Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
February 10th, 2011

Building a Culture of Lie

The exorcist and Lila Rose

by and William Doino Jr.
 
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Lila Rose

Lila Rose

Last June, Catholic journalist Matt C. Abbott played “devil’s advocate” with an exorcist.

The exorcist was Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, author of the newly released Exorcism and the Church Militant. As president of Human Life International, he had issued a press release damning 12th & Delaware, an HBO documentary that focused on a corner where a pregnancy resource center faced an abortion clinic. The filmmakers, Euteneuer said, had unfairly won the pregnancy resource center’s trust by claiming they wanted only to profile pro-life workers, when they were in fact filming the abortion center as well.

For Abbott, an avowed pro-lifer, Euteneuer’s protest raised an interesting dilemma. “To play devil’s advocate,” he asked the HLI president, “what about the pro-life investigative work of Lila Rose, who, technically speaking, uses a form of deception to expose the abortion industry’s lies?” Rose, a recent convert to Catholicism, creates undercover videos in which actors enter Planned Parenthood clinics under false pretenses, with the goal of exposing practices that would embarrass the abortion provider. “Can the tactics of [the HBO filmmakers] and Rose be placed in the same moral category?” Abbott asked.

“There is no comparison,” Euteneuer replied in an email. The HBO filmmakers were “liars and deceivers,” he wrote, their actions confirming “everything that we know about pro-aborts,” while Rose “is looking at one side only and exposing something categorically evil.”

In August, two months after making that statement, Euteneuer stepped down from the HLI presidency and out of the public eye, telling HLI supporters in a farewell letter that his bishop had recalled him to his home diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, to resume parish work. “My discernment about this decision tells me that this is the right thing for me to do and at the right time,” he wrote. “I have great peace about the road that lies ahead and about all that has been accomplished up to this point.”

But recently, both he and Rose were in the headlines again — this time, for starkly disparate reasons. On February 1, Rose’s Live Action organization debuted the first video of its biggest scoop yet — an undercover video “sting” allegedly revealing Planned Parenthood employees aiding a purported sex trafficker. That same day, Euteneuer, in response to online rumors, released a statement confessing that the real reason he left HLI was that he had admitted to “violating the boundaries of chastity” with an adult woman he was exorcising.

The end does not justify the means

Even if Live Action-style stings were the only means available to turn the American public against abortion, Catholic teaching would still come down firmly against them. The Catechism allows no loopholes: “A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny [slander], good or just. The end does not justify the means” (CCC 1753).

Judging by the reaction to these stories in the Catholic pro-life media, it seems many took these coinciding stories simply as an instance of “good news/bad news,” with Lila Rose a heroine and Fr. Euteneuer a tragic figure. Perhaps it would be wise for Catholics dedicated to defending life to pause and reflect upon the confluence of events, before the news cycle moves on. It may be that the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something about what happens when good people, with the best of intentions, attempt to justify deception.

If there is one thing the media’s handling of the abuse crisis has taught us, it is that secular society expects a far higher standard of behavior from those who claim to live by Christ’s example. When Catholics go by the Saul Alinsky playbook — holding that, when it comes to stopping abortion, the ends justify the means — people outside the Church can no longer measure their own actions by the witness of our faith.

In his Christmas message to the Curia last year, calling the Church to self-examination and renewal in light of the “sins of priests,” Pope Benedict proclaimed, “Only the truth saves.”

The Holy Father knows, as St. Paul wrote, that in the battle for personal holiness, truth is the foremost weapon in the Christian’s spiritual armory . Nowhere is this more evident than in the struggle to build a culture of life. Only the Catholic Church has spoken the truth consistently , for nearly two thousand years: that abortion is gravely sinful, a direct attack on human life. By the same token, truth is the pro-life movement’s greatest ally, while, in the words of Christopher Tollefsen , “the so-called pro-choice movement is premised on a lie” — the lie that the unborn child is not deserving of the respect due to every human being.

