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Monday, February 14, 2011

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.


Dawn Eden said...

Steve, thank you for reflecting upon my and William Doino's article.

Your thesis hinges on the use of the word "error," which you are reading as "sin." According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, that word corresponds to primary meaning of "error" in English, which is "an act or condition of ignorant or imprudent deviation from a code of behavior."

However, the secondary meaning of "error" according to the same dictionary is "an act involving an unintentional deviation from truth or accuracy." For example, if you told me that you were a World War II veteran and I believed you, I would be in error.

It is that second kind of error to which the Catechism refers. Live Action's deceit was geared towards causing that error--to mislead the Planned Parenthood staff into the erroneous belief that the Live Action actors were not acting.

This becomes clear when we look at the original Latin of the Catechism entry that you cite. The word that is translated as "error" is, in Latin, "errorem." Here are the English equivalents of "errorem," according to Whittaker's Words: "wandering; error; winding; maze; uncertainty; deception." These words--particularly "deception"--relate to the secondary definition of "error," not the first.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

So, did the prophet Nathan and the apostle Paul sin by leading men to believe that which was not true?

Paul essentially started a riot.

This would also mean no Catholic could work as an undercover agent, nor could a Catholic provide an answer to a question which led to the party being deceived. Mental reservations (a la Jesuit theology) would be prohibited.

Dawn Eden said...

Strict mental reservation, of the kind Lila Rose used, is in fact prohibited. Broad mental reservation may be used for a just reason. Reginaldus of the New Theological Movement explains the difference.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

1) So, were the prophet Nathan and the apostle Paul guilty of mortal sin?

2) Are Catholics prohibited from doing undercover work? Is such work the equivalent of prostitution?

Suzanne said...

Catholics are prohibited from lying, whether it involves undercover work, saving Jews from Nazis, whatever.

I don't understand what is so hard about the Catechism's teaching.

Lying by its nature is to be condemned. Those are the words of the catechism.

If you say something you know does not correspond to reality, that's a lie. If you use of ambiguous language is so nebulous that it leaves NO POSSIBILITY to be interpreted in another truthful manner, it's a lie. So when the undercover agent said that there were girls who needed to work, there were no such girls, there was no such sex work. That's a lie.

Nathan told a story to King David, and I always understood it as a story. Perhaps King David was a little dim, but the lack of details of the story made it seem more like a parable than a true story. Note that metaphors are not considered lies. The way in which Nathan told the story suggested it was a metaphor, and St. Augustine countenances the use of metaphors.

But this is a far cry from going into a Planned Parenthood and telling someone you have girls working for you when you don't. That's not a metaphor.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"If you say something you know does not correspond to reality, that's a lie."

So, Tolkien was a liar?
His Lord of the Rings books bear no correspondence to reality. You can say Tolkien just meant it as a story, but various people have taken such stories and their offshoots and turned them into a religion - Wicca.

"Nathan told a story to King David, and I always understood it as a story. Perhaps King David was a little dim... "

Is it a demonstration of Christian charity to call the divinely appointed ruler of Israel and father of the wisest man who ever lived "a little dim"?

But, let's take your reading at face value, even though you are separated from that culture by roughly 5000 years, have little grasp of how they discussed things, and there's no evidence in the Scripture to support your interpretation.

Couldn't Live Action make the same defense? They were just telling a story to Planned Parenthood, and since they only intended it as a story, they can't help it if PP is a little dim...

Nathan just told a story to King David for no particular reason, and they told a story to PP for no particular reason. Just a story, that's all.

And I notice everyone is pretty silent about St. Paul. According to the evidence available, it's kind of hard to avoid the idea that St. Paul deliberately lied in order to provoke a fight in the crowd.

Despite this, I've never seen anyone accuse St. Paul of being a liar in this situation. So, what do we do with him?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Ah... Monica Migliorino Miller
has weighed in here with the requisite quotes from the earlier edition of the CCC.

She points out that BOTH editions are still available on the Vatican website, so it isn't entirely clear whether the earlier wording has been superseded or simply augmented.

