Young Pro-Life Vigilante “Lila Rose” has gained notoriety the past several years for various “undercover ops” involving Planned Parenthood: recording conversations with donation collectors, posing as a teenaged girl pregnant through rape or incest and seeing if Planned Parenthood reported it, video taping the counseling sessions, etc.
Some of these “sting operations” have gone to a bit of an extreme in forcing the Planned Parenthood employees to say things they probably wouldn’t have said or done. Planned Parenthood has claimed she’s illegally recorded the conversations.
In the meantime, Lila Rose has become a young hero to pro-lifers, and she has recently converted to Catholicism, apparently.
Well, my friend Joe Hargrave has raised an interesting take on the morality of her actions, and his observations deserve some thought. Deal Hudson has offered a rebuttal, which also deserves some thought.
Haven’t read all the comments on either discussion, but I’d like to offer several observations:
1. I come down pretty hard on people. Years ago, Mary suggested I should start using, when anonymity was called for, the nickname “God’s Gadfly,” after one of my favorite passages in Plato. The Prophet Socrates, in the Apology (also one of the two places where he predicts the coming of Christ), says he is a “gadfly” sent by god (specifically Apollo, since he discerned his vocation from an oracle at Delphi) to annoy the Athenians and rouse them from their complacency and make them examine themselves. Much like Socrates, who was always looking for a wise man, and Diogenes, who was always looking for an honest man, I’m always looking for an honest Catholic.
But that I mean not just “orthodox”–and not even necessarily 100% orthodox–but someone who’s actually committed to living the Gospel, at least in theory, 100%. Someone who tries as best as possible not to let worldly attachments cloud his or her judgement.
From my experience reading his writings and communicating with him online, Joe Hargrave is one of those rare people. He is seriously seeking Truth.
Years ago, I read Bob Casey’s memoir Fighting for Life. For several reasons, I think it makes an interesting bookend to Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, because, if you define “conservative” by the definition Kirk gives in his magnum opus, then Bob Casey is definitely a liberal.
Now, deriiving from my own views of politics pre-Kirk, and definitely after reading Kirk, I came to the following delineation of the basic differences between a “conservative” and a “liberal”. While the terms originally referred to economics, or refer to customs, or whatever, I use them, as Kirk basically does, to refer to interpretation of law.
Kirk says that conservatives are, by nature, pessimistic about human nature, while liberals are optimistic. Conservatives expect people to do bad. They want government to punish wrongdoing, but they generally want government to be restricted because people run the government, and people are prone to corruption. Liberals are optimistic. They think people are fundamentally good, and they think that various social reforms are the way to solve the problem of evil.
For various reasons, the Culture Wars most obviously, but my interpretation of subsidiarity and other church teachings included, I have always been a conservative. As I noted the other day, Michael Jackson and Madonna and MTV deserve a lot of the credit for that, as I was naturally repulsed by them as a kid, and didn’t understand why other kids’ parents weren’t as strict as my parents were, why they let their kids watch that junk.
Based upon the above description, I have long believed that Catholics should be conservatives because, if nothing else, of original sin. Our belief in human concupiscence fits nicely with the conservative paradigm.
OTOH, Bob Casey’s memoir/manifesto shows what I think a true “liberal Catholic” should be like. He was equally concerned with moral issues as I was, but he had a more optimistic view of human nature, and therefore of the role of government. It would have been interesting to debate with him on that one point. In practice, I saw my views converging with many of Casey’s, but in theory ,we were polar opposites.
So, Joe Hargrave is the closest person I’ve met to a “Bob Casey”. He’s fundamentally liberal, because he’s an optimist. But on most practical political issues, we agree.
2. While I’m searching for an “honest Catholic,” I’m always willing to grow myself. I’m willing to entertain new perspectives, provided that it all fits. I have many times, over the years, completely changed my views on particular issues when I’ve found the Church taught differently than what I thought–or, more precisely, when I’ve found out the Church has a teaching on that subject (and didn’t realize it previously).
Liberal Catholics often say, “Read the Social Justice Encyclicals.” Unlike many Catholic political conservatives, I *have* read several of them, and excerpts or summaries of all, and I’ve found that, while I am no longer a laissez-faire capitalist, I am not a socialist, either. I am a Chestertonian distributivist.
While Kirk refuses to accept Chesterton as a conservative, Kirk’s view is that conservatives should shun economic ideology in favor of economic pragmatism, and he is equally critical of both capitalists and socialists.
But while I’m willing to grow, there are often issues that come up where we really haven’t given them much thought.
Torture is one such issue. I never gave it much thought, one way or the other, till the past few years.
Now, the issue of lying as an intrinsic evil has been circulating the blogosphere, and Joe has raised the question in regard to Lila Rose–and, by extension, in regard to anyone who does “undercover work”?
Can you lie in the service of undercover work?
3. Deal Hudson responds with a similar view to what he’s posited on waterboarding. Killing is intrinsically evil. So, if it’s just or justifiable to do that intrinsic evil in certain circumstances (war, death penalty, self defense), why isn’t it just to do certain other intrinsic evils in similar circumstances? Of course, this carries a dangerous slope with it: for example, that contraception is justifiable under such circumstances. I will be gettin back to that issue whenever I resume my Iraq series.
4. A story: our old OB/Gyn in VA once told us about a “crazy Iranian abortionist” he knew. He was Irish, and his narrative seemed to be missing some points. He said this abortionist showed up one time in the delivery room wielding a handgun while he was delivering the baby of one of the abortionist’s former clients. I forget why, exactly.
Anyway, he also said the guy’s clinic in Richmond was shut down after several accusations of fraud were made against him. An undercover cop went in one day. The abortionist came in and said, “You’re pregnant. Want an abortion?”
The cop said, “That was a urine sample from my male partner. I’m a cop, and you’re under arrest.”
Well, would *that* be morally justifiable?
5. The real question Joe’s post raises is whether undercover work is permissible at all. Then there’s the question of whether vigilante overcover work is justified.
6. Then there’s the Catechism’s extreme position on lying, especially given the lies that prelates themselves often engage in.
7. Another anecdote. I heard an African bishop tell this story in an EWTN homily. Two Christian men were running from some pagans who wanted to kill them. They met an old farmer and said, “Grandfather, some men want to kill us! Please hide us!” So the old farmer told them to hide under a bale of hay. The soldiers arrived. “Did you see two men?” they asked.
“Yes,” said the old man. “They’re hiding under that bale of hay.”
“Fool! How dare you mock us?!” they cried, striking him to the ground.
The soldiers left. The fugitives came out from under the hay.
“Why did you tell whem where we were?”
“I knew they wouldn’t believe I was telling the truth,” he said. “The truth will set you free.”