Even if Live Action-style stings were the only means available to turn the American public against abortion, Catholic teaching would still come down firmly against them. As the title of a recent post on the New Theological Movement blog put it, “It Is a Sin to Lie, Even to Planned Parenthood.” The Catechism allows no loopholes: “A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny [slander], good or just. The end does not justify the means” (CCC 1753).

Reluctant to give up an effective tactic

If the Church allowed Alinskyite reasoning to prevail among Catholics, anything would be permissible — including torture, as the late Father Richard John Neuhaus once observed: “The uncompromisable principle is that it is always wrong to do evil in order that good may result. This principle is taught in numerous foundational texts of our civilization and is magisterially elaborated in the 1993 encyclical of John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor.”

Indeed, if the Church allowed Alinskyite reasoning to prevail among Catholics, anything would be permissible — including torture, as the late Father Richard John Neuhaus once observed : “The uncompromisable principle is that it is always wrong to do evil in order that good may result. This principle is taught in numerous foundational texts of our civilization and is magisterially elaborated in the 1993 encyclical of John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor. We cannot ask God’s blessing upon a course of action that entails the deliberate doing of evil.”

The Catechism is crystal clear about where lies originate: “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’” (2482). Catholics and others have a right to remain silent, and protect privileged information (2488-2492), but never to directly speak “a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.” (2482)

Yet, despite the clarity of Catholic teaching against lying under any circumstances (without even an exception for undercover lawmen to deny their true identities), many pro-lifers are reluctant to give up what they see as a highly effective tactic. They believe that Live Action’s deceptions are justified because we are “at war” with Planned Parenthood. But, as the New Theological Movement‘s blogger “Reginaldus” notes, that is an unacceptable excuse on two counts: “First, even in war, it is sinful to lie; second, we are not at war with Planned Parenthood… [I]f we were at war, it would be justifiable for individuals to kill abortion doctors; but it is not.” Moreover, as the great Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe argued in her essay protesting Oxford University’s awarding an honorary degree to Harry S. Truman, even in war, the ends do not justify the means.

Others have argued that the Church would sanction, or did sanction, lying to Nazis who sought to find and kill Jews. But this claim too has no foundation in the Catechism’s teachings, neither is it true of the actions of the Church during World War II — which did save hundreds of thousands of Jews , but not through faking baptismal certificates, as has been claimed.

Despite the clarity of Catholic teaching against lying under any circumstances (without even an exception for undercover lawmen to deny their true identities), many pro-lifers are reluctant to give up what they see as a highly effective tactic.

Lila Rose’s public statements show her to be a highly gifted young woman of sincere Catholic faith. In interviews and speeches , she often cites Martin Luther King’s promotion of “creative extremists” in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail ” as an inspiration for her undercover work. We laud her desire to use her gifts to defend the unborn — but would invite her and her supporters to delve deeper into the quotation’s context.

Before using the term “creative extremists,” King specifies that he is not referring to extreme sin, but, rather, extreme goodness: “So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

The extension of justice, for the Church as well as for King, is an extension of Christ’s kingdom — a kingdom founded not on lies, but on the highest truth. Pope Benedict has written that “missionary work” — like that of building a culture of life — “requires, first and foremost, being prepared for martyrdom, a willingness to lose oneself for the sake of the truth and for the sake of others.” If workers for life are truly to extend the kingdom of Christ, such willingness to suffer temporary defeat or even death, rather than sin, is — or, rather, should be — the true live action.

William Doino Jr., a contributor to Inside the Vatican and other publications, writes often about history, religion and politics.

 
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The Author : Dawn Eden
Dawn Eden is author of The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On (Thomas Nelson, 2006) and holds an M.A. in Theology from the Dominican House of Studies. She lives in Washington, D.C.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Dawn Eden

    Reginaldus, thank you for your kind words and for your own excellent coverage on the topic, including your response to the CatholicVote op-eds.

