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Monday, February 28, 2011

Managing Risk

It is being breathlessly reported in the press that UK "doctors" have said abortion is safer than pregnancy.

This just goes to show that doctors aren't mathematicians, much less statisticians.
That's why we have Meadow's Law, after all.

Now, let's consider the facts:

Given any particular point in pregnancy, no matter which point you choose, it is safer to simply be pregnant than it is to be pregnant and have an abortion.

Indeed, both drug-induced and surgical abortion are so dangerous and the risks rise so rapidly that by the fourteenth week, the risk of the woman's death or disablement from having the abortion is actually higher than the total risk for all the months of the remaining pregnancy.

That is, if you took all the risks of pregnancy and childbirth for the last six months, wrapped them up in one ball, and compared that single ball of risk to the risk from having an abortion on any given day during those last six months, the entire pregnancy is still safer than the abortion.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Slamming Ed Peters

Alright, it's time to call some people out.

All of you who have been slamming Lila Rose and Live Action for lying... we have another serious issue on our hands, and we need your august opinions.

It seems canon lawyer Ed Peters has been saying Gov. Cuomo should not receive the Eucharist.
Albany's bishop was quite wroth:

The bishop in Albany agreed, saying to pass judgment on others, even those in public life, is inappropriate.

"There are norms of the church governing the sacraments which Catholics are expected to observe," said Albany Diocese Bishop Howard J. Hubbard. "However, it is unfair and imprudent to make a pastoral judgment about a particular situation without knowing all the facts. As a matter of pastoral practice, we should not comment publicly on anything which should be addressed privately, regardless if the person is a public figure or a private citizen."

So... Mark Shea, Dawn Eden, William Doino... when are you all going to slam Ed Peters for having sinned by committing rash judgement?

Ironically, the WSJ does what Catholic commentators won't, calling out Ed Peters:

Peters' opinion may conflict with church law.

The Vatican states Catholics may receive Communion if they confess their sins or intend to confess their sins and that "church custom shows that is necessary for each person to examine himself at depth."

In other words, as I'm sure the bishop of Albany would agree, canonist Ed Peters is bringing scandal to the Church by engaging in judgement so rash that even the secularists at the WSJ noticed...

But who will call him out?

(Hint: No one - he's part of the Catholic glitterati, so his sins are forgiven before they are committed.)

And, for the record, I tend to agree with Eddie on this one, but what difference does that make? Why should my opinion, or Ed's opinion, or the opinion of "a large number of unnamed Catholic theologians" (Dr. Janet Smith's oft-invoked bloc) rate as important?

The question I'm asking here goes a little deeper than just pointing out that Ed is engaged in behaviour at least as "reprehensible" as Lila Rose and Live Action. After all, I'm quite, quite certain that no one is going to yell at Ed except Catholic bishops.

I'm trying to point out that the post-Vatican II involvement of the laity is a very mixed bag.

Sure, we get people like Karl Keating, Scott Hahn, etc., teaching Catholic laity what priests won't, but are they really helping anyone?

Let me explain.

Back around the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, preaching had fallen into a terrible state. Priests were often essentially illiterate, barely able to say the Mass, not much knowledge of Scripture, engaged in sexual promiscuity and the chase for wealth. Lay people were scandalized, heresies like Albigensianism spread wildly.

How was the situation rectified?

New religious orders, like the Franciscans and Dominicans, were founded dedicated to preaching and to imitating the life of Christ in daily life. Indeed, this is a constant refrain throughout the life of the Church - whenever She has been in need of reform, a new religious order has been founded to administer the healing balm of reform.

Now, we only remember the orders that survived the tumultuous times, but we must recall that a lot of orders were attempted and didn't survive. For instance, we can recall the Waldensians, founded by Peter Waldo, and dedicated to a very Franciscan-style charism. The Waldensians failed and became heretics precisely because they ultimately refused to place themselves under the rule of the Church.

Many more orders did place themselves under the Church's rule, but foundered and failed because their charism was ultimately a phantasm.

In the post-conciliar era, we have again been faced with a failure of preaching, of good priestly example and a loss of holy understanding.

Unfortunately, in this era, we have not founded any new religious orders, we have founded business models designed to enrich the founders. From Karl Keating to Scott Hahn, from Chris West to Pat Madrid, we have seen men and women work to establish not religious orders, but Protestant-style personality cults.

