to stumble? Are you really so desperate to make up sophistries that you will suggest that temptation is *entirely* in the mind of the tempted person and the tempter bears no moral responsibility at all? Really? Disgusting.

                    • Jacob Suggs

                      No that is not what I’m doing. Not at all. Not in the least. The opposite in fact. I am claiming that more would count as temptation than you say under your assumptions.

                      I’m not suggesting that at all. I am saying that there is no weasel half temptation. You can technically not lie and use deception, both of which have the same end effect (intended by you) of causing the person to believe a falsehood. You cannot deliberately cause a person to consider murder and say it was not bad because you didn’t ask out right – if it would have been bad if you did ask out right. Temptation is about what you purposefully cause them to consider, not how you purposefully caused them to consider it.

                    • John Flaherty

                      I don’t agree that anyone aside from Planned Parenthood has committed any sin with these videos.

                      Live Action has primarily offered video documentation of the typical approach that Planned Parenthood takes. That’s documentation, I might remind you that, PP themselves will not offer. ..Because they know very well they’d be the subject of public wrath if they did.

                    • John Flaherty

                      You seem to me to ignore a particular fact: Planned Parenthood or others aren’t being tempted to do anything.
                      If we had cause to believe that an abortion would be something unusual, I might agree with you.
                      As things stand though, we know darn well that they routinely offer abortions.

                      You can’t brand something as “offering temptation” if you know very well that the alleged temptation..is the core of the business.

                • ChubbyBubba

                  In the case of the person who wants to murder and the detective posing as a contract killer:

                  The person has already made the decision to commit murder and is now shopping for someone to carry it out. Posing as someone who will, so that the instigator can be prosecuted, is not tempting them to that sin. They’ve already committed. The detective is simply acting to see that earthly justice, our duty under the commandment to steward the earth, is done.

                  As far as Live Action, the abortionist is already in the position of offering murder for hire. LA is only seeking to get them on tape breaking a technicality (abortion after 24 weeks, or letting a born-alive fetus die), in order to publicize their behavior and galvanize public opinion in the hope of stopping the larger horror.

                  Chezami, the extremis you are willing to go to to argue that what LA is doing is a sin, when is as you admit, one of zero culpability, makes me wonder what raises your ire so much about their actions.

                  I don’t follow the blog much, so perhaps you’ve answered this before, but how would you compare the sin and culpability of what the “abortion providers” are doing to that of what LA is doing?

            • Dagnabbit_42

              Hmm…The first part is a lie. But since we’re already in a hair-splitting mood, the “Will you make sure it’s dead?” would need at least a “please” at the end to qualify as a temptation; otherwise it’s a request for information about someone’s plans in a particular contingency.

        • Jacob Suggs

          Since you were so kind as to translate the above comment for us, let me extend the same courtesy to you:

          “I am not interested in discussing anything or addressing any points that were made, but rather I prefer to accuse people who disagree with me of blithely ignoring Jesus.”

          That about right? But again, you’re wrong: we’re not talking about doing evil that good may come of it, we’re talking about doing unpleasantness so that good may come of it. Under the correct conditions, an execution – a direct purposeful ending of another human life – is permissible.

          Now, most Catholics say that such circumstances don’t exist in the civilized world today and I won’t debate that, but that doesn’t change the fact that it can be permissible to directly and purposefully kill another human being. If such does not qualify as doing evil such that good may come of it, I think you need to be a little more careful about this.

          • chezami

            No. I don’t say that people “who disagree with me” blithely ignore Jesus. I do say that people who ignore the teaching of the Church which says that lying is intrinsically immoral and try to justify lying by appealing to the behavior of cops are ignoring Jesus.

            • Jacob Suggs

              Ah, then what you did was fail to see, or else you completely ignored, the arguments that made it more than an appeal to the behavior of cops. There was some argument there that you could address, the cop thing was to give more examples of the argument in action and to add in a factor of “if your logic makes it appear that a thing that appears to be obviously ok is bad then you should at least reexamine your logic to make sure it works.”

              So let me update the translation: “Rather than address anything that has been said, I prefer to claim that I am obviously right and you’re ignoring Jesus.”

              I respect Mr. Shea and his opinions, and if I knew more about you I may come to respect yours as well, but given that many other people I respect and generally trust, ranging from apologists at Catholic Answers on, have said that undercover work is morally fine, you’ll forgive me if I don’t simply acquiesce as soon as you or he simply state that it’s against Church teaching, but look to and analyze the arguments that are presented to go along with that.

              • Hannah

                I believe the person you’re talking with is Mark Shea: https://twitter.com/chezami

                • Jacob Suggs

                  Ha, totally missed that. Oh well, doesn’t change much: I still generally respect Mr. Shea’s opinions on lots of things, but given that I have heard that nearly the exact opposite of what he says is Church teaching on this matter is in fact actually Church teaching from others who I have reason to trust on issues of Church teaching, I still won’t simply accept that this is Church teaching simply because he says so.

  • In addition to the acts of lying and of inducement to sin thoughtfully presented in this post, a more fundamental basis for consideration provides the argument and answer with perfect certainty: basic morality of human acts.

    Sadly, basic morality, a fundamental guide for all actions, is no longer taught to Catholics. All Catholics used to know this simple rule: for a good to be done, the object, means, and end must all be good. If any of these 3 is not good, then a good cannot result and the result is always morally evil. (i.e.: the means never justify the end; one cannot do evil to achieve a good, etc.) Thus we can determine the morality of any action and situation, including those presented in this post.

    CCC on the Morality of Human Acts
    CCC 1760 A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together.


    Thank you for the thought provoking post.

  • Gregory Garland

    This is the argument criminals make to claim an undercover cop pretending to sell them drugs is entrapment. Neither Live Action nor the cop in my example is tempting anyone to do anything. They are playing a part, and allowing their subject to do what they would already do in that situation.
    If you want to make an argument that this tactic is decieptful, you should focus on the hidden camera itself. Presumably in one of these consultation stations there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. You could argue that Live Action is being deceiptful by not disclosing that the conversation is being recorded. In this situation though confidentiality is meant to protect the potential client, not the consultant so its a weak argument.
    You are looking for a reason for this to be wrong.

  • jaydawg

    What do you think of the Police tactic of pretending to be prostitutes? They “entice” someone to commit a sin, then arrest them when they try. Moral or immoral?

    • Andy, Bad Person

      I don’t think this happens anywhere but on TV. This actually would be entrapment.

      • Nick_from_Detroit

        Haven’t you ever watched Cops, Andy?
        Police officers pose as prostitutes and johns in stings, all the time.

        Are Catholic law enforcement officers forbidden from participating in such operations? Are those who do participate committing a mortal sin?
        Of course not. Subterfuge and deception are acceptable in order to keep the peace.

  • Antonio La Barbera

    is what I have found: a.) the writer is more concerned for the abortion
    workers than the abortion victims; b.) He assumes facts not in
    evidence; c.) He characterizes some utterances as lies by paraphrasing
    and making assumptions which produce a message that is a lie, but does
    not report and analyze the actual, verbatim transcripts; d.) I do not
    hate him nor is my disagreement with some of his points and methods any
    form of “intense hate”, but he does characterize Pro-Lifers who disagree
    with him as haters and as “brain dead”; e.) He uses foul language; f.)
    He does NOT address the issue of catechetical use of sinless violence in
    defense of self or helpless others; g.) I do not agree that Lila Rose
    uses “evil”. h.) I do NOT believe that the sting people, depending upon
    the exact language that they used, were necessarily or consciously
    tempting anyone to mortal sin; what I think is that the staff at PP was
    and is and always is in the business of tempting innocent inquirers and
    visitors into mortal sin. I think he has this exactly backwards!!! – By
    rereading this article I find that I am now less inclined to be
    sympathetic to his editorial opinion and I do not consider this author,
    or at least this article to be an authentic and responsible expression
    of Catholic theology or catechism. In fact, as i read it the second
    time, the author came across as rather petulant, self-absorbed and
    didactic. Were I his journalism prof I would probably have given this a
    C+ and sent it back for another draft with copious margin notes. The one
    good purpose that I think this somewhat defective editorial rant serves
    is that it reminds us that we MUST indeed make certain that we do not
    slip over any moral lines into any actual or real sin in working towards
    our stated objectives. We MUST not tell serious lies or tempt
    individuals into any form of serious sin. This article and this debate
    does serve well to restate and reinforce those necessary cautions. Walk,
    fight and pray!

    • wineinthewater

      I do care about the state of the souls of abortionists, but that is the Christian mandate, to love even our enemies. However, I am far more concerned with the state of the souls of the faithful. The justification of evil by the faithful is a tremendously troubling phenomenon. That is why Mark and others are making such a big deal about it, not because we care more about abortionists than their victims. The thought is so absurd as to verge on calumny.

      Like all of us, Mark has his own propensities to vice. But he still makes valid arguments.

  • Antonio La Barbera

    abhorrent as lying is and it is the trademark of the devil, I disagree
    with Mr. Shea. I asked a philosophy professor if lying was ever allowed
    and he showed me that like politicians philosophers are able to wriggle
    out of just about any trap. First he
    said that we only have to tell the truth to those we owe it to be
    honest, but then said the Church had abandoned that position years ago.
    In the Bible there are many cases where someone lies to another person
    in order to save some innocent person’s life as in the case of Rahab
    lying to the city guards to save the lives of the Israeli spies! In the
    10 Commandments it does not say that you shall not lie, but that, “You
    shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This implies a
    legal or court setting. Furthermore, we are told to be as wise as
    serpents, but as harmless as doves!

    do not think that Mr. Shae’s standard here holds up to scrutiny
    especially when used to prosecute murderers and save innocent lives! If
    we were to follow his suggestions we might as well lay down and allow
    ourselves to be killed by the devil! I used to belong to a cult that had
    a similar stance on resisting evil and not taking others to court. This
    feels an awful lot like that to me!

    am not saying it is open season for telling lies to do or get what we
    want, but that we need to use the tool of lying very carefully,
    judiciously and rarely. It is a slipper slope and must not be done
    lightly or treated carelessly. Whenever the same end can be gained
    without lies, we should not lie, but to save innocent lives may be that
    gray area that Live Action is operating in for life and for love of
    those that God loves!

