My Line In The Sand
Since I have posted, twice, on the methods and actions of Live Action’s undercover sting operations, I have been confronted with the issue more and more in the Catholic publications I read and circles I frequent. I am not going to talk about the morality of lying yet again. Instead I want to talk about what I find to be an incredibly disturbing attitude among people who I normally consider good-willed and faithful Catholics. It goes something like this:
“I approve of lies if they save innocent lives. And I don’t care if it were to turn out that such lies were actually sins. I would do it anyway, and I think God would understand.”
One more extreme version of this argument was “I would gladly die a heretic“, all for the sake of maintaining their own personal position on lying.
I want to be as clear as I can be, though bad-willed readers will ignore or twist this: I am not claiming that it is a sin to hold the position that you can lie (or use “mental reservation” or whatever) to save a life; to be honest I am still not sure and am still trying to get to the bottom of the matter. If someone holds this position in good faith, believing it to be right, and reasons that are actually based on Scripture, Tradition, the saints, theologians, etc. then I won’t fault them for that.
But if someone is holding this position simply and primarily because it makes sense to them, and feels no obligation at all to justify their position, then I have a serious problem with that. And I absolutely condemn the perverse declarations of those who would spit in the eye of God and say “I don’t care if it IS a sin, I’m going to do it anyway, and I’m going to call it good and a righteous, and if you don’t like it God, well forget you!”
It is one thing to have a legitimate debate over whether or not something is a sin, or whether a particular act falls into a certain category. It is inexcusable and reprehensible to declare that you are unaccountable to God for your beliefs and actions, and that you will do whatever you please even if it turns out that it is sinful.
People come close to this position or actually embrace it because they can’t fathom that God does not share their thoughts, their feelings, their opinions on the matter. Or they argue that since faith and reason do not contradict one another, a position that appears unreasonable to them cannot be required by faith. Most of the people who make this argument do so from a thoroughly worldly perspective, placing the innocent human life – and it is a precious and valuable thing – above the life of the immortal soul.
Anyone who really considers the matter can’t but understand that this is the beginning of atheism and apostasy. Underlying it is a total lack of appreciation or understanding of a spiritual reality, and an implicit acceptance of materialist (God-denying) premises. Consciously, it begins under the banner of “reason”, of assuming that if faith and reason appear to conflict, then it is faith that must be trampled underfoot. And it progresses to the glorification and then deification of man, assuming that whatever is injurious or even offensive to man, even if it is required by God, is the greatest possible evil. This sort of thinking is rampant on the “Catholic” left, but it evidently infects plenty of self-proclaimed conservatives as well. They have forgotten:
“And he said to them: You are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts; for that which is high to men, is an abomination before God.” (Luke 16:15)
I don’t think it is the least bit unreasonable to proceed on the assumption that if, as Pope Innocent III believed, as St. Augustine believed, that it is a sin to lie even to save a life, that this is a test of our fidelity to God. The prohibition on lying is actually quite reasonable if it is viewed in the context of a spiritual and infinite reality. But I will be the first to admit that it – along with many other Christian precepts – becomes absurd in the context of a materialist and finite reality.
So what are your operating premises, really, when you are so attached to a position that you would essentially become a heretic or an apostate in order to keep it? And why should anyone ever listen to you rail about “Cafeteria Catholics” ever again, if this is your attitude? Again, please note – I am not addressing people who believe that there are certain exceptions to the rule against lying in good faith. I am addressing people who are determined to do as they please even if they are totally refuted by legitimate authority, going all the way up to God Himself.