Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Synopsis on the Lying Debate

Apparently, there are at least two of you who are arguing in good faith on the Lying Debate.  One of you is Stu (or so he claims), who has challenged me on Mark Shea's blog to answer the questions that keep coming up and that have been answered again and again.  Stu says he does not have time to wade through my 65 or more posts on this issue, and I can understand that.

So here we go, and I will link to this post often when the same objections keep being raised.  It's old hat, all of it, but here it is in a nutshell.

WHY LYING IS INTRINSICALLY EVIL

I. THE CATHOLIC POSITION
  • The Catechism is very clear on this point.
2482  “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.”281 The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: “You are of your father the devil,... there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”282 (392)
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.
2484    The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. (1750)

2485    By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. The culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray. (1756)
2486    Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships. (1607) 

WHAT ABOUT WHEN SOMEONE HAS NO RIGHT TO THE TRUTH?

2488    The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the Gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it. (1740)
In other words, if someone has no right to the truth, we may keep silent.  But we may not lie.

WHAT ABOUT IF WE LIE FOR A GOOD CAUSE?  WE CAN CERTAINLY USE BAD MEANS TO ATTAIN GOOD ENDS, CAN'T WE?

1753    A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).39 (2479596)
Note that an act that is INTRINSICALLY DISORDERED may never be done under any circumstances, not even for a good cause.

WELL, THERE ARE TWO TRADITIONS ON LYING, YOURS AND THE MORE LENIENT TRADITION.  THE MAGISTERIUM HAS NOT RULED ON WHICH IS OFFICIAL, SO ANY CATHOLIC MAY CHOOSE EITHER.

This is the argument of people who say, "Until the Pope rules on this ex cathedra, I may believe what I will!"  Note that supporters of abortion and contraception say the same thing.
The fact is that the Catholic Church teaches infallibly on matters of Faith and Morals when the Magisterium speaks - and the Magisterium is more than just the Pope speaking ex cathedra.  Indeed, a large portion of infallible Church Teaching is communicated by the Ordinary Magisterium - bishops in union with the pope teaching the same thing over the millenia, as well as the lay faithful holding views in common over the course of Church History.
Even the Lying Apologists call the teaching that Lying is Intrinsicallly Evil "the majority view".
The problem is, even the teaching denouncing contraception can be seen as merely a "majority view", Humanae Vitae being but one element of the consistent teaching from the Church from the beginning, but with lots of dissenting views competing with it, popping up here and there, especially in the modern age.  
Dissent does not make a Magisterial teaching less so.  Dissent does not turn the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium into one opinion among many.  "A majority opinion" - especially when espoused by Scripture, Augustine, Aquinas, the Catechism of Trent and the Modern Catechism - is more than a "majority opinion".

BUT WASN'T THE MODERN CATECHISM CHANGED REGARDING LYING?

Yes, after the first edition, it was changed to reflect more accurately the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium, that Lying is Intrinsically Evil.  That more restrictive teaching has appeared in every subsequent edition, including the current one.

BUT WHAT ABOUT PETER KREEFT AND JANET SMITH AND JOHN ZMIRAK AND DEACON JIM RUSSELL?

People are fond of telling Mark Shea and bloggers like me that we are not the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  They are right.  Neither are the folks you mentioned.

WHAT ABOUT PETER KREEFT'S ARGUMENT THAT LYING FOR A GOOD CAUSE IS JUST FINE?

Peter Kreeft argued that our "moral common sense" tells us it is OK to lie when, in our judgment, the situation warrants it.  The problem is the "moral common sense" of 95% of the world today tells them that fornication is just fine, and many folks have a "moral common sense" that tells them that "gay marriage" is a good thing.  Our "moral common sense" is, in fact, fallen and in need of a redeemer.  It's not our "moral common sense" that we should consult in this case, but the mind of the Church - the mind of Christ.  And His teachings shock and offend our "moral common" sense much more than His teachings soothe and affirm them.

IF LYING IS INTRINSICALLY EVIL, WHY IS KILLING SOMEONE NOT ALSO INTRINSICALLY EVIL, SUCH AS WHEN A COP SHOOTS A ROBBER?