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Iam not saying it is open season for telling lies to do or get what we
      want, but that we need to use the tool of lying very carefully,
      judiciously and rarely.

      Got it. Safe, legal and rare.

      Whenever the same end can be gained
      without lies, we should not lie, but to save innocent lives may be that
      gray area that Live Action is operating in for life and for love of
      those that God loves!

      Your philosophy professor aside, name one place in actual Catholic teaching when lying is treated as anything but immoral. Name. One. Place. You can’t because the message has everywhere and at all times been “lying is immoral” and “you may not do evil so that good may come of it.”

  • When Jeremiah’s private intercession and advice were sought by King Zedekiah, and Jeremiah advised him that surrenduring the city would preserve the lives of his family and the integrity of the temple, Zedekiah charged Jeremiah not only to fail to disclose the matter to others who might inquire, but to specifically “pretend” to them an alternative purpose to the dialogue, i.e. a cover story. Josephus says that “indeed he (Jeremiah) said so to them, for they came to the prophet, and asked him what advice it was that he came to give the king…”. (Josephus, Antiquities, Bk X Chapter VII). Here was a promise to protect a confidence affecting advice on national security, but not only by failing to disclose the truth, but by providing an alternate, seemingly sufficient explanation for their consultation, to satisfy public curiosity. Do you hold that such a subterfuge is really “doing evil that good may come”? (Of course, Zedekiah failed to implement Jeremiah’s advice, with disastrous consequences).

    • chezami

      Why pick this obscure example. Just do what St. Thomas does and point to the Hebrew midwives, who frankly lied. Then, read St. Thomas: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3110.htm#article3 Pay attention to Objection 2 and its reply.

      • Insignificant One

        Maybe he chose that example because its an example of a cover story. Why dodge?

        • chezami

          It’s not a dodge. The point is “Does biblical precedent establish that you can lie for a good purpose?” I’m saying “Thomas addresses that with a much more well-known example.” Instead of making repeated accusation that I am answering in bad faith, why not try educating yourself instead of shooting arrows randomly?

          • Insignificant One

            St Thomas Aquinas, “Reply to Objection 2. The midwives were rewarded, not for their lie, but for their fear of God, and for their good-will, which latter led them to tell a lie. Hence it is expressly stated (Exodus 2:21): “And because the midwives feared God, He built them houses.” But the subsequent lie was not meritorious.”

            Could God reward Live Action for their fear of God and good-will?

        • I only chose that example as it was top of mind. (I’ve been recently rereading Josephus). But I intended to raise the question of a cover story, and also introduce the matter of state secrets. It may always be possible to just fail to answer, rather than mislead (as Zedekiah and Jeremiah appear to have), but they may have thought that providing a seemingly sufficient answer might call off the dogs. Sometimes that’s good. Note: I’m not opposed to Mark’s conclusion, but I’ve tended to doubt that the Live Actions / Breitbarts have compromised themselves morally by ‘opening a door’ to see whether their interlocutors would ‘walk through it’. Doing so involves setting the stage, much like in theater. Theater implies a framing that makes such deception implicit. But investigative journalism, it seems, should be able to provoke honest answers when transparency is presumed to be unavailable (as with Gosnell’s operation).

  • Heidi

    Thank you for putting into words what I felt but couldn’t verbalize. I appreciate it and will be using your post in the future!

  • Debbie

    This may be naive on my part, but what I see when I watch the videos is the LA reporter asking questions about the procedure that they are doing. I’m trying to see your point, really I am but the clinic workers are describing what they do each and every day, and I do not see a link to asking questions and tempting someone to mortal sin.
    By the way, I always enjoy your posts and I enjoy being challenged on my beliefs. Thank you Mark.

  • Debbie

    Another thought came to mind of Tamar disguising herself to have relations with her father in law Judah in Genesis 38:11-30. Sounds very similar.

  • ColdStanding

    Would it be immoral to place oneself in the advancing path of a band of looters or marauders intent on rape, theft, and murder in order to defend one’s village? Wouldn’t you be tempting the marauders to more mortal sin in that they might be tempted to shoot or run you through?

    • chezami

      No. Next ridiculous question?

      • ColdStanding

        Answering “No.” would have been just and moral, for you would have kept to the bounds of neighborly conduct.
        Answering “No.” + “Next ridiculous question?” is immoral, for you tempt me to a rash response and have exceeded the bounds of neighborly conduct.

        I have given you no cause to abuse me so. If you did not like my contribution, no big deal. If you think it unworthy of pursuing, there is no loss in saying so, but there are many ways you could have said so other than choosing to denigrate me.

        Kettle meet pot.

        • chezami

          Your question was a transparent attempt to accuse. I simply pointed it out. Now your butthurt response is another transparent attempt to accuse. Buzz off.

          • Joe

            Uh, Mark Shea, I am kind of mystified why you like to use the term “butthurt” so much. Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems transparently offensive because transparently derives from sodomy in a really demeaning way (in additional the objective demeaning-ness of sodomy, that is). I don’t think I’m the only one who takes it that way: the references on urbandictionary that make any mention of derivation take it this way too. So, may I suggest you get another favorite epithet to use when you think someone’s whining?

  • paulpriest

    Sorry Mr Shea but you’re on a hiding to nothing with this pseudoethic – what might seem quite orthodox and authentically moral in your position is actually of an ethical equivalence to a sniper complaining that it’s not fair because the target ducked!! Or a disarmed female suicide bomber shouting “you’d hit a girl!!?” Or going into a travel agency and wasting the staff’s time inquiring about holidays one could simply never afford.

    It’s a confused heady mix of kantian faux-absolutism and misguided compassion.

    You’re trying to say we can’t do bad things in order for good to result – but you don’t exactly know how to classify what’s bad about the attempt towards the good or what’s bad about the bad…

    The underlying fundamental moral theology is quite specific.

    [Aside from what’s been heretofore mentioned re the CCC & Aquinas]

    [i] One may commit a morally disordered act within the remit of the positive double effect for the benefit of a reduction of the objective natural moral disorder. [what we incorrectly call a greater good, although it is never a good because moral disorder is involved]

    [e.g. NFP is contraception by omission and morally disordered and sinful if committed for its own ends – BUT when the natural moral disorder of circumstances of health or potential severe economic deprivation etc impinge there may recourse for the use of NFP to diminish that provisional potential disorder – thus although NFP is never good-in-itself but may [within the double-effect remit] be mitigated as ‘permissible but never obligatory’ right action]

    [ii] One may commit an intrinsically morally disordered act ONLY within a situation of moral dilemma [the negative double effect remit] where the only alternative is the [preventable] actuation of a grave moral evil. An objectively evil action is never permissible for any reason [no matter how much greater evil it would prevent].but intrinsically morally disordered acts are a last critical emergency recourse in the prevention of the furtherance of evil.

    [e.g. Killing in self-defence, Just war, allowing oneself to be raped rather than killed [marturic virtue is never mandatory], the use of non-lethal non-injurious torture in a ticking-bomb scenario, the use of aborted foetal photos in an attempt to prevent a mother from aborting, etc etc etc]


    I’m sorry but I seem to be missing something:

    You’re asking moral theological questions regarding certain activities which don’t include the criteria for those questions to be asked.

    You’re speaking of ‘temptation into commission of mortal sin’ – where does such a phenomenon exist in the activities of Live Action?

    Inadvertently you’re creating scandal by accusing LA of committing actions which they are not committing – they are not leading others into sin – they are not even leading them into hypothetical but equally grave ‘sin in their heart’ – they are simply entrappng them via subterfuge into confession that their gravely immoral acts include those which are also illegal.

    This issue deals with a hypothetical non-existent abortion

    a] all actions performed in abortion clinics are gravely evil

    b] but some actions are also illegal

    c] Live Action are not tempting someone into the commission of a grave evil – the abortionist is already only there for that sole purpose – Live Action are merely using subterfuge to discover if among the immoral acts there are also illegal ones.

    d] This subterfuge is NOT tempting someone to sin – it is aiming to define that a person already directly determined to sin is also willing to commit that which is simultaneously illegal.

    A first analogy might be the building of decoy troops before an enemy’s bombing campaign – the bombers are coming – the subterfuge to produce minimal casualties is not ‘lying to the enemy’ – it’s deception – lying is direct misinforming – whereas deception allows the enemy to misinfer due to either presumption and/or ignorance of the whole truth.

    A seond analogy [a Live Action scenario] would be to create a decoy residential area [e.g. an orphanage] among the decoy troops – and thus if the enemy planes bombed indiscriminately it would reveal that they were willing to commit illegal war crimes.

    A restaurant or hotel inspector does not reveal their identity during their assessment – it is deception through presumptive misinferment by the owner – it is not lying [misinforming] or bearing false witness [denial/false presentation]

    Similarly Live Action’s misrepresentations/fabrications during any interview with an abortionist are mere extrapolations of the single deception of entering the abortion clinic itself – one axiomatically goes there for one single purpose.

    Now ironically there is a subtle but significant moral difference in the Live Action ‘sting’ according to the legislation [i.e. is abortion legalised or merely decriminalised?]

    ..because if abortion is legalised [proactively legislated] the ‘entrapment’ involves veering theabortionist from normative legal practice – leading another into self-incrimination.

    but if it is merely decriminalised [reactively legislated] there is no such restriction and there is no entrapment aspect

    In the first instance you may have some appeal to ‘some immoral conduct’ by Live Action in the classical definition of entrapment.

    i.e. The influence of LA’s ‘deception’ on the abortionist’s subjective ‘predisposition’ and objective ‘normative conduct’ might be considered temptation to illegality and thus an aggravation and compounding of one’s duty to one’s neighbour as the private individual and within the collective.

    so in order for your argument to have any validity
    It must be either in the deontology or the eudemonistic aspects…

    These can be combined:

    a] Live Action must be acting as a moral agent

    b] this moral agency would invoke aggravation of the sin

    c] the aggravation being – to appeal to Aquinas – one of:

    [i] circumstances which change the type of sin – e.g. extramarital sex being a sin of lust but if adulterous becoming a sin against fidelity but if homosexual becoming a sin against creative grace and the Holy Spirit – does the ‘entrapment’ make the sin against the individual [murder] a sin against the wider community [treason?]

