Professor John Zmirak has given his thoughts and concerns about Live Action and ‘lying’ here, in an article “Cancel My Mental Reservations” which resulted in the Planned Parenthood videos showing PP’s contempt for the law, babies and mothers.
This philosophical and theological hair-splitting on been bouncing around the Catholic blogosphere for about three days now, remarkably tiring for the general lay-peasant looking to our experts to help in our spiritual battle. The seeming endless volumes of opinions are all centered around the true Catholic definition of lying related to the actions of Live Action, police undercover work, Vatican – Nazi relations during World War II, and a few quasi related scenarios. Professor Zmirak alludes to these below in the quote. Some very well-known and respected Catholic writers jumped into the comments sections to debate the author, some writing in extreme exaggerations to make points decrying the ‘intrinsically evil’ aspect of lying to protect unborn babies, while other show numerous biblical stories where ‘lying’ seems to be explicitly approved.
Our conscious, (ill-formed it may be), tells us that Live Action is to be commended for publicizing the evils at the for-profit Planned Parenthood. Cowboy Papist believes the answer to this moral dilemma can be found in the wonderful summation by Professor Zmirak at the bottom the too-long comments section he wrote in response:
Murder is always wrong. Not all killing is murder. Lying is always wrong. Not all deceit is lying. Stealing is always wrong. Not every confiscation is stealing. Tyranny is wrong. Not every government is a tyranny.
The position on deceit preached by Augustine, if applied to war, would amount to pacifism. Indeed, we’d have to practice Amish style nonviolence and refuse even to defend ourselves or our families from immediate attack. The foolishness of this linguistic Gandhi-ism was so patent, that “mental reservation” was developed as a way around it–an unsatisfactory and unconvincing one, where one keeps the INTENT to deceive, but does so cleverly enough that a loophole is left through which your conscience can sneak away.
The draft catechism made a more honest and principled revision to this flawed, non-infallible teaching, in light of the experience of the Holocaust. By the way, Karol Woytjla was in the Polish underground, running an illegal theater. Did he never deceive the Nazis? Perhaps he was clever enough to keep his mental reservations in order. The Christian God would not be impressed–though perhaps the “god” of Caiaphas would be. The status of unborn children in America is as bad as that of Jews in Nazi-occupied countries. They do not, and for the foreseeable future will not have, any protection by the State. So we as individuals must step forward and offer what protection we can. Since “citizen arrests” would backfire, and violence against abortionists does not meet the Just War criterion ONLY because it would not succeed, we use what means we can. We act like members of the Polish or French Resistance.
The new version of the Catechism removed it without explanation–as it removed one of the venerable justifications for the death penalty. This teaching is still in flux, the new Catechism makes no claim, on its own, to teach infallibly though where it repeats previously defined doctrines and dogmas, it participates in their authority, and the result is something of a mess.
The bottom line is that the killing centers known as the for-profit Planned Parenthood need to be removed from our culture in every way. Any dent in the armor of this socially accepted conglomerate should be accepted on good faith and not enmeshed in a battle of wits and knowledge among true believers.
Update: Dr. Peter Kreeft offers logic and reason that should settle this, “. . . Live Action: not only (1) that its actions were right but (2) that they were very clearly right.” This comment seems to sum up very well, “I think they (critics of Live Action) are so (rightly) afraid of moral relativism that they have (wrongly) fallen into moral legalism.” He identifies it as “moral common sense,” which is quite appealing to our own reasoning, for as Dr. Kreeft states, “Relativism sees no principles, only people; legalism sees no people, only principles.”
Mark Shea disagrees, accentuating John Zmirak suggestion that the teaching on ‘lying’ is foggy at best even for the best Catholic apologists, and it would require obligatory input from the Vatican.
- Lying to Planned Parenthood, or is it mental reservation? (newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com)
- Pro-life group’s video stings spark ethical debate (catholicnewsagency.com)
- Whistle-blower Joins Anti-Abortion Group (foxnews.com)