As I understand it, even in wartime, we may not deliberately take the life of another.  We may use deadly force if the situation calls for it and if we have no other alternative, knowing that the deadly force may in fact kill - but the death of the criminal or of the enemy is not our intent; stopping him is.  This can be seen clearly that when a cop fires and fells a suspect - and even when a soldier shoots and wounds an enemy combatant - they call in the medics to save the life of the fallen perpetrator or soldier, as soon as the danger is clear.  That's because our intent is to stop, not to kill.
In the sting videos, our immediate intent is to deceive the victim -the deception of the target is not an unintended consequence, but a means to an end.  Thus it's wrong. 

SO LYING IS AS BAD AS KILLING?????

No, read what I just said.  We may not do evil so that good may come, but if evil results as an unintended consequence of a good action, we may do the action - under very strict and limited conditions.  This you can read more about elsewhere.

II. DEFINITIONS


WELL, THE STING VIDEO ACTORS AREN'T "LYING" - THEY'RE PLAY ACTING, OR SOMETHING SIMILAR.

To "lie" is to lead another into error deliberately.  Audiences in the theater are not "lied to" by the actors playing roles.  Audiences are "in on" the deception, which is not an "ontological deception" - not a deception at the level of our existence in the real world.  The same applies to games and to fiction.  What sting actors do, however, is lead their unwitting audiences (their victims) into error in the real world in a real way.  The sting videos are about deception, not fiction or acting - for the targets are genuinely deceived, and without any prior consent or suspension of disbelief on their part.


WHAT ABOUT WHEN MY WIFE ASKS ME, "DOES THIS DRESS MAKE ME LOOK FAT?"   IF IT DOES, BUT I SAY, "NO, HONEY," AM I LYING?

Yes you are.  Of course you can always say, "I love you no matter how you look."  She will hit you, but you can always say this.


OH, THAT'S NITPICKING!

I'm not saying such a "socially conventional" lie ("No, you don't look fat!") is a major sin, only a minor one.  That's why we call it a "little white lie".  It is indeed a lie, albeit little and white.  Of course, one can make the case that all social intercourse, even between husband and wife, is usually a kind of game, and certain rules apply to the game so that people don't take every social utterance seriously and no "ontological deception" is involved.


ISN'T ABORTION A KIND OF WAR ON THE MOST INNOCENT, AND CAN'T WE DECEIVE THE ENEMY IN WAR?

Just War doctrine and what may be done during war has a special place in Moral Theology.  Again, if war is a kind of "game" or "convention" where words aren't taken at face value, and that is mutually understood, perhaps a case can be made that lying in wartime is not really "lying", since communication is no longer taken seriously and "game rules" apply.  We understand that politics, for example, is such a game, and we believe nothing any politician ever says.  But we still get mad when they "lie" to us, so ultimately this analogy doesn't work.  And war can only be declared by a legitimate authority, not assumed by individual combatants.


YOU'RE A PHARISEE!  THIS IS "HOW MANY ANGELS CAN DANCE ON THE HEAD OF A PIN!"

Most certainly not.  Theology is simply using reason and applying it to what God has revealed.  The point of theology is to understand God as best we can and to praise Him, especially by living up to the life He has planted in us.


III. VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OBJECTIONS


  • OBJECTION: Jesus lied!
  • ANSWER: No he didn't.  Ever.  From CCC 1381 "St. Cyril says: ‘Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.’”212 


  • OBJECTION: If what you say is true, then undercover cops can't do their job!
  • ANSWER:  Most undercover work can be done without the cop positively asserting a false identity.  For example, if an undercover policeman approaches you and says, "I want to buy some drugs from you," he is telling the truth - for if you sell him drugs, he can arrest you and get you off the street.  Much of this kind of stuff can be done without lying.

  • OBJECTION: Without lying, we'll lose this battle!
  • ANSWER:  Look to the Cross.  Winning in the world is not what this is about.  Witnessing to Christ (even if it includes the "ultimate loss" - martyrdom) is what this is about.

