On the one hand, I am told by one commenter that I am one of the Catholic blogosphere's known Mean Girls, a Queen Bee ready to buzz in at a moment's notice and sting the poor feelings of hapless Catholic writers who, by posting their ideas, are really posting a little bit of themselves, such that my criticism of said ideas is the exact same thing as if I walked up to them, punched them in the face, and stole their lunch money.
Boy, I'm glad I didn't know that criticizing someone's written words has this effect back in the days when I took literary criticism classes in college. Because Hemingway would have punched back. And missed. Because he was drunk. And then written about it. In bitter terse yet dull sentences. Because he is Hemingway.
But I digress.
On the other hand, amazingly enough, I am told that I am a pathetic sycophantic cringing toady so desperate to be accepted at the Catholic blogosphere's Cool Kids' table that I will uncritically accept any opinion Mark Shea comes up with in between providing him with graveyard gray matter and holding off the torch-wielding villagers, who are righteous and of the Lord. Wait...can I really be both Igor and a Queen Bee? Because from a fashion perspective alone that would seem wildly impossible.
In all seriousness, though, I've realized that more of this discussion hinges on the Lila Rose/Live Action/morality of lying debate than I first thought. The "are you with the real pro-life people, or only the armchair ones?" question seems to revolve around whether you think Lila Rose is a persecuted heroine who is single-handedly bringing down Planned Parenthood while exposing fake pro-lifers for the hypocrites they are, or whether you are still concerned that dressing like a prostitute or pimp and telling palpable untruths to get PP workers to expose their willingness to break existing laws might not be the best of tactics from a Catholic moral perspective.
I think that in the online Catholic community, at least four distinct opinions about all of this have emerged:
Opinion 1: What Lila Rose is doing works. Therefore, endless egghead debates about angels and pins and lying and similar things is just a distraction. That kind of hair-splitting is embarrassing and unnecessary.
Opinion 2: What Lila Rose is doing is "not-lying," because of the long-standing if never articulated Catholic morality exemption from the rules about lying for undercover cops, spies, and undercover journalists. No matter how many false statements she makes as part of her investigations, she is covered by the "not-lying undercover exemption."
Opinion 3: What Lila Rose is doing may technically be lying, but it's a noble and virtuous kind of lying, the kind with Biblical precedents, the kind that saved Jewish lives when Nazis came to the door and demanded to know where people were hiding their Jewish friends. Just as you can lie in a moral and good way to save the lives of Jewish people hiding from Nazis, so can you lie to help defund Planned Parenthood since this will eventually save lives, provided the Senate is made to toe the line and there are enough votes to override the president's planned veto and PP doesn't manage to make up what it loses in federal funding via private donations from people like Bill Gates and so forth. If the Church says otherwise, then the Church is wrong.
Opinion 4: What Lila Rose and her agents are doing is lying, and that's not a morally valid option regardless of the gravity of the fight or the goodness of the intended outcome. There's no "undercover journalism" exception, and even IF the Church were to spell out a "telling unplanned untruths under duress when a gun is in your face and the lives of innocents are in immediate danger is not lying" exception, this would not cover Live Action since they have plenty of time to plan their courses of action, are not under duress, and are not saving immediate lives.
I hold opinion 4. I have some understanding for those who hold opinion 2, although I don't agree with it; at least those who hold opinion 2 have thought deeply about this issue, have agreed that lying is wrong, and are trying to think of a way that moralists might eventually carve out an exemption for various types of undercover work. But for those whose opinions more closely align with 1 and 3, I lack that understanding--because the morality of actions are important if one is not a utilitarian, and because believing that there is such a thing as a noble and virtuous lie in defiance of Church teaching is a tragically wrong turn.
The thing is, while I would try to persuade those who hold opinions 1 and 3 to consider Church teaching about the morality of lying more carefully, I am quite willing to shake hands cheerfully with those who hold 2, and to agree to disagree for the time being. What really bothered me about Pat Archbold's slighting reference to this whole debate is that he doesn't seem willing to extend the same courtesy to those of us who hold opinion 4. Here are his words again:
A young woman by the name of Lila Rose took on the abortion behemoth Planned Parenthood in a continuing video series exposing the organization for what it is. This young woman has almost single-handedly has brought Planned Parenthood to its knees. All the while, the armchair pro-life sniffed at her tactics and offered ex cathedra pronouncements from the comfort of their la-z-boys decrying the unseemliness of it all.I can't support Live Action in their undercover sting operations, because I am convinced that the prohibition against lying does, indeed, include such operations if those engaged in them utter deliberate falsehoods. But Archbold seems to reject out of hand the idea that anybody could have a problem with Lila Rose's tactics in good conscience.
And while the armchair pro-life argued about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, the Republican governor of New Jersey, armed with a fiscal crisis and the embarrassing sting videos, vetoed funding for Planned Parenthood. Who? The Republican governor, that’s who.
In the news today we have James O'Keefe's latest sting operation, in which a couple of people lie about their identities, pretending to be part of a Muslim group, in order to get NPR executive Ron Schiller to reveal his opinions about Tea Party activists, conservatives, and others. My question to those who hold opinion 3: is the goal of embarrassing NPR and possibly removing their federal funding a noble enough goal to make the lies morally acceptable, or is it only okay to lie when your goal is to get federal funding removed from abortion clinics?