Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lila Rose: Is She Lying?

Fr. Angelo has compiled most of the key posts which both critique and defend the methods of Lila Rose and Live Action. I am flabbergasted that anyone could accuse Lila Rose of "lying" because members of her organization pretend to be pimps and prostitutes in order to entrap Planned Parenthood workers who are aiding those involved in child exploitation. By such rationale, it would be a mortal sin for undercover policemen to pretend to be drug dealers or teenagers on the internet or all the other things they have to pretend to be in order to catch criminals.

And what about spies? Even the Vatican has employed a number of spies over the years, some of the better spies, I might add. And what about all the Jesuits who went to England in disguise in order to minister to the English Catholics? Was St. Edmund Campion supposed to walk up to the local magistrate and say: "I am a Jesuit priest and I am here to convert you." NO. He pretended to be a jewel merchant. Why? Because St. Edmund, like Lila Rose, was dealing with unjust laws and criminal behavior, albeit the criminals had (and have) government approval. In a Catholic Church in southern Maryland there are several priests buried under the sacristy floor. They had come in disguise in the 16 and 1700's to help the Maryland Catholics who under British law were not allowed to practice their faith. Some of the priests are buried under their aliases because no one knew their real names. They had come pretending to be merchants and traders.

What about the brave souls who work in the underground in Communist countries? You can be sure a lot of role-playing and mental reservation goes on there. What the Live Action people do in order to entrap murderers and child abusers is brave and should be commended. I do not see how any pro-life Catholic person could think otherwise. I think there might be is a bit too much hair-splitting going on in some quarters. Scrupulosity is not a virtue. It never ceases to amaze me what Catholics will find to pick on each other about.... Share


God Alone Suffices said...

I've also been upset about the articles saying that Lila Rose is lying. She's exposing the lies of one of the most evil corporations in the world-how can that be wrong? Was Pope Pius XII wrong when he gave Jews fake baptismal certificates so the Nazis would leave them alone?

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right. What they do is akin to the work of the police: busting exploiters of children and women. May God bless them and commend them for their great work!

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

This is a fantastic post. I couldn't agree more. Thank you for articulating these thoughts so clearly!

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, ladies. I have never encountered such nitpicking and scrupulosity in my life as in some of the arguments against Lila Rose.

Nonni said...

I agree! Thank you for putting it so concisely and cogently!

May said...

I don't want to jump on anyone, but I am a bit puzzled. I had always been taught that it was permissible to leave out part of the truth, in these kinds of situations, or to speak ambiguously, but not to invent something false.

blog nerd said...

We agree about much my friend---but not about this.

First I have to say--that whether or not Lila Rose is "lying" or not is really a side issue. Her tactics are ineffective, provide results of very short and limited duration, and are ultimately more harmful than helpful. I'm taking this from JP II's encyclical Reconcilation and Penance where he denounces Catholics entering the "culture wars" against social sin, institutions, and organizations as being "vain" actions (his words, not mine) and it represents an authentic thirst for justice colonized by expedience, proportionalism, and consequentialism.

Having said that I do think it is clear that this is in violation of chruch teaching--I think the issue is it is not a case of is it a sin or not a sin? because we teach in terms of

a) permissibility and virtuousness. We can do things that are permissible but not virtuous.

b) gravity and degrees of sin.

So while nothing absolves Lila Rose of the accusation of lying, and lying is ALWAYS objectively evil and disordering, it may be, according to the three fonts of morality in our teaching tradition, (object, intention, and circumstances) may be a lie worthy of great mercy.

Having said that--these examples that are going around are way far off the mark.

Undercover police work--the Vatican has made explicit that lies in undercover police work are not absolved of being lies, particularly if they are asked straight out about their identities. (William Donino and Dawn Eden made that clear today.)

Furthermore, you've addressed the larger issue, which is these people are operating under an authority larger than themselves,

And finally--there are reasons that one cannot SOLICIT illegal services and have that be admissible as evidence even in secular positive law. Lila Rose's evidence is likely thoroughly inadmissible in a court of law.

