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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Question of Ethics: Lila Rose and Live Action in the Spotlight

Two theologians, William May and Germain Grisez have criticized the tactics used by Live Action to expose Planned Parenthood's cooperation in covering up statutory rape and sex trafficking despite being mandatory reporters. Grisez told Catholic News Agency, “Catholics should regard such activity as morally and legally unacceptable...From a moral point of view, I would call it scandal in the strict sense – that is, leading another to commit a sin. From a legal point of view, I would call it suborning agreement to cooperate in criminal activities.” William May also criticized the "sting" operations but discussed ways they could be morally licit using "mental reservation."

This all sounds to me like the argument over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Clearly the Vatican itself during World War II issued fraudulent baptismal certificates to Jews and hid them in cloistered convents and monasteries. They did not require them to be baptized. How  was that not a direct deception? Were those hiding Jews from the Nazis or English householders hiding priests from Queen Elizabeth's henchmen required to answer "yes" when asked if they had Jews or priests in the house? "Oh, yes, they're upstairs hiding behind the false wall in the bedroom." How would the two theologians address that situation? Today as then real lives are at stake.

I worked for eight year at a crisis pregnancy center with an ambiguous name that many called "deceptive" because we withheld information from women phoning for abortion appointments. We never told a direct lie but we were well aware that we were misleading women. If a woman called seeking an abortion we never told her we didn't do them we just evaded the question. A phone call might go like this.
Woman: Hi, can you tell me how much your abortions cost?

Counselor: When was your last period? Have you had a pregnancy test?

Womn: I'm three weeks late and I took a home test and it was positive.

Counselor: Why don't you come in. About half the women we see aren't pregnant. We use a very accurate medical test. We'll do the test and have you speak to a counselor.

Woman: How much is the abortion?

Counselor: An abortion can cost anywhere from $250 on up depending on how far along you are and whether there are any complications. But we have lots of ways of financially assisting. Why don't you make an appointment and come in and talk to one of our counselors and we'll go from there.

Woman: Can I have the abortion the same day?

Counselor: Virginia requires a 24 hour waiting period. We can answer all your questions and explain all your options and how we can assist you when you come in for the appointment. 
Most women made appointments and we saved about half the babies in danger of abortion. Some counselors were uncomfortable with the mental reservation so we had an in-service with a priest who talked about truth. Not everyone has a right to the complete truth. Withholding information can certainly be morally licit in particular cases. The obnoxious neighbor who calls Mom three times a day has no right to know that she's home. Saying "She's not here (for you)," is perfectly legitimate. In fact, there was a day when people "paid calls" and sent up their cards. Getting word back from the butler that no one was home didn't mean they weren't physically there. It meant they weren't receiving callers.

I haven't listened carefully to the Live Action tapes of the recent sting. I did watch the videos of Lila pretending to be a 13 year old minor seeking an abortion and I think it would be morally legitimate to respond to the query, "How old are you?" with "(I look) thirteen."

As for leading people into sin. A friend of mine responded to that nonsense saying, "The PP employees may have been led in to a false/hypothetical or deceptive situation...but they had the opportunity to act of their own free will to choose to do good (report the sex traffickers) or evil (support sex trafficking, knowing some girls were underage) in that situation, & they chose evil."


If Planned Parenthood really cared about the women the video might have shown a counselor saying, "You're boyfriend is committing statutory rape, dear. We'll have to report him." But that truly is a fantasy when speaking about the leading abortion provider in the world. Abortion is their bread and butter. The more the monier.

I agree that the end doesn't justify the means. I just don't see the means in these cases being a problem any more than the investigative reporters from the Sun Times (years ago) who went into Chicago abortion mills with male urine samples to see what they would do. Almost all declared the male urine "positive" for pregnancy. Seems the abortion mills didn't need much encouragement to be "led into sin."

It's interesting that the focus has been taken off Planned Parenthood's evil to focus on Lila Rose and Live Action's tactics. I say right on, girl! Pray and fight and if saving babies and young women requires mental reservation and withholding truth from those who aren't entitled to it, go for it!

What do you think readers?


  1. Acting a part is not the same as lying. The interesting thing would be I suppose to inquire what would happen if the clinic turned in the "pimp and underage prostitute" which is what they should do.

