Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’

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.

Update 2/20: The Last Word Here


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In the midst of Lila Rose’s greatest triumph, one that has dealt a deep and potentially mortal wound to Planned Parenthood, Catholic theologians and philosophers have raised the issue of whether Lila’s techniques are moral. The question is, “Did she lie?”

The articles written have ranged from thoughtful, deliberative pieces to hatchet jobs. I’m not linking to them here, because I don’t wish to fuel the fire that threatens to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Around the web, such hypotheticals have been raised as, “If I were sheltering Jews in Nazi Germany and the SS knocked and asked if I were sheltering Jews, I would be morally obligated not to lie. I would need to tell the truth.”

Unbelievable! And from people whom I respect greatly.

I have no desire to get into debates over what constitutes a lie or not, but simply desire to go on record as saying that I would lie through my teeth in order to preserve the Jews whom I would definitely shelter.

Would the majesty of God be so offended by such a lie that I would be damned for all eternity? I think not.

Jesus came to reveal to us the intimate, loving relationship that He had with the Father, and to tell us that we are called to share in that loving relationship. So what kind of Father did Jesus reveal to us? Consider this from Matthew 7:9-12

“Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread,or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”

Let’s play with that one for a moment.

Would I want my children raped, beaten, tortured, murdered? Of course not. And if I who am sinful desire the good for my children, how much more does God? Would the majesty of God not require that we do all in our power to prevent a far greater sin from befalling the defenseless? It is at this point that the debate about the ends justifying the means comes in. In the case of Lila, in the case of sheltering Jews, I simply refuse to get caught up in academic standards that are held up as their own internal standard, leading to the implosion of charity.

This is what happened to the Pharisees. The letter of the law became the internal standard, leading to a myopic cyclone from which they could not escape. Consider Matthew 12:1-14

” At that time Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.’ He said to them,

“‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.’

“Moving on from there, he went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man there who had a withered hand. They questioned him, ‘is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?’ so that they might accuse him. He said to them,

“‘Which one of you who has a sheep that falls into a pit on the sabbath will not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable a person is than a sheep. So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.’ Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’

“He stretched it out, and it was restored as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him to put him to death.”

So, though the letter of the law would prohibit any work on the Sabbath, Jesus reminds us that violating the letter of the law is common sense when it means saving life, or doing good; whether that means saving a sheep, or a teenage prostitute, or a Jew cowering in my basement.

Yet, our modern-day doctors of the law have taken it upon themselves to kill Lila in the media.

Perhaps it comes from seven years of working with teen prostitutes, but I cannot fathom how Lila is being pilloried. I’ve dealt with the horrors, the children who can’t sleep at night because of the nightmares, the children who have no soul left and are the walking dead. Like Jesus, I’ve kept myself from getting sucked into the vortex of detached academia and moved among the wounded. It is the only bulwark against Phariseeism. I’ll never forget the girl who told us one night when she couldn’t sleep that she must have serviced at least two thousand men.

She was sixteen.

But to put the issue to bed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:

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.

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.

2489 Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. 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. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.

The undercover actions of Lila’s team were designed to bring the truth to light, for the benefit of the PP staff, and for society. Her actions were not designed to lead anyone into error, but OUT of error, and so they fail to satisfy the criterion of intent in #2483, highlighted above.

It is interesting to note that the people who have taken up the position against Lila are all academics, which points to the dangers faced by scholars. We can get caught up in the world of the pure ideal, a world where fictional jews are betrayed by those who like young George Washington said,

“I cannot tell a lie”.

It’s easy to do our scholarship as we move fictional armies about the board, see fictional babies die, see theoretical children pimped.

It’s easy to stand and watch them die, because we know that they really don’t exist, except as theoretical constructs in our own minds.

Then we get to go home to our real families, whom we would watch slaughtered one-by-one by some modern-day SS troopers who come looking for them, because after all, we cannot tell a lie.

Or would we?

UPDATE: See Part II…The Lila Enigma: Selective Outrage?

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