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This is a question of what I am obligated to do.

Saturday morning, I was going to buy breakfast, but my mom's car was behind the truck I drive, so she had me move her car, which is a trailblazer. Backing up he car, I accidentally hit the truck belonging to my so-called "brother-in-law" (why so-called and in quotes is another story). Hitting it only caused a minor dent and scratch to the truck, but partially damaged my mom's left break light cover. The first thing I did was tell her, and never again was I going to move her car. She said that she would just say that she did it, so everyone here at home believed that she was the one that goofed up. Of course, no one really got mad, the truck that was hit was old anyway so my "BiL" just let it go, and I told mom I would pay her back the cost for replacing the headlight cover and plan to give her a little extra for the cover.

I confessed this (letting mom take the blame, even though I did not ask her to) to a priest, but he didn't give any direction on it, for he focused on more serious matters.

So what I need to know is that if I sin by letting mom do this for me, and if I am obligated to tell everyone the truth right away or delay until the damage to my mom's car is paid for, and I have saved enough to give him something for the damage even if he isn't seeking some kind of restitution.

I know some of you may say to ask a priest, which I will, but I wanted to get your insight in this too.
Were you trying to put the blame on someone without their knowledge, I would say it was a violation of the 8th Commandment and a sin against charity. However, under the circumstances, where your mum voluntarily took the blame, I see no sin. I would suggest paying her for the damage, and if your 'BiL' changes his mind, to give your mum the money to take care of the truck.


It sounds as if your Ma took the blame to "keep the peace," as if your "so-called brother-in-law" would've been ticked if he'd known it was you who did it.  Is that the case?

Anyway, the fib was on your Mom's part, not yours -- and outing her could maybe be seen as detraction. I'm no spiritual authority here, mind you, but if you've confessed it and are dealing with the financial fallout of it all, and your priest said nothing else about it, I'd let it go. Or if it still bothers you, ask your priest about it to get consolation -- or further advice as the case may be.
Since I consider both Vox and jovan as wiser than me, I would consider the advice given me by both of you as sound.

It may have been that he would have been harder on me, it may not have been, but I guess my mom perceived it as such. Also, she told my dad about it, she only got a light admonishment from him to look more carefully next time.

In any case, I'm just going to quietly pay for her brake light cover, and like jovan said, give her the money in case some compensation is sought for.
Unless you are encouraging, praising, or failing to stop someone from acting sinfully when you should and can be reasonably expected to stop them, you have no responsibility for the actions of others, only your own. Although it was in a certain way kind of your mother to take on herself the potential anger of your "brother-in-law," one could also see her lie as preventing you from taking full responsibility for your own actions and their consequences, and from that it's easy to see the familial source of all of this confusion about personal responsibility and boundaries, isn't it? This is an opportunity to learn from the mistake of your mother.
(08-24-2015, 01:12 AM)richgr Wrote: [ -> ]Unless you are encouraging, praising, or failing to stop someone from acting sinfully when you should and can be reasonably expected to stop them, you have no responsibility for the actions of others, only your own. Although it was in a certain way kind of your mother to take on herself the potential anger of your "brother-in-law," one could also see her lie as preventing you from taking full responsibility for your own actions and their consequences, and from that it's easy to see the familial source of all of this confusion about personal responsibility and boundaries, isn't it? This is an opportunity to learn from the mistake of your mother.

Hmmm... you're seeing a lot of things in that first post that I'm not seeing. You seem to be intimating that there's some issue, at least in terms of perceptions, about TCY's taking responsibility, and that that perception -- based in Truth or not -- has led to boundary issues and confusion about personal responsibility. It could be that his brother-in-law has some sort of problem with the OP that has nothing to do with anything like that and is rooted in his, the brother-in-law's, own "weirdness." For ex., maybe the BIL has a thing against religious people (as many do nowadays) -- or people who are conservative politically, or people who work out or eat meat or whatever -- and just has it out for the OP, is always regarding him in the worst possible way, engages in certain defense mechanisms against him, and all that sorta thing. If you're dealing with someone whose sense of reality is wanting, who's unwilling to examine himself, who uses defense mechanisms, etc., there's not a lot you can do about it, barring prayer, unless you're an INFJ type and the other person is willing to listen, learn, and start in with some introspection.