  • OBJECTION: Santa Claus!  What about Santa Claus!  Am I lying to my son when I tell him about Santa Claus?
  • ANSWER: Santa Claus is real.  He's St. Nicholas, a bishop of the Catholic Church.  And he's very much alive, in the communion of saints.  The love that's shared at Christmas is real.  Even Fairy Stories are "true" if not "real" - true at a sense that children may not realize until they get older, but examples of "fiction", not lying.  The limited apprehension of children, an apprehension that slowly grows as the child matures, makes actual deception on a legitimate level difficult to achieve.  But I will personally concede that while Santa Claus is real and helps to enlighten the truth of the Season, the Easter Bunny is not and helps obscure it.

  • OBJECTION: NAZIS! NAZIS! NAZIS!  IF THE NAZIS KNOCK ON MY DOOR AND WANT TO KNOW IF I'M HIDING JEWS, YOU'RE SAYING I MAY NOT LIE TO THEM TO SAVE THE LIFE OF THE JEWS?
  • ANSWER:  You may not.  You may remain silent, even if they beat you and shoot you.  You may say, "I would be terrified to hide Jews from you," which is quite true.  But even if you lie to them, do you think they still won't search your house?  In any event, you are obligated NOT to reveal where you have hidden them.

  • OBJECTION: Quit picking on Lila Rose!
  • ANSWER: Lila Rose is a very well-intentioned brave woman who is doing what she sees best in the trenches fighting the great evil of abortion.  She is using the wrong methods, thereby endangering her soul and those of her supporters.  But we admire her and freely admit the next answer.

  • OBJECTION:  Even if Lying is wrong, is it as bad as abortion?
  • ANSWER:  Of course not.  But itty bitty iniquities are iniquities all the same.  And if we start excusing the little ones, we're compromised.  And if something may never be done, per the teaching of Christ, woe to us if we start telling ourselves it's OK to do it.

OUR MAIN POINTS

  1. Even if Lying for a Good Cause can be justified, ridiculing and victimizing abortion clinic workers only makes them and their supporters angry and alienates them from the Truth.  It's not the sort of thing that converts hearts to Jesus or the Pro-life cause.  And these sinful victims are children of God as much as we sinners are, and they need a witness to Christ, who is Truth, not to the lie, whose father is Satan (John 8:44)
  2. If even the best and most devout Catholics among us say, "To hell with Church Teaching, we're in it to win it!" we are in big big trouble - even if "to win it" means to win the war on abortion.  Such a moral compromise is to be compromised indeed!
  3. Our call is to personal holiness, and Lying - even for a Good Cause - is no way to get there.  Neither is tying ourselves in knots to rationalize our behavior.

In brief, what Lila and company are doing is commendably motivated, but ultimately harmful on many levels.

Beyond that, if we get into the habit of rationalizing things we want to do, of soothing our consciences with sophistries, we can hardly call ourselves Christians.

***

ADDENDUM!  [Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, 2014] One of the "Lying is Good!" crowd is now saying, "G. K. Chesterton may become a saint!  And he said lying is just fine!" No, he didn't.  Click here for the full story.

Meanwhile, the Internet Game Continues.  This has been a battle raging for three years or more.  The Liars continue to ignore and dodge the points our side is making.

So in conclusion, I say to them, in all seriousness, "If you really think you're justified in lying, lie your ass off."

But a troubled conscience is a terrible thing.  And rationalizing sin is more important to them than sin itself.

32 comments:

Scott W. said...

Great summation. In the future, instead of rehashing the same arguments over and over, I'll refer people to this.

Harry Seldon said...

Bravo. Well done. I praise your tone and thoroughness.

I would add that, as far as I know, the Magisterium has not definitively ruled on undercover police work, and so it remains a possibility that, in the future, Catholics could potentially be forbidden from doing it by the Church. I don't think the argument "your position would practically prohibit undercover work" carries any weight because it's not a Catholic principle that undercover police work is strictly allowed for Catholics. It has just been tolerated so far, and no one knows what the future holds.

Joey Higgins said...

"WHAT ABOUT WHEN MY WIFE ASKS ME, "DOES THIS DRESS MAKE ME LOOK FAT?" IF IT DOES, BUT I SAY, "NO, HONEY," AM I LYING?

I have a different approach to this than has been mentioned above (but has been answered in the past, I am sure).