    [ii] external situations compounding the objective gravity – e.g.thwarting the actuation of a pro-life legislation or newly-informed socio-cultural metanoia against abortion [e.g. revulsion at Gosnell and Live Action’s stings invoking hostility and allowing others to infer ‘Oh both sides of the abortion debate are just as bad as each other’] ]

    [iii] the circumstances intensifying the act of will towards intended essential objectively evil consequences [e.g. wilfully intending the breaking of the law to become acceptable normative practice and more easily acceptable to legislators and the society in whole]

    d] There is no aggravation in any of these three conditions – no matter which way you look at it the ‘trickiness’ does not undermine the Pro-Life cause – therefore the offence is not specifically contra-eudemonistic in this aspect – but what of the ‘regularisation/making normative of deception’ affecting the common good?

    e] deontologically there is inferred deception as misconception [the abortionist believes they are there to have an abortion] – not categorical deceit – it’s Kantian misdirection – not providing the whole truth – but not lying.

    f] so to revert to the virtue ethics aspect – is being ‘Jesuitical’ – i.e. withholding the whole truth from those who have not afforded or earned the whole truth by the very nature of their evil purpose and aim – detrimental to the common good?

    g] Truth itself is the Person of Christ – who Himself commanded that we must be ‘as cunning as serpents’ in order to Love our neighbour. The very fallen nature of humanity requires that we have permissible recourse to ‘moralising’ agents which may include when facing natural moral disorder or intrinsic objective evil we may utilise every available moral action [even if it is mere right action and never good-in-itself]

    h] If from the ‘cunning’ ‘deception but not lying’ activities of Live Action the truth of the activities of abortuaries and the illegality of some of these is made known to the public – hence a chance of their cessation through legal intervention – one must conclude the common good is served and the deontological proscriptions are not contravened – they didn’t defy Truth to get the result.

    i] There may be an emotional revulsion in such actions [e.g. on grounds of taste and viscerality one may object to the use of the shock tactics of aborted foetal imagery – but if used as an immediate direct counter – a last ditch attempt to prevent – an imminent abortion it IS [however distasteful] permissible] but we are at war – and we have been commanded to do anything within our power [that is not sinful] to fulfil that end.

    j] Therefore one may object in full conscience to the tactics of Live Action [and state that one would personally never engage in those activities] BUT…

    k] [here’s the rub] We may not declare their actions as immoral or sinful or forbidden…because they simply aren’t – if we do so we invoke scandal upon those who are in ful conscience acting in a way which is morally open to them in confronting an objective evil…we may be reticent from doing it or discern it as counterproductive – but we are expressly forbidden from condemning them on moral theological grounds.

    l] To conclude you might opine that you don’t like what Live Action do – on grounds of taste or disliking recourse to entrapment – or declare ‘I would never personally do it’ – but you can’t say that Live Action are forbidden from doing what they do..because they are categorically not forbidden from doing whatever they can [without sinning] to save lives from those who seek to destroy them.

    • chezami

      This has nothing to do with taste. It has to do with lying in order to tempt somebody to commit a mortal sin. Your massively windy attempt at tergiversation notwithstanding, “I want an abortion” is a lie and “Please help me get one” is a temptation to commit murder. LA could do exactly the same thing they are doing now without that lie and that act of temptation and I would have no objection. If she said, “I’m pregnant. What does PP offer to do for me?” she could have the same conversation without lying and without pretending to want an abortion and asking for assistance in getting one. Stop making excuses for this stuff.

      • paulpriest

        Did you read anything I said?
        Obviously not – there is no ‘tempting to commit a mortal sin’ the nature of an abortion clinic is axiomatically a bastion of mortal sin itself…
        It’s like saying going to a brothel incites the resident prostitutes to ‘lose their virginity’ – when that ship has sailed.long, long ago!!!

        I’m sorry but the cultural war is too serious to listen to the posturing and reticent hand-wringing of fools…and you sir are being utterly foolish – an abortuary is there as a temple to Moloch – it is a genocide factory…

        …to suggest someone entering an abortuary [where baby slaughter is a 24-7 mega-business] inquiring about services or fees is ‘leading others into temptation’?

        …then I’m sorry but I hope someone escorts you every time you cross the street and there is a court order preventing you from handling pairs of scissors.

        Wake up!!

        Don’t you realise you neighbour is being murdered and you’re worried about the manners and good taste of those trying to stop it?

        • chezami

          Again, notthing to do with manners and good taste, no matter how often you repeat that lie. It has to do with pretending to want to commit an act of murder and asking somebody to help you commit that act. This is called “tempting somebody to commit mortal sin” and it is *more* culpable, not less, if the person you are tempting is likely to agree. You shall not do evil that good may come of it.

          • paulpriest

            You’re still not getting this are you?
            The abortionist is a serial killer – a legalised judicial multiple-miurderer…
            You cannot tempt someone to commit a sin when their very presence there is a concession to being utterly willing to commit the sin – repeatedly!!!
            Meeting an abortionist in an abortuary to discuss their day-job cannot be considered incitement!!!

            Someone who has ripped X amount of babies limb from limb is not being led into furtherance of their sin by discussion of the potential illegal slaughter of a non-existent unborn child in a Live Action sting:

            X + 0 = X and X is for which the abortionist will answer.

            The pretence of Live Action is exacrlty that – and a pretence which does not lie but simply deceives those who are the direct enemy of Christ in an attempt to save life…and you wish to stand in their way?

            Don’t you realise an abortion clinic is a temple to antichrist?
            Our Lord and Saviour declared ‘This is My Body’ and died for us – giving us His all…
            In an abortuary a woman blasphemously declares ‘this is my body’ and destroys a universe – an irreplaceable gift from God.

            • Scott W.

              The pretence of Live Action is exacrlty that – and a pretence which does
              not lie but simply deceives those who are the direct enemy of Christ in
              an attempt to save life…and you wish to stand in their way?

              If you say “I want an abortion” but really don’t that’s a lie–it’s wrong.

              Whether someone is in league with the anti-Christ or not, that person is still made in the image of God, and needs to hear the truth even if it is unlikely that person will accept it.

              Lying is always and everywhere wrong.

              • paulpriest

                I’m sorry but if I go into a pornography store in an attempt to discover if they’re selling illegal underage/paedophile material – asking them if they sell such items – I am enquiring into availability of products and services for the more discerning sick deviant – with the intention of preventing this vileness….not inciting furtherance of commission of sin

                Lying is a deliberate act of will to misrepresent reality with malice aforethought and an aim directed towards a telos contrary to Truth – to all those who are deserving of Truth.

                Does telling a child about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy meet these criteria? Is it spitting in the face of Truth – the Person of Christ?

                Now I can perform the moral disorder of deception [allowing someone to make a false inference from the ambiguity or amphiboly within my comment]

                e.g. being gently diplomatic to a spouse who asks ‘does my bum look big in this?’
                And whether this is subjectively justifiable or mitigated is between our informed consciences and Our Maker

                Objectively it’s a different matter

                is it gravely evil to tell a young child their beloved puppy went away to live on a farm rather than shuffled off its mortal coil under a bus?

                Can I commit the intrinsic moral disorder of telling a direct lie ro a mad axeman in order to prevent him cleaving me or another in twain?..[and believe it or not it does happen – happened to me when I was in seminary]!

                a lie is always sinful if directed towards its own end
                but I am permitted to recourse of the intrinsic moral disordered act if it directly prevents a direct immediate objective evil occurring – but it requires great wisdom and discernment usually beyond our ken to determine when an untruth is a lie is a mendacity is a heinous blasphemy…so by rule of thumb we should avoid unless we are certain of te critical evil confronting us and the desperate imperative nature of countering it.

                For brutal honesty can sometimes be the worst form of lying – and telling a lie can ironically be a manifest defence, advocacy or witness of the truth

                St Francis de Sales gives us the best advice regarding untruths – if we lie we must unsay it at the earliest opportunity…which is generally immediately, or when the abortionist has incriminated themself or when the mad axeman has put the axe down…

                • chezami

                  You use a lot of wind to avoid the obvious. Asking “I am pregnant. What Can Pllanned Parenthood offer me?” is neither lying, nor tempting to sin. Saying “I want an abortion. Can you help me get one?” is both lying and tempting to sin. LA could do the former and I would have no objections at all. They do the latter. And in so so doing, they not only commit a gravely immoral act, they also commit lots of Christians to the massively time-wasting act of trying to justify gravely immoral acts instead of just suggesting to LA that they slightly adjust their approach to achieve the same ends without either lying or tempting anybody to gravely immoral acts.

                  • paulpriest

                    Because you know fine well that planned parenthood deliberately lie about their activities..with government co-operation in the conspiracy of silence which performs legal and illegal genocide

                    These stings are exposing the criminality which already justifies their actions…

                    I am incredulous that you can even consider this a moral issue or question the morality of LA – they are doing the right thing – they’re fighting a war…

                    You’re acting like a Vichy politician complaining that a resistance bombing campaign might frighten small anmals and people might cut themselves on broken glass…

                    You should be melting down the contents of your cutlery drawer to make medals for the people in LA…
                    …but instead you prefer to condemn those doing your job for you because in order to reveal the greatest black lie upon the face of humanity they had to tell a little grey one…

            • chezami

              Of course you can tempt a sinner to sin. “Help me kill my baby” is, in this case, how it is done. The fact that the person is a murderer already does not, in the slightest mitigate your responsibility for your actions. It only means that you are trying to tempt somebody who is more like to succumb to the temptation you present them with.

              • paulpriest

                You do realise that going along that train of thought would ultimately lead to the conclusion that going to confession is gravely immoral – as would be a priest assisting in an examination of a penitent’s conscience – because discussing one’s sins with the priest might incite temptation to sin?