    I wanted to contact you while William Doino Jr. and I were writing this article, but could not find your e-mail address on your Web site. If you (or anyone else) would like to contact me, I am reachable through my feedback form.

  • Phil Fox Rose

    dcs and Les Peterson, OK, good points asked and answered. Let’s not do any more back and forth. Thanks.

  • dcs

    @Les,

    Deceptions are lies because they are manipulations–you are allowing someone to have a certain impression or frame of mind by your silence. Silence means not fully divulging the truth. Not fully divulging the truth is a lie.

    All I can say is that the Church has historically defined a lie differently. When we say that lying is a sin, we mean that saying something you believe to be false with the intention of deceiving is a sin. We do not mean that all deception is a sin, or that remaining silent is a sin — at least not in all cases. When your questioner has no right to the truth, it is neither a sin nor a lie to remain silent or equivocate. Is it a lie when a friend asks you about your relations with your wife and you say “None of your business!” Of course not.

    Your are wrong in your reply to me.

    I am not wrong. I am using the word “lie” in the sense that the Church uses it (see, for example, paragraph 2482 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

    Tell me how you would catch Robert Hanssen without deception.

    In the first place, I don’t accept your definition of what a lie is. You are simply wrong here.

    Second, whether one could catch Hanssen without lying is not relevant to whether or not lying is immoral by its nature. Suppose we propose to catch a criminal by murdering his family members one by one until he surrenders. The fact that a good might be achieved by this tactic does not at all imply that the evil done in pursuit of the capture can be morally justified.

    I am not “dodging” your scenario. I am pointing out that it is not an argument for justifying lies.

  • Les Peterson

    DCS,

    Deceptions are lies because they are manipulations–you are allowing someone to have a certain impression or frame of mind by your silence. Silence means not fully divulging the truth. Not fully divulging the truth is a lie.

    Your are wrong in your reply to me.

    You dodged my Robert Hanssen example. Nothing wrong with utility reasoning in all cases. Man up. Tell me how you would catch Robert Hanssen without deception. Maybe your reply would be to ask Hanssen directly by tipping him off so he would be forced to lie to you (thus causing him to sin to protect himself), or maybe if you then wouldn’t want to induce Hanssen to lie, you would go ask the Russians if Hannsen was a double agent. Of course, the Russians wouldn’t lie, would they.

    Answer my Hanssen scenario. Don’t dodge it.

    Les

  • dcs

    @Les,

    I assume its OK to lie and deceive an inquiring Nazi if Ann Frank is in my attic in WW2 because the Nazi wouldn’t have a right to the information–correct? If correct, then under certain circumstances acts of deception become a good work and morally in tune with Christ.

    No, it is never OK to lie. If a questioner does not have the right to the truth, then it is permissible to remain silent, equivocate, perhaps to ask a question in response — but never to lie, because a lie is evil in itself.

    Cops run sting operations all the time. I know a Catholic FBI agent who was in on FBI stings. Does an FBI agent sin by employing deception to catch a criminal (think Mafia heads)?

    He sins if he lies. But note that not all deceptions are lies.

    Really, the remainder of your post uses utilitarian reasoning — that lying is justified because it brings about ostensibly good results.

  • Les Peterson

    I assume its OK to lie and deceive an inquiring Nazi if Ann Frank is in my attic in WW2 because the Nazi wouldn’t have a right to the information–correct? If correct, then under certain circumstances acts of deception become a good work and morally in tune with Christ.

    Cops run sting operations all the time. I know a Catholic FBI agent who was in on FBI stings. Does an FBI agent sin by employing deception to catch a criminal (think Mafia heads)?

    How would one catch Robert Hannsen, the worst traitor to the USA and alleged Catholic, without catching him through deceptive processes? Or should we just ask him straight out, and ask “Hey, Bob, baby, you selling out the USA to the Russians?” and expect him to answer truthfully?

    Can a Catholic president use the intelligence resources of the CIA, knowing full well that the intelligence therein obtained is by espionage which is by design employs deception?