Sure, they all attempt in some way to place themselves within the body of the Church, but have they succeeded? Can we find, in the whole history of the Church, examples like theirs to show that what is being done is good? Bless me for a fool, but I can't recall a single instance in the whole two millennia of the Church in which the situation we have spawned today has turned out to be good for Catholic spirituality.

Preaching is terrible. We should be founding religious orders.

The liturgy is in terrible shape. We should be founding religious orders.

If Karl, Scott, Chris, Pat, Mark and company really wanted to promote Christ instead of themselves, they would be founding lay religious orders.

Instead, they are founding LLCs and S-Corporations, promoting their opinions via the Wall Street Journal and Twitter. Heck, am I not doing the same thing right now by blogging?

There is no precedent for this. At least, no good precedent.

When we do what the priests are supposed to be doing, we make them co-dependents in exactly the same way that the priests eviscerate and emasculate parents when those same priests try to take over parental roles. We strip priests not only of their power to change, but of the desire to change. Why should they do any work if the parishioners can get the teaching elsewhere?

Just as priests and their employees shouldn't be doing the sacramental prep that is the parents' duty, so lay Catholics and their employees really shouldn't be doing the preaching that priests and bishops are supposed to do.

But, precisely because parents don't do their jobs, the parish tries to take over and makes a hash of it, inadvertently fueling the estrangement of children from their parents.

And precisely because priests and bishops don't do their jobs, lay Catholics try to take over and make a hash of it, inadvertently estranging parishioners from their pastors via the personality cults they have to establish in order to make a living.

Yes, we can point out that pastors aren't doing their jobs. But we should remember that we can't do those jobs either.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

Peter Kreeft is wroth with Lila Rose's detractors, arguing that anyone who takes Live Action to task is simply daft, engaged in moral legalism, and perhaps not entirely sane.

He begins by saying:
On some other occasion I may take the time to argue logically against the serious arguments of the pro-life critics of Live Action, and about the proper definition of “lying.” But in this short piece I want to appeal to something that I think is prior in importance, in clarity, and in time, namely our immediate, intuitive moral experience.
So, he essentially says he intends to appeal to emotion, and then goes on to do just that. While this is undoubtedly deeply satisfying for him on some level, it is unclear why an emotive argument is supposed to be compelling (it is one of the major logical fallacies, after all).

Keep in mind that I essentially support the idea that Lila Rose and Live Action have not committed moral error in making their videos. I agree with Kreeft's ultimate position. But Peter Kreeft has committed both moral and logical error in attempting Live Action's defense.

Straw Man Argument

He begins by saying :
If we do not begin with experience, we become nominalists, not realists; we have nothing real to argue about, only names and the logical relationships between them—like a computer.
Well, yes. And, for the record, I, too, like motherhood, apple pie and Chevrolet. What I'm not particularly fond of is straw-man arguments.

Can Peter Kreeft really identify any argument made by men which is not somehow grounded in experience? The arguments laid out against Lila Rose and company are grounded in experience, the experience of people who have been exposed to lies, who don't much like them, and who are deeply concerned about the effect of lying on the one who commits the lie and on the larger society as a whole. For Kreeft's argument to hold, he has to demonstrate that the people giving a critique of Live Action are actually engaged in the positions he asserts, and this he manifestly does not do.

Indeed, the very example he brings forward to demonstrate "moral common sense" demonstrates that his "moral common sense" is not quite so common as he makes out.
A good example is Euthyphro, the young man in the Platonic dialog by that name who is impiously prosecuting his own father for murder while professing to be an expert on piety....Until we read Socrates’ arguments, we don’t clearly know why Euthyphro is wrong, but we know that he is wrong.
That's particular logical fallacy is called "assuming the conclusion."

Is Euthyphro wrong? Euthyphro has come to lay manslaughter charges against his father. One of his father's workers killed a slave belonging to the family estate. His father ordered the worker bound and gagged and left in a ditch (3e–4d) while he waited to hear from the expounders of religious law about how to proceed against his worker. Unfortunately, the opinion didn't get back to him in time, and the worker subsequently died of exposure.

