Monday, February 28, 2011

Live Action, Lying, and the land of a thousand blogs

You would think that until the debate sprung up across the blogosphere in reaction to Lila Rose and Live Action's sting operation against Planned Parenthood, I wouldn't have known lying is wrong.  I certainly didn't realize that the Catholic Church condemns all falsehoods, including but not limited to, espionage, spying, undercover police work, law enforcement sting operations, and undercover investigative journalism.  It must be true.  Folks on the Internet have made it clear: There is only one obvious take on the question.  Some suggested that those, like Peter Kreeft, whoonce may  have been a respectable Catholic professor of philosophy, are now in the muck and mire of heretical thought for not conceding this clear point.  Obviously Christians who lied while they hid Jews during WWII were sinning, too.  Corrie ten Boom, I was informed during a discussion, was just a sinner who screwed things up and is loathed by many for having caused the deaths of so many innocent people by way of her sinful falsehoods.  As did all who dared sin the great sin in their incompetency. 

Now, the thing I've come away with during all of this?  Beware the Catholic blogosphere, the posts that bite, the comments that snatch.  It is, for the most part, amateur apologists with little to no actual theological training.  Those who do have it, more often than not have no real ministerial experience behind it.  For instance, Dawn Eden, whose article, written with William Doino, Jr., was among the first to take attention off of Planned Parenthood and place it firmly on Lila Rose, has a degree in theology.  She just earned it.  A former rock groupie journalist who converted to Catholicism in recent years, now has a degree.  By that logic, this former Protestant minister who converted to Catholicism and spends the next two years getting a business degree, can then go up and down main street telling all of the business owners how badly they are screwing things up.   I don't mean to dis Dawn, or anyone for that matter.  I'm sure they're fine Catholics and great people.  But it's not for nothing that Paul warns those who are new converts to be slow in throwing their hats in the overseer ring.  If ministery teaches you anything, it's that you can be right and still end up being wrong, in more ways than one.

Am I saying there is no debate here?  No. It is an old debate that has been passionately argued for ages: is any lie or falsehood not only always wrong, but so bad that it's worth risking your own life and the possible lives of innocents in order to avoid the telling?  Or is there a principle involved?  Does this fall under the heading of 'the Sabbath of made for man, not man for the Sabbath'?  Good Christians of good faith have had radically different opinions.

The problem is, this became fodder for the Internet, a forum where people react and act in ways they never would to someone sitting next to them, looking them in the face.  Thus both sides hurled the insults, the accusations, the judgements.  The side that insisted on the sinfulness of lying looked like nothing so much as a KJV only fundamentalist Baptist preacher.  Fans of various bloggers rushed to their defense, insisting that all of those other folks who are obviously wrong are NOT the Magisterium - missing the clear fact that those bloggers they are fans of are not the Magisterium either.

And in it all, a possibly horrendous act on the part of an already dubious institution has more or less gotten off free.  The discussion was used to split, once more, the Catholic ranks.  A pro-life organisation that was filled with young people passionate about defending the unborn was not gently reminded to walk closer to the truth, but was used as a case study for the evils of lying by folks who I can't help but guess have probably told a lie or two in their lives, and for reasons far less noble.

But then, the Internet tends to breed a certain fundamentalist attitude.  Bloggers, many of whom are so because they are talented writers, have the craft and ability to make powerful cases.  They attract followers and fans who quickly circle the wagons and dare any would be critics to beware.  And if the heat gets too bad, if a person plows forth with disagreements and hits too close to home?  Well, that's where the handy 'delete' button on the blog kicks in.

Altogether, a reminder.  The Internet is not the Vatican.  Catholic bloggers, no matter how talented, insightful, Christ loving, and faithful, are NOT the Magisterium.  Some of them are wonderful.  Some have insights and understanding of the Faith that would put a theology professor to shame.  But they still are not coequal with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  And the Catholic blogosphere is not some denomination of exclusive Truth within Sacred Tradition.  So when we do step forward to guide and lead people to truth, we should do it like Catholics, not like the average Protestant fundamentalist caricature.  It wasn't to hear Himself talk that Jesus, in telling us to be innocent as doves, also told us to be shrewd as serpents.  And in this little train wreck of a discussion, many may feel they have truly achieved the 'innocent as doves' portion of the charge, but I can't help but feel it was done at the expense of the 'shrewd as serpents' clause.


  1. First, welcome back. Glad to see you up blogging again. Hope your family is doing well.

    But I have to admit I was disappointed in this post. You are a Catholic blogger, and yet you more or less dismiss the entire world of Catholic blogs. There are many wonderful bloggers out there who are true servants of the Church. They have every right to discuss these issues.

    Instead of taking a broad swipe at everyone else, maybe you should give more of an opinion yourself. What do you think? Where do you stand? You said nothing at all, other than suggest that nobody has a right to say anything. Except you.

  2. Rob,

    I think he is right. Maybe this wasn't the best post, but his point is that Catholics in the blogosphere can adopt an almost fundamentalist attitude, as if they are the same as the Magisterium. I also agree with Dave and John Zmirak that this issue should never have been handled this way. That seems to be what Dave is saying. Not that Dawn Eden was wrong. Not that the discussion shouldn't have happened. But that they handled it badly. They took the focus from Planned Parenthood, and essentially aided those who wanted the issue to go away.


  3. Why criticize those who are standing for the Church's teaching? Why not express your opinion? If you think it is fine to lie, then say so. If you don't, then say so. We can't stand by while people, in the name of the Catholic faith, do what is wrong. We certainly can't praise sin and sinfulness. I know some internet discussions can go overboard, but in this case, Dave seems to be taking issue with the very existence of the Catholic internet community.


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