    Was it wrong for the Brits in WW2 to feed false information (intrinsically dishonest and deceptive information) so that the V-1 bombs missed their targets? Was it wrong to plant a corpse with false information (deception) to cause the Nazis to spread out resources before Britain’s thrust into Italy?

  • Reginaldus

    First, thank you for an excellent article!
    Second, thank you for including my own work on this subject.
    Third, may I suggest another article I have recently written on “mental reservation”, in which I argue that it is possible for the police to do undercover work, but that Live Action has still gone too far (and has lied) — http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2011/02/lying-to-planned-parenthood-or-is-it.html

  • dcs

    I think Dr. Miller’s argument is not very good. For example, she writes:

    The Church does not discipline, excommunicate, treat it as mortal sin when persons deliberately take on another identity in order to gain information from those who do evil.

    No one has claimed that all lies are mortal sins. In fact, if one lies “to gain information from those who do evil,” then he has committed an officious lie (a lie told to benefit himself) and the moralists hold that these are generally only venial sins. Take careful note of Dr. Miller’s conclusion:

    If they are permitted to receive Communion, then taking on false identities under certain conditions cannot be sin.

    False! Some lies are venial sins, and one who has only venial sin on his conscience is certainly permitted to receive Holy Communion. What Dr. Miller shows is only that the practice she excuses is not a mortal sin, not that it is not a sin at all. That a professor of moral theology could make such a mistake is surprising.

  • Dawn Eden

    Paula, thank you for your question. The words “not through faking baptismal certificates” in the article above are linked to a passage in Peter and Margaret Hebblethwaite’s biography of Pope John XXIII. In it, they explain that Cardinal Roncalli (the future Pope), acting under orders from Pope Pius XII, arranged for immigration certificates that Vatican diplomats could give to Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary and Romania, to enable them to flee to Palestine. The authors explain that the myth of the Vatican’s providing fake baptismal certificates most likely stemmed from their giving these immigration certificates.

    For your convenience, here is the same link that appears in the article–if it is not hyperlinked in this comment, you may cut and paste it into your browser:

    http://books.google.com/booksid=TZBfP7AgMmAC&lpg=PA94&dq=
    %22myth%20that%20roncalli%20issued%20%27baptismal%20certificates%27%22
    &pg=PA94#v=onepage&q=%22myth%20that%20roncalli%20issued
    %20%27baptismal%20certificates%27%22&f=false

  • paula

    If the authors could please explain further this statement regarding “faking” baptismal certificates, I would greatly appreciate it. I have been under the impression, fake baptismal certificates had been used.

    “Others have argued that the Church would sanction, or did sanction, lying to Nazis who sought to find and kill Jews. …this claim too has no foundation in the Catechism‚Äôs teachings, neither is it true of the actions of the Church during World War II ‚Äî which did save hundreds of thousands of Jews , but not through faking baptismal certificates, as has been claimed.

  • Matthew

    If you actually read the New Advent piece on lying “Anon” linked to, you’ll find it agrees with Eden and Doino. While acknowledging, as the writers do, that it may sometimes be necessary to give vague or indirect answers (“wide mental reservation”), as to “strict mental reservations”, which Lila Rose’s actions fall under, New Advent says:

    “these latter are equivocations whose true sense is determined solely by the mind of the speaker, and by no external circumstances or common usage. They were condemned as lies by the Holy See on 2 March, 1679. Since that time they have been rejected as unlawful by all Catholic writers.

    The New Advent piece concludes, “From the middle of the eighteenth century onwards a few discordant voices have been heard from time to time.” It then gives a few examples of relativistic rationalizations that have cropped up in modern times. These examples remind me of the ones offered to justify Live Action’s work. New Advent concludes these examples and its entire treatise with this:

    “This, however, seems to ignore the malice which a lie has in itself, like hypocrisy, and to derive it solely from the social consequence of lying. Most of these writers who attack the common opinion show that they have very imperfectly grasped its true meaning. At any rate they have made little or no impression on the common teaching of the Catholic schools.”

