It’s been an interesting week in the Catholic blogosphere, to say the least.
The most damning evidence about Planned Parenthood has emerged in their 95 year history of eugenic genocide, complete with the evidence that they:
*May well have tainted the Virginia blood supply.
*Do not use the $350 million per year in federal funding for its intended purpose of providing health care for those without insurance or cash.
*Coached a pimp in how to lie about the age of minors in order to procure abortions.
*Showed a consistent willingness to aid and abet child sex-trafficking.
This coupled with the most pro-life Congress since Roe v Wade who were ramping up to defund Planned Parenthood, and the Catholic blogosphere erupts in spasms of indignation at…
Not Planned Parenthood…
But Lila Rose.
It is perfectly understandable that methodology is important. How we arrive at the end matters, and it is altogether proper to address methodology. But there is a proportionalism in the outrage that is frighteningly lopsided, to the the point of having handed Planned Parenthood Lila’s head on a stake. Of course, the question is, why?
The next question, in light of Lila’s past four years is, why now?
The last question is, why the magnitude?
To answer the more generic, “Why?”, and to return to matters of methodology, every discipline needs a method, and certainly this is true in science as well as morality and ethics. In biology, a poorly designed study yields data that are uncertain, especially if proper positive and negative controls are not employed. Data mean nothing if they are not held to an objective standard. The data are regarded as so much unintelligible gibberish in such cases.
In the Live Action sting, it is the contention of several (though not all) ethicists that Lila’s method failed the standard of the sacred sciences. It is contended that she used unjust means (lying) toward achieving a noble and just end (revealing the truth about what really goes on behind closed doors at PP). But in this case, the data are not unintelligible. They are not gibberish, as they are evaluated against the known standards in morality, law, medicine, and ethics. The behaviors are atrocious. So, in a worst case scenario, imperfect means were employed to yield a bumper crop of highly valuable, highly intelligible, and highly useful data.
The crux of the issue is whether Lila’s actions rise to the level of lying as defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and which I treated in another post which can be viewed here.
In several critiques of my critique, many have held to philosophical traditions, many very Catholic, but do not address the core of my argument. That core is whether or not the method has become its own standard, and does not address the issue that permeates the Gospels, namely that Jesus used the spirit of the law as the external standard for guiding observance of the letter of the law. In the passages I cite, he drives this point home by citing how David broke the law, defended His Apostles’ breaking of the law, and then went so far as to rub the pharisees noses in it by healing a man on the Sabbath in their synagogue. In all of this, the spirit of the law was cited as the rationale for determining whether the precept of the law as observed violated the higher spirit of the law.
Despite my repeated attempts to engage the clear teaching of Jesus on this, the matter has been consistently side-stepped.
Growing up in the 70’s I suffered through situational morality and ethics which basically left one rudderless. Everything was relative. Catholic intellectuals who came of age in that time and saw the awesome destructiveness of that are right to be wary of anything that smacks of situational ethics or morality today. But we can perhaps be too wary and err in the other direction. The disproportionate ink spilled over Lila would seem to suggest that perhaps a bit of that is in play.
Mark Shea, whom I read regularly and respect immensely, has written that he is concerned that the Live Action sting will set the pro-life movement off on a trajectory of dishonesty for the sake of short-term gain, becoming liars for Jesus. While this may anger some pro-lifers, I would caution that Mark’s concern is a valid concern, but I would also suggest that it has little soil in which to grow into reality.
Apart from the Live Action sting, there is precious little need in the pro-life movement for such undercover investigative techniques. In fact, the great strength of the pro-life movement today is that we have scientific evidence in great abundance to support us at every turn, whether it’s the sonogram technology revealing the intricacy and beauty of embryonic and fetal development, or the vast bodies of literature showing the psychological, oncological, gynecological, obstetrical, and infectious post-abortive sequelae. The truth is on our side. The proaborts have nothing but hackneyed bumper stickers.
So while Mark’s warning needs to be taken to heart, I just don’t see where pro-lifers would ever need to lie, and that brings us back to the central question which will not be resolved anytime soon:
Did Live Action lie?
Beyond that, the magnitude of the criticism of Lila Rose seems greatly misplaced, and more than a little ill-timed.
Finally, there has emerged a great deal of tension between the scholars and the troops on the front lines at the “clinics”, and not a little anger. Pure academia has its dangers, to be certain, as does pure activism. The former may seem cold and aloof, while the latter are left feeling as though they are being expected to bring a feather to a gunfight, and are tempted at times to use the most expedient means. I’ve worked on both sides, and see this from both perspectives. Not surprisingly, I see a need for a meeting in the middle. Such a meeting is not to suggest a compromise with morality, but rather to discuss whether indeed immorality was committed. Again, it is my contention that it was not. I also am waiting to see a comparable level of critique of Planned Parenthood from those who have taken exception with Lila.
Somehow, I surmise many will claim that their work is about critiquing moral methodology, hence the focus on Lila. To such a response I would say that a critique of Planned Parenthood’s moral and ethical methodology, based upon the sum total of Live Action’s four years of data, should keep these authors busy for months to come.