Now, according to all the laws of modern society, since the man had the accused murderer bound and gagged, left unable to care for himself, he was responsible for the man's care. That is, he is responsible for the man's death.

Euthyphro's father is absolutely worthy of prosecution in any modern court of law. If Euthyphro's description of events is correct, his father is, indeed, guilty of manslaughter. Thus, Euthyphro is absolutely right to bring charges against his father for manslaughter.

The charges may bring "instinctive astonishment" to a pagan Greek, who holds duty to one's father a much higher obligation than duty to some non-family member, but it is absolutely in keeping with Christian sentiment, which holds that all men are brothers and that even claims of fatherhood do not trump the duty of justice one owes one's fellow man and God.

Far from accomplishing what he intends, Kreeft's first example amply demonstrates why first instincts are often wrong - exactly the reverse of what he claims. For someone who says "I teach Logic, I have written a Logic textbook, and I value logic very highly", Kreeft's is a remarkably bad argument to bring forward.

One might even say Kreeft's first argument is "wrong not just logically but “you gotta be kidding”ly" wrong.

Versus Anselm
As an aside that has nothing to do with this particular post, Kreeft apparently suffers from the impression that Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God is wrong.
...just as most students, when confronted by St. Anselm’s ‘ontological argument,’ instinctively know it is wrong somehow, though they cannot refute it logically.
Unfortunately, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the 20th century, Kurt Godel disagrees with Kreeft. Godel demonstrated that St. Anselm's argument is valid (that doesn't mean it is true, but it means Anselm's argument is at least logically consistent). Given a choice between the two, I think I'll put my money on the brilliant mathematician and the saint, not on the 20th-century Boston college philosopher.

That is, my first instinct is that St. Anselm's argument is correct, even if I would not be able to defend it to Kreeft's satisfaction.

When a college philosopher goes up against a pair like Kurt Godel and St. Anselm, he needs to bring more ammunition than just a passing swipe. The statement does nothing but detract from Kreeft's credibility.

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Kreeft then makes a couple of short statements that sound like they could be developed into credible arguments (passing references to the role of spying, investigative undercover work, and Aquinas on the moral acceptability of torture), but instead of actually doing that, he immediately abandons them in order to continue to drum up emotional frenzy:
If you were watching your son or daughter being raped while you were disarmed and tied up and had only words as weapons, and if there was some lie you could tell to the rapist that would stop him, do you really mean to tell me that you would not tell that lie? If so, I thank God that you were not my father.
Oh, for Pete's sake... Let's make it a little more simple.

Let's say all I have is words for weapons, and it was not a question of my son or daughter being raped, but rather, it is the case that my son or daughter were simply being asked to eat a Bacon Lettus and Tomato sandwich (where the lettuce is really crunchy, and the tomato is garden-fresh, with a little mayo - I love those) or be immediately killed.

Should I encourage my son to eat the sandwich? Or should I encourage him to defy the man trying to force him to eat it, knowing full well that the man would kill my son and myself?

Be careful how you answer, for the answer has already been given. A mother trapped into exactly that situation encouraged not one son, but all seven of them to die rather than eat the pork. Every one, from the eldest to the youngest, and the mother with them, all died rather than transgress God's laws.

It's Scripture, Peter - 2 Maccabees 6:18–7:42.
This family is held up as an example of pre-Christian sanctity by the Church.
They are considered martyrs for the Faith.
In the above horrible scenario, if the rapist could be deterred only by watching you rape or murder some other victim, or defecate on a crucifix, you should not do it—and your child, his victim, would probably understand that. But your child would certainly not understand why you could not save him by lying to the rapist.
Is the mortal sin of lying somehow not as likely to send you to hell as defecating on a crucifix (which action is NOT necessarily a mortal sin, by the way, and you would think an orthodox Catholic professor would know that). Is a lie not a mortal sin?

Look, I know full well that there are different degrees of mortal sin, just like there are different degrees of venial sin. Fornication is not as bad a mortal sin as adultery, which is not as bad as masturbation or homosexuality, which is not as bad as necrophilia or bestiality.


But every one of those sins is you choosing hell over salvation.

What kind of idiot is my child if he thinks lying is ok?

Worse, what kind of an idiot am I
to teach my child that committing one mortal sin is acceptable in order to avoid committing a different mortal sin? WTF?

