A Response to Dr. Nadal
This issue just won’t die. In the ongoing debates among Catholics on the Internet over the methods of Live Action, a blog post titled “The Lila Enigma: Selective Outrage?” by Dr. Gerard M. Nadal is making the rounds. Since I am on the other side of the debate, I want to answer some of the claims he makes in his post on this controversy, and I invite him to comment here if he cares to respond. I will put his comments in block quotations, followed by my responses.
After beginning with a list of the serious damages done to Planned Parenthood as a direct or indirect result of the Live Action expose, Dr. Nadal writes,
This coupled with the most pro-life Congress since Roe v Wade who were ramping up to defund Planned Parenthood, and the Catholic blogosphere erupts in spasms of indignation at…
Not Planned Parenthood…
But Lila Rose.
In my view this is a disingenuous statement, especially when the title implies that this indignation is “selective”, as if those who are questioning Lila Rose are not also outraged at Planned Parenthood. It is really unfortunate that there may be left-wing groups falsely claiming to be Catholic that seize upon arguments against lying to bolster their utterly inhuman and anti-Christian agenda. Given their reprehensible positions on abortion, they have no credibility when they speak about the morality of lying.
But there are many of us, and I will gladly lump myself in with Mark Shea and others on this question, who have had nothing but contempt for Planned Parenthood and in our writings and other works have sought to oppose the efforts of the abortion industry. There is absolutely nothing “selective” about what I won’t even call “outrage” – since Lila’s methods do not “outrage” us. Quite the contrary, it is because we are consistent, or trying to be at any rate, in our application of moral principles and our observance of God’s law that we have raised objections, not “outrage”, in response to these deceptive methods.
Speaking only for myself, I have erupted in many spasms of indignation at Planned Parenthood in particular and abortion in general in the past. But it is not the only thing that I have spoken out against, which brings me to the next point. Dr. Nadal asks,
Of course, the question is, why?
The next question, in light of Lila’s past four years is, why now?
I am fairly certain I am not the only person to have written about this in the past. My first post on Lila Rose was written in July of 2009, when I first heard about her. If she was doing this prior to that, I wasn’t aware of it, and I may not have even been blogging. Why then, and now, is because these things were happening then, and now. Blogging usually covers current events.
Now that some of these preliminary issues are out of the way, we can move on to some of the more substantive issues. I want to move on to the point that Dr. Nadal says is “the core” of his argument:
That core is whether or not the method has become its own standard, and does not address the issue that permeates the Gospels, namely that Jesus used the spirit of the law as the external standard for guiding observance of the letter of the law.
Dr. Nadal continues:
In the passages I cite [in an earlier post by Dr. Nadal – J.H.], he drives this point home by citing how David broke the law, defended His Apostles’ breaking of the law, and then went so far as to rub the pharisees noses in it by healing a man on the Sabbath in their synagogue. In all of this, the spirit of the law was cited as the rationale for determining whether the precept of the law as observed violated the higher spirit of the law.
Despite my repeated attempts to engage the clear teaching of Jesus on this, the matter has been consistently side-stepped.
I can see why it has been side-stepped, since at first glance it is a formidable objection. It is nonetheless mistaken in my view. In his earlier post, Dr. Nadal cites many well-known episodes from the Gospels (particularly Matthew 12:1-14) in which Jesus breaks the Mosaic laws by performing various tasks on the Sabbath. These incidents, Dr. Nadal supposes, demonstrate that Jesus was showing us that “common sense” and the “spirit of the law” are more important than the letter of the law.
In bringing up these points, it appears as if Dr. Nadal places he and those who think as he does in the place of Jesus, and those who think like myself or Mark Shea in the place of the Pharisees. But this is an entirely false comparison. Here is why I don’t find this argument convincing.
First, as always, we ought to consider the context. The Pharisees had already completely transgressed and violated the essential teachings of the Old Covenant. The reprobation and condemnation God delivers to the Jews who transgressed the essence of his laws could be demonstrated in many books of the prophets; this one from Isaias should suffice:
To what purpose do you offer me the multitude of your victims, saith the Lord? I am full, I desire not holocausts of rams, and fat of fatlings, and blood of calves, and lambs, and buck goats. When you came to appear before me, who required these things at your hands, that you should walk in my courts? Offer sacrifice no more in vain: incense is an abomination to me. The new moons, and the sabbaths, and other festivals I will not abide, your assemblies are wicked. My soul hateth your new moons, and your solemnities: they are become troublesome to me, I am weary of bearing them. And when you stretch forth your hands, I will turn away my eyes from you: and when you multiply prayer, I will not hear: for your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from my eyes: cease to do perversely,Learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow. (Isaias 1: 11-17)
When Jesus condemns the Pharisees, he is condemning people who have already abandoned the law in their hearts. He condemns them as those who “killed the prophets” (Matthew 23:31), and he reminds them that over and over again has He called them to repentance (Matthew 23:36). I think it is reasonable to surmise that had the Jews remained faithful, or come to repentance when called, that the Mosaic Laws concerning the particular rites and rituals they were to observe would not have been suspended. If these laws were totally unimportant, they would have never been handed down to begin with; what Jesus shows us is that once you transgress the more fundamental laws of justice and morality, the rites and rituals become meaningless.
