Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Something that bothers me about LiveAction's sting operations

The pro-life blogosphere is a buzz with LiveAction.org's latest sting operation where a man and a woman pose as a pimp and a prostitute to catch a Planned Parenthood official aiding and abetting sex trafficking.

People seem to look at these videos uncritically because...folks, the people who are telling stories about these made-up girls are lying.

Remember lying? That sin prohibited by the Ten Commandments?

I know catching Planned Parenthood doing shady things is very exciting and it provides ammunition in the fight to get them defunded.

But to do it by sinful means is wrong.

And the pro-life blogosophere should not uncritically accept this means of deriving information just because it puts us an advantage.

In fact, the Devil loves giving us a reason to sin. He'll use whatever motive we have, including a desire to please God and save the unborn.

I can see many objections to my comment come up.

For instance, that it's okay to lie sometimes.

No it's not.

The Catholic Church teaches that lying is intrinsically wrong.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned.

The nature of the act is such that no circumstance, no intention can remediate it. It's just bad by its very commission. Therefore, it is intrinsically disordered.

I really insist on the phrase intrinsically disordered because there are large numbers of Catholics-- many of them faithful to the Magisterium-- who don't understand what the phrase "intrinsically disordered" means. It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine because there are Catholics who are otherwise solid on doctrinal issues who insist that acts that are intrinsically wrong are somehow permissible.

Look folks, abortion, contraception and homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong. If we start saying lying is intrinsically wrong but okay sometimes, we've just undermined our whole movement.

"Intriniscally wrong" is a phrase that refers to what is known as the order of creation. We're all made a certain way, and God expects us to respect the design of our own beings. Our beings are designed and ordered towards truth. Let me repeat: our whole bodies, our whole minds, our whole souls are designed to function in the light of truth.

If we start lying, we go against the design of our own beings. It's like contraception for the soul. We should not frustrate our reproductive system's teleological end, we cannot do the same thing to our soul's telelogical end, which is God, who is Truth itself.

When you lie, it's the metaphysical version of sticking a an operating hairdryer in a full bathtub-- that's intrinsically wrong. Your hairdryer is not meant to be used that way.

Your soul is not meant to be used in the service of lying.

This is not to say that all deception is wrong. Using a sentence with a double meaning is fine. Not revealing all your intentions or thoughts is fine.

But the moment you say things that you know have no relationship to reality, that is when you cross the line.

What is the harm in lying for the pro-life movement?

The harm is that people see that we are no better-- morally speaking-- than anyone else. Therefore, we are not more trustworthy. We have enough difficulty communicating things people are skeptical of, that when we engage in lying to further our cause, it sends the message that we're willing to do anything to get ahead, and that undermines our moral credibility. Then people feel their skepticism is justified.

And if we don't have moral credibility, we have nothing.

Every single word that comes out of our mouthes has to be absolutely truthful. Everyone must know that when pro-lifers speak-- even when people don't know they are pro-lifers-- every single word on every single issue confirms to the thoughts in their heads.

Any deviation from this practice will give our opponents an excuse to smear us. They already do when we tell the truth: what do you suppose they'll do when they see us actually lying (or approving of lying?)

Don't be a fool and think that these little sins will in no way inhibit our movement. Our moral purity is what facilitates the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the greater society. If we sin, we're putting barriers up to the Holy Spirit's action. It's not always obvious how this happens, but there's no doubt about it. We're all one body, and you don't sin and inhibit the Holy Spirit in isolation.

And I can see the other objection thrown up at me:

Do you really expect people to not lie in the face of death?
 And the answer is yes.

The Lord expects truth from us. He expects us to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.

He sure does not expect us to be like Satan, the father of lies.

Note that Satan is the father of ALL lies, even those that save lives.

Anything that comes from Satan cannot be good in origin. You can't do evil that good may come of it.

There are no lies that originate with God. God can't lie, he's truth itself. He could no more lie than he could hate.

Lies are simply not charitable. In any circumstance, for any reason.

So what about the old example of the Nazi who invades the house of a Jew and asks you where a Jew is?

Well, you answer him without lying: you say: I don't know (you might now). You might change the subject. You use all manner of equivocation.

But you cannot lie. You cannot say things that you know is contrary to the truth.

But lots of people lied during World War II and saved Jews.

Yes. But their example is not the Revelation of God.

We don't discern morality by example or imagination ("What if I were being pursued by Nazis, wouldn't I want people to lie for me?")

The Natural Law exists independently of what people do, think or feel.

And the natural law is that knowingly making verbal statements contrary to the truth is wrong.

And I would also like to underscore another problem with this objection in the context of my criticism of Live Action's operation.

Planned Parenthood in this case did not bust down anyone's door and threaten to kill people.

LiveAction volunteers went to Planned Parenthood, told a bunch of stories, and initiated a bunch of lies.

Nobody's lives are going to be saved with these lies.

The other objection is that in more "modern" definitions of lying, the definition of a lie is such that if you do not have the right to the truth, (as in the case of a Nazi trying to kill Jews) then telling them something you know to be untrue is not a lie.

This is a serious misunderstanding of addition of the notion of "having a right to the truth".

Everyone has a right to the truth.

Not everyone has the right to any given information.

Certain people have more right to the information than others.

Like parents have the right to the truth from their kids on issues directly involved with serious parenting issues, e.g. the child's whereabouts.

But if your friend asks you a personal question, he does not have the right to that information.

That doesn't give you the right to make a false statement. It gives you the right to give an evasive answer. Whereas a child does not have the right to give an evasive answer to his parents on a serious matter. That evasive answer is a lie.

What about doctors? What about the government? What about the military? What about Intelligence Services? What about investigative journalists? They all lie.

Yes, they all lie. The fact that the vast majority of people lie or approve of lying in some circumstance does not make it okay.

The sooner we realize this, the sooner we put it into practice, the sooner we'll end the evil of abortion.

Don't think that the real harm of our culture of death is all in the liberal camp. If we cannot put ourselves right with God on such a basic thing as lying, that we're going to make any head way within the Church or the greater society with issues like abortion and contraception.
Not only should we not lie, we should not approve of lying. I understand the information derived from LiveAction.org is very useful to us. But here's the catch: in congratulating them, in posting their videos uncritically, we're giving the impression we approve of all this, that their tactics are fine.

They're not fine.

And we have to make it clear that much as we appreciate their commitment to the pro-life cause, they have to act within the moral law.

And if they become a figurehead for our cause, it will only be to our downfall in the long-run. Lying is the fruit of darkness no matter how well-intentioned it is, and when you build on lies, it will only come back to bite you in the butt in the end. Don't be fooled. Our moral purity is far more important than any tactic in this fight.

I understand that I may be criticized for creating more "pro-life in-fighting". I usually avoid that kind of thing. And I understand people will be critical because this might tip off our opponents to the problems with this method.

But I'd rather tip off the opponents and be a "divider" than sit back and watch as people act like everything's perfectly fine. It's not.

Update Feb. 2 at 9:07

Thanks to Soconvivium for the vote of confidence.