Saturday, November 5, 2011

Liar, Thou Pants on Fire

The Church tells us that Lying is intrinsically evil and may never be done under any circumstances. The catechisms of John Paul II and Trent are both quite clear on this, as are bishops and popes all the way back to St. Augustine at least.

There are those who respond by saying, "This is not Church teaching. This is one of a number of teachings on Lying, all of which contradict each other. The Church is not teaching with any authority on this matter. It is mere theological opinion and may safely be ignored."

Well, it seems to me that all Christians would respect the authority of Holy Scripture, even if they argue about the authority of the Magisterium.

What then are the Apologists for Lying to make of this, from Revelations 21:8, where God Himself tells St. John what types of people will be barred from entering into the Heavenly Kingdom of the New Jerusalem ...


But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (King James Version)

[In other words, all liars go to hell].


See also Rev. 21:27 where this is reiterated - he that "maketh a lie" will be kept out of Heaven. In the New American translation, "But nothing unclear will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies."

It seems to me that when liars are sent to hell along with murderers and idolaters, we had best take Church teaching on Lying seriously - and repent of our own lies, for it is simply the Truth that will set us free.

And that's more than theological opinion.


ADDENDUM - I added this to the combox, but it's worth adding here: it's not clear if it's God the Father telling St. John this stuff about liars going to hell or Jesus Christ, the Son. At any rate, there is a third reiteration of it, in Rev. 22:15, which is either Jesus speaking or John himself recapping the situation under the inspiration of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit - "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."

Now, dear readers, a hallmark of this debate has been that the Lying Apologists do not address points my side makes. They side-step them and throw other objections at us. When we address those other objections, the things we say in reply are ignored and new objections are thrown at us. And so on.

I'm tired of that technique. So if you wish to comment, please address what this post is about - GOD HIMSELF TELLING US THREE TIMES AT THE VERY END OF SCRIPTURE THAT ALL LIARS ARE SENT TO HELL. Please address that point - as it really can not be safely ignored.


Derek Caudill said...

I'm a little acquainted with the controversy spurred by the Live Action situation on what constitutes the sin of lying, and I have to say that I lean toward the sort of reasoning Dr. Kreeft gave in his own contribution.

This is one way I look at it. To be extreme and give the typical example of the Jews in my cellar hiding from Nazis, I think that at least two truths are involved: 1. The truth that the Nazis have not the right to murder (therefore neither to the information which they would predictably use as a means to that act), and 2. The truth that Jews are in my cellar.

I think that, of these two truths, the former is the more universal, absolute, grave, and important. Thus it must take precedence over the latter. Since the maintenance of both of these two truths forms a seeming dilemma, I have to think that to abide by the Truth is to save their lives even if that involves deception. I might say, a material but perhaps not formal "lie" could, and even should, be resorted to.

In my conception, it's akin to the general rule that we don't kill a person unless he's trying to murder our family. Now, surely, if a person can be killed in the defense of life, much more so can he be tricked a little. Surely that would do less violence to him.

Kevin, I know you're probably sick of the back-and-forth on this issue; truly, I actually think I read just that in your own words somewhere. I don't mean to debate on this, just to voice a piece of my opinion on it and leave it at that.

The question, obviously, is not whether we may lie, but what constitutes the sinful lie that's forbidden. By all I can see that's open to debate and I think it needs a lot of development, and I find myself sorry that some well-meaning theologians seem to have displaced moral commonsense in favor of overly scrupulous, technical, or abstract theories about this problem.

As a personal note, no one can accuse me of being cavalier about moral absolutes, as at times in my spiritual journey I've grappled much with the pain and paralysis of scruples. Where I stand now, with the information I have, my conscience could in no way condemn me for telling that untruth to the Nazis, and thus, defending the greater truth of life's sacredness; moreover, my heart would even compel me to do just that, even if only on the basis of a somewhat inarticulate moral intuition which I may not be quite able to attempt to formulate and distinguish razor-sharply in scholastic fashion.

In human language, I mean I gotta go with my gut on this. And I know God knows my heart and what I belive and hope is my sincerity.

I continue to love your stuff, Kevin. Keep fighting the good fight. Peace!



