Voices For Life

Voices for Life is an e-publication dedicated to informing and educating the public on pro-life and pro-family issues. We cover issues from conception until natural death, as well as all family life issues.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Were Planned Parenthood Videos Produced Unethically?

by Monica Migliorino Miller
Crisis Magazine

Planned Parenthood has had a very bad summer. This is the consequence of videos produced by David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in an under-cover sting operation that provide convincing evidence that Planned Parenthood clinics sell body parts of aborted babies for profit.

Daleiden and members of CMP passed themselves off as representatives of a fake biologics company to facilitate their covert action. For this they have been criticized by at least two articulate voices, Professor Robert George and Catholic author Mark Shea. They accuse Daleiden and CMP of engaging in the evil of lying and consequentialist ethics.

Their arguments were first made against Lila Rose when four years ago undercover investigators from her group Live Action, conducted similar pro-life covert activities. At the time, I published an exhaustive critique refuting the claims of Live Action’s critics. I will review some of those arguments here and offer a new perspective as to why Daleiden did not lie.

The George and Shea analysis, while thoughtful, suffers from a literalist understanding of language and communication and fails to make a sufficient distinction between lying as a direct offense against truth and acts of deception that can be morally justified. Critics of CMP are more than hesitant to condemn covert police or wartime operations which require false identities. If critics of CMP cannot come to a moral conclusion about these types of deceptive acts they have very little ground by which to condemn Daleiden.

Art. 2485 of the Catechism (CCC) states that “By its very nature lying is to be condemned.” Art. 2483 states: “To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error.” Art. 2488: “The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional” and we are required “in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it.” And finally, Art. 2489: “The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. … No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.”

Art. 2483 identifies the components of a lie as 1) speech or action 2) against the truth 3) in order to lead someone into error. The language “in order to” means the intent to lead another into error. If the term “error” only refers to leading someone to thinksomething is true (when it isn’t true) and not moral error, then all undercover police officers are guilty of sin—but the Catholic Church does not teach that they commit sin.

Let’s also note Art. 2469: “The virtue of truth gives another his just due.” This article indicates that truth may be withheld from those who do evil; as such persons have lost their moral entitlement to a “just due.” It is clear that several factors need to be considered before judging whether particular speech or action is a lie.

Augustine and Aquinas both believed that any false signification in word or deed was an offense against the good of truth and thus sinful as such signs contradict what one knows to be the truth in one’s mind. Aquinas teaches that lying exists in the will to make a false statement that causes another to be deceived. It would appear there is no way to justify the donning of a false identity according to strict Thomistic principles.

However, even St. Thomas taught that ambushes in war could be morally justified (ST. 2, 2, Q40, art 3). He cites the actions of Joshua who tricked the enemy by instructing his army to pretend a retreat when in fact his men were luring their foes into a trap. Aquinas approved of actual gestures of false signification stating: “A man may be deceived by what we say or do, because we do not declare our purpose or meaning to him.” Aquinas goes on to say: “Nor can these ambushes be properly called deceptions, nor are they contrary to justice or to a well-ordered will.”

The Thomist system may provide a basis to understand why the Church does not condemn the use of false identity for a good purpose. When it comes to lying or the morality of any action, Aquinas states (ST 2,2, Q110) that actions have two parts—the end for which a person acts and the means by which the end is achieved and both parts are willed by the acting person. For instance, one wills to quench one’s thirst and to drink a glass of water is the means by which the end is achieved.

However, Aquinas taught that certain goods other than the truth, namely the good of life and the good of ownership of property may be “taken away” under certain circumstances. Here I wish to build on the insights of Professor Janet Smith and explain how false identity does not directly offend against truth and is thus not a lie.

continue reading at http://www.crisismagazine.com

Monica Migliorino Miller is the Director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society and Associate Professor of Theology at Madonna University in Michigan. She holds a degree in Theatre Arts from Southern Illinois University and graduate degrees in Theology from Loyola University and Marquette University. She is the author of several books including The Theology of the Passion of the Christ (Alba House) and, most recently, The Authority of Women in the Catholic Church (Emmaus Road).

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