                How about this perspective?
                This man is a murderer…the law allows him to do this…but the law has a few squeamish reticences in its genocide – like time limits – and these loopholes may stop this man continuing his murderous spree if he’s contravening the law… your sring operation may force him into prison where he might have time to reflect and discern…and may actually allow an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to enter?

                • chezami

                  This “confession as temptation” garbage is the most ridiculous sophistry yet. Stop being silly.

                  • paulpriest

                    Anne Frank wouldn’t have lasted five minutes if she was hiding from the nazis in your attic would she?

                    • chezami

                      The trick with the Nazis at the door scenario is not to lie well but to hide your Jews well. Then you invite the Nazis in and give them tea without having to lie. Equivocation and withholding information is not lying and is morally permissible. Your quarrel is with the Church, not me. It will greatly help me decide not to just ban you if you will do me the kindness of not talking to me as though I am a blitheriing moral idiot who has never ever considered age old points that you seem to think you are raising for the first time in all of human history. If you cannot refrain from treating my like a complete moron, I will just ban you because I really don’t need the aggravation. Comprende?

                    • ChubbyBubba

                      And you think the Nazi’s were so naive that they never asked bluntly, “are you hiding any, or do you know where any Jews are?”

                    • chezami

                      No. I’m saying there are ways to elide such questions without liying, and that in any case, lying will not save you Jews if you don’t hide them well.

                    • paulpriest

                      No the problem is your equivocation that equivocating and withholding information is enough…

                      If you promise to protect and hide and do everything one can to prevent that person’s discovery and subsequent murder – you are saying that under no circumstances must a lie pass your lips?

                      Ok supposing a Nazi finds the jews in your attic and instead of sending them to a concentration camp the Nazi gets out a pistol to perform a summary execution – and although he is much stronger than you so you could never hope to wrest the gun from his hand – you have a pen-knife in your pocket?

                      Will you kill him before he shoots?

                      You know you would – you have a means of preventing a murder…irrespective of the potential consequences you know the very price of your soul depends upon your responsibility to your neighbour – your heart cries out to do everything you can to stop evil…and only the direct sin of a moral absolute – like blasphemy or murder – would bar your way…

                      Thou shalt not Murder is a moral absolute: But taking life is intrinsically morally disordered – there are occasions [e.g. in a defensive just war or against a direct, unjust lethal aggressor – where taking life is permissible to prevent a grave objective evil occurring – it is never good – it is merely right action]

                      You’re miscategorising lying as an objective evil – when it is intrinsically morally disordered – there are occasions where one has recourse to it.

                      Now I think the problem is you’re adopting the Mark Shea perspective of seeing this as committing an intrinsic moral disorder to promote moral order [ a [misnomered] greater good]…

                      Now I will concede that from this perspective you would be right – you can never commit an intrinsically morally disordered act for the furtherance of moral order – i.e. the positive double effect [e.g. you can’t go back in time and kill the innocent child Hitler – you can’t perform a pre-emptive war of aggression]
                      We are solely limited to commission of morally disordered acts.
                      [for instance although we may have recourse to NFP for regulating family size – we are expressly forbidden from recourse to that which is intrinsically morally disordered like artificial contraception]

                      When we are confronted with a preventable objective evil we are permitted recourse to intrinsic moral disorder to directly prevent that.

                      Thous shalt not steal – but if children are about to die of starvation may I steal some bread from a rich bakery?

                      The prohibitions of the fifth commandment include recourse to violence – but is it permissible for me to knock out an attempted suicide to stop him jumping off a bridge and to carry him to safety?
                      Of course it is.

                      We are synderetic beings – the heart has reasons which the head knows not – and those who are not willing to soften their heart will eventually soften their head….

                      We must concede that we are not utilitarians, or relativists, or consequentialists, or situationists, or pragmatists, or Singerite preference utilitarians….

                      But the Sabbath was made for man – not man for the sabbath.
                      We are called to love – and that love means living in Truth – appealing to that knowledge, wisdom, understanding and counsel with which we have been graced but in which we only encounter through experience – as Peter Kreeft reminds us we are neither angels nor desiccated calculating computers… we live among deontological moral absolutes but we live also with eudaemonistic moral directives towards an ultimate telos…and we have an experiential informed conscience and the divine revelation of natural law and the Gospels as well as the wisdom of our moral heritage and magisterium to guide us.

                      Mr Shea is miscategorising the actions of Live Action as ‘lying to perform a greater good’ – which we will all concede is absolutely forbidden.
                      BUT change paradigms to ‘lying to prevent a grave evil’ – [like the furtherance of the genocide of the unborn]

                      ..and the situation changes completely.

      • Insignificant One

        Wondering if you read what was written. I did not see evasion or equivocation going on in paulpriest’s response.

        • chezami

          Yes, but since you have already made clear you can’t tell the difference between lying and equivocation or withholding information that doesn’t mean much.

    • Insignificant One

      Well said. Coherent, comprehensive and cogent enough to mitigate the sissyfying effeminate drivel you took the time to respond to. Much respect. You deserve a thank you–that’s time you spent you will never get back.

      • chezami

        “Sissyfying effeminate drivel”

        And you’re gone. Bye.

    • wineinthewater

      I did read what you read. There are a couple of fatal flaws to your argument.

      The first is your presentation of the principle of double effect. Double effect does not permit you to commit a morally disordered act. Under double effect, you may commit a morally good or morally neutral act even if it has an evil consequence as long as it has a greater good consequence and your intent lies with the good consequence and not the evil. But Catholic teaching about the principle of double effect specifically holds that the act itself may not be evil.

      So, in the case of NFP, not having sex, even during fertile periods, is a morally neutral act, not a morally disordered one. If the good effect of not having sex outweighs the bed effect, and the intent is for the good and not the bad, then NFP is permissible. If NFP is used “contemplatively,” then it is sinful.

      The second problem is that Catholic teaching distinguishes between lying and deception. Lying is defined as intrinsically evil. Deception is not intrinsically evil. It might be or it might not be, it depends on the circumstances. So, all of your arguments about deception aren’t relevant to the discussion of lying.

      If you cannot get the fundamentals of Catholic moral teaching right, you aren’t going to get the conclusions right either.

      • paulpriest

        No I’m sorry you misunderstand the very nature of the double-effect itself – primarily you don’t understand the very nature of the hierarchy of moral order – morally disordered and intrinsically morally disordered are only sinful when directed towards their own end – they are not objectively evil in themselves without a fulfilment of the three requisites for sin – by which they become evil – a] objectivity b] intention c] telos in circumstances – lying about the existence of santa claus to a child is morally disordered but it may not fulfil the three requisites for sin.

        …and lying is not intrinsically evil – if it was it would always be a mortal sin – even if you said ‘no dear your bum doesn’t look big in that skirt’ you would be immediately consigned to perdition’s flames .
        Rather it is intrinsically morally disorderd – i.e. when it is done towards its own end it is ALWAYS gravely sinful BUT it may be used in recourse to preventing a grave objective evil occurring and if done so within the double effect it may be mitigated to the point of negation.

        What if a priest has to protect the seal of confession and deception, obfuscation, silence, withholding of information etc are all unsuccessful or unavailable options in the defence of that divinely mandated seal? Although he may never bear false witness – may he lie?

        it is of a moral equivalent of killing in self-defence against a lethal unjust aggressor – the lying in self -defence against a lethal unjust aggressor – if it will fulfil the same ends [i.e. the saving of life] it is equally as permissible as kiling…

        you don’t seem to realise that you are saying it is ok to kill to save a life but it is not ok to lie to save a life…one may not contravene a moral absolute like rape or murder or blasphemy or desecration or adultery – these are always objectively evil…but lying is not categorised as such within the hierarchy of order – [bearing false witness is – but not direct lying – especially to those who actions do not afford them the whole truth [the first CCC was incorrect in its definition of lying in that the councils of Arles, Quiercy , Nancy, valencia & Trent make it absolutely clear that we are all afforded desert of the truth by our inviolate humanity – but we are never all deserving of the whole truth at all times especially when we stand against Truth itself – the Person of Christ]

        Now you obviously know a little about the double effect but there is one aspect you seriously do not understand [which must be read as complementary/supplementary to Aquinas/Cajetan/Anscombe/Vann/Grisez etc]

        a double-effect always includes a primary and secondary act – even if they are combined into a single actual act there are two aspects to which are in antagonistic moral tension

        – the primary is deontologically morally ordered, the subjective intention is virtuous [in that it strives to ordering beyond the natural/fallen order] and the eudaemonistic end and the perceived situation/circumstances and foreseen consequences are deemed conscientiously imperative
        – the secondary is directly morally disordered [positive- to promote moral ordering] or intrinsically morally disordered [negative – to prevent grave moral evil occurring] – the subjective intention is revulsion and ‘fear of the Lord’ at the action’s potential for grave sin when used towards its own end – the consequences – no matter how veiled by a shadow of ignorance – are undesired and regretted with a righteous anger and sorrow at the fallen nature which has led to these consequences.[incuding a personal sorrow for one’s own conspiracy in that fall by our personal sin]

        The inanity of the idea that the killing within killing in self-defence is either morally ‘good’ or morally neutral is either insane or depraved!??

        ..and to suggest that the willed contraception by omission inherent within Natural Family Planning is not morally disordered

        [but not ‘intrinsically morally disordered’ as ‘objective’ artificial contraception is deemed by humanae vitae #14 or ‘gravely evil’ when willed towards its own end in hv #15]

        ..and rather morally neutral?
        Is frankly outrageous and scandalous – if NFP is utilised for selfish ends it can be heinously sinful.
        One is not abstaining from sexual activity for justly-loving pro-creative or ascetic reasons but with the intention to prevent the opportunity to receive the gift of life from God – and you require a gravely serious reason to engage in such activity [[inactivity] which is contrary to the marital vows.
        i.e. you need a great deal of morally ordering justification within the primary act to actuate the simultaneous secondaryact.
        It is only permissible [and validly promotable] under those severely stringent critical emergency conditions…

        …and I’m afraid you fall into the ‘proportionality trap’ that Anscombe always bewailed – you misunderstand what the fourth consideration is all about – you speak of the outweighing of the bad by the good? Don’t you realise that’s consequentialism? utilitarianism? situationism? pragmatism?
        Proportionality has nothing to do with the self-justification of the act – it about the conscientious prudence and discernment about whether there is any justification to perform the act or to refrain from it – irrespective of the permissibility.
        Proportionality is not about the right to do something – it is about whether it is right to do it or not.- a double-effect action is never obligatory or mandatory.- it is permissible – but I may not necessarily choose the ‘right-action’ – I may instead choose the transcending good – the virtuous – the martyric or sacrificial where [as in the words of Pius XI] Charity goes beyond all demands for Justice….

