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.

16 Responses to A Response to Dr. Nadal

  • Joe,

    Before commenting further, I must ask the following. You say that you would sacrifice your family rather than lie to save them. Are you married? Do you have children? If yes, have you discussed this with your wife? Her thoughts?

  • Joe.
    We are battling with the same issue down here on http://www.beingfrank.co.nz .
    I must say, although I agree with the basic fact of the lack of morality when it comes to magisterial teaching, nevertheless it is a real struggle to accept that a relatively minor sin – a lie that has a good outcome – does not far and away come near to negating the moral good of assisting in the elimination of abortion.

    But I think this last post has been quite convincing. Against my personal “human” feelings, I have to agree with you.

    My question is, is there another way? is there room for – say – some form of prudential judgement?
    I really don’t know – it is a difficult question – but I do have to agree with you that the actions do not stack up to Catholic moral teaching.

  • I appreciate the comment Don.

    As for the question as to whether there is “another way”, I think we have to keep in mind that God may well be testing us.

    To be quite honest, I believe God has allowed much of these evils, including abortion, to happen. As a result of apostasy, as a result of a rejection of the traditional teaching of the Church and the embrace modernism not only in sexuality but also in theology, philosophy, and other areas of life, God has withdrawn his grace from our society.

    Let’s return to Isaias. Through the prophet, God speaks:

    “Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood. Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a wicked seed, ungracious children: they have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards.” (1:3-4)

    What is the result of this blasphemy, this apostasy?

    “Your land is desolate, your cities are burnt with fire: your country strangers devour before your face, and it shall be desolate as when wasted by enemies.” (1:7)

    Our land has been made desolate – not only the 55 million aborted, but the children THEY would have had, many millions more. We have been wasted by our enemies, the Satanic subversives who operate under the mantle of Freemasonry and communism, and now fanatical environmentalism which is a sort of neo-pagan Earth worship.

    And later:

    “How is the faithful city, that was full of judgment, become a harlot? justice dwelt in it, but now murderers.” (1:21)

    How much more clear could it be? This once faithful land, now become a harlot, is full of murderers. The New Israel, Christendom, has become a harlot just like the Old Israel, and our punishments are similar.

    God made clear what could turn it all around:

    “And then come, and accuse me, saith the Lord: if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool. If you be willing, and will hearken to me, you shall eat the good things of the land. But if you will not, and will provoke me to wrath: the sword shall devour you because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (1:18-20)

    Is it too late? I can’t believe that it is ever too late to repent. But I don’t believe it will actually be done. Not just because of the manifest evil of those who promote abortion, but because of those who think they can do things their own way, with no regard for what God wants.

    “Hath God any need of your lie, that you should speak deceitfully for him?” (Job 13:7)

    God doesn’t need us to lie; he needs us to wage holy war with the truth.

  • Dr. Nadal,

    Let’s be clear on what I will and will not do.

    Will I lie to save my family? I honestly believe that if my family’s life immediately depended upon a lie, that it would find its way out of my mouth. I think pure instinct would kick in and full consent would be gone.

    But if we are talking about a situation in which a lie might save my family three months from now, well, I would imagine that any number of other options might suffice as well – fleeing the country, telling the police of our predicament, buying a firearm and preparing for an attack, or whatever the situation may call for. I would pursue all of those just means. I would not resort to a deception.

    My wife shares my faith, there is no matter we do not discuss in the greatest detail, and we are on the same page. In the heat of the moment, I don’t think I would be able to not lie to save her, or our future children, or even my sibling, or anyone I care about for that matter.

    But I’m sick of this hypothetical being advanced to defend Lila Rose, because it is nothing like what she does.

  • People seem to be under the totally false impression that my position is “lying in every circumstance is a mortal sin.”

    I’ve never said that. It is always wrong to lie – the circumstances may lessen the gravity of the sin. So may the intention, and so may the consequences. Even so, we cannot promote sinful behavior as if it were good, or engage in it with full knowledge and consent.

    What I’ve said is that lying in the way Live Action does, or for that matter, the way the police routinely do is almost certainly a mortal sin, and should be shunned and rejected by Catholics.

  • Perhaps we can agree that there will be disagreement on this point and let the Magisterium clear it up. I think it fair to say that there clearly are tough sticking points. One includes that clergy and laity clearly deceived by some of the methods used to hide Jews in WWII. So too escaped slaves were aided by deceptions to flee to Canada. And I think most people intuitively find that if they were cornered they would lie to save their families. I would add that if the likes of Peter Kreeft and Robert George admit there is opportunity for discussion that this is a fair point to allow.

    I think Dr. Nidal’s point is well taken. Where was/is the outrage when other private citizens do this? Stings by news organizations etc? I think it fair that we critique our own but at the same time I can’t help but believe there are some who support PP that are ecstatic that attention has been deflected by this discussion.

    To that end, let’s admit it is possible that there was wrong and devise ways to expose PP according to what individuals find appropriate. In the meantime, and much more importantly, let’s start talking about how DHS has begun to limit Bush-era conscience protections in prescribing contraceptives, particularly those that are abortifacients. Let’s start promoting Republican efforts to limit funding for abortion in Obamacare (HR 3) and other measures currently in the House. And let’s comment on this far more eggregious affront to morality (H.T. Jay Anderson):


  • Exactly what purpose does all this “pomp and circumstances” serve?

    I did not need to know any of this.

    Without thousands of words fired, here and elsewhere, about Lila Rose, and now Gerard Nadal, I would not know the two are evil people.

  • Shaw,

    NO ONE said they were evil.

    Is this how lazy you all are going to get on this?

