- Divine Life – A Blog by Eric Sammons - http://ericsammons.com/blog -
Can we lie to save lives?
Posted By Eric Sammons On March 25, 2010 @ 8:28 am In Pro-life | Comments Disabled
Update: My argument in this post is based on the wording of the original version of the Catechism, which was later changed. See this post  for more details.
One of the classic moral dilemmas of the 20th century was the case of hiding Jews during Nazi Germany. If a Nazi officer comes to the door asking if any Jews are in the house, are you morally permitted to lie to the officer in order to protect the lives of those Jews hiding within? Unfortunately, this is not just a theoretical or historical question, but has real-world applications in today’s abortion-satiated world. Case in point :
Lila Rose, the 21-year-old leader of the group Live Action, posed as a 14-year-old seeking an abortion who was told by a clinic employee that she could have someone with the same last name approve the procedure. State health officials subsequently determined that nine minors had received abortions from the clinic without proper verification of parental consent.
Rose, who converted to Catholicism last year, has been criticized by abortion groups for using deceptive tactics. In reply, she cited Europeans hiding Jews during the Holocaust and the biblical example of Rahab hiding Israelite spies.
I can tell you that in my own pro-life activism experience, I encountered similar situations in which we had to be less than truthful in order to successfully work against abortion clinics. So, was Ms. Rose justified? Is it moral to lie in order to save lives?
The answer is that telling an untruth in such a situation is not a lie, and therefore it can be moral to be deceptive in such situations. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a “lie” in the following way:
To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who as the right to know the truth. (CCC 2483)
So there are three conditions that have to be in place to make a statement a lie:
(1) “Speak or act against the truth”: In other words, the words or actions have to be not true.
(2) “In order to lead into error”: A misspoken word or erroneous statement said in ignorance is not a lie.
(3) “someone who as the right to know the truth”: Here is the key component for the situation we are discussing: does a Nazi guard or Planned Parenthood employee who plans to kill an innocent life have the right to the truth? Of course not.
So we cannot “lie” to save a life, but we can tell an untruth if necessary, but in doing so, that is not a lie.
Now we need to be careful with this definition. It can too easily be used to justify almost any untruth: “My parents didn’t have the right to know that I was out at that party.” “My wife doesn’t have the right to know what I’m doing on my computer in my free time.” I would posit that only extreme situations really call for even the possibility of that third condition being applicable. But if saving the innocent life of an unborn baby is not an “extreme situation”, what is?
God bless you, Ms. Rose, and keep up the good work!
Article printed from Divine Life – A Blog by Eric Sammons: http://ericsammons.com/blog
URL to article: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2010/03/25/can-we-lie-to-save-lives/
URLs in this post:
 this post: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2010/03/25/did-i-lie-about-the-catechism-and-lying/
 Case in point: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/april/4.15.html
 subscribe to my RSS feed: http://ericsammons.com/blog/feed/
Copyright © 2010 Divine Life - A Blog by Eric Sammons. All rights reserved.