  2. G. K. Chesterton had something to say on this, I think in Orthodoxy. I myself would lie through my teeth without blush or remorse to save a life.

  3. We must be "innocent as doves, and as wise (clever) as serpents". "Lo, I am sending you as sheep among wolves

  4. Moral theologian Monica Miller has a wonderful article on this titled Did Live Action Lie? Her conclusion? No!

  5. It seems to me these objectors, whoever they are, are themselves offering some kind of formal cooperation. Sort of like Jane Fonda broadcasting from Hanoi.

  6. Great post Mary Anne.

    You can't get to bearing a false witness against your neighbor from what Lila is doing.

    It is scrupulous to put what Lila is doing into the category of lying and sin. As foolish as saying it was sinful to lie to the SS when saving lives against the Third Reich.

  7. Am sure that Lila Rose and her group have a spiritual guide or two and that they have discussed this aspect of what they are doing.

    Besides, maybe the theologians are afraid someone might walk into their office pretending. Possibly when their children were small they said.."Stop! Stop pretending these stuffed animals can speak! Do not tell me one more time that they ate and drank tea and cookies with you. That's a lie as defined by the Catechism! Go to your room." Or .....perhaps they raved at their boys about playing war...or playing Mass pretending to be a priest. "Stop that this minute! That is evil!"

    It's like scientists in their white shirts who have never worked on a farm, tilled the soil, or seen an animal up close telling farmers how to farm, how to breed their animals, how to grow crops. Sounds like the theologians are all paper and no action sitting in their ivory towers theorizing about good and evil and missing the point entirely. Again, am certain that Live Action has priests who have discussed everything with them.

    Does the Church merely raise up armchair action of rustling papers around the desk? Or does she want soldiers of Christ marching into battle?


  8. These two theologians have been trying to defend human life before many in the movement were even born and the pro-life movement owes them a spiritual debt of gratitude. But I believe that they are focusing on the one- on-one interaction whereas they should be focusing on the grave institutional corruption and evil that permeates Planned Parent, and this humble attempt to stop PP from wreaking more sin and death.

    In Numbers 13 the Lord instructed Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan on a holy mission. So to, it seems highly probable that this modern day David and Goliath mission can be considered most noble and worthy.

    It never occurred to me that Lila Rose and company might be sinning. I just thought they were taking a risk (I think they could have gotten in trouble if someone at PP had a bit of a conscience and had called the police) and doing great investigative journalism.

    How can you lead someone in Planned Parenthood into sin? They are living in sin. If you wanted to be a bit flippant - you might say that these pro-lifers saved the PP employee from sin because she got fired.

    And they might save a bunch more from sin if their actions cause PP to be defunded and employees are let go...and think of the mothers they might save from sin (and their babies from death) if the arm of PP is shortened a bit and a number of abortion facilities have to be closed.

    This might also cause PP employees to actually turn in sexual predators because the spotlight has been turned on their sleazy operation.

  9. Maybe the Obama administration is putting the heat on the bishops to stop the campaign against planned parenthood or else (1) some (more) homosexual predator bishops will be exposed or (2) money will be cut off to church programs. On the other hand it could be that these "theologians" look for (1) any way to piggy back their names into print and/or (2) any way to use "theology" to defend evil.

  10. No, Anonymous, William May and Germain Grisez are good and faithful men. They have been champions of the life issues having the courage to stand against the contraceptive mentality for years. I'm sure they are addressing the moral issues as they see them. But I think Monica Miller is more on target with her article cited above.

  11. I'm sure that there are some honest concerns - but why weren't they raised years ago? There's something about the timing of all this that has red flags flying all over my radar screens. I just now released my own post on this.

  12. No, lying is always wrong. Without question. That thing about not everyone having a right to the truth means that you may be silent or dissemble in the face of the Nazis. You may not tell a lie; it is always and everywhere a sin. See Catechism of the Catholic Church 2482-2489.

    Christ is identified with the truth. Denying the truth, or countering the truth with a lie, is denying and countering him. It is shaking hands with the devil to achieve a good end. No matter how good the end, no matter how trivial the evil means, the end does not justify the means. Ever.

    Yes, Christ wants us to go out and be his soldiers, but he wants us to be loyal to him--loyal to Truth.

    That said, acting is not lying.