Dr. Kreeft, I have great admiration for you, your endorsement sits on the front cover of one of my books, but your essay here is not just wrong, it's stupid-wrong.

"You gotta be kidding me" wrong.

If you really wrote this, and it wasn't promulgated under your name by someone just pretending to be you (i.e., a liar), then I think you've been at Boston College a little too long.

If this is the kind of crap you intend to continue writing, I think you should retire now, while your reputation is still intact.

There is no question that experience is a foundation for moral argument, but as Kreeft rightly points out, while experience may be foundational, it is not complete, it is not sufficient.

God gave us minds not only so we could feel, but also so we could think. As Kreeft himself points out, our intuition is often wrong, which is why we must marry logic to it. Simply spewing emotion without attempting to reconcile what we feel to what we know leads us to the kinds of morally stupid arguments that Kreeft uses in his summation in this essay.

The people who are concerned with Live Action's methods have real, valid concerns, concerns that are not just experiential but also and simultaneously logical. Kreeft's hand-waving to the contrary is a long non sequitor.

If you want a decent defense of Lila Rose and Live Action, read Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller. She actually deals with the issues raised, instead of going on an emotional rant and coming to a morally erroneous conclusion.

Dr. Kreeft, if you have a scintilla of orthodoxy in you, pull your essay.


There's a piece at the New Liturgical Movement which attempts to refute Dr. Miller's essay based on her failure to discuss broad versus strict mental reservation (the first is permitted, the second is not).

I highly recommend it for the clarity of the distinctions it draws between the two kinds of mental reservation, but I cannot recommend it's conclusion.

To see why, consider the following statement.
Is it a lie?

"I am lying"

I would say no.
It is broad mental reservation, a statement that could be interpreted as either the truth or a lie, since it is self-referential and its meaning is therefore ambiguous due to the problems inherent in the English language.

Is Lila Rose saying "I am a prostitute" a lie?
By the same reasoning, it is not.
After all, you can "prostitute" many different things.
If the listener assumes Lila means she gives sex in exchange for money, so much the worse for her. After all, Lila's statement would really be identical to the statement "I am prostituting the truth" which is identical to the statement "I am lying."

Same goes for the pimp.
Many different things can be "pimped."
When he says "I am a pimp" he may mean "I am pimping out the truth."

So, although it may be mistaken for strict mental reservation, which is prohibited, it is arguably broad mental reservation, which is permissible, because the self-identification of the actors depends on ambiguities in the English language peculiar to those words.

As an interesting juxtaposition to this story, we have the example of doctors giving out fake medical excuses to Wisconsin teachers protesting against the government.

If we get upset about the doctors, how do we distinguish what they are doing from what Lila Rose is doing?

By not revealing who she is, Lila Rose gives Planned Parenthood an opportunity to explain who they really are.
By not revealing what they are doing, Wisconsin doctors are giving Wisconsin teachers an opportunity to not explain who they really are.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Denial - It Ain't Just A River

And Egypt, while it may one day be a democracy, is never going to be a US-style democracy.

Let us cast our minds back to the beginning of democracies and republics, back to the civilizations on which our Founding Fathers consciously modeled the current republic which we inhabit.

In short, let us meditate on the Greco-Roman empires.

As you may recall, Greek city-states had the first known examples of democracy in the world. When we think of the democracy of Athens, our hearts warm and smiles light up our cute little faces. It stays that way as long as we aren't reminded of the details.

Out of a population of perhaps 300,000 Athenians, only 30,000 adult males - that's 10% of the population, folks - were eligible to vote. Fully one-third of the population was enslaved. Half of the population were resident foreigners. Women and children under 18 were not eligible to vote.

Strictly speaking, only men who had both trained as soldiers and who owned property had the right to vote. Although the property clause was often ignored, the soldier's life was not - this was democracy run by the army. To be a citizen, you also had to be descended on both sides from citizens. The Athenian democracy ran in fits and starts, constantly descending into oligarchy or outright tyranny, and generally not lasting longer than the life of the man who managed to impose it for a time.

Given all this, even during the height of its democracy, were the Athenians "free"?
Did Athens ever subject itself to "majority rule"?


Well, what of the vaunted Romans?
Ah, yes, the Roman Republic...