  • G.K. Thursday

    Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller, who teaches moral theology at Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan, more than answers Mr Doino and Ms. Eden’s weak doubts about the LiveAction video’s veracity here.

  • Anon

    “despite the clarity of Catholic teaching against lying under any circumstances” …

    not so clear in reality.

  • dcs

    “To tell an untruth is not inherently evil ‚Äì the ‚Äúlie‚Äù must be shown in context.”

    No, a lie (saying something you believe to be false with the intention of deceiving) is always intrinsically wrong. Equivocating (“I would be a fool to keep Jews in my house!”), answering a question with another question (“Why would I take the risk to hide Jews in my house?”), or remaining silent can all be justified when the questioner doesn’t have the right to the truth. Lies are never allowed.

    Eden and Doino’s argument is not “simple minded”; rather, it is simple and clear.

  • Sean

    Dawn Eden and William Doino Jr’s arguement is simple minded. Exposing an evil act, such as abortion providers protecting statutory rape, by posing as criminal is not evil. To tell an untruth is not inherently evil – the “lie” must be shown in context. I question the veracity people on this site when it comes to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I’m not sure there isn’t some deception going on here. Sister Reis promotes the scandalous and evil Vagina Monologues. I found that article with a few clicks, so I question the “truthfullness” of this site. Yep, I called you out!

  • Byzcat

    Just what are the authors suggesting here? Are they inferring that Live Action is lying and therefore doing evil by exposing these heinous crimes by sending actors into abortion clinics to pose as clients of PP? Ugh. It appears to be a hit piece on Lila Rose. We are very squeamish, are we not, when we condemn people who are exposing the lies and perversions of the satanic abortionist, but are silent at the evil of contraception in our own marriages, our silence at our politicians who support and advocate the killing of innocents, and the complicity of Catholics in supporting this culture of death. Selective outrage, perhaps, is what motivates these writers. Perhaps Lila Rose is becoming too effective for their tastes. The enemy within is often more effective at bringing down the city than the enemy without. Ms. Eden and Mr. Doino, remove the plank from your own eyes before trying to remove the speck from the eyes of another.

  • pauline dewey

    God weighs & judges these matters-what is more morally atrocius-to present a false front in the hopes of saving human lives, or standing by while mass murder is committed everyday (Prov.24:10-12) in America. A great Pope once said-All the evil in the world is the fault of lukewarm Catholics”. The church has been lame in its efforts to speak & act on this & Lila was put in this position by our corrupt govt. that turns a blind eye to this evil.

  • Joanne Marie

    I found this post on AirMaria. This just helped me to see the truth.
    God Bless you all!

  • G.K. Thursday

    It seems that Mr. Doino and Ms. Eden do not actually accuse Lila Rose of behavior which is “intrinsically disordered, such as lying” in the article. Indeed they commend her for being “a highly gifted young woman of sincere Catholic faith”. So what is the point of this article? Do the authors simply want to remind us of the Catechism’s strong affirmation of the Ninth Commandment? If so why the concern with lying to Planned Parenthood? Do the authors claim to know that LiveAction committed “direct, conscious, intentional lying”? Short of bring the sacramental confessor to the LiveAction group, how could our authors have such knowledge? And why commend Lila Rose if they honestly believe she committed “direct, conscious, intentional lying”? This article seems to be very confused as to its end, its telos …

  • Joanne Marie

    I would like to ask a Holy Priest and Exorcist like Fr. Euteneuer if he is required by the Catholic Church to always speak the truth to the demons he is attempting to expel through the Authority given him by his Holy Orders as a priest of Jesus Christ. Because in essence, that is what we are dealing with here. The “battle” is a spiritual one.

    I agree with Fr. Hardon, yet Our Lord is profaned in the Holy Eucharist by indifference and unbelief.

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