Edmund Campion was withholding his identity from those who had no right to it, but once captured he was forthcoming with the truth at every turn, because it is the truth that transforms every time.

Which brings me to the first point--I think this stuff is NONSENSE and does more harm than good.

Abby Johnson's recent book Unplanned makes this perfectly clear. She writes about an activist named Jim who is uncharitable and extreme toward her and her colleagues, including shoving cameras where they are not wanted and here's what Johnson wrote:

"Everything Jim [an extreme activist] did instead fed the strength and the resolve of the pro-Choice side. Even as a believer in a women's right to choose, I hated to see such actions strengthen the case for abortion, and this is precisely what it did."

keep in mind that Ms. Johnson was not only in need of conversion, she was thirsty for it--she just needed the slightest push.

As for what that push comprised of:

kindness and prayer.

I'm afraid, all Lila Rose accomplishes in her style of activism is bring glee and satisfaction to those who are already converted.

Because look--PP doesn't need to be involved in sexploitation rings and corrupting minors.

The worst thing they do, the thing they cannot point to and say that was a one off circumstance and those employees will be punished, is very simple.

The provide abortions. For profit.

That should be enough.

And look at ACORN--they've reorganized.

This stunt does nothing of value. Even if it DOES something of value you cannot absolve it a) through its fruits, that's consequentialism or b) through a comparison to the evil committed by employees of PP, that's proportionalism.

It would be different if she were with a woman about to receive an abortion against her will and she lied to protect her and her child but that's not what this is.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Suzanne!

Matterhorn, that is exactly right. And in the case of Live Action, they are being ambiguous in giving the impression they are what they aren't in order to entrap criminal behavior. Just like the police, who pretend to be what they aren't in order to entrap criminal behavior.

elena maria vidal said...

Hi, Jen (blog nerd):

Wow, I love arguing with you!

"Edmund Campion was withholding his identity from those who had no right to it, but once captured he was forthcoming with the truth at every turn, because it is the truth that transforms every time."

That is absolutely true.

Well, I don't know, my dear, I think Lila Rose has been very successful in exposing what Planned Parenthood is doing even if it never goes to court. It has made many pro-abortion people I know of acknowledge how really sleazy they are.

Abby Johnson's book sounds great and I agree that a lot of stuff pro-lifers do does nothing to help the cause but make things worse. I was actually glad to hear about the Live Action people because it seemed like they were doing something constructive.

I read Dawn Eden's piece and I usually agree with Dawn but not in this case.

I do agree with you that the bottom line is that PP performs abortions and that should be the bottom line for us.

blog nerd said...

Well, I think it's not really relevant what YOU think in terms of success--the success is what does the pro-Choice public think? or moderates who are little undecided? What about women who have had abortions and need to continue to think it is a good thing in order to simply keep going?

It simply gives them more ammunition to say pro-Life activists are a by any means necessary activist extreme group.

Supporters of PP--who usually have an admirable thirst for justice, despite the error of their conclusions on how to achieve that justice--will tell you as they did in ACORN--well that is just a one off, circumstance.

If you put people into false circumstances they might say or do any number of thing and you're going to have a really hard time proving that this is a crucial part of all PP mission.

I can see how Lila Rose comes up with this--and how in the short term it feels like a victory. But really PP is in the business of
a) staying in business and

b) providing what they say and most of those who work with them and support them think is genuine help and social justice for women.

We can see that it is warped and very short sighted.

We can see how the short term solution to very deep problems appears palatable.

We can even see how pointing to women who have been helped by PP might seem to justify their tactics.

Ironically, I think the very same thing is true of Live Action and Lila Rose.

This is flash in the pan sensationalism, and even the sheen or suggestion of unethical or inappropriate tactics does more harm the good.

Plus--in order to get the distiction of those fighting the Nazi's--another famous and false example--you'd have to demonstrate there is NO OTHER WAY TO FIGHT ABORTION.

And that is not clear at all.

The only thing that has been shown to reduce abortion across the board is education, kindness, and well.