To begin with, Rome started with the rule of kings, dallied for roughly 450 years with the workings of a republic, and then, through a series of civil wars, returned to the rule of caesars (emperors). Rome's Republic looked very much like Athen's democracy. Unlike Athens, Rome granted many different degrees of citizenship, but only full citizenship granted the right to vote or hold office.

Again, roughly 40% of the population was enslaved. 90% of the population were not citizens. By the time of the Second Punic war, most of the citizens were (or had been at some time) under arms. Only about 10% of the population had the right to vote. Again, it was a democracy run by the army.

Egypt is run by its military.
It is perfectly positioned to have a Greco-Roman style democracy.

A country can have a democratic republic yet not give everyone the right to vote.
A country can have a democratic republic and not consider everyone equal under the law.
A country can have a democratic republic and still be ruled be ruled by a small percentage of the population, especially if that small segment has all the military training.

The idea that all men are created equal, with divine rights endowed by their Creator... this idea is not central to a democracy. It is central to Judeo-Christian thought, but has no necessary bearing on a republic.

The genius of the Founding Fathers was not in establishing a republic or a germinal democracy. Their genius was in wedding the idea of a democratic republic to the Judeo-Christian worldview.

American democracy is unique because it is both a democratic republic and Judeo-Christian.
Jews are uniquely wedded to the idea of God as Lawgiver, and society as a system of law. Christianity, as a child of Judaism, adds the unique idea of the equality of all men, man or woman, Gentile or Jew, slave or free, before God.

Together, the idea of equal and inalienable rights, rights inalienable by even the most powerful of governments, makes Western democratic republics fundamentally different from anything that has gone before. The United States is the oldest such democratic republic on the face of the earth, and we evangelized the world in this concept, we built it up on the back of the theological work on human rights pioneered by the Catholic Church.

By definition, countries which do not have this Judeo-Christian heritage will not be able to establish what we have.

A Muslim country cannot be an American-style democracy - it doesn't have a worldview which says all men are created equal and all are endowed with inalienable rights by their Creator. Insofar as America has successfully managed to export American-style democracy to non-Judeo-Christian cultures (e.g., Japan), it has generally been at the point of a gun against a polytheistic society.

Egypt may, indeed, get democracy.
But that chances that it will look much like ours are pretty grim.

A Rose By Any Other Name

"A Rose by any other Name would smell as Sweet."

So spoke Shakespeare's Juliet to Romeo, but do we all agree?

Jill Stanek highlights two columns, one by Christopher Tollefson, and another co-authored by Dawn Eden and William Doino in which all three excoriate Lila Rose, a fresh convert to Catholicism, for lying in order to film her Live Action videos. Together, the three aver that the bloom is off this particular Rose, that her acting is not acting at all, but a lie, and therefore morally prohibited.

Tollefsen argues that Lila Rose and her friends are not actors, but liars; their work is not loving: "it is predicated on a form of falsity, which is exercised in an unloving way."

Eden and Doino highlight a different dilemma: before his fall, Father Euteneuer denounced a pro-choice film group that got pro-lifers at a CPC on film by telling them that the film-makers were interested in telling the pro-life story. Eden and Doino point out that this is not morally acceptable for pro-choicers, so why would it be for pro-lifers? Their argument is much more tightly reasoned than Tollefsen's and ultimately much more compelling.

Stanek, a non-Catholic, dismisses all three by bringing forward three examples of (presumably approved) prevarication in Scripture: the Hebrew midwives lied to Pharoah (Exodus 1:15-21), Rahab the prostitute, who lies to protect Israel's spies (Joshua 2, Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 2), and Michal and Jonathan lie to King Saul in order to save young David's life (1 Samuel 19 and 20).

Stanek also quotes the wise men disobeying King Herod as a form of lying, but that example is really not on point. They just refused to obey the king, they didn't lie to him.

Furthermore, all of Stanek's examples involve coercion - the Hebrew midwives, Rahab and Michal and Jonathan were all asked point-blank by a powerful man (or armed soldiers) to provide information that would prove fatal to someone if that information were revealed. The modern equivalent to this would be lying to a Nazi soldier about the disposition of Jews. There's quite a bit of Scriptural hay that could be made in the moral legitimacy of refusing to divulge information to someone who intends to use it to commit evil.