        I’m not half-finished but I have to go out but seriously you need to re-read what the double-effect is all about..and it’s about what we can do which would normally be wrong in order to make a better world or stop a more gravely evil one…

        you cannot posture/equivocate that the double effect is solely about doing good or the morally neutral..because that is absolute denial of what’s included within the thing itself….

        • wineinthewater

          Relative to how I have always encountered discussions of double effect, your characterization is foreign to me at best. Honestly, it seems contrary to one of your favorite references. Abscombe, with the Church, rejected the Cartesian notion that the intent was itself the act. But that seems to be what you are saying, that each act encompasses a primary and secondary act of intent. That is the foreign part to me. I have always encountered double effect under the formulation of the act being the actual action, not the moral action of intent. The single action must be accompanied by a just and moral intent and in fact may not be accompanied by a secondary evil intent. The single action with single intent then has two very different effects.

          Double effeect has four elements from Aquinas:

          1. The act itself must be morally good or at least morally neutral (this would preclude all intrinsically morally disordered acts)
          2. The evil effect may not be the means by which the good effect is obtained
          3. The good effect must be intended and not the bad effect cannot be intended at all (this would precludes disordered acts which are not intrinsically disordered)
          4. The good effect must be proportionate to the bad effect

          So, let’s address your objections. The catechism defines lying as an intrinsic evil. This does not mean that it is always mortally sinful. A mortal sin has three components: a grave sin, knowledge and full consent of the will. As an intrinsic evil, lying certainly meets the first (intrinsic evils are grave sins). The second depends on whether the person knows that lying is a grave sin; it is obvious that many do not. Full consent would depend on the circumstances of the liar. Compulsion, fear, etc. all compromise full consent. So all we can say is that lying is always a grave sin, but we cannot say that it is always a mortal sin because the rest depends on the conditions of the liar.

          As to killing in self defense. Aquinas is quite clear on that matter. As he frames the issue, the act is not killing, the act is protecting one’s life. The death of the assailant is an unintended consequence due to the violence required to protect one’s life. But Aquinas is clear that the death of the assailant cannot be the actual means of self-preservation. This aligns with 2 above.

          As to NFP. The act is to not have sex. The intended consequence must be something like: to protect the life of the spouse, to not strain the survival of the family, etc. If the intent is something like a desire for freedom from parental obligation or a desire for material comfort then the intent is selfish. I’m actually not convinced that NFP is even a double effect issue. HV 14 and 15 make it clear that double effect cannot be used to justify contraceptive or sterile sex. However, they do not speak of using double effect to justify periodic abstinence or refraining from conceiving a child.

          As to consequentialism. Proportionality is not consequentialism. This is in part because I don’t accept your formulation of double effect. It is called the principle of double effect, not the principle of double action or the principle of primary/secondary action. The proportionality is as to the effect of the act, not the proportionality of the act itself. Consequentialism says that you may commit an evil act as long as it creates a greater good. Proportionality says that the act you commit must result in an intended good effect that is greater than the unintended evil effect that may also result. As I’ve laid out above (2), double effect specifically prohibits consequentialism.

          I do not disagree that I could always use more education, and while these issues are complex, I don’t think they, or the philosophical constructs behind them, are nearly as complex as you make them out to be.

  • Nick_from_Detroit

    For those who are defending Mr. Shea’s premise, please answer this question:

    Did Venerable Pope Pius XII commit mortal sin when he ordered bishops, priests, and religious to issue false baptismal certificates to Jews across Europe, during WWII?

    • chezami

      Urban legend: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/02/2662

      And even it it weren’t, you are basically trying to appeal to a fallible Pope’s action against the Church’s teaching, just as you are trying to appeal to a fallible cop’s action against the Church’s teach.

    • James Harvey

      If we are to follow Mr Shea’s logic, then the answer is yes – the Pope committed a serious sin of deception. As did Catholics who hid priests in time of persecution in the UK when they deceived the priest-hunters when they arrived asking if priests were in the house. As do intelligence agents in many countries when they go undercover to expose terrorist plots. Interesting to note that this topic was debated during the Reformation. In England, Protestants argued that Catholics were engaged in lying to protect treasonous priests, and that Jesuits who came up with a moral justification for doing so were encouraging people to lie. It seems that Catholics have little choice – they must always tell the blunt truth even if it costs lives: Pope Pius should have admitted that he was hiding Jews – many more would have died and the Vatican and religious properties violated, but he could not have been accused of deception.

  • Scotty

    Just wait until Planned Parenthood (or any other abortion-sympathizing org) gets the idea to take hidden cameras and microphones into crisis pregnancy centers. They could probably find plenty of “controversial footage” to infuriate and rile up their supporters, too.

    If not a crisis pregnancy center, how about a confessional?

    • chezami

      There you go again, pointing out that Faustian Bargains are a bad idea. You are messing up the Cause! We must plunge headlong into stupidity and never question, lest we be denounced as “secret aoortion supporters”.

  • Dagnabbit_42

    I have a question for Mark, or any competent ethicist who wishes to reply.

    But before I ask it, I want to head off any suspicion that I advocate violence against abortionists: I do not. The level of justification does not yet exist that we should initiate warfare against them; and may never; and an individual may not justly come to his own conclusions about such a desperate matter, but must await the authoritative voice of the Church.

    THE QUESTION: Is it correct to say that a man always has a right to be told the truth (and thus I have a moral obligation not to deceive him) even when that man does not have a right to go on living (because I am in a state of entirely justified warfare against him, and he is about to kill an innocent person, and I am about to shoot him in the head to prevent him from doing it)?

    I ask this because it seems to me that the right to go on living is higher and more sacrosanct (albeit only by a little bit) than the right to not be deceived. I think it is worse to kill a man than to lie to him.

    (Now, now, some of you: Do not start saying, “They’re both evil, though; you can’t do one just because it’s less bad than the other!” That’s not where I’m going with this. Hold your horses.)

    As I was saying: I think that the right to go on living is higher and more sacrosanct than the right to go on hearing nothing-but-the-truth.

    And, I think people do forfeit, through their own wicked actions, their rights to various things: The more wicked, the more and more important rights they forfeit.

    Thus while a man guilty of vandalism forfeits a little money and perhaps a period of freedom, a man guilty of several hundred rape-murders of abducted children forfeits his life by his actions. While we may, in the interest of offering an opportunity for repentance (or rejecting the temptation to vengeful hatred, for our own soul’s sake), opt to incarcerate this person for life instead, that is not because doing so is a fully just punishment for such a crime. The man has no remaining right to life; that he continues living is a gift of mercy which he may receive, but which he is not owed as a matter of just deserts.

    If the above is correct — and I am not certain that it is, but it seems likely and I’m not yet aware of any Church teaching which would say otherwise — then it seems likely that the following is also true, as a corollary: A man forfeits his right to not be deceived BEFORE he forfeits his right to not be killed. Or to put it differently: We are authorized to use intellectual force against an enemy before we are authorized to use physical force.

    If THAT is correct — and I am not certain that it is, and I am pondering Mark’s arguments entirely seriously but vaguely intuit that some critical issue is left unaddressed by them — then is it plausible that abortionists, while their evils have not risen to the point where violent warfare is justified, have nevertheless risen to a degree of evil in which deceit is authorized, precisely because by their actions they have (voluntarily!) forfeited the right to expect a truthful answer from their fellow man?

    It seems that the alternative to this requires one to argue that one is permitted to bludgeon or blow up a man, to halt his evils, before one is permitted to lie to him to halt his evils. And while I will submit to the Church if they tell me this is the case, it seems…dubious.

    • wineinthewater

      I don’t see anywhere in Catholic teaching where a man has a right to not be deceived. And I don’t know that it is quite accurate to characterize Catholic teaching as a man having a right to not be lied to. We simply have an obligation not to lie. And always keep in mind that deception and lying are not the same thing.

      Also, it is not that a criminal forfeits his right to life due to his crimes. Killing the criminal is not “sanctioned” because he has forfeited his right to life. We may take action to stop a criminal, and in the case of very grave crimes and the lack of other options, even take an action which may result in the criminal’s death.

  • John Flaherty

    Mark, I think you make a serious mistake in insisting that Live Action’s efforts constitute sinful behavior or lies. If anything, I’d say we should offer our thanks for being bold enough to risk arrest or other consequences if Planned Parenthood becomes suspicious. I think your view about lying misses the point entirely. IF we had a case in which a Live Action operative had encouraged a clinician to offer a service the clinic wouldn’t typically offer, I’d agree, that’d be a problem.

    But that’s not what we’ve seen. What we HAVE seen has been..Planned Parenthood being caught on tape, willingly offering services that horrify any person who still has a conscience. We simply can’t believe that anyone would say what we’ve heard said.

    Let’s keep in mind that various atrocities throughout history have occurred in part because nobody would admit that such acts COULD occur.
    Live Action provides us a great service by showing us how an organization DOES offer the various services the offer, without any particular coaching from Live Action.

  • Lauri Friesen

    A piece of advice to Mr. Shea: your arguments against Live Action using deception to tempt others to sin would be so much more effective if you did not equate it with the actions of Kermit Gosnell and others. I also think the words about “liking” what others do in the pro-life movement and how much better victory over those who kill for convenience would feel if only LA stopped its lying ways are just so much condescension when you offer no information about what you actually do to help bring an end to these horrors.