But again--we can't make the argument for the third, and be in the right (according to traditional Catholic teaching) because you cannot combat an evil with another wrong action.

It may be that the wrong action--the lesser evil, as it were--will be given great mercy. But it does not give it absolution.

elena maria vidal said...

Of course, Jen, it is NOT a matter whether I think Live Action's were successful or not. They ARE successful in that they put the prime time spot light on the sleaziness of Planned Parenthood and forced PP to fire some of their sleazy employees. It is at least a step in the right direction.

I am sorry but I really do not agree with you. I don't think Lila Rose did anything wrong.

As for bringing an end to abortion in this country, every little bit helps.

In the long run, as you say, only prayer and changing hearts are going to do that. I have been on the pro-life side since 1973 and I have seen a lot of water go under the bridge, so to say. I think in spite of all the mistakes of pro-lifers, a lot of strides have been made, little be little, so that the pro-life movement is burgeoning with young people, like you, like Lila Rose. There are just different ways of taking action. (I personally could never do a sting operation because I am too transparent. I can't deceive anyone.)

blog nerd said...

If by successful you mean that they are pleasing the already converted then they are.

Pro-choice people don't see anything exposed in this. At all. These are the people that need conversion. Most of all it is the woman, who is, right now, considering an abortion.

PP is out of business if people won't get abortions. Availability is a side issue.

And at the end of the day, even if it was wildly successful you can never measure an action by the ends---the ends never justify the means. To say otherwise is inconsequential.

But we can agree to disagree. :)

elena maria vidal said...

"If by successful you mean that they are pleasing the already converted then they are."

No. It was on the prime time news. It upset a lot of people on the pro-choice side. I saw some of them interviewed. It upset pro-choice people and made them mad at PP. It made PP fire certain employees and investigate what has been going on (or so they claim, which is giving the devil his due.)

Of course, I am just speaking from my own perspective and not basing it on any polls or anything. To me it is a matter of taking action and doing what is right even if the public reacts against it.

Pentimento said...

The head of the Family Life/Respect Life office of the Archdiocese of New York (neither a liberal himself, nor working for a liberal diocese) has also criticized Live Action:

I personally am not concerned with the ruses Live Action uses. I think they are all quite brave.

However, like an earlier commenter, I do question the efficacy of their tactics.

My feeling is that these exercises will actually do little to end the practice of abortion.

elena maria vidal said...

I think that in the long run the work of the people like the Sisters of Life as well as the prayers and sacrifices of the faithful will win the day for us, not Live Action.

Pentimento said...

I agree, Elena. But I also think that not only religious orders like the Sisters of Life, but, more importantly, the loving witness and ministry of the laity to post-abortive mothers and women at risk for abortion, is the most important thing.

elena maria vidal said...

Absolutely! Like my friend A. who volunteers for Project Gabriel and provides counseling and layettes and diapers and cribs to women and babies who need help.

blog nerd said...

Now we are all talking the same language!

Precisely. Coalition for Life is a fine organization as well.

Hallie @ Moxie Wife said...

This is a truly excellent response! Thank you. :)

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks for linking to it, Betty darling!

Forward Boldly said...

Nice post, Elena. I just don't think this issue is as straightforward as some purists (very loudly and I daresay angrily) claim. All one has to do is read New Advent's discussion of lying to see how saints throughout history have disagreed on the very question we're debating.

I should add that Dawn Eden is the same one who gave away a P.G. Wodehouse novel (a gift to her from a Catholic priest) because she could not in good conscience find amusement in Jeeves and Wooster's antics, which were at times less than entirely honest. Clearly, when one has such a sensitive conscience, one should follow it--but setting one's scrupulosity as the standard by which all others should be judged just won't do.

elena maria vidal said...

"Clearly, when one has such a sensitive conscience, one should follow it--but setting one's scrupulosity as the standard by which all others should be judged just won't do."

Exactly. Scrupulosity is common to converts and people starting out in the spiritual life, as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila wrote of so clearly. Good spiritual direction is the only cure.