1. You could suggest something that looks better without responding directly. Here the intent is clear without the hurt - you wouldn't say, "Wear something else," if the answer is, "Yes."

or

2. Point out the fact that the party asking the question isn't really asking the question for an answer - because if they knew they looked good, they wouldn't need to ask. This probably won't go over well with most people, but I grow weary of people asking me to be complicit in their self-deceptions, a shared responsibility or permission to wear something so they won't take responsibility for their actions.

What's the first thing that someone would do if you tell them they look good, but then are made fun of or see an unflattering picture? "BUT YOU SAID I LOOKED GOOD IN THIS! CLEARLY FROM THIS PICTURE, I LOOK FAAATTTTT!"

Paul C. said...

As of 29.May.2013 your FAQ simply leaves out any consideration of Catechism #2489. You point out ways in which we can remain silent rather than tell a falsehood, but you leave out the teaching that sometimes words can be used. Catechism #2489 says that discreet (i.e. prudent, judicious) language can be used when legitimately trying to hide information. The Catechism offers no specific guidance as to what words might constitute 'discreet' language. Nor, so far as I know, does the Church have any teaching on exactly what 'discreet' language is.

irksome1 said...

I think it's disingenuous to interpret the single word "discrete" in a manner that would essentially contradict the plain meaning of the numerous passages that have been cited here.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,

Again, I thank you for taking the time to compiling this. But in the interest of accuracy, some clarification is in order.

First, I am “Stu.” Not sure why the questions in regards to my identity in your opening.

Second, I didn’t claim that I didn’t have time to “wade through” your posts on this issue. Instead, I commented that I don’t frequent your blog based upon time constraints. There are others that I prefer and that have content that keeps me coming back and given time I stay with them. For instance, you found me on Mark Shea’s blog. That can change, but it doesn’t often.

Lastly, I did not challenge you to answer “questions” but instead asked you to address the specific case regarding Solomon. Further, as I had stated it was not in a means to challenge what you have presented here but rather to see how you reconcile the Solomon narrative with Church teaching.

Interest still remains in the Solomon narrative. I think it could make a good discussion with men of good faith and ultimately sharpen us all on this issue.

Regards.
Stu

Nate Winchester said...

You have a seeming contradiction:

Quote:
Most undercover work can be done without the cop positively asserting a false identity.
...
You may not. You may remain silent, even if they beat you and shoot you. You may say, "I would be terrified to hide Jews from you," which is quite true. But even if you lie to them, do you think they still won't search your house? In any event, you are obligated NOT to reveal where you have hidden them.


However, in the catechism you quoted they say in particular:

"A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving."
"To lie is to speak or act against the truth"
"It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision."

In each of those caveats you state:
The intention is deception (the cop's and the Jew hider).
The action is against the truth even if not technically spoken.
The actions and/or silence affects others' ability to know.

Thus, your conclusion:
"In brief, what Lila and company are doing is commendably motivated, but ultimately harmful on many levels."

Would apply to undercover cops and the hypothetical concealer of Jews from the Nazis.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Nate, there is a difference between speaking or acting against the truth so as to deceive another - in other words, positively asserting and communicating what you know to be false - and allowing another to make whatever assumptions he or she will of his own accord.

Thus, silence is always an option. If you remain silent when asked where you've hidden the Jews, you are allowing the interrogator to infer what he will; you are not leading him away from the truth. You are doing nothing.

Now you may have a point when it comes to disguise, which is perhaps an action that conveys a falsehood. But be careful there. One person has even said that Superman is lying when he disguises himself as Clark Kent. But Kal-El, the son of Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van of Krypton, is in fact and in truth one person who is both Clark Kent and Superman; neither identity is false, they are two aspects of one identity.

With this in mind, if a cop is dressed in plain clothes, his "target" may infer he's not a cop, but the cop is not asserting that in a positive way. He's not lying by dressing in plain clothes, although the "target" may be deceived. He is using a form of silence to with-hold from the target a truth that the target has no claim to, until he is under arrest.

I know this sounds like splitting hairs, but there's a general principle here - to utter by word or deed what you know is false, leading away another from the truth, is inimical to Christ and Christian living.

I appreciate your criticisms, Nate, you've clearly been pondering this seriously.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Keep in mind that neither undercover work nor disguise applies in the case of the sting videos. Walking into a clinic and saying, "I'm a fourteen year old hooker and I'm pregnant" when you're not is simply a lie, no matter how you spin it. It's a lie if you're doing it with the best of intentions; it's a lie if you're doing it with the worst of intentions.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Nate, here's an analogy that might help.