Her analysis includes this, which is quite on point: "St. Thomas Aquinas taught that laying an ambush in war could be morally justified (ST. 2, 2, Q40, art 3)."

It's worth a read.

Alan Aversa said...

Addressing "Whether every lie is a sin?," St. Thomas writes:

Objection 3. Further, the deeds of holy men are related in Sacred Writ that they may be a model of human life. But we read of certain very holy men that they lied. Thus (Genesis 12 and 20) we are told that Abraham said of his wife that she was his sister. Jacob also lied when he said that he was Esau, and yet he received a blessing (Genesis 27:27-29). Again, Judith is commended (Judith 15:10-11) although she lied to Holofernes. Therefore not every lie is a sin.


Reply to Objection 3. [...] Some, however, are commended in the Scriptures, not on account of perfect virtue, but for a certain virtuous disposition, seeing that it was owing to some praiseworthy sentiment that they were moved to do certain undue things. It is thus that Judith is praised, not for lying to Holofernes, but for her desire to save the people, to which end she exposed herself to danger. And yet one might also say that her words contain truth in some mystical sense.

I would say Lila Rose does indeed have "a certain virtuous disposition" for fighting for the respect of women and for defending the unborn. Is not she a modern day Judith?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I would agree with you, Alan.

In a private communication, someone indicated that the examples brought forward don't apply specifically, since these were one-off occurrences, while Live Action has made a habit of engaging in the activity.

While I originally indicated this was a compelling argument, Dr. Miller's essay on the application of ambush and just war theory seems, to me, to overcome the objection.

Given the reasoning brought forward to date, I have seen no explanation for why we should not also call the prophet Nathan and the apostle St. Paul liars if we are to hold to the standard being advocated. I find that a difficult position to take.

From the evidence you and Dr. Miller have brought forward, I think Aquinas would hold in favor of Lila Rose. I stand with what I perceive Aquinas' position would be.

Kevin said...


While i find your argument with merit (in regards to Nathan), where does one draw the line from Nathan to Jehu?

Jehu deceived the priests of Ba'al, announcing his intention to offer a mass sacrifice to Ba'al. When they arrived, he had them all massacred.

Now, it is certainly true that God willed that the Kingdom of Israel throw off the temple cults, and for that reason he annointed Jehu as King.

At least from my readings on the Church Fathers, they tend to follow Augustine in saying that Jehu sinned (Retractions, Book 2 Chapter 60)

Aquinas talks about it a little bit as well when he talks about the nature of deception:

So what makes Nathan's craftiness acceptable but not Jehu's? was it that Jehu went too far? His act was a very public festival, and allowed (though he did not partake) the burnt offering to be finished before he ordered their purging.

It's an interesting discussion. And like so many others, I'm not sure where I fall on it.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Great question.
I don't know the answer to that.

Dr. Miller's argument that Lila is involved in warfare and ambush (which is licit) is strong.

Thomas himself said God rewarded Jehu for his zeal in destroying the prophets of Baal (although not for his dissimulation), and certainly Lila's zeal is at least as commendable.

According to Aquinas, Jehu was evil because he was an idolater. Aquinas doesn't really address Jehu's dissimulation (and Jehu's resulted in the killing of the prophets of Baal, while Lila Rose's does not result in anyone's death).

So it is not clear to me how to order all of this.

Dawn Eden said...

Steve, regarding your exegesis of Acts, how can you say St. Paul was lying? Acts 21:27-29 says, "When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, 28crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple."

The reference to the Greeks was a "besides." The accusation against Paul was that he preached the Gospel--only the charge was misrepresented to make the Gospel sound like something other than it was. Paul was not lying when he said that the real reason he was on trial was because of the hope and resurrection of the dead. That is exactly what his teaching on the Gospel was about. Yes, he framed his statement in such a way as to cause division--but it was by no means a lie.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ” 22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” 23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this."

Why did the crowd go nuts at the word "Gentile"?

The reason the people were shouting at him was due to the charge of bringing Gentiles into the Temple. Indeed, the Pharisees specifically said they had no problem with the Gospel being preached.

The commander of the soldiers said the same, "27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. 29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment."