    • chezami


  • Mark, I think you’re heart is often in the right place, but sniping at Catholics doing good work that isn’t how you would do things gets tiresome. This argument is old and is a kind of pharisaical hairsplitting argument – but hey, have at it again. I think you just like being controversial. Personally, I think that the public sniping at fellow Catholics is a damaging tactic.

    • wineinthewater

      It is not sniping at Catholics doing good work, it is exposing the error of fellow Catholics who are dissenting from Catholic teaching.

      Catholic teaching about lying is unambiguous, yet there are plenty who would set it aside because it is inconvenient to their goals. Now, whether this constitutes tempting to grave sin – considering that PP’s raison d’être is to commit grave sins – is an argument that can be had without simply denying Catholic teaching.

      • This perspective was argued before and there ARE differing opinions. While I am sure Miss Rose and LiveAction have spiritual direction, it is interesting that folks like you and Mark think your public condemnations and even name calling (“dissenters”? Really?) is appropriate (in the name of charity of course). It is “love” like that which I call sniping, and Mark is particularly good at it – in fact he saves some of his best “love”/sniping for fellow Catholics.

        • wineinthewater

          Yes, there are differing opinions .. among individual Catholics. But honestly, I don’t see any differing opinions in the Catholic magisterium. I see plenty of unambiguous statements about lying being always and everywhere wrong. I see statements differentiating between lying and deception. I see statements about how our obligation to never lie does not obligate us to always divulge the truth (since there are ways besides lying to withhold the truth). I see plenty about how we may not do evil that good may come of it.

          But I do not see anywhere in the magisterium where there is a differing opinion that states that it is sometimes ok to lie, or that it is ok to do evil as long as good comes from it. There may be plenty of Catholics who believe that, but I don’t see anywhere that the Church teaches it. I hope you do not fault me for sticking with what the Church teaches against the opinions of even well-meaning Catholics on the internet.

          • It must be interesting to see oneself as the final arbiter of what is and is not clearly stated and who has and has not clearly violated. I guess that is what I object to in both what Mark does and what you are doing. A tad presumptuous, wouldn’t you admit? Or are you so sure that yours is the ONLY way of assessing the situation and that no intelligent faithful person could disagree? My issue isn’t with the teachings of the Church regarding lying, but with setting ourselves up as the public judges of complex situations. There is fault in that.

            • wineinthewater

              I’m not setting myself up as judge. I will gladly be corrected if I am wrong. My point is that nowhere have I seen in any of these discussions any appeal to the magisterium to support lying for a good cause. Lots of appeals to hypothetical situations and Nazis, lots of appeals to consequentialism, lots of mangling of Church teaching about double effect.

              And this isn’t a complex situation. The Catholic Church teaches that lying is an intrinsic evil. The thing about intrinsic evils is that they cut through complexity. No circumstances can make an intrinsic evil anything other than evil .. that is the very definition of intrinsic evil.

              • Here is a good discussion for you.

                I know you think things are clear, but it is not so, and this has been so from the time of the early Fathers. I don’t want to argue with you or those like you – comboxes don’t solve these “debates.” My point is on the injustice of the means of public attack of fellow faithful Catholics – those who are striving to be fully faithful and orthodox. Mark pulls them out and pokes them publicly if they don’t agree with him. I find worthy of negative comment.

                • wineinthewater

                  The article is good in that it covers many of the elements of the discussion. But I found it interesting in that it still fell into my earlier observation: it doesn’t seem to anywhere appeal to the Catholic magisterium to make the case for the morality of lying. It references “most moralists” embracing exceptions to the prohibition against lying, but only quotes theologians who do not make exceptions. It references a draft of the Catechism that added a qualifier to the prohibition (we can’t lie to someone who has a right to the truth), but doesn’t address the reality that the added qualifier was removed before the final draft *because* it was not in accord with historical teaching.

                  Now, Mark has often been uncharitable in this discussion, mostly to those who have been uncharitable to him, but also at times to those he has lumped in with the unreasonable and uncharitable, and even somewhat to LA. But I don’t think discussing this publicly is categorically unjust, not is it an attack. When the otherwise faithful persist in what truly does seem to be a dissent from Catholic teaching, I think it is vitally important to discus it.

                  • But this has been discussed, and discussed. In fact, Mark was part of the attack last time around. Here is a thoughtful article from that time: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/05/fig-leaves-and-falsehoods
                    It has been discussed. People have heard what you and Mark have said and, as in times past, there is not clear agreement outside of the usual uses (like when the ordinary person lies for ordinary reasons). In less ordinary cases the Church has not set down a clear line of demarcation (in spite of Aquinas, who is not infallible), and their remains disagreement in part because we recognize these complexities in other places (e.g., killing and stealing). So,coming down so dogmatically is not necessarily charitable and can be damaging.

                    When we find ourselves taking the role of arbiters of moral righteousness in areas where intelligent, faithful people see ambiguity, we should back away and tread with an abundance charity.

                    • wineinthewater

                      That article is certainly the most cogent I have read. Honestly, I don’t find it convincing, but it is certainly better framed. Personally, I don’t find Church teaching on the matter ambiguous, but I can see how a person acting in good faith could find ambiguity. However, when we are navigating our moral choices, I think it is unwise to push the boundaries and enter into morally ambiguous territory, especially when it comes to acts that we are consciously planning to carry out. I think this is especially true when it comes to a prohibition for which the Church has repeatedly rejected attempts to loosen, as is the case with lying.

                      But let’s assume that the author is right and the norms applied to lethal force and the taking of property should be applied to lying. They still do not justify LA’s actions. The justification for both are dependent on a situation arising where there is no other option for preventing the evil being opposed.

                      LA has many, many, many other options. There are the full array of non-sting options available to them for fighting abortion and revealing the evils of PP. But even with the sting approach, there are alternatives to lying. LA could have gotten the information without ever uttering a single lie. PP is so eager to abort and so anxious to nudge women in crisis toward abortion, that they would be especially forthcoming in the face of hypotheticals.

                      I think that greater charity is called for. I don’t think anyone is really acting in bad faith (although several have accused Mark and those who agree with him of doing so). And I think the most vociferous objections to Mark’s argument come not from people attached to sin, but people abhorred by abortion. But I still think it is an important issue to talk about.

                    • wineinthewater

                      My reply got lost somehow….

                      That is certainly the most insightful article I have read on the matter.

                      Let’s take for granted that we should follow First Things’ lead and apply the principles around killing and stealing to lying. Then LA’s actions still cannot be justified. Under the principles around killing and stealing, they can only be justified when other recourse has been exhausted. This is simply not the case here. There is much that can be done besides sting operations to combat abortion. There is much that can be done besides sting operations to expose the truth of abortion and Planned Parenthood. But even if these sting operations were our final recourse, they could be accomplished without lying.

                      So, even if the prohibition against lying is not absolute, even if we apply the broader standard proposed in the First Things article, we still would not be able to justify LA’s actions.

                      Now, I do think the Church is quite clear on this matter. I think that she is clear without coming forth with an unequivocal pronouncement condemning lying even in extreme circumstances. I think that the teachings about intrinsic evils, intent, and double effect are sufficiently clear to shed light on this subject. However, the Church has not come out with an unequivocal statement, and I can accept that that is sufficient ambiguity for others acting in good faith. And that is important to my own arguments. I don’t think that those who disagree with me or LA are acting in bad faith. I don’t think they are motivated by an attachment to the sin of lying or a desire to dissent from the Church. I believe that they are acting out of horror over abortion (and other great evils in the world and history that might be mitigated by lying). I believe that they are acting in good faith, but I still believe they are espousing a view contrary to Catholic teaching.

  • Azygos

    This logic is stupid. If it be true then all actors must be liars because the guy who played superman was not
    really superman. He is a liar. The guy who played Jesus in Passion of
    the Christ was not really Jesus therefore he is a liar and what he did
    was immoral. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander… Are you ready to make the claim that all actors are immoral? Besides you are a jerk for not noticing the obvious difference between acting and deliberately lying. The lady that went undercover was acting as a patient hence playing the role of an actor.

  • Mary Griffin

    Wow. When I first read this headline, I was all set to tell you just how wrong you are. But you are right on the money. Our Lord would never use these tactics. We should be praying for abortionists, not trying to destroy them. And certainly we should never use evil to destroy evil. That goes against everything we believe as Catholics. We should remember that as evil as the abortionists may be, our Lord died for them as well. We can’t use the tactics of the devil to defeat the devil.

    God bless you, Mark, and I do hope that those in the pro life movement will read your words and take them to heart. You have certainly opened my eyes.

  • Lute

    Mark doesn’t the Dr or office have the ability to answer a question of what happens if the baby is born alive? That was the question. They could have answered that by law they would have to do their best to save the life. Yet that was not their answer. It isn’t the patient that caused that. Yes they weren’t seeking an abortion but what if its born alive? Not much coercion there.

  • Michael Newhouse

    I hear you and understand your point about lying. That’s worthy of consideration.

    But I think you are completely wrong about the “temptation to commit a mortal sin.” You support your rational by an appeal to Jesus’ condemnation of looking with lust, but that analogy does not hold up. The abortion counselor isn’t being tempted – in reality or in heart. The conversation simply elicits a candid, ‘insider’ response to common abortion questions.

    Reflect and think and pray on this whole “temptation to mortal sin” thing. I think you are way off applying it to this situation. (And btw, I have a master degree in theology, I’m not just some armchair opinionator).

    Here’s a hypothetical. It’s WWII and Germany is slaughtering civilians at Dachau, but is covering it up and fiercely denying it in media. I am a landlord of a building full of Jews. Would it be immoral for me to approach the commandant of Dachau with a hidden camera to tell him I want to turn in my tenants…and how to go that…and what would become of them…all to expose the lie and help end the exterminations? (for argument, let’s assume that my doing so would not actually place the tenants in danger).

    I don’t think that is tempting anyone. But I do agree with you that lying is wrong and should be scrupulously avoided at all times.

  • What does Fr. Frank have to say about it? I believe he supports Live Action, does he not?

    • Melody

      I spoke with his offices today and they said that Fr. Pavone stands behind Lila Rose and Live Action 100%. Father is familiar with Shea’s opinion and does not agree with it.

