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Building a Culture of Lie
The exorcist and 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.

The Author : Dawn Eden
In Defense of Live Action
by Christopher Kaczor
February 11, 2011

Is lying ever justified?
Are the choices undertaken by agents of Live Action in exposing Planned Parenthood wrong or right? In his Public Discourse article earlier this week, Christopher Tollefsen writes, “Yet for all the good that may come of these videos, the way in which Live Action has made its mark is itself extremely troubling, for it is predicated on a form of falsity, which is exercised in an unloving way. Promising and welcome as the effects of these videos might be, they represent a real and dangerous corruption of the pro-life movement itself by endangering the pro-life movement’s commitment to its ideals of love and truth.”

The assessment of this conclusion depends upon how one understands the commitment to love and truth. Tollefsen’s critique of Live Action rests in part on an understanding of what constitutes a lie. However, there is not a single shared understanding of how to define lying. For example, the first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoing the teaching of many casuists, held that “To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth” (CCC 2483).  Supposing that those who kill unborn human beings do not have a right to the truth, the actions of Live Action would not be lies, since Planned Parenthood workers, at least in their capacity of facilitating abortion, do not have a right to know the truth.

Of course, the bit about a right to know the truth was edited out of the second edition of the Catechism, which taught that “To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error” (CCC 2438). This is in keeping with two moral giants: Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. In De Mendacio, St. Augustine defined lying as a communication of what one believes is an untruth with the intention of deception. In the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas had a broader definition of lying as “speech against one’s mind.”

Adopting any of these understandings, the “pimp” in the Live Action video lied. The next question to consider is whether lying is always wrong. Augustine and Aquinas held that it is always wrong to lie, even to save someone’s life. But some moralists such as Cassian and St. John Chrysostom have argued that it is permissible to lie in order to save human life. On the standard of Cassian and Chrysostom, the words of Live Action could be justified in virtue of saving human life.

While Augustine and Aquinas held that lying is always wrong, they both agree that it is not necessarily contrary to the truth—it is not intrinsically evil—to leave someone in a state of not knowing one’s true intentions. Aquinas held that, “a man may be deceived by what we say or do, because we do not declare our purpose or meaning to him. Now we are not always bound to do this” (ST II-II, 40, art. 3).  When heading down the Nile River the enemies of St. Athanasius, not recognizing him, called out to the saint who was on another boat heading up river, “Do you know where Athanasius is?” St. Athanasius replied, “he’s not far off.” His enemies sped down river away from him. Deception is not lying and can be justified for a serious reason, such as saving someone’s life.

Could Live Action do its sting operation by mere deception rather than by lying? I think it could.  The Live Action agent could say things to the Planned Parenthood worker like, “Let’s say I was a pimp. How could I make sure that my young workers can get the abortions that they need?” In hearing a statement like this, the Planned Parenthood agent would likely be deceived into thinking the agent really was a pimp who did not want to come out and flatly state the fact. The worker has been deceived, but not lied to. The agent did not assert he was in fact a pimp. In virtue of saving human life, such a deception would seem justified. The real question at dispute is whether outright lying—what Live Action actually did—ever can be justified.

On Tollefsen’s view, Live Action also fails in terms of charity:

Nor can it be said that Live Action’s behavior towards the Planned Parenthood workers was loving. Under most circumstances, to speak the truth to another just is a demand of love. But under all circumstances, to seek to deceive is to create a relationship with another based on falsity, and this seems inevitably to be unloving. But to encourage wrongdoing through falsity does no good for the deceived agent.

To seek to deceive is not to lie, at least as that term is understood by Augustine or Aquinas. Since deceiving is not intrinsically evil, it is the sort of act that in some circumstances may be justified. The circumstance of saving innocent human life seems like just the sort of circumstance that justifies deceiving others. Indeed, it is love that motivates Live Action to undertake the dissimulation: love for unborn human beings but also love for those who are perpetrating the evil. The works undertaken by Live Action have led to job losses by Planned Parenthood employees who are thereby prevented from continuing to do the evil that they formerly did on a daily basis. Though they doubtless would not agree, it is a good thing for these employees that they are no longer doing their former jobs. It is an act of love to facilitate the end of their evildoing.