The reason "Natural Family Planning" is acceptable morally is NOT because it's "natural contraception" and the pill is "artificial contraception". The reason NFP may sometimes be used so as to avoid conception is that it consists of doing nothing.

What I mean by that is if you really have a valid reason for avoiding conception as a married couple, you may, during the wife's fertile period, NOT HAVE SEX.

Not having sex is not a sin. Not conceiving is not a sin. It's having sex and deliberately doing something so as not to conceive that's a sin.

Likewise, NOT SPEAKING is not a sin, even if it allows others to draw conclusions that are false (of course there are times when we're obliged to speak, as when we see someone about to drink something they don't know is poison; I'm talking about most cases, not special cases). To conceal a truth is NOT (except in special cases) a sin - sometimes, in fact, to conceal a truth is a virtue, as when a priest fails to disclose what he heard in confession.

It's when you try to have it both ways - to speak (by word or deed) and to lead someone into error by doing so - to positively assert what you know to be wrong. That's when it becomes a lie, and that's when it becomes a sin.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Now, then, Stu - thanks for clarifying things.

Solomon is not lying. That's why it's strange to me why the case is even an issue. He's saying, "Split the baby!" - that's his decision. His judgment reveals the true mother, not his "lie".

Solomon wasn't the greatest guy, you know, and moralizing from Old Testament figures is really dicey.

He would have split that baby.

He was that kind of autocrat.

He would have been guilty of violence and killing, but not of lying. He suspected, in his wisdom, that his threat to the baby's life would reveal the real mother, but his threat was no idle threat.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Paul, you say, "Catechism #2489 says that discreet (i.e. prudent, judicious) language can be used when legitimately trying to hide information. The Catechism offers no specific guidance as to what words might constitute 'discreet' language. Nor, so far as I know, does the Church have any teaching on exactly what 'discreet' language is."

What this means is, "Does this dress make me look fat?" may be answered with, "Honey, how can a dress make you look fat?"

In other words, we may be tactful and we may avoid telling the blunt and brutal truth out of charity, but we may not lie.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect sir (what's that saying? anytime someone starts with those words they're not about to be respectful? ;) lol)

Thus, silence is always an option. If you remain silent when asked where you've hidden the Jews, you are allowing the interrogator to infer what he will; you are not leading him away from the truth. You are doing nothing.

1) I do not believe inaction itself is always "sinless". In the parable of the sheep & goats, Jesus made it clear (in my opinion) that not acting can be just as sinful as acting wrong.

Not having sex is not a sin. Not conceiving is not a sin. It's having sex and deliberately doing something so as not to conceive that's a sin.

Nate Winchester said...

Please delete that above, I am working on a more in depth reply and it accidentally got sent early.

Nate Winchester said...

In all this debate, I'm surprised I haven't seen more references to 1st Kings 22 yet.

Anyway, with all due respect sir (what's that saying? anytime someone starts with those words they're not about to be respectful? ;) lol)

Thus, silence is always an option. If you remain silent when asked where you've hidden the Jews, you are allowing the interrogator to infer what he will; you are not leading him away from the truth. You are doing nothing.

1) I do not believe inaction itself is always "sinless". In the parable of the sheep & goats, Jesus made it clear (in my opinion) that not acting can be just as sinful as acting wrong.
2) I respectfully disagree on the technicality. After all, Jesus made it clear to us that we're not off the hook just because one doesn't "technically" fornicate or "technically" kill someone. I believe intent matters (and my initial reading of those quoted catechism it seems that the Church believes as well) and in this case, the intent is the same (the subject comes to a conclusion contrary to what is). You are as guilty or exonerated if you don't technically or actually lie as you would be having intent to lust or hate while not technically or actually following through to fornicate/murder.

Not having sex is not a sin. Not conceiving is not a sin. It's having sex and deliberately doing something so as not to conceive that's a sin.

I have no dog in the contraception debate (though I've noted with much bemused interest at many secularists learning that there's many downsides to artificial contraception).

However, to make it comparable to my original point, what is the intent?