      • chezami

        Father is wrong.

        • I prefer to defer to Fr Pavone than Mark Shea. Maybe they could do a YoueTube discussion.

  • Cathy L.

    To be honest, I think what Live Action has exposed is not the abortionists. Actually, they have exposed all the pro-life legislation that simply results in people patting themselves on the back for making abortion safer, rarer, kinder and gentler. We congratulate ourselves for having a free press, not a press that folds under the pressure that commercial sponsors will pull adds for investigative reports on a particular story. I live in a “pro-life” state, we have one of the filthiest looking abortion clinics in the nation in Bellevue, Nebraska. With all the laws, with all the exceptions, all the cameras are on the outside of the clinic. What Live Action revealed is well known and well protected, there really are no laws when it comes to abortion. With regards to the Gosnell trial, try to find out the last time your local abortion clinic was inspected. I think one of Gosnell’s employees was 15 when she started working there. One of the women on Live Actions tapes started at the clinic at 16? Babies dead or alive are their specimens? Planned Parenthood is allowed to recruit students in high school, for what?

    When Jewish children presented themselves as Catholic school children with the consent of those surrounding them, were they lying and should the Catholic Church find condemnation within its members for encouraging little ones to act out a lie for their very lives? We can’t hide the unborn, we can’t teach them to act, how, dear friends, can we keep them from being murdered?

  • Chuck

    The Live Action Tactics are moral and licit: 1) They are not tempting someone to commit a mortal sin. Mortal sin involves both consent and full knowledge that what they are doing is a mortal sin. It is extremely unlikely that they know this. Yes, its evil and an atrocity what they do but it’s not tempting them to commit a mortal sin. 2) The government does this all the time. The police disguise themselves and go undercover to root out criminals – to bring to the light of justice what is happening in the shadows. Are they lying, guilty of committing mortal sins? And causing poor criminals to commit mortal sins? No. They have the legitimate authority to care for the common good and while that authority is not unbouded there are moral guidelines for deception police work. On this issue the government has lost its way and they are not fulfilling their role of acting for the common good. With a lack of authority it is right for others to step up as long as they are not breaking more laws by doing so.

    • chezami

      1) “Will you help me commit murder?” is tempting somebody to commit a mortal sin
      2) “The government does this all the time” is an excellent argument–for supporting abortion. Do over.

    • Chesire11

      So your argument is that abortion is not morally problematic so long as the participants are ignorant of the immorality of the act? A thing isn’t wrong, unless you think it is wrong. I’m afraid that is circular reasoning, and a pretty much the textbook definition of “moral relativism!”

      A person has a moral obligation to a well-formed, upright and truthful conscience. Wrong judgments of conscience “can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and
      good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of
      committing sin.”59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil
      he commits.” (CCC paragraph 1792)

      • rockonwater

        Chesire, I do not believe you read your reply thoroughly before posting. You have stumbled into the logical fallacy called a “Straw Man”. Chuck mentioned that ‘Mortal sin involves both consent and full knowledge that what they are doing is a mortal sin’, and you respond ‘So your argument is that abortion is not morally problematic so long as the participants are ignorant of the immorality of the act?’ Chuck never said that abortion is not morally problematic! Also, in the extremely unlikely instance that the abortion mill worker understood that they were committing a mortal sin, as mvbleek observes earlier: ‘The people who are being filmed in LiveAction’s videos have already committed a mortal sin in their hearts when they walk through the door at work every morning. They come to their job with the intention to give abortions to whomever may ask for them. They are continually committing mortal sins every day that their clinic is open and they come to work with that mindset. LiveAction is one of the few organizations that gives them an opportunity to stop committing this continual mortal sin. if their expose is taken seriously, the clinics are shut down and that worker, for perhaps the first time, has to take a different mental approach to their job and go through discernment when finding a new one.’ Whether or not your position is correct, your attack was illogical and incorrect.

  • I think Victoria Soto would disagree with this thesis. Thank God her last action was to lie to this murderer and save the children in Sandy Hook. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20746497

    • chezami

      The Appeal to the Below the Belt Gut Punch does stir the emotions, no doubt about that. “If you don’t sign off on Live Action’s tactics, you spit on a hero’s grave and dance on the corpses of innocent children” is a powerful tactic for a demagogue, but not for actual moral reasoning.

      St. Thomas looks at an analogical situation with the Hebrew midwives. Interestingly, he does not attempt to sit in judgment of them but only addresses the act of lying. He basically says (as any sane person would) that they were commended for trying to save the lives of innocents as they should have been, but that lying was “not meritorious”. In short, he doesn’t try to adjudicate the culpability of people in a desperate bind, thinking as fast as they could and doing the best they could. Neither should any sane person with the case of Vickie Soto, who is a a hero.

      That said, “Vickie Soto lied in a desperate pinch. There prolife Christians should, as a matter of deliberate and sustain policy, embrace lying and tempting people to be accessories to murder” doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it? And yet that is what your argument boils down to here. It is not small part of the pernicious effect of LA’s tactics that Christians keep embracing such deadly and disastrous logic. And it is all the worse since, as I have shown, neither lies nor temptation to mortal sin are at all necessary to obtain the information they seek. Sin is never a necessary act.

    • Chesire11

      I think that putting your own words in the mouth of a dead person is a fundamentally dishonest way to make an argument. (See how the dishonesty multiplies once you excuse it?)

  • mvbleek

    The people who are being filmed in LiveAction’s videos have already committed a mortal sin in their hearts when they walk through the door at work every morning. They come to their job with the intention to give abortions to whomever may ask for them. They are continually committing mortal sins every day that their clinic is open and they come to work with that mindset. LiveACtion is one of the few organizations that gives them an opportunity to stop committing this continual mortal sin. if their expose is taken seriously, the clinics are shut down and that worker, for perhaps the first time, has to take a different mental approach to their job and go through discernment when finding a new one.

    • Chesire11

      So, Machiavelli is right, and the Catholic Church is wrong? Efficacy is the final determinant of the morality of an act? LA’s actions may be emotionally gratifying but they are immoral.

  • Un Published

    A) LA tempts an abortionist to sin mortally.

    B) Tempting an abortionist to murder a baby is scandalous.

    C) LA is scandalous.

    Response to (A):

    James 1:14 But every man is tempted by his own
    concupiscence, being drawn away and allured.

    An abortionist is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured.

    Response to (B):

    James 1:15 Then, when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death.

    An abortionist’s concupiscence conceives Molech worship. When Molech worship is completed it begets abortion.

    Concupiscence toward abortion belongs to the abortionist not LA.

    LA exposes where the concupiscence lies. It does not place it there.

    Response to (C):

    LA is not scandalous. It wars against Molech and its priests and priestesses.

    Psalm 105:
    32 They provoked him also at the waters of contradiction: and Moses was afflicted for their sakes:
    33 Because they exasperated his spirit. And he distinguished with his lips.
    34 They did not destroy the nations of which the Lord spoke unto them.
    35 And they were mingled among the heathens, and learned their works:
    36 And served their idols, and it became a stumblingblock to them.
    37 And they sacrificed their sons, and their daughters to devils.
    38 And they shed innocent blood: the blood of their sons and of their daughters which they sacrificed to the idols of Chanaan. And the land was polluted with blood,
    39 And was defiled with their works: and they went aside after their own inventions.
    40 And the Lord was exceedingly angry with his people: and he abhorred his inheritance.

    We are at the “Waters of Contradiction” folks. Whose side does this article support? Judith cut the kings head off! Dare any accuse her of scandal? The article reveals Live Action is scandalous. What?

  • Juan José Rivera Díaz

    Good point Mark. Why don’t you go to an Abortion clinic and say: “Hey, let me record on video an actual abortion procedure, you know, the severed heads ans feet, the bloody torsos and limbs, so the women can see what an actual abortion looks like and they can decide freely”. Of course, their answer would be: “By all means Mark. We are in the Truth business. We don’t care about money at all. Our main concern is the woman’s health”

    I’m being sarcastic by the way. Your article is dull and weak to say the least.

    The clinic workers are not being tempted by LA’s guys. They are doing what they always do: murder. And most important: the Live Action guys are not forcing anyone to do or say anything. As far as I can see, those “doctors” and workers are more than happy to share their monstrous activities.

    Ending abortion requires EXPOSING it. And the only way to do it is by doing what the Live Action guys are doing. Abortion advocates and abortionists have the upper hand against poorly prepared catholics because abortion is never a “real” thing. The baby is always put aside. No images of the actual horror. We catholics need to stop being afraid of “hurt someone else’s feelings”, that’s the “church of nice” and the “church of nice” is the real sin here.

    • Chesire11

      Doubtless you consider the Catechism of the Catholic Church somewhat “dull and weak” as well…

      “Some rules apply in every case:

      – One may never do evil so that good may result from it;

      – charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his
      conscience: ‘Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.”57 Therefore ‘it is right not to . . .
      do anything that makes your brother stumble.'” (CCC paragraph 1789)

  • Michael O’Keefe

    I had not looked at this from that perspective before. Perhaps we should be throwing our efforts behind Abby Johnson, who is using forthright and honest approaches to end the abortion industry. Bravo, once again, Mr. Shea!

  • Chesire11

    Bravo! Thank you for making this point. A person may not serve the cause of good through evil means. All of the moral equivocation, and sarcasm in the world cannot change this truth. We cannot serve God through tricks and shortcuts, but through moral integrity, and fidelity and witness to Truth, both of which are betrayed by the dishonesty and uncharitable nature of LA’s tactics, however well intentioned.

    Perhaps one of the Enemy’s most potent tactic is convincing his victims that morality is divisible and negotiable – that morality is subordinate to considerations of worldly practicality. He persuades us that morality is conditional, and relative, that it is licit to pick and choose when we will obey the moral law. “Sure lying and tempting another to persist in evil is bad, but it is in service to a greater good, so on balance it’s all good, or at least excusable, right?” This moral accountancy of evil is founded upon the lie that the ends justify the means, and that 2 X Sin = Virtue.