The "questions about their law" was the bringing of Gentiles into the Temple.

The Sanhedrin told Felix exactly what the charges were: "“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. [7] [a] 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” "

Everyone agreed the charge was desecration of the Temple. But that isn't what Paul told the crowd. The crowd knew what he was charged with, which is why the crowd went nuts when Paul mentioned Gentiles.

If you don't think Paul used bait and switch, then why couldn't we allow Lila Rose and company to have their Planned Parenthood conversations, while holding the mental reservation "(IF I was a pimp and IF I had teenage girls to run, I would want to know) how to keep those girls from getting disease, how to get them abortions, etc."

Seems to me such a mental reservation is no worse than the kind held by Christians who hid Jews.

Kevin said...

Steve's exegesis is correct, but I'm not sure Dawn is neccessarily wrong either.

While the issue was indeed over the "law" was not the Sanhedrin simply looking for a pretext to have Paul executed?

They knew this would stir up the most controversey. Just as the Sanhedrin tried to invent charges against Christ, so they were doing with his new zealous disciple.

Paul understood the real reason that they were doing this: He had his fate prophesied to him in Tyre (the beginning of the Chapter)

When the Roman Tribune came to try to make sense of what was going on, he received a thousand different stories from a thousand different people.

Paul perceived the real reason he was being thrown in prison, and knowing this, decided to "take the offensive" and create a division.

It reminds me of the time Fr. Pacwa debated John Ankerberg and the original "Bible Answer Man" (whoever did the show before Hank Hanegraff) During a debate about the Marian doctrines, Dr. Pacwa used a crafty debate ploy to divide the two Protestants against each other, to where they spent the entire debate at each others throats over whether Jesus existed as a distinct person before his physical birth. Wasn't the original topic. While they were disputing, he was able to silence them both with getting the truth across.

I view this kind of scenario and what Nathan did as two different things. Paul's approach was to employ craftiness, using that opening to spread the Gospel. He wasn't lying. He knew it was a sham charge, and decided to make it plain for all to see.

Nathan's ploy was different. He was using the parable as being intentinoally deceptive and a loaded assertion, to "trap" David as it were. The scenario he describes is something David would rule on every day. (Had such a person actually existed, it would have been no different.) He knew precisely how David would answer, and looked to, in a sense, shame him unto repentance.

I'm still leaning on the fence, but I think the point has to go to Mr. Kellmeyer on this particular instance.

dcs said...

Dr. Miller's argument is not strong, because (a) she fails to distinguish between strict mental reservation and wide (or broad) mental reservation and (b) because she fails to distinguish between mortal and venial sin. For example, she notes that those engaged in undercover work have never been forbidden to receive Holy Communion, and therefore we can assume that there is no sin in such work ("If they are permitted to receive Communion, then taking on false identities under certain conditions cannot be sin"). However, officious lies (as opposed to malicious) are generally held to be venial sins, so one who tells such lies would not be forbidden to receive Holy Communion.

I find it interesting that those who cite St. Thomas in favor of their position (this includes Dr. Miller and Dr. Kreeft) do not actually cite St. Thomas on lying (ST II-ii q.110 a.3).

As far as the passage from Acts is concerned, I agree with Steve's exegesis but I agree with Dawn that St. Paul used mental reservation and did not lie. He says only that he was "called in question" on the subject of the resurrection of the dead; he doesn't say where, when, or by whom.

dcs said...

@Alan Aversa,

I would say Lila Rose does indeed have "a certain virtuous disposition" for fighting for the respect of women and for defending the unborn. Is not she a modern day Judith?

St. Thomas notes that some of those who appear to have lied in Holy Scripture are praised in Scripture, and that they are being praised for their virtuous disposition, not necessarily for their deception. So, for example, Rahab the harlot is praised by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews. But Jephthe is also among those praised in Hebrews; can we then conclude that sacrificing one's daughter as a burnt offering can be morally justified?

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Your conclusions assume a necessary level of duplicity on the part of Dr. Miller.

Surely you admit that Dr. Miller is aware of the difference between venial and mortal sin, and is also aware of the difference between strict and broad mental reservation.