Now, it is not easily determined at first glance as conception is not something we have absolute control over. Many who intend for children receive none, while many who intend for nothing are blessed with many. One selling point for NFP that I read once said (IIRC) that the intent was to be intimate, yet care for any children that arrive unplanned. In this way, the intent of those involved is to utilize sex according to its design.
Likewise, when it comes to artificial contraception the intent of those involved is to circumvent the design of sex. An apt comparison would be the difference between fasting and bulimia. One is not running contrary to the design and intent of eating (merely the mastery of your body by your spirit). The other definitely is.

That's my 2 cents anyway.

Nate Winchester said...

Keep in mind that neither undercover work nor disguise applies in the case of the sting videos. Walking into a clinic and saying, "I'm a fourteen year old hooker and I'm pregnant" when you're not is simply a lie, no matter how you spin it. It's a lie if you're doing it with the best of intentions; it's a lie if you're doing it with the worst of intentions.

Oh and that may be fully true. Just reminded me of a tangent.

You ever read/listen to John Stossel? There's a story in his first book Gimmie a Break that is bother humorous and partially relevant but we can bother with that another time.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
Thank you for the sincere reply. Honestly.

That being said, I think your explanation presents some challenges.

First, I have never encountered any synopsis of this event which came to the conclusion that Solomon intended to kill. Instead, the consensus belief seems to be that instead he was using trickery to discern the truth. I do think it interesting that Solomon asks for the sword himself. One could infer that this action indicated that he was playing a ruse because he did not want a guard to act to hastily once the order was given. Can I say for sure either way? Well, I don’t think either of us can say with certainty. (Interestingly, I did find some accounts on this from Rabbis who cite Talmudic teaching which justifies speaking an untruth in order to keep the peace.)

Second, I am not attempting to moralize on the behavior of Solomon or any other OT figure. Heck, you can’t even moralize on the behavior of NT figures either. What I am appealing to is the Scriptural account and HOW this event is portrayed. In essence, the incident is “sandwiched” with God giving Solomon “a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil” and the people being in “awe of him, because they saw that the king had in him the wisdom of God for giving right judgment.” So while Solomon was indeed not the “nicest guy” in totality, this incident is meant to show God’s gift to him in practice. With that, I find it hard to believe that if Solomon had the intent to split the baby in two as if the child were a piece of clothing with two competing hands on it, to not be in accord with that gift. Even the notes from the USSCB on the Scriptural account say that this incident demonstrates that Solomon had a “listening heart.”

But still, I don’t know for sure. So as you can see, I’m not sold on the belief that he actually intended to carry through on the act. I am actually open to the possibility that the teaching on lying may develop to further refine what is and what is not a lie. But I’m not banking on this either. But I do believe this is a difficult topic and I don’t believe it has all been sorted out yet. As the Catholic Encyclopedia says, “It has always been admitted that the question of lying creates great difficulties for the moralist.” This debate certainly proves that.

But, I do think that absent any further developments, we can only go on what we have. The Catechism is clear, reflects traditional Catholic thought on this and that should be our default position. (It would be wise for the Church to clarify why any changes have been made.) I would liken this to a cliff that we are venturing out upon, but as of now the line of safety in terms of approaching the very edge, remains still but a very safe distance away to keep us from falling off. And that is where we should remain.

Regards,

Stu

Kevin O'Brien said...

You know, Stu, this argument has been so heated and people on both sides have behaved so poorly (including me) that it really is refreshing to discuss this with you in a sane and calm manner.

Let's concede everything you're saying about Solomon - he was using trickery and his decision on splitting the baby was an example of his listening heart.

Granting that, what is the central virtue illuminated by the story in Scripture? Is it his conniving trickery? Or is it his ability to listen, understand, and act with wisdom - even if he's not acting perfectly by a more developed standard?

Remember, tradition has it that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. Is everything in that book to be taken at face value - "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. There is nothing new under the sun." Or are we to take such writings and such behavior in context, the broader context of what we know about Christian life?

Lots of bad things were done by lots of figures in the Old Testament - and God even praises some of them for what they do. They were acting with the lights He gave them, and they were not in possession of the fullness of Divine Revelation as we are.