Lila Rose and company, on the other hand, are voluntarily walking into the clinics to tell false stories. No one asked them anything, and the information they reveal will not put anyone's life at danger since it is all manufactured.

In short, Lila Rose and company aren't lying in the same way Rahab and company lied.

A More Accurate Example
The example Stanek should have brought forward, for it is the closest to being on point, is that of Nathan before David:
The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12)
Here we have a prophet of God who tells a story that is literally false - there is no sheep, there is no traveler. Nathan tells the story in a way designed to make David believe it is true, and designed to provoke David's anger. David falls for the lie and condemns the man.

We cannot argue that Nathan was merely telling a parable.
King David's own response demonstrates that he thought Nathan was relating an actual event.
Indeed, it is only after Nathan's explanation of the lie that David discovers he has condemned not some unnamed rich man, but himself.

Differences to Note
Now, there are disparities between the two examples:
  • Nathan is a prophet of God, Lila Rose and Live Action are not.
  • Nathan was lying to one man (and, indeed, nearly all of the Scriptural examples brought forward involve mis-representing the facts to one powerful person), while Lila Rose is trying to expose an entire movement.
  • The prophet clarified the story immediately after he got the response he wanted, and King David repented of his actions to boot. Lila Rose has gotten a response but no repentance from the group she and her friends lied to.
How should we address this particular moral problem?

After all, as Eden and Doino point out, it is never the case that we can argue "the end justifies the means."

Furthermore, Old Testament examples such as those brought forward by Jill Stanek or myself, should always be treated with caution, because Jesus changed the rules on many Old Testament situations: "You were allowed writs of divorce because you were a stiff-necked people, but I say to you.... (and) Let your 'yes' mean 'yes' and your 'no' mean 'no'." Polygamy and divorce were allowed in the Old Testament, but aren't any more. The affirmation that we should speak clear "yes" and "no" is quite un-nuanced.

Christ did not abrogate the Ten Commandments, and there is a commandment against lying.
But the prophet Nathan has never been considered a liar, even though his story is at least as clearly a lie as the stories told by Michal, Jonathan and the Hebrew midwives (whose moral positions have never been as clear as Nathan's).

Nathan and Paul
Nathan clearly manufactured a story, told it to someone who had never asked for it, then hit that someone with the public "gotcha!" All of this bears close correspondence to Lila Rose's actions.

Indeed, if we were to take a New Testament example, one could be found, although it is not as on-point as Nathan's story. In Acts 23:6, Paul claims he is being put on trial because he has hope in the resurrection of the dead - a claim he knows will cause dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. In fact, as Acts 21:27ff demonstrates, he was on trial to discover if he had brought Greek Gentiles into the Temple.

Indeed, Paul was taken into protective custody precisely because his speech to the Jewish crowd about his mission to the Gentiles caused that same Jewish crowd to believe he had actually brought unclean Greeks into the Temple (Acts 21:27-Acts 22:22). So Paul clearly and deliberately mis-represented the facts in order to cause dissension amongst his enemies.

Live Action videos has done no less to the pro-abort movement.

What Is A Lie?

So, what is the status of Lila Rose and Live Action?
Several CCC articles have been brought into play on both sides, but the one that is most on point has been ignored by everyone.

Let's look at the definition:
2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man's relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord. [emphasis added]
There are two parts to a lie:
1) speaking or acting against the truth
2) in order to lead someone into error.

Both parts must obtain in order for the speech or action to be morally illicit.

This is why acting is not a sin (although actors are frequently publicly implicated in sin).
Everyone knows the movie is just a movie.

Similarly, undercover agents and spies may only act as such as long as they don't lead anyone into error. Even an undercover agent may not participate in a gangland "hit" in order to protect his cover - if he does, he is charged with murder along with the rest.

These are not minor points.

For those of us with long memories, it should be recalled that the original CCC had its wording revised in several sections, including the section on what constitutes a lie. The original wording (I'm going from memory here, since I no longer have one of the original brown cover CCCs) said something like "It is permissible to withhold the truth from those who would mis-use it." That wording was considered problematic, and was replaced (whether with this exact article or not, I cannot recall).

