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Thursday, August 13, 2015

You Don't Shea! (Why Planned Parenthood Really Digs Neo-Catholic Schoolmarmery)

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"Not so fast, Mr. Pro-Lifer!" "Not so fast, Mr. Pro-Lifer!"

Mark Shea’s online broadcast on the sting videotapes of Planned Parenthood’s trafficking in human body parts is a prime example of what his brand of neo-Catholic punditry is all about: the smug assurance that he is more nuanced than thou, more thoughtful than thou, more reasonable than thou, and thus more deeply Catholic than thou. As usual, however, Shea is simply more obnoxious than thou.

In vocal tones that echo his smarmy blog posts, Shea inveighs against the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) for employing assumed names in order to gain access to the inner sanctum of Planned Parenthood, where CMP investigators engaged PP representatives in grisly conversations about their harvesting and pricing of the internal organs of butchered babies.

For Shea the Enlightened One, this is all very simple, don’t you know: CMP engaged in lying, lying is always wrong, and “there can be no justification for a lie… You cannot lie for any reason.” You cannot even lie to the Nazis about the Jews hiding in your attic. You can only “figure[e] how to hide your Jews well.”

After a passing reference to how “ghastly” PP’s activities are, Shea spends the better part of 45 minutes explaining how bad CMP’s lying was, and how this sort of thing must lead in the end to the destruction of our entire religion:

the main thing that I worry about… is for a faith to found itself on the proposition of the noble lie I think is incredibly dangerous because all we have at the end of the day is faith as Christians. And if we start saying to the world we believe that lying for a good cause is the way to go, where is the bottom, where does that end?

Come, come now. No one, least of all the brilliant and devout young man who heads up CMP, is suggesting the ludicrous proposition that we ought “to found the faith itself on the proposition of the noble lie.” The issue here is a very narrow one: was CMP’s dissimulation excusable, pardonable and even understandable given the circumstances, even though, objectively speaking, it constituted a lie amounting to a venial sin? Of course it is.

In the Summa Theologiae Saint Thomas, while teaching that deliberate lying is always to some extent sinful, distinguishes between three kinds of lies: the officious lie, which is told “for the wellbeing and convenience of someone,” the jocose lie, which “is told in fun,” and the mischievous lie, which “is told out of malice.” (ST, II-II, Q. 110, Art. 2). If the aim of a lie is not contrary to charity, he continues, it is only a venial sin, “as in the case of a jocose lie, where some little pleasure is intended, or in an officious lie, where the good also of one's neighbor is intended.” (ST, II-II, Q. 110, Art. 4)

Concerning the officious lie, Saint Thomas considers an example quite apt to Shea’s caricature of the moral issue: that of the lying midwives in Exodus 1. As Holy Scripture recounts, Pharaoh commanded the midwives of the Hebrews to kill all male offspring at the moment of delivery, thus performing the Old Testament equivalent of partial birth abortions. But “the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded, but saved the men children.” And when asked by Pharaoh why they had saved the male children, the midwives simply lied though their teeth, falsely stating that Hebrew women themselves “are skillful in the office of midwife; and they are delivered before we come to them.” Yet, despite their lie, “God dealt well with the midwives… And because the midwives feared God, he built them houses,” meaning that He blessed their families. (Cf. Gen.1:14-21).

Answering the objection that every lie is a mortal sin, Saint Thomas provides the kind of nuance of which Shea merely thinks he is capable:

Some, however, are commended in theScriptures, not on account ofperfectvirtue, but for a certain virtuous, disposition, seeing that it was owing to some praiseworthy sentiment that they were moved to docertainundue things…

The lie of the midwives may be considered in two ways. First as regards their feeling of kindliness towards the Jews, and their reverence and fear of God, for which their virtuous disposition is commended. For this an eternal reward is due….

Secondly, it may be considered with regard to the external act of lying. For thereby they could merit, not indeed eternal reward, but perhaps some temporal meed [archaic for “reward”], the deserving of which was not inconsistent with the deformity of their lie, though this was inconsistent with their meriting an eternal reward…. (ST, II-II, Q. 110, Art. 4

So, as Saint Thomas makes clear, a lie told with the intention of protecting another from harm, thus constituting only a venial sin, does not preclude an eternal reward. Nor is it even inconsistent with a temporal reward. Both rewards are due on account of “a certain virtuous disposition” and “praiseworthy sentiment.” It is not that the lie itself is justified, but rather that God “overlooks” the venial sin in such circumstances and bestows the reward due to well-motivated behavior—the motives being “kindliness towards the Jews, and their reverence and fear of God” in the case of the midwives.

Seen in this light, Shea’s dire claim that the foundations of the Faith are threatened by any defense of CMP’s sting operation against the baby butchers of Planned Parenthood is revealed as nothing but shallow Internet punditry. But we know what this really all about. In his own article on Shea’s commentary, John Zmirak lays bare the motive at work: “Curiously, Shea has no previous track record of condemning the use of deception by police trapping pedophiles, CIA operatives fighting terrorism, or animal rights activists infiltrating factory farms. But over several years, Shea has spilled tens of thousands of words denouncing pro-life investigative reporters who infiltrated Planned Parenthood…”

Indeed, during the online broadcast Shea was asked by his co-host whether his condemnation of CMP’s use of false identities and sting operations to obtain information “Would… extend, in your mind, to the FBI or to the OSS during World War II?” Shea’s answer could not be more revealing: “Uh, I’m not confident of that.” Not confident of that? Yet Shea had just finished telling his listeners that “You cannot lie for any reason.” The best he could do to dance away from his obvious double standard was to quip: “One of the things that it is important to recognize is that we form our conscience as Christians and not as disciples of the CIA.” But lying is wrong for everyone, not just Christians, so why is Shea “not confident” that it is wrong for the FBI or the OSS or the CIA, many of whose operatives are (or were) Christians?

Shea has revealed the real motive here: yet another neo-Catholic attack on militant Catholics by a haughty, always politically correct commentariat, eager to make itself look good at the expense of those who have the courage to stand in radical opposition to the sociopolitical status quo in the culture of death or the post-conciliar revolution in the Church.

Shea and his “gay-friendly,” Francis-extolling neo-Catholic collaborators are serving as pallbearers at the funeral of the Church Militant. Even if their commentaries are not entirely devoid of worthwhile content, it is long past time for Catholics to look to other sources for an uncompromisingly Catholic perspective on the ecclesial and civilizational crisis we are now witnessing.

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Last modified on Friday, August 14, 2015
Christopher A. Ferrara

Christopher A. Ferrara: President and lead counsel for the American Catholic Lawyers Inc., Mr. Ferrara has been at the forefront of the legal defense of pro-lifers for the better part of a quarter century. Having served with the legal team for high profile victims of the culture of death such as Terri Schiavo, he has long since distinguished him a premier civil rights Catholic lawyer.  Mr. Ferrara has been a lead columnist for The Remnant since 2000 and has authored several books published by The Remnant Press, including the bestseller The Great Façade. Together with his children and wife, Wendy, he lives in Richmond, Virginia.