All along, Deacon Jim has been furious with me because I have claimed that if you don't hold lying to be intrinsically evil, as Scripture, St. Augustine, the Angelic Doctor, the Catechism of Trent, and the Modern Catechism do, you are in dissent against Catholic teaching.
To avoid the charge of dissent while at the same time supporting Lying When the Situation Calls for It, Deacon Jim has worked out a theory in which there are "two traditions" and that the Magisterium has not weighed in on the matter; thus one may hold either of the "two traditions" without being in dissent. Akin votes with Deacon Jim's interpretation - at least in so far as the notion that the Magisterium has not been teaching about the morality of lying.
Peter Keeft weighed in early on with the specious argument that our "moral common sense" tells us that lying is sometimes right - an argument that is easily answered by the fact that our "moral common sense" does not tell us to "love our enemies" or not to divorce and remarry, or to do almost anything that Jesus or the Holy Spirit keep telling us to do.
In the meantime, lots has been written, with Mark Shea, Dr. Christopher Tollefsen, Dawn Eden, Sean Dailey, Joe Grabowski and others taking, along with yours truly, the anti-Lying position, with Russell, Kreeft, Ahlquist, Janet Smith and others taking the pro-Lying position.
But now we have a well-respected and popular Catholic theologian in the popular media who, in a post that is quite sane and balanced, has affirmed the assertion that the Magisterium has not had a voice in this issue.
I think Jimmy Akin is wrong.
As I pointed out yesterday in my post The Truth About Lying (a response to this article), this is not a question of "two traditions" but of the Ordinary Magisterium (what Russell calls the "majority opinion") teaching clearly on an issue that has a few dissenting theologians here and there. This happens all the time in the Development of Doctrine. If the Ordinary Magisterium consisted only of 100% consensus on an issue, there would be no Ordinary Magisterium. The Ordinary Magisterium is the consistent weight of Church teaching over time, the teaching of bishops in union with the pope as well as the common consensus of the people, while a few here and there may beg to differ; it's not a question of "either / or" and certainly not "both / and", but of who is teaching what Christ taught and what the Holy Spirit unfolds. Russell denies such a thing is the Ordinary Magisterium at work, calling such consistency of teaching and belief the "majority view", and non-Magisterial opinions as the "minority view", but it's more than that.
But even if Akin and Russell are right, we are left with this - should we be lying to the very people who most need a witness to truth? Should we be tempting them to mortal sin (as Shea points out the sting video actors are doing)? Can truth ever be served by a lie?
Because even if Deacon Jim (the most annoying man on the internet) has been right all along, even if the Magisterium has not taught conclusively on this subject, that doesn't mean that lying is a valid means to an end. Our faith and morals are not entirely dictated by what the Magisterium teaches.
That's right, Catholic Minimalists! Our faith and morals are not legalistic; they are not confined only to Magisterial pronouncements.
Yesterday I gave an example in one of my comboxes. I think it's a good example, and I will repeat it here.
I am very tempted to enter into intimate online realtionships with attractive women in their 20's - non-sexual but emotionally intimate. I have never seen a bishop condemn this. There is nothing in the Catechism about it. Scripture does not mention the internet once. Am I therefore to assume that I may, as a good married Catholic, do such things with impunity?And I ask that question again, and I ask it seriously - since the Magisterium has never weighed in on "emotional unchastity over the internet", may I be "emotionally unchaste over the internet" - especially if I call it something else? May I, for that matter, view pornography if I feel convinced I possess "mature purity" and if I do so to wonder at the marvels of the naked female body and stop before signs of physical arousal well up in my flesh? I mean, the Magisterium has never directly addressed that. And may I treat my animals as if they were children and spend a fortune on them when they get sick? The Catechism advises against it, but the Catechism is not Magisterial, right?
If this is how we choose to live out Christ in our lives, we are worse than the Pharisees.
My friends, even though Peter Kreeft got this one wrong, he was on the right track.
We do have a "moral common sense". In the case of the Old Adam, the "moral common sense" is selfish, self-serving and sinful.
If, on the other hand we sow not to the flesh but to the spirit, we can be given the beginning of a new thing, the "moral common sense" of Christ, which bears very little resemblance to our old one.
"But we have the mind of Christ," (1 Cor. 2:16) if we ask for it and cultivate it, and if His new life is in us.
Therefore, even if Akin and the others are right and the Magisterium has not been teaching on this, it does not follow (as Deacon Jim Russell claims) that "a good Catholic" may side with the "minority view" and lie if the situation calls for it.
Even if Deacon Jim Russell is not in dissent, he's arguing for an ignoble and self-serving position, and one would hope that we, as Christians, are called to better than that.
ADDENDUM: I go into this in a more general way, relating it to Christian discipleship here ... What Do "Intentional Disciples" Intend?