Finally, Tollefsen’s principles would seem to prove too much. They would seem to exclude undercover sting operations undertaken by law enforcement. They would exclude infiltrating a terrorist cell. They would exclude spies working to foil enemy battle plans. They would exclude investigative journalism that cultivates trust with the object of investigation. It could be that morality demands an end to all such activities, but it seems more likely that such activities are ethically permissible for serious reasons. By the same reasoning, it seems that the basic strategies undertaken by Live Action need not involve intrinsically evil acts that must always be avoided whatever the cost.

Christopher Kaczor is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University and the author of The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice.

I believe Lila Rose is a hero and should be canonized a Saint. She is doing more for the pro life movement then most Popes.

While I agree that Saul Alinsky patterning is not acceptable, I am not so sure that what the film maker is doing is actually lying.

Mental reservation is an accepted concept, indeed one that requires ginger treatment to prevent a tendency towards licentious lying.

I'm not sure if what she is doing is truly mental reservation; however, adopting a temporary cover in itself is not an evil (correct me if I am mistaken.)  It is a gray area, one that we would not be bothering with if abortion were criminal.
(02-11-2011, 04:13 PM)Petertherock Wrote: [ -> ]I believe Lila Rose is a hero and should be canonized a Saint. She is doing more for the pro life movement then most Popes.

In your enthusiasm, you're going to extremes and not looking at the whole picture.  While Lila Rose has gotten videotapes of Planned Parenthood workers agreeing to illegal acts, she did it by lying to them and secretly videotaping their conversations.
Most Americans oppose such tactics.

Lila Rose's videos have exposed some unethical PP workers willing to break laws, but that doesn't prove that Planned Parenthood as an organization supports collaborating with underage girls to cover up statutory rape and/or incest, or collaborating with pimps who want care for their undocumented under-age prostitutes.  They say the workers violated their policies and I think they've fired all of them, at least disciplined them.  

It remains to be seen whether Lila Rose's actions will benefit the pro-life movement or not.


All the pro-life groups I belong to are urging members to call and e-mail their Congressman and Senators to urge them to stop federal tax money from going to Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood is a business that charges for its services, solicits donations and gets federal tax money.  Our tax dollars should not be helping it.

Cutting off PP's federal funding would help the pro-life movement more than Lila Rose's videos.  Everyone should contact their Congressman and Senators.  Their offices probably close at 5 for the weekend but you can still e-mail and may be able to call and leave a voice mail.  Call their local offices in your state and leave messages there; they are sent on to the Washington office.


(02-11-2011, 06:05 PM)Revixit Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-11-2011, 04:13 PM)Petertherock Wrote: [ -> ]I believe Lila Rose is a hero and should be canonized a Saint. She is doing more for the pro life movement then most Popes.

In your enthusiasm, you're going to extremes and not looking at the whole picture.  While Lila Rose has gotten videotapes of Planned Parenthood workers agreeing to illegal acts, she did it by lying to them and secretly videotaping their conversations.

If this is true then there can be no argument about the moral character of her actions.  One cannot use an objectively sinful means to procure a good end.
Do you think that being a spy is also immoral?
Its an interesting question and I'm not prepared to answer at this time.  I would also propose- would an undercover police officer, just by the nature of his work be immoral?  Obvioously he is assigned the job and cannot chose, but I'm sure no one made him a plain-clothes detective.  or on the other hand, what about spies and intelligence gatherers? 

I don't think what she does is right either.  In fact, I thought I was the only one that thought like this.    It is entrapment and dishonest.  It does nothing to further the anti-abortion cause.  It is not necessary.

The very fact that Planned Parenthood and other such places do what they do is indictment enough.

Is anyone surprised that they operate in an underhanded manner?

Thanks, Magdalene, for posting this.
She is a hero
yes what she does does have an effect
us merely chatting about it shows it. And the vids are I portent as they document what we may know all along it's good to have it on vid
is she a saint?
I dunno but I know I'm not and this lass has balls
keep p the good work lass
sip sip
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