If the BIL has it out for the OP for some neurotic or psycho reason, but is OK with the mother, then the mother's lying -- fibbing? are they always the same thing? (discuss amongst yourselves! ha) -- about how it was she who hit his truck might be a matter of her valuing peace and getting along over a Truth that'd involve risking having the BIL explode in rage, pile on against the OP and add to his mental list of Reasons To Despise TradCatholicYouth, beat up the sister who might defend her brother when The Incident is discussed, etc.

That's a dramatic possibility, but it's a possibility. I mean, there is some reason that enticed the mother to take the blame for the incident. There seems to be something "off" about the BIL if she felt that claiming responsibility was an important thing to do for some reason.

Or the BIL is fine and the mother and the OP are not seeing reality straight LOL

Eh, I'm going on here, but what you wrote kinda freaked me out because of the assumptions you made (or maybe the OP wrote about his family in another thread and I missed it).

Anyway, this entire thread raises the question: Is it ever OK to willfully tell an untruth? Would it be right or wrong to, if you were asked by an SS officer if you're hiding Jews in your attic,  say "no" even if you have 7 Jewish people living up there?

I've heard some Catholic priest or theologian say that lying is denying the Truth to someone who has a right to know the Truth of the specific situation in question.  So, if that is the case, it wouldn't be morally wrong to lie to the SS man because he has no right to ask about who or what is in your attic. In the same sort of way, the Catholic Encyclopedia defines "theft" like this: "Theft is the secret [Vox: they define "secret" as "non-violent," in essence] taking of another's property against the reasonable will of that other," and later goes on to say: "Thus one in danger of death from want of food, or suffering any form of extreme necessity, may lawfully take from another as much as is required to meet his present distress even though the possessor's opposition be entirely clear. Neither, therefore, would he be bound to restitution if his fortunes subsequently were notably bettered, supposing that what he had converted to his own use was perishable. The reason is that individual ownership of the goods of this world, though according to the natural law, yields to the stronger and more sacred right conferred by natural law upon every man to avail himself of such things as are necessary for his own preservation."

If that definition is accurate, then wouldn't the individual knowledge of the Truth of a given scenario "yield to the stronger and more sacred right conferred by natural law upon every man to" preserve human life, keep the peace, prevent someone's pathology from destroying family life, etc.?

It's a principle of Catholic moral teaching that one can't commit an evil so that good might come of it (the old "the ends don't justify the means" concept), but with regard to the theft question, it apparently isn't considered theft in the first place in the scenario described above. Would the same hold true for telling an unTruth in order to preserve human life, keep the peace, prevent a crazy person from jumping to his illogical conclusions and causing trouble, etc.? Is willfully telling an unTruth always "a lie"?

I dislike lying (off the top of my head, I can think of four pathological liars I've had to deal with in my life for long periods of time, and the mere thought of any of them makes me cringe big time).  But if a crazed active pedophile were to show up at my door with a gun and questions about the whereabouts of my grandson, I'd lie my ass off to protect him. That he has no right to know a thing about the most beautiful boy on the face of this earth (or maybe I'm biased) (um, no I'm not :P ) is obviously true -- but would that truth make telling him unTruths not a lie at all?

What do you guys think?
You're right. I've made some assumptions based on probability. I don't mean to adamantly impute moral fault on anyone here, and let the OP correct me if I totally missed the mark.

If the BIL is crazy, then my original post stands even more strongly. Fostering an environment of dishonesty in order to preserve some illusory peace is precisely how much mental disorder and general anguish arise in the first place. Yes, telling the truth in your hypothetical explanation of the BIL and mother's behavior might cause some initial violent reactions, but only honesty and working through it can lead to any real potential for healing. God's grace, while making use of all things, only converts hearts away from dishonesty and towards honesty. What the OP wrote and your hypothetical situation presents are both situations of dishonesty, and that in itself is problematic because it blurs the lines of responsibility and boundaries as I was saying.

I didn't mean to suggest the mother has no good reason for lying. I even admitted that it was kind of her to do so in a certain way. But what she did was lie. Dr. Germain Grisez responds directly to the Nazi Germany objection:

Quote:"Some recent authors have used the historically factual example of agents of a totalitarian power who asked those in charge of an institution to identify certain children who would be sent off to a death camp. Was it not entirely right to protect the children by lying? Could that have been even a venial sin? Yes, it could have been a sin; objectively, it was not right.34 The appropriate Christian response would have been to refuse submitting insofar as it involved even the smallest sin, to resist injustice by every morally acceptable means, and to be prepared to die if necessary—preferably in place of those to be sent to the death camp, but even with them—in witness to the falsity of that ideology and to the truth of the gospel, which the ideology’s proponents sought to supplant.