Thus, in order to hold that her omission of these two distinctions is important, you must likewise hold that the omissions are deliberate. In other words, you have to assume that she is deliberately lying (withholding evidence using broad mental reservation) in order to make her case.

I find that very hard to accept.

Rather, we can read her essay and assume that she knows of these distinctions, but didn't bother to go into them because the distinctions were already implied in her thesis. That is, when she says that Holy Communion was never withheld, and the act must therefore not be a sin, we must assume that she is referring to MORTAL sin there. Similarly with the distinction between strict and broad mental reservation.

I am aware that a priest at the New Theological Movement remonstrates Dr. Miller on precisely these two points. While he is very polite in the way he calls Dr. Miller a liar, he still essentially calls her a deliberate liar, and thus - by his lights - implicitly accuses her of direct mortal sin.

I find his post against Dr. Miller as offensive as Dr. Kreeft's post against Dr. Miller's opponents.

Finally, it is typically the case that one only quotes Thomas on a point which is relevant, and doesn't quote him on points which are not. Since Lila Rose's supporters don't consider her actions to be lies, it would not be on point to quote Thomas on lying.

The only people who would quote that section are the people who already assume that Lila was sinfully lying, that is, those who assume the conclusion as Dr. Kreeft did above (albeit in the opposite direction).

dcs said...

Surely you admit that Dr. Miller is aware of the difference between venial and mortal sin, and is also aware of the difference between strict and broad mental reservation.

I'm sure she's aware of it, which makes the fact that she does not distinguish between the two in her article all the more disappointing. I expect better.

That is, when she says that Holy Communion was never withheld, and the act must therefore not be a sin, we must assume that she is referring to MORTAL sin there.

I don't think we can assume that. She is trying to argue that Live Action's "stings" can be morally justified. If their stings involve even venial sin, then they cannot be morally justified. So either (a) Dr. Miller is not referring strictly to MORTAL sin or (b) her point is not a point at all because it does not apply.

I think if one is going to quote St. Thomas in support of a particular position (lying and deception), then one ought to quote what St. Thomas actually wrote on the topic, rather than considering what he wrote on topics that are tangential at best and trying to apply them to the general case. Otherwise one is simply proof-texting. If one wishes to show that what St. Thomas wrote about ambush in war applies here, then it is imperative to consider what St. Thomas wrote about deception, what sort of deception constitutes a lie, and even what he wrote about war.

I'm not sure where you get the idea that deliberate lies are mortal sins, by the way. Officious lies (those that are told to benefit oneself or others) are generally held to be venial sins.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I agree that the smallest venial sin is still more sin than we should be committing. Thus, even if we assume Lila's actions were sinful and point out that her actions are - by Thomas' own criteria - no more than venial sins, we would have to be unwilling to support them.

However, I think Dr. Miller's conclusion that this is a war and that Lila's actions constitute an ambush, a ruse de guerre, is correct. Thus, I see her quotes as directly on point.

Since this war is waged on the citizens of the nation by the government itself, since this attack on its own citizens is declared licit by the government itself, funded in large part by government dollars, and defense impeded or denied by that same government, the pro-life movement is essentially a peaceful revolutionary movement.

It is most assuredly warfare.
There are most assuredly body bags.

Lila's group, at most, is engaged in broad mental reservation. She is not impugning anyone's reputation but her own. They deal in hypotheticals "Could we bring girls in here for contraception/abortion?"

Personally, I see it as no more than a legitimate strategem of war, a war against our own government, and far, far preferable to the other legitimate strategem of war, which is direct violence.

dcs said...


If it is a war in which we're involved then could we not use other tactics as well? Why limit ourselves to carrying out undercover "stings"? But those other tactics are generally condemned, so clearly we are not at war except in the spiritual sense. And if the war is spiritual it will be spiritual weapons that win it -- prayer and fasting, not lies and the tactics of war.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Spiritual warfare is a given in ANY situation, so arguing that we are in a spiritual war is like arguing the sky is blue.

This is not an either-or situation. We are in both a physical and a spiritual war.