I admit, the moral questions can be difficult on lying, and yes it would help if the teaching were clarified some day. Until then, it is a great peril to ignore the Ordinary Magisterium and to proof text - from the Old Testament of all places! I'm not saying that's what you were doing, as it's apparent you're serious enough about this subject honestly to be seeking the truth.

Paul C. said...

"What this means is..."

I'm looking for some kind of Church teaching as to what "discreet language" means. There are a few things it might mean, without any contradiction to what the Church teaches about deceptions and lying. I don't at all doubt your sincerity, but without addressing this issue so as to explain what the Church means, there is a hole in your FAQ as wide as the ocean.

zippycatholic said...

I don't know why men lie to women about how they look, etc. Most women prefer a man who speaks his mind and stands his ground over a wimp who bows and scrapes and buys flowers and tells white lies every time she expresses insecurity.

As for Solomon, he didn't lie about cutting the baby in half. He ordered the baby to be cut in half, in the knowledge that he could reverse that order before it was carried out. Stepping on the gas followed by stepping on the brake isn't lying.

Anonymous said...

I'm still looking at this because it's absolutely fascinating to watch all these Catholics groping around in the dark trying to find an excuse for what's going on.

Tito Edwards said...

Kevin,

"HOW MANY ANGELS CAN DANCE ON THE HEAD OF A PIN!"

I believe that is a 19th or 20th century protestant invention to smear the Church (or at least the Orthodox Church; I could be wrong, but Edward Gibbon either invented it or repeated this lie--or he never said it).

Anyhoo. . .

Harry Seldon,

You can take a flying leap back to Trantor.

;)

JMJ,

Tito

Nate Winchester said...

"HOW MANY ANGELS CAN DANCE ON THE HEAD OF A PIN!"

What do you mean by that? An African or European style pin?

Tito Edwards said...

. . .what?

;)

Kevin O'Brien said...

Paul, there's a hole alright, but it's not in my post.

If you demand CHURCH TEACHING on what "discreet language" means, then you're off the hook, my man. The Church is not a Dictionary.

Therefore, you're good to go. Anything in the catechism that does not have a glossary attached must mean whatever you want it to mean. Great system you've got there, Paul. The Protestants would be proud.

By the way, if my daughter walks into an abortion clinic with a hidden camera and says, "I'm 14 and I'm pregnant" and she is neither, does that constitute DISCREET LANGUAGE in your definition?

I mean, it's up to each of us, right? The Church left a huge hole in the Catechism, right? Maybe DISCREET LANGUAGE means I can tell you to buzz off? That's what I think it means!

Paul C. said...

Anything in the catechism that does not have a glossary attached must mean whatever you want it to mean. [etc]

??? I haven't said any such thing, and it is extremely far from what I think. ???

There has been a history within the Church of moral theologians claiming that there are circumstances in which a material falsehood can be used where there is no intention to deceive, but only an intention to hide information. Silence is one method of hiding information, equivocation is another, but (if necessary) material falsehood is another. The Church has never contradicted these claims by teaching that such a use of material falsehood is wrong.

Thus, one fairly obvious possibility for the meaning of "discrete language" is that since the Church has not yet fully been able to carefully elucidate or define in exactly what circumstances it might be possible to reply with a material falsehood to a question where neither silence, nor equivocation, nor a truthful answer can be given, the Church simply gives the entirely accurate advice that prudent or judicious language must be used.

Bl. John Henry Newman wrote carefully about this subject (found here), and it would be rash to ignore or contradict what he says.

Kevin O'Brien said...

So, Paul, what you are saying, then is that "discreet language" may mean carefully speaking so as to convey a "material falsehood".

Let's say you're correct. If "material falsehood" can only be used when concealing information, and not for positive deception, then how does your theory - if correct - justify deliberate deception in sting videos?

Or are you not claiming it does?

Kevin O'Brien said...

Bill, the problem is that apparent contradictions in Scripture can actually be reconciled when the Bible is read in a broader context. Thus, Jesus can be "one" with the Father in His existence as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and "less" than the Father in his existence as a human being, a creature. The broader context reveals no contradiction.

