There has been a growing debate among Catholics about the morality of the means used by LiveAction to expose Planned Parenthood’s evil agenda, with good Catholics of unquestionable pro-life convictions, deep faith and valid reasoning falling on both sides of the debate.
All of us agree that abortion is an intrinsic evil, that the cause of the unborn is the greatest civil rights issue of our time, and that we should unite in opposing and defeating those who enable the atrocity of abortion to continue, especially Planned Parenthood.
In pursuit of these noble goals however, it is important that the pro-life community not compromise its principles.
We should never forget that the pro-life movement originates from a realization about the truth of the human person: about the truth of who we are, from our very first moment. And precisely because we hold the truth of the human person so sacred, we should not quickly rule out of hand any legitimate question which suggests that what we are doing is less than worthy of a human person created in the image of God.
The Public Discourse has been doing all of us a service by hosting a debate between Christopher Tollefsen and Christopher Kaczor on LiveAction’s techniques in extracting information about Planned Parenthood’s evil practices:
- Tollefsen: “Truth, Love and Live Action” (Feb 9)
- Kaczor: “In Defense of Live Action” (Feb 11)
- Tollefsen: “Why Lying is Always Wrong” (Feb 14)
Princeton Professor and pro-life hero Robert George has also weighed-in on the debate at the Mirror of Justice blog:
Tollefsen points out that Aquinas, while condemning lying even in justified wars, held that military feints are not necessarily lies and can be morally permissible. Getting to just what it is that distinguishes the two is, I predict, where this debate is heading—and that, I believe, is just where it should head. Getting greater clarity on the issue would be valuable to all who wish to use every legitimate means, while avoiding every illegitimate one, in working to defend human rights, protect the common good, and fight grave injustices such as abortion.
… Professor Tollefsen is, I believe, profoundly right that we must not permit our cause to be sullied by lying. We must not abandon faith in the power of truth to transform those who oppose us in the great struggle over the protection of human life in all stages and conditions. We must not forfeit our standing in the debate as the tellers of truth.
Professor George next answers the question that I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves, does being bound to always tell the truth place us at a disadvantage in the struggle with the abortionists?
I understand the impatience; indeed, I share it. The edifice of abortion is indeed built on a foundation of lies. And in working to protect the victims of abortion, it is frustrating to hold ourselves to standards that so many on the other side freely disregard. But there are no moral shortcuts to victory in this struggle. A culture of life can only be built on a foundation of truth. Lying may produce short term victories, but it will, in the end, frustrate our long term objective. Respect for life—like respect for every other great human good and every other high moral principle—depends on love of truth. Our efforts in the cause of life and every other worthy goal will, in the end, prove to be self-defeating if they undermine love of truth.
I think the arguments put forward by Tollefsen and George need to be taken seriously, but I also believe the arguments put forward by Kaczor and others also have merit. I intend to read these full arguments myself to answer my own questions about whether LiveAction’s chosen means are ethical, and if it is wise to continue such practices in the future. I hope they ask themselves the same questions before moving forward.
At the same time, however, I will continue in my efforts to promote a culture of life and to oppose and defeat the abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood that continue to kill the innocent unborn and victimize women.
As Catholics, if we are serious about ensuring that the means we choose to defend the unborn are good, we must also be equally serious about acknowledging the urgent need to actively defend the truth of the dignity of the unborn from those who daily deny it.