We are in a physical war funded by a physical government using physical dollars and physical weapons which physically damage people and create physical corpses.

That we choose to wage it non-violently rather than by creating more corpses is a commentary on our restraint, not on the fact of the physical warfare.

It took over 400 years for the Church to call for physical invasion of the Holy Land to wrest it from the Muslims - She tried pure fasting and prayer prior to that. Neither one ultimately has worked out so far in removing Islam from the area.

Similarly, I don't think we are anywhere close to winning this war. But it cannot be denied that it is war we fight, and not just a spiritual war, just as it was war against Islam when they conquered all of the Near East, Africa and Spain.

dcs said...

That we choose to wage it non-violently rather than by creating more corpses is a commentary on our restraint, not on the fact of the physical warfare.

If we are really at war, then it seems to me that we are not obligated to show this restraint. But every authoritative opinion on the matter is that we are obligated. Therefore it is not merely a matter of restraint. Therefore we are not engaged in physical warfare and cannot employ the tactics of physical warfare.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


The decision about what level of restraint to show is a prudential judgement, not a doctrinal judgement, just as the decision about the level of restraint to show towards Muslim depredations was.

You realize, of course, that St. Peter's Cathedral and St. Paul Outside the Walls were both sacked by Muslims centuries before we declared Crusade, right? That alone was a casus belli, not to mention the burning of Monte Cassino, the armed camps on the Italian peninsula, the French coast, etc., etc., etc.

The decision NOT to wage physical war for 400 years - that was a prudential judgement.

The same is true here.
We are at war, but we choose not to fight in a physical way.


But do not think that because we have not so far chosen this route that this route is thereby eternally forbidden to us.
It is not.

Stare into the dead eyes of the torn bodies and tell me this is not a war.

Do this, and I will tell you that you lie.

dcs said...


That is a clever appeal to emotion, but as an appeal to reason I think it falls short. I did not say that the route to physical war was closed to us; I said that we are not engaged in a physical war right now (which we aren't) and until we are, the rules of war do not apply.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


I have provided evidence that we are in a physical war - I can point to funding, body bags, etc.

Your evidence that we are NOT in a physical war consists of your assertion.


Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh, I almost forgot.

By insisting on your assertion, you are also a liar.

dcs said...


I don't think that is helpful. I am tempted to respond in kind. However, funding, body bags, violence, etc. do not make a war. No war has been declared by legitimate authority, nor have American Catholics been relieved of their obedience to the State. I suppose one might come to the conclusion that we might prosecute a war based on the principle of equity, but I do not think that we have come that far just yet. Our families have not been targeted for forced abortions or herded into concentration camps. It could come to that, but is hasn't yet, and I affirm (with then-Card. Ratziner) that the concept of "preventative war" is not found in the teaching of the Church.

The reason I did not give "evidence" in my prior post is that all of these things are self-evident. I am sorry that you do not see them. By the way, this is exactly the sort of thing I was referring to earlier when I wrote about people invoking St. Thomas on a particular subject without considering all that he wrote on that topic. If you are going to invoke St. Thomas on laying ambush in war, perhaps you ought to consider what he wrote about war in general:

In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Romans 13:4): "He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil"; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Psalm 81:4): "Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner"; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): "The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority." [emphases mine -DCS]

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Buy a clue.

The government is killing its own citizens. How is that NOT a war?

Do you expect a government to DECLARE war against its own citizens?

Can you point to a time in history when any government has done that?

Do you mean to say that Christians don't have a right to wage war when war hasn't been declared against them by the government that is killing them?

This is beyond ridiculous.

Catholics are permitted to rebel against tyrannical rule. It is not the case that we have to wait until the government is forcing abortion on us and herding us into concentration camps before we can rebel (especially since both practices are 19th century inventions, and Catholic rebellion was sanctioned for far less offensive acts than legalized abortion).

I'm not responding any further to your comments in this thread because you are clearly not sane on this point.

Mark P. Shea said...

"Shut up!" he explained.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Nice to have you here!

Still saying "booyah" to the Salafi Muslim takeover of Egypt?

You clearly don't have anything else to say... :)