How can we who raise objections to Lila Rose be compared to Pharisees, with this in mind? Have we murdered the prophets, have we thrown out the essential teachings of morality and justice handed down to us by the Church? The answer is manifestly no. Had the Pharisees been faithful to the law in its entirety, neither the prophets nor Jesus would have condemned them. They were condemned, as we see, because they were selectively enforcing those laws that cemented their power as a ruling caste while ignoring those that would have brought forth the social order that God actually desired. We do no such thing. On the contrary, we keep in mind the maxim of Our Lord:
He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater. (Luke 16:10)
Which means committing “little sins” with full knowledge and consent to bring about an end you desire, even a just end, can very easily and will likely lead to committing large sins, possibly to bring about ends that aren’t even just. This was also Pope Innocent III’s reason for rejecting lies even to save a man’s life:
Holy Scripture forbids us to lie even to save a man’s life. If, then, we allow the lie of necessity, there seems to be no reason from the theological point of view for not allowing occasional murder and fornication when these crimes would procure great temporal advantage; the absolute character of the moral law will be undermined, it will be reduced to a matter of mere expediency.
But there are even more fundamental points to consider. For instance, how can “common sense” – which Dr. Nadal tells us that Jesus was trying to display in his rebukes to the Pharisees in his first post on this – ever be introduced as a justification for lying? Is “common sense” really what Jesus was all about? On the contrary, from a worldly perspective, many of the teachings of Christ defy common sense. They only make sense when one accepts a spiritual reality in which God rewards sacrifice in this life with heaven in the next. We see that Christ teaches:
And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two. (Matthew 5:40-41)
Is this really “common” sense?
You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy.But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.
For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:43-48)
The answer is no, this actually was not considered common sense at all in the ancient world, or by most pagans or unreflective, non-spiritual people today. Here is an excellent collection of sayings from Greek philosophers that Christ’s message totally contradicts, which would have undoubtedly had been regarded as the “common sense” of the time. The common wisdom was that one should do good to one’s friends, and harm to one’s enemies. And this is still the philosophy of Satanism today. Pay particular attention to 4 and 5 of the 9 Satanic Statements. Frankly without the promise of a heavenly reward, Christian morality would be regarded as insane.
Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. (Matt. 6:19-20)
This is precisely what we do when we defy “common sense” to obey the law of God.
Finally, in our Facebook exchange, Dr. Nadal offered this challenge:
Would you lie to save the lives of your family, or would you stand and watch them slaughtered. I would lie. I would also kill in their defense. I would then sleep soundly, having defended innocent life against the depraved.
I can’t even imagine how the sort of lies we are talking about – premeditated, planned in advanced, aggressive – would save the life of my family, but lets say it could. The answer is no, I wouldn’t do that. The souls of my family members are more valuable than their physical bodies. If in dying they would be taken to Heaven or to Purgatory, after mourning I would eventually rejoice, knowing that they would be with God, and that I for not lying and wantonly breaking his law would be able to meet them there upon my own death.
But I certainly would kill to defend my family, and much for the same reason; the life of the soul is infinitely more precious than the life of the body. I would sooner kill a man in a just cause than lead him, by a lie, into a mortal sin – though of course if he was trying to kill my family he would already be engaged in a mortal sin. In that case it wouldn’t be my fault. Some people will say this is insane; I say this is the only point of view that makes any sense in a universe in which God is sovereign, and in which sin, heaven, and hell are realities and not fables.
And I may even tell a lie in the moment, in the immediate situation, if it could save the life of my family. It would likely be a venial sin and if I could think of something else I would be bound to do that. But that kind of lie isn’t what we are talking about. I am the first to admit that there may be a grey area when it comes to lies told in an intense situation, under all kinds of pressure and fear; what I reject as absolute nonsense is the idea that what Lila Rose does has anything to do with these hypotheticals so favored by her apologists.