  • Joe,

    If we believe that Lila lied, did she not also sin? The magnitude of the response against her becomes one of neurotic obsession if it is not motivated by the belief that what she did was an evil affront to the goodness and majesty of God.

    I also don’t buy the new line making the rounds that “of course we all hate Planned Parenthood, so we don’t need to discuss that…” So yes, there is an element of people accusing Lila of evil (a premeditated sin, as opposed to an instinct as you have delineated), and of my complicity by defending what is being held to be evil.

    If you read the threads on my columns, I have been accused of promoting several heresies and leading others into sin. If that ain’t evil, what is???

    So, yes, T. Shaw is not being lazy or untruthful. The words are out there, and Shaw has read them.

    I’m with Peter Kreeft on this one. I also think that people with a scrupulous bent are reading an isegetical agenda into the plain meaning of the CCC.

    I think a FB friend Ron Gawthorp made an outstanding point on a thread when he said:

    “I wish someone would judge Joseph for deceiving his brothers, Blessed Miguel Pro for deceiving the Mexican Authorities, St Edmund Campion for masquerading against England’s legitimate authority. If the critics of Lila Rose are so sure of their position, they should confront the Church for beatifying these heros, and proceed to denounce their ruses for scandalizing their brethren.

    “But somehow I think that will not happen. And I know why.”

  • Joe,

    More words of yours:

    “What I’ve said is that lying in the way Live Action does, or for that matter, the way the police routinely do is almost certainly a mortal sin, and should be shunned and rejected by Catholics.”

    Reconcile that with:

    NO ONE said they were evil.
    Is this how lazy you all are going to get on this?”

    Mortal sin is evil Joe. It kills our relationship with God. It is spiritual death that earns us eternal separation from God. Those who promote evil would “Better a millstone be tied around their neck and they be cast into the sea, before they lead one of these little ones astray,” according to a certain first century rabbi.

    How then can you accuse Live Action of mortal sin (evil), take me to task for defending mortal sin (evil), and then castigate one of your readers for pointing out that you have called us evildoers?

    I think you’re confused and driven by a certain degree of scrupulosity which causes you to say one thing and then deny it on the same thread.

  • Nadal,

    It is you who are confused. For something to be a mortal sin FOR THEM, they must do it with full knowledge that it is a sin. I don’t think the people at Live Action really considered it.

    Moreover, I don’t think that everyone who commits a mortal sin can be described as “evil.” People struggle with sin. But if those people obstinately reject God and are determined to do as they please, then yes I would call them evil. I haven’t seen them say that.

    It’s unfortunate that, having no intelligible response to any of the responses I made to your substantive points, you’ve resorted to meaningless distractions and childish one-upmanship.

    I honestly expected more.

  • As for these figures mentioned in the past, I am only concerned with what is going on now. And I don’t think what ANY of them did measures down to an entrapment conspiracy.

  • Joe,

    You get more when you merit more.

    T. Shaw nailed you, and you sound more confused than ever. I’m very well trained theologically, and know the criteria for mortal sin.

    You accuse LA of mortal sin, then retract that statement when challenged on it. You also resort to name-calling with your readers, which makes me believe that while very sincere, you are sincerely confused. The arguments that I have made on my blog are tight, cogent, and I stand by them. Taken together, they are the rebuttal of your argument here.

    As for presuming on the people at LA, and what they considered, you make a VERY presumptuous claim, one rooted in deep arrogance. Lila Rose is a deeply prayerful woman who converted to the Catholic Church. She is a very thoughtful woman who doesn’t see the world as you do, so you really need to can the presumption along with the name-calling.

    You get more when you merit more.

  • Nadal,

    What are you talking about? I haven’t retracted anything. Objectively what LA does is gravely sinful, and anyone who does it with knowledge that it is gravely sinful is mortally sinning, I believe.

    I don’t think most of the people involved if any had full knowledge of the gravity of what they were doing. They though they were justified. So it wasn’t a mortal sin for them.

    Secondly, I do think Shaw’s remark was lazy, because I think he’s just assuming that I called them “evil” when I never said such a thing. I think LA’s heart is in the right place, for the most part.

    As for the rest, you’ve shown here that your arguments are totally bankrupt and indefensible. So you are no longer welcome to comment here anyway. I’m not interested in anything more you have to say.

  • Here are a few questions:

    1. If a Catholic is a member of law enforcement, is it OK to go undercover and do a “sting?” Pretend to be a major drug dealer to set up a drug smuggler? Can one be deceptive (or even lie their pants off) when it is condoned by the state for the common good?

    2. Can a Catholic in the military engage in deception (e.g., the sort of actions employed before the Normandy Invasion to trick the other side into thinking the attack would come elsewhere)?

    3. How about an investigative reporter? Could a Catholic reporter unhook a wire in their car then take it to a mechanic (who could do the easy fix or claim they need a new transmission) to have a program on honest and dishonest mechanics?

  • Ok, here is my response to those questions.

    1. I think sting operations are usually wrong, when they involve getting people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. When the police do a sting, don’t they need to have some valid reason to believe that the people they are investigating are doing what they are trying to uncover? It is usually a matter of gathering legally acceptable evidence of crimes that everyone knows are being committed.

    I’m not even saying that THIS is morally acceptable (I don’t know really), but even IF it were…

    This is not what LA does. Instead what they do is try to get PP employees to agree to do something illegal. And sometimes the police do this too – it is called entrapment. And I believe entrapment is always wrong.

    2. Letting someone think something that isn’t true isn’t the same as lying to them.

    3. Good question. I don’t know. In that case their car really would be broken, so I don’t necessarily see that as a lie.

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