The point is, we should remember that the CCC's phrasing on lies and lying received unusual care, since it even required the publication of a little pamphlet revising the text in this (and a few other areas), and eventually brought about a whole new edition (the current "green" cover CCC available in the US).

So, when we examine the CCC articles on lying, we must examine every word.
Nuance and careful reading is key here.

Did Lila Rose and company:
(a) misrepresent the truth simply (in which case they have not lied in a morally culpable way),
(b) did they misrepresent the truth in order to lead someone into error? (in which case, they have).

It is certainly not the case that they misrepresented the truth in order to bring about the immediate conversion of the people to whom they lied. So, they didn't lie about the Faith, about God's love or the works of salvation. They didn't misrepresent the truth of God's life or our relationship to Him.

In charity, I think we can say they also didn't misrepresent the truth in order to intentionally cause someone to sin.

Rather, they suspected that a group of people were already sinning and they presented themselves as co-sinners in this same area in order to draw out the nature of those who were sinning.

Now, Lila Rose and company hadn't committed the precise sins they presented themselves as having committed (and in this way, their story also differs from the prophet Nathan's story, although it is not so clearly different from the apostle Paul's story) but that is the only part of Lila's conversation that wasn't true.

So, now we reach a very fine point indeed.

Is the sin committed by the Planned Parenthood people as a result of the conversation a new instance of sin for them?

If it is, then Lila Rose and company are guilty as charged by Tollefsen, Eden and Doino. After all, just as each new abortion takes a human life, each new sin is an offense against God.

Or, is the sin committed by the Planned Parenthood people part of an already-established habit of sin that has infected and infused their thoughts and lifestyles?

If this latter is the case, Lila Rose and company's lie was neither designed to, nor did it, lead the Planned Parenthood employees into a new sin.

Here are a few additional CCC articles which seem to have bearing on the problem:

1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1791 This ignorance 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.

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

If I haven't reached a firm and vociferous conclusion in this column, it is because I can see the force of the arguments on both sides, and it is not entirely clear to me that I have reached a correct conclusion. Eden's and Doino's argument and evidence is strong (Tollefsen's not so much).

However, I lean towards thinking Lila Rose is not misrepresenting the truth in a morally culpable way. Rather, she is acting in the tradition of the prophet Nathan and the apostle Paul to expose the thinking of the people involved even to themselves, as Nathan did to King David.

And insofar as that is her motive, insofar as her actions conform to accomplishing that motive, then I endorse them.

Whether or not these actions actually do conform to that motive, I leave up to you, O Gentle Reader.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Sad Day

Today is February 11, World Day of the Sick.
A plenary indulgence is available today, but almost no one in the United States will be able to get this indulgence.

You see, in order for the faithful to obtain this plenary, your church or cathedral has to be having some kind of liturgical celebration (Mass, Liturgy of the Word, or something like it) and you have to attend it.

The plenary is available only for those who participate in the celebration of the world-wide observance.

If no parish near you is celebrating the World Day of the Sick, you can't get the plenary.

This problem doesn't just exist for this day - indult #5 in the Handbook of Indulgences states:
A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who, on days universally designated to foster certain religious intentions (e.g., the promotion of priestly and religious vocations, the pastoral care of the sick and infirm, strengthening the profession of faith in young people, and assisting others to lead a holy life, etc.), piously assist at celebrations of this kind; however, those who pray for these same intentions may gain a partial indulgence. [emphasis in the original].
There are several similar celebrations of the universal Church scattered throughout the year.
But that's the problem with this particular indult - it requires your pastor to know about (and care about) the days enough to put them on his calendar.

The Church establishes days of plenary indulgences and prayers with plenary indulgences in order to encourage us to participate in these days and in these prayers. It's her way of enticing us to live a liturgical life in conformance with Christ's vision for us.

But these and other indulgences aren't just an encouragement to parishioners to participate in the life of the Church, it's also an encouragement to priests and to bishops to live the life of Faith.

Unfortunately, very few priests realize that they are supposed to be doing this.

Most priests don't even know an indulgence is available today, and even if they did, many wouldn't care because they think indulgences are old-fashioned.

So, for want of a good, knowledgeable priest, an opportunity for an indulgence is lost...

In that respect, in the midst of the universal celebration, it is a day of sadness for all of us who are not able to participate as the Church intends us to.