    St. Thomas Aquinas would have said that a thing is ordered toward a “final cause”, and cannot be properly understood apart from that object. Speech is properly ordered toward the truth, both the attaining and propagating of what is true. Deception is a perversion of speech, it is turning it away from its ordered purpose and thus against the natural law. “God is the Way, the Truth, and the Light.” When we lie, and when we tempt our bretheren to lose their way, or to confirm them in their error, we cloak ourselves in Darkness. Utility, pragmatism, and necessity are nothing but equivocation and moral camouflage.

  • Beth Walsh

    So, you think that abortionists are secretly prolife and, if the camera wasn’t there, they would be encouraging these women to run for the door? I think you’re taking an imaginary moral high road here. As for those commenting about Abby Johnson…SHE is a bigger moral issue than the videos mentioned here. She is still profiting from her involvement in the abortion industry. Much of what she writes is self-centered…in her mind, everything to do with the industry is more about her than abortion itself. Be wary of gurus…focus on the issues, not the people.

  • rockonwater

    Mark, I will begin by saying that whether or not you are right, your choice of words and your timing are terrible and destructive. Look at the comments. Have you ever heard the saying, Divide and conquer? You are living it right now. I am grieved to have to say these words to anyone in the pro life movement, but division is NOT of the Lord.

    Let’s look at your two points briefly. The Catechism, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas do indeed say that lying is always sinful. Notice if you will, however, that in the Summa Theologica Aquinas demonstrates a hierarchy of eight types of lies, from gravest to least. Live Action does indeed tell lies, but their lies are at the bottom of the list of gravity. Allow me to quote St. Thomas: “Now it is evident that the greater the good intended, the more is the sin of lying diminished in gravity.” (The rest of the four Articles on lies by St. Thomas can be found here: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3110.htm) What is the good that Live Action is striving to attain? To protect the lives of the weakest among us and to end the scourge of abortion in our nation that has already taken over 50,000,000 innocent human lives. Whether LA is succeeding is a separate issue: I contend they are; regardless, neither you nor I can determine the level of gravity of sin when LA lies in their investigations; that task belongs only to

    God, and as a scholar of Holy Writ you are familiar with the fact that God sometimes extends His infinite mercy towards those who lie for a great good, and absolves them of the crime.

    With regard to the more serious charge that Live Action lies in order to tempt people, and leads them into mortal sin. Let me quote Matthew and another commenter who did a fantastic job responding to this.

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28)

    “The people who are being filmed in LiveAction’s videos have already committed a mortal sin in their hearts when they walk through the door at work every morning. They come to their job with the intention to give abortions to whomever may ask for them. They are continually committing mortal sins every day that their clinic is open and they come to work with that mindset. Live Action is one of the few organizations that gives them an opportunity to stop committing this continual mortal sin. If their expose is taken seriously, the clinics are shut down and that worker, for perhaps the first time, has to take a different mental approach to their job and go through discernment when finding a new one.” (mvbleek)

    In other words, far from helping to tempt mill workers to kill, LA is taking up time that would have been otherwise spent actually perpetrating the crime of baby killing. Some may think that the intention and the deed are equally grave sins (?) but LA and everybody reading this knows that the intention to kill is already there, and LA is not responsible for tempting but for saving lives.

    I have a suggestion to make, Mark. Theologians have been debating this issue for hundreds of years, and neither of us are going to pronounce infallible judgement today (maybe as pope?:). Your article unfortunately did not further the pro life movement, rather, it further divided. If you want to attack liars, attack the likes of Planned Parenthood, who deceive and lie to approximately 4,000 women a DAY, who target minorities and minors to coerce them to commit mortal sins every DAY, and who is the largest monument to satan this world has ever known. Please, if you must attack Live Action, do so privately and in charity, for “Love is patient, love is kind, love never fails”, and leave the rest to God. God bless you!

  • matt

    So undercover police who try to catch murderers, drug dealers, etc. are committing mortal sin? This article is absurd.

    • chezami

      Perhaps. Thought I didn’t say that. You did. Meanwhile, you do realiize, don’t you, that trying to get somebody to agree to commit murder is gravely evil, right?

      • DOTCOM_MOM

        Apparently, you don’t realize that THINKING about committing a mortal sin is NOT “gravely evil”… UNLESS it is carried out.

        • chezami

          Not true. If I get you to agree to commit adultery with me and then don’t show up for the tryst, you have already committed adultery with me in your heart and I have already successfully tempted you to do it.

          • DOTCOM_MOM

            LiveAction didn’t successfully tempt them to commit murder…they were already committed—>the moment they opened their doors for business.

            • chezami

              I was going to attempt a reply. But then I scrolled down some of your former comments and saw you remarking of somebody you have decided is beyond God’s mercy “And that, my friends, is the beauty of hell”. I decided it’s just not worth the effort. Please re-consider your toxic approach to sinners. The measure you use will be measured to you.

              • chezami

                Seriously? You’re obsessed with a FB chat? Look, i have no idea who you are. If you want to email with your name I’ll unblock you if you promise play well with others. But don’t talk as though some cosmic injustice was done when I chose to cut down the amount of abuse I get on my FB page. I don’t block people for expressing innocuous opinions I largely agree with. I block them for being rude and abusive. If you were blocked, that’s why.

                • DOTCOM_MOM

                  I’m sorry… but, I have no idea what you are talking about here. “obsessed with a FB chat?” I don’t even belong to Facebook. You posted the above comment in the wrong place.

              • DOTCOM_MOM

                Why not just “reply” instead of looking for reasons not to? Because you have no reply. It is pure logic.
                What I mean when I say, “And that’s the beauty of hell” (in case you care to know) is this: it is a way to mentally relieve oneself from the heavy burden of not being able to resolve an injustice that is occurring in the world. It is all in God’s hands and if justice is not served in this world, this small, but simple phrase, serves as a reminder to us that it WILL be served in the next. Our Lord told us that… many, many times in the Bible. He actually spoke more about hell than heaven.

                • chezami

                  Imagine yourself saying “And that’s the beauty of hell” about one of your own children.

                  My point is that you have a breezy gladness at the thought of Undesirables going to hell that you would never have for people you actually care about. As a result, you have no real interest in whether, say, an Abby Johnson, Bernard Nathanson, Sue Thayer, or Carol Everett is on the receiving end of a request to commit murder. Those people are scum who don’t count and if they go to hell for agreeing to our request to help commit a murder, tough luck for them and good riddance. That’s how your rhetoric sounds to me.

                  • DOTCOM_MOM

                    I have an uncle who was like a mother & a father to me when my parents (his own sister) abandoned me as a child. He is—a Jesuit priest—at a Jesuit University, who, if he doesn’t stop corrupting the youth by teaching them things contrary to church teaching (and soon–he’s 85), he most certainly will end up in hell.
                    Because I care about the salvation of his soul, I told him as much. But, because he doesn’t believe in hell, he blew me off–> (he believes all people are good and are going to heaven & teaches the youth that Adam & Eve never existed & that there’s no such thing as original sin…and THAT’s just the tip of the iceberg!!!)
                    So, contrary to your accusation that I’m “glad at the thought of Undesirables” like him, “going to hell,” I pray, EVERY DAY, for him (recalling the “millstone around the neck” for those leaders of the church who lead others into sin) AND—for abortionists—for all sinners & the salvation of their souls. For I, too, am a sinner! These actions alone are a far cry from your ill-perceived judgement of my rhetoric.

                    • chezami

                      In other words, when it’s somebody you care about, such as your uncle, you would never say “And that is the beauty of hell”: Which was my point.

                    • DOTCOM_MOM

                      Punto bueno, Mark! I see what you mean. I guess we both are learning a lesson or two or three in rhetoric & how it sounds to others. God Bless you.

                    • chezami

                      And you.

                    • DOTCOM_MOM

                      I was wondering why I couldn’t say “And that’s the beauty of hell” about someone I care about…. and, after reflecting upon my statement more deeply, I feel it’s important to clarify that it is a concept that cannot be applied to a particular person, but rather, it is a concept that celebrates eternal justice. Why can it NOT be applied to a particular person? Because we don’t want people to go to hell–>NOT even those we don’t care about…. like…. Barack Hussein Obama. He commits one injustice after another. Frustrating as that may be—despite our prayers for his conversion–we should be consoled by the fact that IF justice is NOT served in this world, our blessed Lord assured us–> it WILL be in the next.
                      I believe it was St. Thomas Aquinas who said that even the Angels in Heaven rejoice that there’s a hell… NOT that people GO to hell, but—that there exists eternal justice. Justice IS a beautiful thing!! And THAT, my friend, IS the beauty of hell!! God Bless you! 🙂


      Here’s the difference b/w some undercover police & LiveAction: Many undercover police go SO DEEP undercover, they participate in committing mortal sins in order to catch people (joining gangs, or prostitution rings, for example). LiveAction does NOT and did NOT commit murder, nor did they—contrary to Mr. Shea’s accusations—tempt the abortionist to commit murder. The abortionist already had the intention in his heart & was committed to murder the moment he opened up his door for business.

    • msallyjones

      The difference between police undercover work and what Live Action does is that police do not alter the gathered information to suit their purpose. If they tap phones, video tape, record conversations or take pictures they do not alter the information gathered to suit their purpose. There is no editing out, transposing of scenes, blurring out of bits of conversations or faces, starting in the middle and cutting off before the end as Live Action does.

  • Sierra

    I completely agree with you! The end never justifies the means. Thank you for having the courage to write this Mark!

  • RIck

    It is a Sting operation. Get it? A sting operation. That is how they catch evil people. It seems to me that you are agreeing with the defense when evil people claim entrapment. I think your article does a lot of damage to the pro-life cause

  • Mayone Heró René Laurent

    as a pro choice person this probably one of the sanest aguments I have run into in awhile no rabid hatred . no making up facts which is a huge no go for me since if you can’t bother to get correct facts , your not going to change my mind on anything if you cant do that . Aslo their deceptive sociopathic nature makes me wanna run away since if they’re trying to prove things by lying and manipulating it’s not i repeat NOT gunna change my mind or even consider what u have to say because ur lying and manipulating what good things could possible have to say.