I think Dr. Kreeft’s final example—that of an incapacitated father lying to prevent his daughter being raped in front of him—deserves more consideration and fleshing out.
If the father were not tied down, what would he have done to prevent his daughter’s rape? LIkely anything he possibly could. He would fight for her, doing everything in his physical power to prevent the rapist from carrying out his diabolical intention.
Physical violence is justifiable in defense of another, up to the point of taking the assailant’s life if the situation warrants. But this is not murder, because the assailant had surrendered his right to his own life by posing a mortal threat to one who did not merit capital punishment. It also is not proportionalism, because we are not weighing possible outcomes “in the grand scheme of things” and opting for the one we deem “less bad;” rather we are observing a reality and the extraordinary moral considerations it poses, and acting appropriately.
But what gift is more precious than the gift of one’s life? We are, after all, discussing this within the “pro-life” movement and in defense of life.
So we agree, and it is established beyond the this small discussion, that violence against another’s person up to and including severing them from their very life can be morally permissible and even morally correct in some circumstances. (Indeed, civil policing and waging a just war rest upon this point.) And this is not proportionalism or nominalism, or any of the other heretical moral systems; this is Catholic morality. (Absolute pacifists, stand down: you renounce violence for yourselves, but yours is not the binding teaching of the Church.)
So what of the case of a father telling a lie to prevent his daughter’s rape? What is he violating? The Catechism definition of a “lie” seems to condemn a lie to prevent a rape, while allowing for physical violence to prevent the very same rape. The principle against lying cites Christ’s self-identification with the truth: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” This indicates, the thinking goes, that the truth is an inviolable and sacred unity as is Christ, and any intentional violation of truth is a violence to the body of Christ, which is Truth. But note the third self-identification in that quote: “I am…the life.” We have already noted that one can surrender one’s God-given right to this earthly life through one’s actions, so can one surrender one’s right to be told the truth in all cases also?
Read the pertinent paragraphs from the Catechism, thinking the entire time about the “victim” of the lie being a would-be rapist, and the one telling the lie as the father trying to protect his daughter’s virtue. I’ve bolded some parts for emphasis:
2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.
2484 The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.
2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. The culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray.
2486 Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.
Those paragraphs were written clearly and unequivocally condemning telling lies to one who is good and trusting and will act in good faith based on what you say. There is no doubt that you cannot lie to a neighbor who has every reason to trust you and who, to be sure, would never tell a lie to you.
But we know who a “neighbor” is from the parable of the Good Samaritan. A neighbor is not just the person who lives next door; a neighbor is someone who is in need of your good will and/or someone who is able and willing to help another in need.
In other words, a neighbor is not someone who would invade your home, subdue you, tie you to a chair, and make ready to rape your daughter in front of you. A would-be rapist is not your neighbor and has earned the violence (against his body or mind) that would be necessary to prevent him from raping your daughter. That the Catechism does not treat upon this does not mean it isn’t so, or that we should set aside what are legitimate lacunae in the official consideration of lying.
Now consider another case, and one that is more directly analogous to what Live Action did. A police officer poses as a 13 year-old girl on Facebook, as a ruse to find criminal perverts. Is it immoral for the officer to engage in discussion with others under that false pretense? The officer engages in discussion with others as a fictional girl, sharing status updates, talking about tests at school that didn’t happen, talking about fictitious friends and their relationships, fictional pets, a mom and dad who don’t exist, and even how much she loves the pink curtains in her non-existent bedroom. None of it is real, but is it wrong?
Again, by the strictest of strict interpretations of the definition of a “lie” provided in the Catechism, quoted above, it seems like it would be. But note: the “victim” of the lie (the pedophile) will only be “vitimized” by the lie if he chooses to act in a horribly immoral manner. As with the would-be rapist above, the “victim” of the lie is not a neighbor, and has no claim on truth in the circumstances into which he has placed himself.
As Dr. Kreeft said, men are neither angels nor computers and thus neither immediately grasp all moral considerations, nor operate according to strict programmatic principles in all cases without exception.
What Lila Rose and company did was indeed deceptive, but they did not put into the mind of the folks at Planned Parenthood to act in an immoral manner, thus the “victims” of the lie were only “victimized” because they pursued an un-neighborly course of action.