It might be objected that, had it been feasible, it would have been morally acceptable and perhaps even obligatory to defend the children with force—if necessary, deadly force—against the agents of the totalitarian power (see 8.C.1.d–e); thus, it is paradoxical that it was not right to lie to them. This objection might be cogent if the malice of lying and killing lay exclusively in their injustice to those deceived or killed. But that is not the case; indeed, lying, while always wrong, does not always violate any right of those deceived. One cannot lie, however, without choosing the self-alienation which, opposed as it is to self-integration and authenticity, is sufficient to make lying wrong; but deadly force can be used to defend the innocent without choosing the death which, because it is opposed to life, makes intentional killing always wrong. Moreover, using deadly force in defense does not impede community as lying does. For attempting to deal with the agents of a totalitarian power by lying maintains a semblance of community based on false ideology and blocks the development of real community based on the common good. Indeed, the lies of the oppressed are an important element in their reluctant submission to an unjust regime which might well be unable to withstand united, courageous, and open resistance."

Most moral theologians following St. Thomas or St. Alphonsus would agree with the above assessment in general terms as well; to lie to the Nazi would be a lie and thus sinful. St. Thomas speaks of hiding the truth prudently, and there are many instances of Saints exercising this prudence under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Feser notes that the second edition of the Catechism removed the phrase "the right to know the truth" in the definition of lying because it is based on faulty moral philosophy; see http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/11/...s-lie.html

The analogy between theft and lying doesn't work because the example given isn't theft. It only appears to be theft to the person who has the surplus goods.

So to answer the question, yes, telling an untruth is a lie.

The OP isn't responsible for his mother's decision to lie, even if done out of understandable family pressures. The fact that she made use of a lie is a false prudence however and ends up only worsening whatever possible problems there might be, and it doesn't allow for the OP to face the consequences of his mistake. True prudence never lies, never commits evil to effect good. Only true prudence and honesty will do anyone any good, and whenever there is a break against prudence to preserve peace, you can be very sure that there is a faulty sense of responsibility and boundaries going around. After all, we learn from our parents, and it takes a lot of effort to un-learn their faults.
A lie is always sinful. No exceptions, because it is contrary to Natural Law and man's nature, thus intrinsically evil. Evil may never be directly willed in order to accomplish good.

But what is a lie? It is a statement made in order to deceive which is at variance with what is in the mind.

If I assert, with the intention to deceive that "I own a this truck" when I know I actually stole it, I am lying. If I say "This book is mine" but I mistakenly say this of a library book, then there was no intention to deceive and I said nothing at variance with my mind. I really thought the book was mine, although I was wrong.

But to not tell the naked truth is not a lie, and there are reasons and exceptions, specifically the mental reservation. The Catholic Encyclopedia does a good job in this article.
(08-24-2015, 08:25 AM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: [ -> ]A lie is always sinful. No exceptions, because it is contrary to Natural Law and man's nature, thus intrinsically evil. Evil may never be directly willed in order to accomplish good.

But what is a lie? It is a statement made in order to deceive which is at variance with what is in the mind.

If I assert, with the intention to deceive that "I own a this truck" when I know I actually stole it, I am lying. If I say "This book is mine" but I mistakenly say this of a library book, then there was no intention to deceive and I said nothing at variance with my mind. I really thought the book was mine, although I was wrong.

But if you stole the truck, then you now DO own it :P

(08-24-2015, 08:25 AM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: [ -> ]But to not tell the naked truth is not a lie, and there are reasons and exceptions, specifically the mental reservation. The Catholic Encyclopedia does a good job in this article.

Sounds like with mental reservations one can willfully tell unTruths freely. All one'd have to do is mentally add "in Opposite-Land" -- where every day is Opposite Day, of course -- to anything one says. "So, where is your grandson? We want to do horrible things to him!" "He isn't here. He took a bus to Greenland. With Scooby-Doo and Scrappy and one very full picnic basket. [in Opposite Land]."


One thing I would point out in the OP is that the sin, if any, has already been confessed and absolved.
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