Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Defending Lila Rose

There are many, many people commenting on Live Action's video recordings and the claim that Lila Rose and her companions lied in order to get Planned Parenthood's employees to talk and that that lying was illicit. Robert George, Christopher Tollefson and the people at The New Theological Movement have all said that it was completely wrong, while Monica Miller, Joseph Bottum and Pia de Solenni have all made various claims giving it some defense.

I had posted a response on Joseph Bottum's piece and it got a little bit of attention, but I'm posting it here with some revisions because I hope it will get more (though I doubt it since I haven't posted anything for nearly two years). Here goes:

What few – if any – people are looking at are two things: the intent of the lie and the Scriptural precedent for what Live Action did.

In normal lying, a person is either trying to protect himself or gain something for himself. For example, Mother asks Junior, “Did you take a cookie from the cookie jar,” and Junior says, “No, I didn't, Mommy,” yet he has cookie crumbs plastered all around his mouth and on his hands. Junior is lying to cover up something he did wrong and protect himself from Mommy’s just anger.

There is also lying to obtain something, whether it is a material good (e.g., writing a bad check) or a relational good (e.g., telling the girl at the bar she's the prettiest thing you've ever seen even though she has a huge wart on her nose).

Whether it's protecting oneself or another from the justice that should be meted out when one is caught in wrongdoing, or illicitly obtaining something that does not belong to oneself, the ultimate purpose of the lie has a selfish motivation behind it.

What is different about the “lying” that Lila Rose and Live Action have done is that they are “lying” in order to save lives that are being unjustly taken and this has plenty of good precedent in Scripture (these three quotes are from the New American Bible):

“The king of Egypt told the Hebrew midwives...‘When you act as midwives for the Hebrew women...if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she may live.’ The midwives, however, feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt had ordered them, but let the boys live. So the king summoned the midwives and asked them, ‘Why have you acted thus, allowing the boys to live?’ The midwives answered Pharaoh, ‘The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women. They are robust and give birth before the midwife arrives.’ Therefore God dealt well with the midwives. The people, too, increased and grew strong. And because the midwives feared God, he built up families for them” (Exodus 1:15-21).
“So the king of Jericho sent Rahab the order, ‘Put out the visitors who have entered your house, for they have come to spy out the entire land.’ The woman had taken the two men and hidden them, so she said, ‘True, the men you speak of came to me, but I did not know where they came from. At dark, when it was time for the gate to be shut, they left, and I do not know where they went. You will have to pursue them immediately to overtake them.’ Now, she had led them to the roof, and hidden them among her stalks of flax spread out there” (Joshua 2).
“As Judith and her maid walked directly across the valley, they encountered the Assyrian outpost. The men took her in custody and asked her, ‘To what people do you belong? Where do you come from, and where are you going?’ She replied: ‘I am a daughter of the Hebrews, and I am fleeing from them, because they are about to be delivered up to you as prey. I have come to see Holofernes, the general in chief of your forces, to give him a trustworthy report; I will show him the route by which he can ascend and take possession of the whole mountain district without a single one of his men suffering injury or loss of life’” (Judith 10:11-13).

All of these women directly deceived in order to save lives. In fact, the Hebrew midwives and Rahab directly lied to those who had lawful authority over them. In all three cases, Scripture says the Lord blessed their efforts and personally blessed them later on – because of their deception to save lives from unjust action. The midwives were blessed with families themselves. Rahab and her family were saved from slaughter and, even more importantly, she is mentioned directly in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus as one of His human ancestors. Judith saved all of Jerusalem from certain slaughter by the Assyrians by her deception to get into the enemy's camp.

Pia de Solenni raises Thomas Aquinas’ argument on this in Summa Theologica II-II, q. 110:
The midwives were rewarded, not for their lie, but for their fear of God, and for their good-will, which latter led them to tell a lie. Hence it is expressly stated (Ex. 1:21): “And because the midwives feared God, He built them houses.” But the subsequent lie was not meritorious.
Let me say that I am certainly no Thomas Aquinas, and his equal – and definitely not his superior – has yet to be found since his death in 1274. But permit me the audacious liberty to disagree. Here's why – notice that immediately after the text says that the midwives lied, it then says, “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives.” They lied and therefore He dealt well with them. If Shiphrah and Puah had told Pharaoh the truth, what would have been the result? They most likely would have been put to death and Pharaoh would have assigned Egyptian women as midwives who would have carried out his orders, including on Moses himself. If that had happened, history would have been completely changed. Instead, they lied and we were given Moses and the rest of salvation history followed.

Deception and outright lying is exactly what Catholics and others did in World War II to save Jews from certain death - deception and lying that were practiced by members of the hierarchy, probably even at the direction of Pope Pius XII himself. False papers are false papers – lies meant to deceive someone. Whether it’s falsified birth certificates or fabricated baptismal certificates for people who were never baptized, showing those papers to the Nazi soldiers constituted hundreds, if not thousands, of outright lies. But the false papers were used to protect those who were unjustly condemned to death. Today, we honor those who printed the papers and those who did the lying, including making films about people like Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List fame.

We Catholics cannot forget the various times of persecution aimed at our brothers and sisters as well. There were those in Elizabethan England who hid priests in priest holes to protect them from certain torture and death and who lied to the authorities to throw them off the trail of the priests. Blessed Miguel Pro disguised himself – deceived the lawful authorities – so he could carry out his ministry during the Mexican persecution. Other examples are plentiful.

Notice what seems to be the rule and pattern here. This isn’t “the ends justifies the means,” nor “doing evil that good may come of it.” It appears to me that in the very specific case of when innocent people are in danger of being put to death unjustly, it is perfectly justified – and indeed perhaps even necessary – to keep those who would do the killing ignorant of the truth in order to protect those lives.

Planned Parenthood is a corporation that is unjustly – yet legally – making millions of dollars from the slaughter of innocent, unborn children. Lila and her group deceived those who are carrying out this unjust slaughter (and who are adding other evils on top of it) in order to save the lives of unborn children who are doomed to die unjustly. They are not doing this to protect themselves or to get something that is not theirs. They are doing exactly what the Lord has blessed in the past and which, despite all of the nitpicking naysayers, He will continue to bless.