Kevin O'Brien said...

Thanks, Derek. I appreciate the civility of your comment.

And I completely understand how our "moral common sense" tells us it's sometimes a good thing to lie. Kreeft is right; that's exactly what our moral common sense tells us.

The problem is much of the teachings of Our Lord contradict our "moral common sense", such as "love thy enemy", "divorce and remarriage is adultery", "lose your life to gain it", and so forth. Just about every single item covered in the Sermon on the Mount alone contradicts our "moral common sense".

Remember that "to lie or to let a greater evil win" is almost always a false dichotomy. Silence is always an option. We just watched "A Man for All Seasons" tonight, in which St. Thomas More stands silent as did Jesus when accused and tried; never once did either man lie. There is a huge difference between witholding a truth that would harm another and telling an outright lie.

Also look at the fruits of this philosophy. Fr. Pavone, for example, emphatically believes the Consequentialist position - that one may lie for a good cause - despite the clear Church teaching against both Consequentialism and Lying. And look at how Fr. Pavone has behaved under fire. For one thing, he and his organization are providing email addresses to spammers such as; he is helping this group malign his bishop; and there has quite probably been financial malfeasance at PFL. But it's all for a good cause, right?

The Pro Life movement is doomed if we give in to consequentialism and if we endorse lying. It is the Truth and only the Truth that will set us free, even if that Truth comes with a cross.

Having said all that, if your conscience tells you that lying is OK - even after you read the startling and stunning words of God the Father in Rev. 21 - then of course you have an obligation to follow your conscience.

But you are fooling yourself.

Kevin O'Brien said...

A few other things, Derek.

First, you're confused in thinking murder is allowed for a good cause. Murder is never allowed, not even as a means to a good end. Find yourself a good primer on moral theology and that will help.

Second, if there are Pharisees parsing and sifting Scripture and the Catechism in this debate and forcing upon God's teaching the narrowest of interpretations for the sake of self-righteousness, it's not my side.

Finally, it's not clear if it's God the Father telling St. John this stuff about liars going to hell or Jesus Christ, the Son. At any rate, there is a third reiteration of it, in Rev. 22:15, which is either Jesus speaking or John himself recapping the situation - "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."

Be very careful here, Derek. The devil is the father of lies and any temptation to lie, even for the best of causes or with the best of intentions, is a temptation to the easy way out, a temptation to turn from the burden of the cross.

And finally, one of the great frustrations in this debate is that every time it comes up, folks throw the same old arguments at us, as if the work that the academics and apologists and bloggers have done on this issue needs to start again from square one.

You have admitted that you're "a little" acquainted with this controversy. I ask you simply to read a bit on the internet, from Shea to Tollefsen to Sean Dailey to Scott Richert to me and others.

Read what we've already written. And I say this not to you, Derek, as much as to the horde out there who may jump in these comboxes with the arguments that we've dealt with time and time again for nine months now ... "the acts in question were not lies"; "telling your wife the dress does not make her look fat is a sin if lying is a sin"; "the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a forest of loopholes you can use to evade its teaching"; "liars are condoned and rewarded in the Old Testament"; "these were actors playing parts", and so forth. We've patiently addressed every single one of these objections and more since February, time and again.

There's a lot of material out there, and some of you might be entering in mid-stream. You could at least start with .

Anyway, Derek, thanks again for your civil comment. As you know, civil discourse has been rare on this issue.

May God lead us all to the Truth which will set us free.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered why this issue was so contentious when the teaching against lying is about as plain as it could get. I'm going out on a limb, but I liken lying as a sin of the mind like masturbation is a sin of the body. Most of us are unlikely to indulge in what even non-believers think are big evils like murder, theft, adultery, etc. Thats because even if there aren't stringent legal barriers to doing them, there are still difficulites in opportunity, finding willing accomplices, etc. Not so with lying or masturbation. Temptation coupled with more or less immediate availability to indulge them means most people are susceptible at an intimate level unless well-catechized against them. And so, not surprisingly its here we find most of the rationalizations in defense of them. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

To Romishgraffiti:

"Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable."

-G.K Chesterton, Illustrated London News (23 October 1909)

I think this quote sums up your point.

Dr. Eric

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