The problem you face, Bill, as I see it, is that when hundreds of Scripture passages condemn lying - when in fact Jesus, Our Lord, reveals Himself to be the way, the TRUTH and the life, and when in John 8, Jesus condemns lying as being a work of those who follow Satan - then to claim that isolated behavior by Old Testament figures who operated without the fullness of revelation (and who, throughout the Old Testament behave badly) - to claim that Jehu, for instance, somehow justifies lying, is a strained reading and clearly a false one.

You say you read the Bible and you clearly love Scripture. You must be reading it with your heart, prayerfully. Consult your heart, Bill, your conscience - ask yourself if the apparent contradictions you raise are such that they negate the overall message of this Divine gift of this Holy Book - the message that to follow Christ is to walk in the Truth - difficult though that walk may be.

For following the truth entails picking up our cross daily and following Him; it entails suffering. And in the case of not scoring easy marks against abortion clinic workers, it entails what from a worldly perspective appears to be "losing". But that's what God Himself tells us we must do; and He tells us that both within Scripture and without.

You are nit-picking, Bill, and you are not seeing the forest for the trees. Give up your support of an organization that is very well-intentioned but is heedless of the damage it is doing. The Way of Christ is more important that the sacrifice of the sense of Scripture at the altar of Lila Rose.

Paul C. said...

"...what you are saying, then is that "discreet language" may mean carefully speaking so as to convey a "material falsehood"

To be more precise, I'm saying that nothing in the Catechism actually rules out material falsehoods in some particular circumstances, and that there has been an historical thread of moral theologians claiming that some of such material falsehoods are permissible. The Catechism brackets what it says around this issue:

- A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.
- By its very nature, lying is to be condemned.
- The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional.
- No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.
- The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language.

Nothing there rules out material falsehoods if they are spoken (e.g.) with the intention of legitimately hiding information, with deception being neither end nor means.

"...justify deliberate deception in sting videos?"

To be precise, what has to be justified is material falsehood in sting videos. I have no idea if (e.g.) Live Action specifically can be justified, because that depends on their precise circumstances. A possible defense to that kind of thing might be to start by claiming that asking PP a obviously public question about what they would do in some particular circumstances would get an untruthful answer, so a hypothetical situation is set up which hides from PP the fact that they are covertly giving a public response. (There's a bit more to it than that.)

Kevin O'Brien said...

But, Paul, it's not a hypothetical in the sting scenarios. It's a lie. They're not saying, "If I were pregnant, what would you do for me?" That would be a hypothetical, not a lie. They are making false assertions that deceive.

And they are not, by your own definition, using "material falsehood" assertions, for you yourself say that such assertions serve to cover up a truth that another party has no need to know.

Thus, you and I agree on this much - discreet speech and material falsehood assertions may be similar, but they are in the nature of the example I gave, "Does this dress make me look fat?" "How can a dress make you look fat?" - the wife may get a materially false impression from your discreet speech, but you have not lied.

I can buy all that, and I think we agree on all that - but how on earth is saying, "I'm a fourteen year old hooker and I'm pregnant" when you're not an example of "discreet speech" and not a lie?

Paul, you're obviously a very intelligent man and you've made some good points. But if you can't see that asserting a known falsehood that deceives another is a lie, not "discreet speech".

Kevin O'Brien said...

At any rate, I think, Paul, we agree in principle (to an extent) but not on the specific instance.

By the way, readers, the whole game for the past two years for those arguing against us is hopping from one plank to another ...

1. The Catechism doesn't condemn lying!

2. Well, OK, the catechism condemns lying - but the sting videos are not examples of lying! They're fiction or guerilla theater or - hey, I've got it! - they're discreet speech!

Point out that James O'Keefe, who started this mess, admitted publicly at a podium that the videos involved lying and the Lying Apologist will hop back to ...

1. Well, OK, fine, but Lying isn't condemned in the Catechism - and even if it were, the Catechism is not authoritative!

And round and round we go.

Conforming ourselves to the image of Christ is never even considered.

Scripture, like the passage from Ephesians below, is never consulted ...

"The truth is in Jesus: [so] put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth."

Nate Winchester said...

I also recommend (not just because he's awesome) SF Debris' reviews of Madoka Magica. As he points (particularly in this episode), "Can use semantics to so weasel around the truth that it accomplishes the same thing as an outright lie, which is basically the same freaking thing."

Which is the same as my position. Not "technically" lying doesn't get you off the hook.