Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A must read

If you still think lying to take down Planned Parenthood is good, or that telling untruths to Planned Parenthood is not lying, go and read this:

Back in August, James O’Keefe was invited to give what amounted to the keynote address at the American Chesterton Society Conference in Emmitsburg, Maryland. O’Keefe electrified the crowd by telling us that he was inspired by G. K. Chesterton (he did not mention his other role model, quasi-Satanist Saul Alinksky) and that he, James O’Keefe, was willing to live a monk –like existence harassed by leftists and lawyers as he struggled to serve “Veritas”, Truth, in his undercover videos.

During the Q & A, O’Keefe was asked point-blank, “How do you justify lying to others in your videos – leading them to believe you’re someone you’re not?” O’Keefe replied bluntly, “The end justifies the means. We are lying to serve truth.”

I realized immediately that this was a terrible answer. [...]

My involvement in this latest and more bloody round began when James O’Keefe emailed me to ask how I would respond to Christopher Tollefsen of the University of South Carolina, who had criticized Live Action here. James copied in two others into our correspondence, one of whom took offense when I replied, “You really can’t respond effectively to this, for Tollefsen is making excellent points. Your only hope is to claim the undercover videos involved role-playing and not lying. You can fall back upon my original defense that I offered at the Chesterton Conference, the Undercover Journalist as Guerilla Theater Actor defense, which is not a very strong defense, but you can’t really rebut what Tollefsen is saying. The problem with the Role-playing defense is it only applies to actors who are speaking literal falsehoods but not doing so in order to deceive anyone, who are performing for people who are in on the fiction; once you tell a falsehood with the intent to victimize or to deceive someone who’s not in on it – even to achieve a good ultimate end - you are simply lying.” The cc’d correspondent took umbrage with this, and when I quoted the Catechism to support the Church’s position that lying is inherently sinful and may never be done under any circumstances, not even to achieve a greater good, he replied, to my astonishment, “We are not bound by what the Catechism teaches.”

This surprised and disturbed me.

Then, naively, I began to post on this issue on Facebook. At one point I simply cut and pasted CCC 1753, “A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means” – and to my utter consternation, this became my most controversial post in my two years on Facebook. Within twenty-four hours, this post attracted 150 comments from my conservative Catholic friends, one of whom said, “If this is what the Church teaches, I will gladly die a heretic.” What on earth is going on here? I wondered.

Go and read the whole thing, here.

I think Kevin O'Brien's post is the most valuable thing written on this controversy so far. Whether you think Lila Rose and Live Action's tactics are moral or not, you owe it to yourself to read this.


Mark P. Shea said...

"Ends justify the means. We're lying to serve truth."

Poor Mr. O'Keefe. Just spilling the beans like that with artlessness. He didn't get the memo that he's not supposed to say "lying", nor is he supposed to nakedly endorse consequentialism like that. It makes the job of the euphemizers *way* harder. Now they're gonna have to sweep in and explain that "lying" doesn't mean, you know, *lying* and that "ends justifies the means" does not, in this extremely special case, mean what it looks like and can, in fact, easily be reconciled with Catholic teaching if you squint hard and stand on one leg.

And, if that snow job fails, well, just accuse the person laughing at this stuff of not caring about babies and being mean to beautiful women.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Within twenty-four hours, this post attracted 150 comments from my conservative Catholic friends, one of whom said, “If this is what the Church teaches, I will gladly die a heretic.”

I will refrain from the obvious anti-Catholic broadside, out of consideration for those who truly mean it when they call themselves obedient to the Church. This statement clearly reveals the hypocrisy of those self-styled political "conservatives" who hide behind their nominal "Catholic" affiliation to serve political ends. They DON'T really mean it when they profess obedience to the church as God's representative on earth. They are all Protestants - EVIL Protestants - and God knows there are plenty of openly professed Protestants of the same stripe.

Red Cardigan said...

Mark, I hope that a lot of people will read Kevin's piece and realize that at least one of the people involved in "sting" videos is clear about the fact that they are intentionally lying.

And I hope it makes a difference as to how they view the issue, too. We'll see...

Kevin O'Brien said...

Hey, Erin, thanks for the endorsement, but Mark, for one, has out-written me on this, as have some others.

Siarlys, I must step in to say that my friend who said that on Facebook was speaking in a knee-jerk manner, and was shocked and surprised and spoke in a reactionary way. He is otherwise a very good Catholic, and submits to Church teaching on issues once he understands them. The problem is, as Mark is quick to point out, these issues are HARD, and these people are not evil who are in the opposite camp. Sure, there's some intellectual dishonesty here, but we've all been guilty of that.

Let's pray for them all, including Mr. O'Keefe, whose heart very well may feel a tug in the right direction.

LarryD said...

What shocked me about that piece - and it's a great piece, Kevin - was that O'Keefe secretly recorded his conversation with Kevin, Dale and the other guy later in the evening.

As I like to say - unbefreakinlievable!

Siarlys Jenkins said...

You're a good man Kevin, whatever we may disagree on, but I've seen too many Catholics who preach obedience to the church when they agree with what a church authority has just pronounced, and can use it as a club, but are certain they know the TRUE church position better than the priest, the bishop, or the Pope, when they find stated church positions inconvenient.

"Otherwise a very good Catholic..." and otherwise submits to church teaching... is the very thing I'm talking about. IT makes a mockery of obedience to only offer it when one agrees.

I should say, I don't often pledge my obedience, because I know the difference and I don't intend to obey. Don't ask for permission, if you intend to disregard a "No." If you truly believe that a given authority knows better than you, don't second guess each time they give direction.

texasmama said...

I wonder if anyone has contacted a faithful moral theologian (or three) on this? Quotes from said theologian(s)? Because there remains discussion...

eulogos said...

I see you have taken Creative Minority Report off your blogrole. Geepers, one disagreement and you schism.
Too bad.
Susan Peterson

Red Cardigan said...

Actually, Susan, I'm in the process of weeding out the blog roll altogether. I noticed not long ago that a whole bunch of the blogs in my blog list either don't update any more, or have changed their blog addresses so many times that I've lost track of the original address. I pulled CMR and a couple of others recently because I have them in my Google Reader feed and because they're hugely popular blogs that everybody knows about and goes to without needing links.

You may notice, if you look today, that I've removed several others, including the link marked "Rod Dreher" which was first to the first CC blog, then to the second, then to his short-lived Templeton blog. I'm contemplating dumping the link list altogether as maintaining it is taking up too much time.

The one thing that stops me is that there are a few small blogs on my list which don't update frequently enough for me to put them in my Google Reader, but which I don't want to lose track of altogether. I should probably rename the list and keep it for those few blogs.

Does anybody even use bloggers' blog roll lists anymore? I've been to blogs where the "blog roll" list takes up a huge amount of blog real estate and includes practically every Catholic blog ever written, but I wouldn't think of scanning the whole thing and clicking randomly on the couple I don't already read. Maybe I should do a post on the topic...